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 Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR) is responsible for the regulation of 191 credit unions, Blue Cross Blue Shield, 25 HMOs, 114 banks, 171 domestic insurance companies, 1,458 foreign insurance companies, 1,778 investment advisors, 1,969 securities broker-dealers, 194,835 insurance agents, 131,194 securities agents, 9,214 investment advisor representatives, 3,958 mortgage licensees and registrants, 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 OFIR is Commissioner Kevin Clinton, appointed by Governor Rick Snyder in 2011.
Commissioner Clinton heads a state agency consisting of over 350 professionals dedicated to protecting Michigan consumers by ensuring the companies that it regulates are financially solvent, follow state and federal law, and are entitled to the public's confidence.
Ann Flood serves as OFIR's Chief Deputy Commissioner. Ms. Flood oversees OFIR's Office of General Counsel, Health Plans Division, and Supervisory Affairs and Insurance Monitoring Division.
Stephen Hilker serves as an OFIR Senior Deputy Commissioner. Mr. Hilker oversees the agency's Banking, Credit Union and Consumer Finance Divisions.
Teri Morante serves as an OFIR Senior Deputy Commissioner. Ms. Morante oversees the agency's Consumer Services, Licensing and Product Review and Policy Divisions.