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Credit Unions Can Help Rebuild Your Credit

Written by: Kristy Welsh

Last Updated: April 3, 2017

The most important part to rebuilding your credit is establishing new credit. An excellent place to apply for credit is a credit union. Credit unions live by the philosophy — "People Helping People." They are committed to their communities and offer financial services to consumers as well as improving the quality of life for its members.

Besides joining a credit union to re-establish credit, a lot of consumers join credit unions for their lower fees. When Bank of America announced it was going to charge a $5 per month debit card fee back in September of 2011, an estimated 650,000 people moved their money to a credit union. November 4, 2011 came to be known as "Bank Transfer Day." B of A later repealed this fee, but using a credit union can save you money through free checking accounts, lower interest rates and annual fees on credit cards, lower overdraft fees and overall little to no monthly service fees.

Ways a Credit Union Differs From a Bank

A credit union acts just like a bank by providing all of the same services: checking, savings, mortgage lending, auto loans and business loans. The one distinguishing factor is that credit unions are member-owned, not for-profit institutions. That means they do not have to answer to a bunch of shareholders, so when they make a profit, they don't give that to shareholders. Instead, credit unions return that profit to its members in the form of lower fees and better service.

Federal credit unions are chartered and supervised by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Through this federal agency, savings in federal and most state-chartered credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), a federal fund backed by the United States government. The funds in some credit unions are privately insured.

Advantages of Joining a Credit Union

Credit unions are an especially good option for people who are building credit for the first time or trying to re-establish good credit, as they are typically smaller organizations which offer personalized service and are more willing to consider factors beyond the "black and white."

Because they are member owned, they tend to have more lenient credit guidelines on auto loans, credit cards and second mortgages. However, most people don't know which credit unions they are qualified to join nor do they know what the pros and cons are of joining a credit union.

A credit union can help you with a small business loan for your local business. Some credit unions have established a relationship with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to expedite loans to credit-worthy small businesses. Just one of the many ways credit unions give back to the community.

Lastly, while credit unions increasingly have worldwide reach, they are still very localized. That means they are run and owned by people in the community, which, at least for many people, is a plus.

Disadvantages of a Credit Union

For a long time, credit unions did not have many ATM locations and for many customers, this was a major drawback. But increasingly, through partnerships, credit unions have created excellent ATM networks, where you can get your money without any sort of charge, as long as you use the network or parameters that they've set up for you. Unless you really just love the idea of banking with a giant bank, and perhaps enjoy the ease of having numerous branches that you can waltz into, it's pretty hard to come up with a significant drawback to banking at a credit union.

How to Locate a Credit Union

Several additional credit union locator tools that may be helpful in assisting you in determining which credit unions might be right for you:

How to Become a Credit Union Member

Governmental regulatory agencies require that credit unions restrict their membership to defined segments of the population who all share a common bond, such as:

  • Employer or someone in your workplace
  • Geographic area
  • School
  • Place of worship
  • Membership in an organization

There is a credit union for everyone — some of us may have to find more creative ways to "stretch" the definition of qualification to be a member, but it can be done! In addition to the ideas given in the previous paragraph, here are some more tips for seeking a credit union that you may qualify for:

  • Your employer may sponsor a credit union, or may be a select employee group (SEG) that has access to a credit union.
  • Ask at your school, your child's school, your church.
  • Ask your family. If your employer doesn't sponsor a credit union, perhaps your spouse's or another family member's employer does. Many credit unions will allow family members to join.
  • Check the yellow pages. You will find a listing of credit unions in your community. Give them a call.
  • Consider civic and social groups. Many associations and organizations offer credit union membership to their members. These include Homeowners' Associations, Scouting organizations, and more.
  • Ask your neighbors. Some credit unions have a "community" field of membership, serving a region defined by geography rather than by employment or some other association. Ask friends in the community if they know of a credit union you may join.
  • You are active duty military, retired or a military dependent, or are a civil service or contract employee or retiree.

So, with all these advantages of joining a credit union, what are you waiting for? Locate a credit union near you and check out what they have to offer. Rebuilding your credit and establishing new credit is easier with a credit union so start building a better credit history today!