Credit Union or Bank?

It seems like the older I get, the more adult decisions I have to make. “Where should I intern?” “Where should I live?” “Should I get a car?” “Should I graduate early or pick up a double major?” But lately, the question that’s been in the back of my mind is, “Where should I bank?”

I’m definitely not the best person to talk to when it comes to banking, but I like to stay informed. When I was 15, I opened up my first checking account with Bank of America. It was a simple decision for me because my entire family banks with BoA and it’s extremely convenient. I had thought nothing of it at the time.

But now that I’m getting closer to graduation, I’m beginning to realize that I need to start thinking about things like establishing good credit, opening banking accounts, and which financial institutions I want to support. All of these “adult decisions” perplex me in a huge way, but I’ve realized that they’re much less intimidating if I tackle them one at a time.

One of the options I’ve been considering is joining a credit union. The agency that I intern for specializes in advertising and marketing for credit unions and I have learned so much about credit unions. For the past eight months, I’ve helped to write website content, press releases, and social media content for credit unions like Alabama Credit Union, Connect Credit Union, and Coosa Pines Federal Credit Union. I have witnessed the benefits firsthand, and have seriously been considering my options in terms of banking. Here are just a few of the perks associated with being a part of credit union:

  • At a bank, you’re a customer. At a credit union, you’re an owner.
  • Banks are for-profit organizations that are owned by shareholders, whereas credit unions are not-for-profit and are controlled by their members.
  • When there are left over funds at the end of the year, banks give the funds to the CEO or shareholders. Credit unions give this money back to the members, which are the owners.
  • You have to be a part of a group or community (like living in a certain area or being a part of a certain organization) in order to join, which encourages local support. (Side note: Even if you leave a city or an organization, you’re still an owner! “Once a member, always a member!”)

There are some additional things to consider, such as convenience. Being that credit unions are often smaller, it may be a little harder to withdraw a large amount of funds at any given time. Credit unions also have a smaller number of physical locations, which can be considered a drawback, but ask yourself how many times you’ve walked into a bank in the past year.

I’ve considered my options and feel that the benefits of joining a credit union outweigh the costs. What do you think? Which financial institution do you support?

(Site note: I wrote a similar blog post for The Pod Advertising’s website with more factual statistics if you’d like additional information.)

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