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What is a Credit Union?

What is a Credit Union?

The Structure, value, and Impact of credit unions sets them apart from other financial services providers.

A credit union is a not-for-profit, cooperative financial institution focused solely on its members. Credit unions provide the same services as most banks—checking accounts, ATMs, mobile banking, lending and savings accounts. Banks are profit-driven, however, and all profits are paid out to shareholders. Credit unions are member-driven, and earnings are passed onto members. This means lower fees and better loan rates for credit union members.

As cooperatives, credit unions return value to consumers. In a credit union, there are no profits, so all earnings in excess of operating expenses are returned to you, the member. This is why your fees will be lower than what you’d pay in a bank, why you might get free checking, earn more interest on your deposits and get much lower loan rates for autos, small businesses or homes. For example, during the 12 months ending in March,2017, America’s credit unions provided $10.2 billion in direct financial benefits to nearly 108 million members. What did this mean to Main Street families in the Northwest? During that same year, Idaho credit unions provided $79 million in direct financial benefits to their members (equivalent to $196 per member household); Oregon’s credit unions provided $150 million in direct financial benefits to their members (equivalent to $171 per member household); and Washington’s credit unions provided $399 million in direct financial benefits to their members (equivalent to $216 per member household).

Your Money is Safe in a Credit Union

Deposits in most Northwest federally insured credit union are insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). Funded by credit unions and administered by the National Credit Union Administration, the NCUSIF is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government.

Credit Union Services are Unbeatable

Another value of credit unions is that, as cooperatives, credit unions work together. This means you can take advantage of their surcharge-free nationwide ATM network—that’s something the banks can’t match!


The Cooperative Movement:

The American credit union movement took flight during the Great Depression, when groups of workers pooled their resources to loan money to co-workers who had been turned away by banks. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act in 1934, ensuring that cooperative, not-for-profit credit unions could balance the credit structure of the United States, by providing the cooperative financial services choice to consumers.

Who Can Join?

Nearly everyone is eligible to join a credit union. Visit the a smarter choice website, enter your zip code and find many convenient choices!

Credit Unions by the Numbers*

  • There are 5,737 federally insured credit unions in the U.S.
  • There are 108 million memberships
  • Assets protected by U.S. credit unions total $1.34 trillion
  • There are 90 credit unions in Washington with 3.6 million members
  • Washington credit unions protect $49.4 billion in members’ assets, 21.3% of deposit market share.
  • There are 59 credit unions in Oregon, with 1.7 million members.
  • Oregon credit unions protect $21.3 billion in members’ assets, 19.2% of deposit market share
  • There are 28 credit unions in Idaho, with 776,455 members
  • Idaho credit unions protect $7.8 billion in members’ assets, 21.4% of deposit market share

*Source: NCUA/CUNA data Q1, 2017


The Credit Union DNA:

The impact of credit unions is seen every day in financial education outreach, volunteer service, and charitable donations. Credit unions exist for one purpose: to serve their members. Founded with the “People Helping People” philosophy, credit unions value their social missions as much as their financial service missions. The Northwest credit union movement is focused on helping personal and community wide asset building, economic empowerment, and cooperative development. This focus improves whole communities.

Financial education outreach, volunteerism, and fundraising are all part of the credit union DNA.

  • Read about Northwest credit unions’ $7.7 billion impact on the economy.
  • Learn more about Credit Unions for Kids, a nationwide charity benefiting 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. This is a local story! Credit Unions for Kids was founded by a group of Oregon and Southwest Washington credit unions in 1986.
  • Find out more about the Northwest Credit Union Foundation, generously funded by Northwest credit unions to advance the credit union movement and make communities better.

The Credit Union Tax Status:

Credit unions pay millions of dollars in property and payroll taxes, but because they are not-for-profit cooperatives, they have a corporate tax exemption. The corporate exemption has been upheld every time it has been challenged since the Great Depression. Every President, every Congress, and every state legislature determined time and time again that the real, tangible benefits cooperative credit unions deliver to members far outweighs the benefit of any additional tax. When you consider the $10 billion in benefits to credit union members last year, it’s clear that another tax on credit unions is another tax on 108 million Americans.

Media & Public Relations Contact:
Lynn Heider, Vice President, Public Relations  (503) 350-2225 (503) 329-7208 (Mobile)

About the NWCUA:

The Northwest Credit Union Association is the not-for-profit trade association serving more than 180 Idaho, Oregon and Washington credit unions and their 6 million members. The NWCUA is the voice of the Northwest credit union movement, providing legislative advocacy, regulatory and compliance support, professional development, and business solutions to its members. For information on how to join a credit union, please visit

Executive Leadership:

Troy Stang, President & CEO

Denise Gabel, Chief Operations Officer


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