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Credit Union Basics
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What is a Credit Union?

A credit union is a cooperative financial institution, owned and controlled by the people who use its services. These people are members. Credit unions serve groups that share something in common, such as where they work, live, or go to church. Credit unions are not-for-profit, and exist to provide a safe, convenient place for members to save money and to get loans at reasonable rates.

Credit unions, like other financial institutions, are closely regulated. And they operate in a very prudent manner. The National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, administered by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), an agency of the federal government, insures deposits of credit union members at more than 11,000 federal and state-chartered credit unions nationwide. Deposits are insured up to $250,000.

What makes a credit union different from a bank or savings & loan? Like credit unions, these financial institutions accept deposits and make loans--but unlike credit unions, they are in business to make a profit. Banks and savings & loans are owned by groups of stockholders whose interests include earning a healthy return on their investments.

6 Ways to Join a Credit Union

Credit unions are for everyone, but the law places some limits on the people they may serve. A credit union's charter defines its "field of membership," which could be an employer, church, school, or community.  Anyone working for an employer that sponsors a credit union, for example, is eligible to join that credit union.

If you don't belong, here's how to find a credit union to join:

1. Poll your family. Does your spouse's employer sponsor a credit union? Most credit unions allow credit union members' families to join. Each credit union, however, may define "family" differently. At some credit unions, only members of your immediate family are eligible. At other credit unions, family may include extended family members, such as cousins, uncles, and aunts.

2. Ask your boss. Your company may sponsor a credit union, or may be a select employee group (SEG) that has access to a credit union. Many employers offer direct deposit of payroll to your credit union.

3. Quiz the 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.

4. Read the yellow pages. Some credit unions rarely advertise, so you might not know about them unless you look them up. A yellow pages display ad may state a credit union's field of membership. If not, at least you'll know what number to call to ask about membership eligibility.

5. Use the online Michigan credit union finder.

6. Call your state league. In Michigan, you can call (800) 262-6285 x225 and speak to someone who can help you find a nearby credit union. Or, call the National Credit Union Administration at (800) 358-5710. You'll hear an electronic message that includes the name and telephone number of a person at the credit union league in your state who can help you find a credit union to join.

Credit Union Regulators

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), governed by a three-member board appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, is the independent federal agency that charters and supervises federal credit unions. NCUA, with the backing of the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, operates the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), insuring the savings of 80 million account holders in all federal credit unions and many state-chartered credit unions.

The Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) administers 29 public acts and regulates a variety of individual licensees and entities, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, 25 HMOs, 114 banks, 171 domestic insurance companies, 186 credit unions, 1,458 foreign insurance companies, 194,835 insurance agents, 3,958 mortgage licensees and regiatrants, 656 deferred presentment companies and 2,387 other consumer finance-related entities.

Michigan is the first state to coordinate the regulatory efforts of the financial institutions, insurance, and securities industries under the federal Financial Services Reform Act of 1999.

Overseeing DIFS is Commissioner R. Kevin Clinton.  Mr. Clinton was appointed Director of the Department of Insurance and Financial Services by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder effective March 18, 2013.  Mr. Clinton has been serving as Commissioner to the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation since 2011. 

The Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) is the State of Michigan department responsible for regulating Michigan's financial industries, including banks, credit unions, insurance, and mortgage companies.  DIFS provides a focal point of consumer protection, enable efficient and effective regulation, and position the insurance and financial services sector of Michigan’s economy for growth.  The agency consists of over 350 professionals dedicated to protecting Michigan consumers by ensuring the companies that it regulates are safe and sound, follow state and federal law, and are entitled to the public confidence.

Ann Flood serves as DIFS’s Chief Deputy Director.  Ms. Flood oversees the department’s Office of General Counsel, Office of Insurance Evaluation, Office of Insurance Rates and Forms, the Budget Office, Information Technology Services and Human Resources.  Ms. Flood has been serving as Chief Deputy Commissioner to the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation.

Teri Morante serves as DIFS’s Senior Deputy Director.  Ms. Morante oversees the department’s Office of Consumer Services, Office of Insurance Licensing and Market Conduct, and Office of Policy.  Ms. Morante has been serving as Senior Deputy Commissioner to the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation.

Stephen Hilker serves as DIFS’s Senior Deputy Director.  Mr. Hilker oversees the department’s Office of Banking, Office of Credit Unions and Office of Consumer Finance.  Mr. Hilker has been serving as Senior Deputy Commissioner to the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation.

DIFS Office of Credit Unions (OCU) is dedicated to maintaining the public confidence in Michigan state-chartered credit unions, and to ensuring Michigan state-chartered credit unions provide safe, sound, and reliable financial services to their members.  John Kolhoff is the Director of the Office of Credit Unions and Leanne O’Brien is the Assistant Director.
 

 
   
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