When you've been in the credit union industry as long as we have, you get used to answering one question more than any other: "Who can join a credit union?" Some might think that they can’t join any credit union without being employed by a specific company; others think that credit unions require some extra level of financial competencies, such as a high credit score or thousands of dollars in deposits.
This has led to a misconception: that credit unions are focused on keeping people out. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Membership requirements for credit unions are a way of asking potential members, "Do you have something in common with the rest of our community?" Since credit unions are owned by their members, this ensures that everyone with a financial stake in the organization also shares a stake in the future of the community it serves.
In this article, we’ll break down how to join a credit union, who can join, and why it could be a great financial decision for you.
Who can join a credit union?
Credit unions are open to anyone that is within their field of membership, which varies from organization to organization. A credit union’s field of membership is determined by their charter.
There are three versions of federal credit union charters recognized by the National Credit Union Administration:
- Single common bond charters: Members of single common bond credit unions belong to a particular corporation, trade, profession, industry, or association. For example, some serve teachers and other school employees who work in K-12 education.
- Multiple common bond charters: Instead of serving one specific occupation or association, multiple common bond charters serve multiple demographics.
- Community charters: Community unions serve members living, working, or studying within a particular geographic area. This can be as small as a county or as large as an entire state.
You can also join a credit union by having someone in your immediate family that is a member— even if you don’t necessarily meet the field of membership requirements. This is made possible by another critical tenant of credit unions everywhere: once one person in your family is a member, the rest of the family is immediately eligible as well.
What if you leave the field of membership?
So what happens if your circumstances change and you are no longer within the field of membership? People sometimes wonder what will happen to their membership and accounts if they change careers or move out of state.
Good news: Once you're a member, you're a member for life— you don’t need to worry about having that membership revoked. Given the money management options available to customers, members can build a lasting relationship with their credit union, even if they end up in a different part of the world altogether. You may not have access to a home branch, but through shared branches and online banking, you’ll never lose that personal touch.
Who can join Amplify Credit Union?
If you live, work, or attend school in Texas, you can qualify to be a member of Amplify. Please note that you only need to meet one of these conditions to be eligible. You can learn more about eligibility here.
How to Join a Credit Union
Joining a credit union is simple! Typically, there are two ways to join: in person at your nearest branch or online.
Whichever way you choose, most memberships start by opening a basic savings account, even if your goal is to use another type of account or apply for a loan. To open your account, you’ll need to provide three things:
- Your contact information such as name, address, and phone number
- A valid, government-issued photo ID or other form of identification accepted by the credit union
- An initial deposit, which may be as low as $5. This is a financial representation of your membership in the credit union
Depending on the credit union, you may also be required to verify your membership in the field of membership. Once you provide the required information and sign documents, you’ll be able to access all of the wonderful benefits offered to members.
Why Join a Credit Union
Unlike banks, which are for-profit organizations, credit unions are not-for-profit member-owned cooperatives. Though credit unions are smaller organizations, they offer benefits that a traditional bank can’t provide. Here are a few of the reasons why banking with a credit union can be a good financial move.
1. Higher interest rates on savings and checking accounts
Because credit unions are member-owned, they put their profits back into their members’ pockets through higher interest rates on checking and savings accounts.
2. Lower fees
Many (though not all, so always be sure to do your research) offer lower fees on accounts and loans than banks do. Some credit unions will even do away with fees altogether, offering products like free checking accounts!
3. Lower loan interest rates
Plan on taking out a home mortgage, home equity loan, or auto loan anytime soon? Credit unions also offer competitive interest rates on loan products.
4. Emphasis on community and customer service
Perhaps most important of all is the emphasis that credit unions place on community and customer service. Since our members are at the core of everything we do, you can be sure that every decision a credit union makes has your best interest at heart. You can expect to receive personalized customer service whether you're in-person, on the phone, or using technology like live chat.
Additionally, credit unions are proud to give back to the communities they serve. Many times, you’ll find credit unions involved with nonprofit organizations and charitable causes in the cities and towns they operate in.
Experience the Credit Union Difference for Yourself
Though credit unions do serve specific fields of membership, there’s a place for everyone. Whether they’re serving your industry, your local community, or an immediate family member, you can find a credit union that meets your needs. Joining is easy and taking advantage of their many benefits is even easier!