What’s the Difference Between a Bank and a Credit Union?

Before you decide on where to do your banking, it’s important to understand the differences between a credit union and a traditional bank.

Both types of financial institutions typically offer many of the same products and services — however, each uses a different business model.

If you want to learn about both, here are a few ways these institutions differ.

Credit Unions

Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that are owned and controlled by individuals, or members, who use their services.

Eligibility to join one is based on your employer, family member affiliation or geographic location. An initial membership deposit makes an individual a part owner of the credit union and gives him or her a say in its decisions.

Additionally, these organizations operate to promote the well-being of their members. Profits made by the organization are returned to members in the form of lower interest rates for loans, reduced fees and higher interest rates for savings.

Credit unions also are known for excelling at customer service due to their nonprofit status.


Banks, on the other hand, are for-profit financial institutions that are owned and operated by shareholders. They typically pay less interest but may offer more convenience regarding online banking, ATMs, locations and mobile access.

Banks also may offer rewards programs. Unlike credit unions, banks are free to conduct business with any customer and no membership is required.

Commercial banks, especially large ones, tend to offer a wider range of consumer products and services than credit unions, such as stock investing, retirement funds and financial planning services.

Taking these factors into consideration can help you decide which type of financial institution can best serve your needs. Use the following to learn more:

About the Author:
Vice President of Marketing Kristin Dove has over 28 years of marketing experience with Pacific Service Credit Union. Dove provides credibility in the ever-changing world of marketing. She has a B.A. in Information and Communication Studies from California State University, Chico, has won numerous awards for her work, and served on many industry councils.


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