It’s inevitable. Someone in your office has a bad experience with a bank during their lunch break and returns vowing to ditch their account and go with the local credit union. But there is a difference between banks and credit unions. While credit unions function like a bank, they are nonprofits and therefore aren’t beholden to shareholders. However, that doesn’t mean that they are better than banks.
Here are some pros and cons to ditching traditional banks for a community-focused one.
Benefits of Credit Unions
They are nonprofit. By not having to share profits with shareholders, credit unions can use them to reduce fees. Credit unions are less likely to find ways to hike up fees on customers in order to create profits.
They don’t focus on fees. Credit unions offer free accounts with no minimum balance requirements. The days of free checking at banks are gone, which means most people need a minimum balance or a regular direct deposit from their paycheck in order to stave off fees. While credit unions do have overdraft and other fees, there are fewer of them than at a traditional bank.
They are more willing to work with you. If you do incur a fee, the credit union is more likely to call you or help you link your accounts so you don’t have to pay more money.
They have better interest rates. Because credit unions aren’t beholden to shareholders, they often have higher interest rates on savings accounts, CDs and checking accounts. Some credit unions aren’t even allowed to have more than a certain interest rate on credit cards and loans.
Drawbacks of Credit Unions
They don’t have the best technology. Some credit unions still don’t do online banking. Many of their websites aren’t updated regularly. Credit unions mainly focus on money, not the technology that helps customers use it.
Not everyone can join. Credit unions restrict their membership to people who live in certain areas or work for certain companies. While most people can find a credit union to join, they may not be able to join one with the best online site or location.
There aren’t many ATMs. If you can’t get to your regular credit union location, it’s often hard to find a credit union ATM because credit unions can’t afford to install them every place where you need them. Some reimburse you for ATM fees, but not all of them do.