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Credit Unions vs. Banks: The Credit Union Difference

It's a common question, and it's one we never get tired of answering: What's the difference between a bank and a credit union? Sure, both offer products and services that help you house, spend, and save your money. But that's where the similarities end and the credit union difference begins.



The Credit Union Difference


Perhaps the most well-known difference between banks and credit unions is that credit unions are not-for-profit. That is, credit unions exist to serve members, not make a profit. Banks have shareholders, often totally unrelated to the bank itself, who make money off of the bank customers. The money that members put into their credit unions is put back into their own pockets (that's how we're able to offer lower rates and fees and higher interest on savings) and the communities in which the credit unions serve. | Read more about not-for-profits.

Lower Rates + Fees

As mentioned above, because credit unions are not-for-profit, they are able to offer lower rates and fees on things like checking accounts and loans, and higher dividends on savings. Plus, services like mobile access, online access, and shared branching are offered to members free of charge. | Visit 3Rivers for current rates and fees.


In addition - and alongside - to being a not-for-profit, credit unions are cooperatives. A cooperative is an organization owned by - and operated for the benefit of - those using its services. They're based on seven principles, which include: Voluntary & Open Membership, Democratic Member Control, Members' Economic Participation, Autonomy & Independence, Education, Training & Information, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, and Concern for Community. | Read more about cooperatives.


You've probably picked up by now that credit union's don't have customers - they have members. Whether you've got a tiny checking account or a huge loan, you've established yourself as a member and therefore, you own a part of the credit union. What does this mean for you? It means your voice counts. Your opinions, suggestions, and concerns are all taken into account. Plus, credit unions have a Board of Directors - members outside of their own employees, chosen democratically - and often have volunteer committees and various other member programs available, too. | Become a 3Rivers member today!


Because credit unions are smaller, more local institutions, employees get the opportunity to build real relationships with their members. This is beneficial because the credit union can then take into account more than just credit scores when approving members for loans and other products - they consider relationship history and character to be equally important. | Hear about some of our member experiences.


Credit unions' involvement in their communities echoes the fact that they are not-for-profit cooperatives. A community's people, places, events, its past, and its future are paramount to a credit union's goals and existence. Credit unions won't just toss money into a fundraiser or cut a check to sponsor a community event - they'll strive to be there and present to help in any other way possible - volunteering time, energy, and helping hands alongside members of their community. | Find out more about 3Rivers in the community.

Financial Literacy

The credit union industry recognizes that it's not enough to simply approve someone for a first-time car loan or hand over a new credit card. That's why financial education is a key focus. Credit unions go beyond a quick rundown of the product or service from across the teller desk. They strive to provide better explanations and details in person, but also utilize other channels - like websites, seminars, tools and calculators, and youth programs - so that their members can comprehend their finances and grow more comfortable with their money matters. | See the tools 3Rivers has to offer.


Credit unions love each other. It's in the cooperative nature. That's why many of them offer the Shared Branching network for their members. Shared Branching allows a member of one credit union to travel across the country and do their business at another credit union, or another credit union's ATMs, free of charge. | Find out more about Shared Branching.

So, does your bank do all of that? If you'd like to find out more about the credit union difference or become a credit union member, get in touch with 3Rivers today!

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