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Unlocking the Perks of Credit Unions: Why you should join one today.

in Managing Money & Credit
credit union perks

Credit unions are member-owned financial cooperatives that provide traditional (as well as unique) banking services. The difference between a bank and a credit union is straightforward:  credit unions are created, owned, and operated by their accountholders, who are usually referred to as members. Unlike banks, which aim to generate profit for their owner or shareholders, credit unions operate on a not-for-profit basis, meaning any earnings are returned to members in the form of dividends, lower loan rates, higher savings rates, and reduced fees.

How Joining a Credit Union Benefits You

Credit unions offer members several advantages over banks. Since the first priority of credit unions is to serve members rather than maximize profits, they typically offer lower fees and better interest rates on loans and savings accounts compared to traditional banks. Credit unions are also member-focused and invested in community development, providing financial education and services tailored to local needs in addition to banking products and services. Smaller credit unions tend to be even more community-focused, and as a result can provide an even greater level of personalized service larger banks could not successfully maintain. Another benefit of credit unions is their association and support of specific communities that are defined by their membership requirements, which can include professional, educational, geographic, faith-based, military, and other affiliations.

How to Learn About the Quality of Local Credit Unions

The best credit unions can meet or beat banks when it comes to providing members with excellent service, a wide range of financial products, competitive rates, security, and easy access to membership. Don’t take our word for it – check out online reviews of Lafayette Federal and others, including Navy Federal, PenFed, and Northwest on Yelp, Google Reviews, and the Better Business Bureau. Also, take a look at information provided by financial rating service companies, which evaluate the financial health of credit unions and banks, including BauerFinancial and JD Power. Finally, ask for recommendations from your friends, family, and colleagues about their experiences with local financial institutions.

How to Choose a Credit Union

When choosing a credit union, consider the following factors:

  • Membership Eligibility: Ensure you qualify for membership based on the credit union’s criteria.
  • Product and Service Offerings: Check if the credit union offers the financial products and services you need.
  • Fees and Rates: Compare fees for account maintenance, ATM usage, and other services, as well as interest rates on loans and savings.
  • Convenience: Look for convenient branch locations, ATM networks, and robust online and mobile banking options.
  • Customer Service: Read reviews and ask about the level of personalized service and member support.

How to Join a Credit Union

First, identify a credit union that meets your needs in terms of services, rates, and community involvement. Next, check eligibility requirements for membership, which can be based on location, employment, membership in an organization, or family connections. Most credit unions offer multiple ways to join, making access to their services that much easier. If you are eligible for membership, fill out the membership application form, which can usually be done online or at a branch.

Finally, to open an account make an initial deposit often referred to as “par value” into a “share account.”  “Par” refers to the deposit required to become a member. This amount, typically between $5 and $25, represents a member’s share in the credit union, provides access to the credit union’s services, and is required to be maintained in the share account for membership.

Once your account is set up, you can start taking advantage of the credit union’s financial products and services.

Be Part of Something Greater at Lafayette Federal

At Lafayette Federal, we care deeply for our members and our local communities. We proactively support environmental sustainability. We’re proud of our 88-year history of in investing in our cooperative spirit, and humbly look forward to our future.

At Lafayette Federal, you’re more than just a member. You’re an important part of how we give back to the community.

For detailed instructions on how to join Lafayette Federal, check out our steps to join, which walks you through the membership application process, eligibility requirements, and the benefits of becoming a member. You can also visit one of our branches, open an account online, or call our Member Engagement team at +1 (800) 888-6560 for assistance in opening an account and learning more about our products and services.

Not a Lafayette Federal member yet? You can become a member by completing an online membership application.

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