Although many people interchange the use of the terms banks and credit unions, these two institutions have certain differences.
Their Goals & Their Structure
A bank is more often a community, regional or even national or international business corporation that is for profit. It is either privately owned or publicly owned by investors and governed by a board of directors that are chosen by the stockholders while a credit union is in most cases a not-
Services & Technology
Because banks are for profit business ventures, banks have the responsibility to return their profits to the stockholders and to do this they have to charge higher fees and interest rates in order to have higher profits. This is unlike credit unions which are not for profit and so have lower interest rates and fees because they do not necessarily have to make profits. However, because banks have to make profits, in order to attract a higher number of customers, they have to be innovative in their services and products which are different from credit unions ! The credit unions lag a little behind in incorporating innovativeness and technology. This makes banks much better when it comes to the products and services. An example of this is ATMs: most banks have a large network of ATMs for letting make withdrawals and deposits almost anywhere. In contrast, credit unions will usually have few ATMs beyond a limited area.
Banks have also been more aggressive about creating online tools. It is possible for many people to do all their banking online without ever entering a branch. Bank websites and mobile applications have made banking more convenient and responsive for many people. But this is not the case with credit unions. Many credit unions have not embraced online banking and few offer strong online tools in comparison to banks.
Who Can Join ?
The rules that surround credit union membership have relaxed over the last decade with more outsiders or other community members being admissible into the unions. But this still cannot be compared with the ease of joining a normal bank. Banks tend to take anyone with money and a decent credit history, but credit unions may still be governed by rules limiting their membership to certain professions or particular interest groups.
What Can You Get ?
Even small banks are usually much larger institutions than credit unions and so can employ economies of scale when offering services to customers. A bank will likely be able to offer you larger loans and other financial products in addition to savings and checking accounts. They will also have more expertise to offer you with regard to taxes and accounting. Many banks have book-
While credit unions may not offer all the bells and whistles of a big bank, they do have some advantages. Because they are usually focused on a particular area or constituency, they often have services and options more tailored to their audience ... You will find that credit unions offer better interest rates and discounts to certain people (e.g. teachers) and that they tend to be more flexible with their rules. Basically, in exchange for a smaller set of services, you get a more personal relationship than youd get from a big. If you are a small business owner of regular guy looking for an auto loan, then a credit union may be your best bet.
A Lot in Common
Most people find that the differences between banks and credit unions are not a big deal. The truth is that the majority of your banking will be identical regardless of which type of institution you choose. Everyone needs to make deposits, order checks, and make withdrawals; and you will find no real difference in how you do things at banks versus credit unions.
When the Differences Matter
The differences really come down to scale and complexity. If you travel a lot, need a lot of different financial products or expect to need access to large loans, then you should look at a bank. If you have want a lower interest rate on small loans and more flexible terms then look at a credit union. Last, if you want to give more to your community then a credit union is your best.