Gordon Simmons, Retired CEO

What’s the Difference Between Credit Unions and Banks?

New Hampshire has a long and storied relationship between its citizens and credit unions. In fact, the very first credit union in the country was established in Manchester in 1908. The goal of that institution and any credit union is to serve its members in a not-for-profit capacity. It is the key and critical difference between a credit union and a traditional banking institution.

Put simply, banks are considered for-profit institutions, so they are privately owned, or publicly traded on the stock exchange and must answer to shareholders. Most are not focused on cost effective products and services for individuals and are more focused on providing business lending.

Credit Unions are member-owned, not-for-profit cooperatives where members pool their resources and generally reap the benefits of higher account earnings, lower loan rates and lower to no fees than at banks.

Credit Unions embrace strong community values, personalized service that exceeds that of other financial institutions. They are firmly committed to providing financial service that meets the needs of their member/owners in a friendly, professional banking atmosphere. There is no cost to membership and credit unions provide the same or similar financial products as that which we are all accustomed at a bank – just for less cost and a higher investment return.

They can be industry specific, or in service to a group of members that share a profession or geography or background in common. There is certainly a credit union for everyone.

Given the challenges of the current economic environment, arguably the most compelling reason for families to explore joining a credit union is this: these institutions are designed to focus on providing the very best rates for car and home loans, have fewer to no fees and have higher returns on savings and investments than a traditional bank.

As a former Credit Union CEO, my mission at Service Credit Union was to simply live up to the title of the business and do my best to serve the interests of all of my members.

When the cost of doing business is rising rapidly, when inflation causes all of us to watch our own finances and expenses, then it makes logical sense for families to seek traditional banking services at the lowest possible cost.

We don’t pick a credit card with an incredibly high interest rate unless we have absolutely no other choice. The same approach can be applied to the idea of choosing a “bank”.

Credit unions do much of the same work as banks for less cost and more opportunity than any privately-owned financial institution. While these non-profit entities may require that a person qualify for membership per their field-of-membership and charter, they do offer competitively mostly the same services as banks without the higher costs of managing your finances for you. The larger the credit union, the more likely they are to offer you high tech products and services needed in today’s modern, fast paced, on the move world.

Current events have motivated most people towards finding ways to save. Credit Unions provide an outstanding option for families and for businesses to explore. The assurances you have come to expect from banks in terms of protecting your treasured assets and resources can be kept just as secure in a local credit union.

I recommend that you explore your options and see what a credit union can do for you and your family’s interests. I am convinced that you will be glad that you did. And if you owned your own store like you do as a credit union member, why would you shop anywhere else?

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gordon Simmons

Gordon Simmons has over four decades of experience in the financial industry. He served for 21-years as CEO of Service Credit Union. He specializes in international economic issues and finance. Gordon is now semi-retired, which means he’s now busier than he intended to be.