What Is a Credit Union? (And 5 Great Reasons to Join One)


Have you decided it’s time to find a better place to keep your money? Want a place where you can do all of your banking from one convenient location and feel comfortable about where you keep your money too?

Maybe it’s time to join a credit union. And if you live here in Albany, Oregon, maybe it’s time to join the Central Willamette Credit Union.

But what’s the difference between a credit union and a bank? Which one’s better for checking and savings? Which one gives better rates?

Before we start in with what joining a credit union can offer you, it’s important to understand what a credit union is and is not.

Credit Unions Are Not-For-Profit

Like banks, credit unions are financial institutions that help you with a variety of your financial needs. Want a checking account to handle monthly expenses? Looking for a savings account so you can put money away for a rainy day? Need a loan for a new car or house? Just like a bank, a credit union can help you with all of that and more.

But the difference lies with how they operate. Join a credit union, and you’ll be handling your finances with a not-for-profit entity. That means they exist to serve their members. They don’t add fees and increase loan rates to make a profit like banks. They work as a cooperative institution for the sake of their members and provide people with a safe place to save and borrow at reasonable rates.

When you open an account with a bank and add deposits to your savings and checking, you become a customer. Because credit unions answer to shareholders, their primary obligation always goes back to making a higher profit. That means they’ll typically offer lower interest rates on savings and higher rates on loans.

When you open an account with a credit union, you become a member. Credit unions are unique because they’re member owned. When you deposit money, you become an owner. The deposits you make as an owner-member are pooled together and loaned out to other owner-members who meet qualifications.

Yes, it works a lot like a bank. But because it’s not-for-profit, it doesn’t have to satisfy shareholders’ interests. It can keep rates higher and fees lower. And that makes it a very good place to do business when you know you’re getting the very best care you can get.

Credit Unions Mean You’re Part of a Unique Community

Because credit unions are member owned, they have a few unique “rules.” In most cases, a credit union shares a common bond. They have certain qualifications you’ll have to meet to become a member.

Here at Central Willamette Credit Union, our story began over 50 years ago. We started as a way for government employees in Linn County, US Bureau of Mines employees, and post office workers in Albany and Lebanon to have a place to bank.

We’ve changed a lot over the past half-century. Our name has changed. We’ve grown. And we’ve expanded to serve people in Linn, Benton, Marion, and Polk counties. But the one thing we’ll never change is making our owner-members our number-one priority.

When you join a credit union, you’ll have shared interests with everyone else. You can participate in a number of ways—how about increasing your financial literacy or even joining a committee or sitting on the board?

Credit Unions Are Designed to Increase Financial Literacy

When you’re learning about money and increasing your financial literacy, everyone starts somewhere. And no matter where you’re at in your learning curve, there’s something for everyone at a credit union.

Want to learn more about personal saving? How about investing in your future? Ready to buy your first house? Or maybe you are building protection against identity theft? No matter what your interest is, if it’s financial, we have a starting point for you. Check out our online resource section, filled with helpful information to push you in the right direction.

Remember, a credit union is open for you, its members. If you have a question, just ask. Central Willamette Credit Union has grown to include many different types of financial products. How about starting your kids out right and helping them understand money better with our Kid Kash Savings Account? As they graduate and head off to college, why not learn more about our student loans? Want to start a business? We even have programs for you. We really strive to be a one-stop shop for everyone in our community.

Credit Unions May Provide More Personalized Attention

With a big bank, you might not know where the headquarters is. It might be somewhere else in Oregon. Or if it’s large enough, maybe in Chicago or New York City. Think you’ll be on a first-name basis when they’ve never even been to our community?

Our goal is much simpler with the way we run our branches. We started in the local community, and we’ve stayed here to help people who call the Willamette Valley home.

When you walk into a branch, you’ll be treated like family. Because in a lot of ways, that’s what you really are.

Credit Unions May Offer Better Deals, Fewer Fees, and Cheaper Rates on Certain Types of Loans

It might be worth mentioning one more time: at a credit union, you can be sure you’re receiving great rates, fewer fees, and better deals from people who live and work right here in our community.

  • We have six branch locations—two conveniently located here in Albany.
  • Try our free Simply Checking Accounts out or our Peak Checking rewards program, with little or no fees.
  • You’ll be able to use over 20,000 ATMs nationwide surcharge-free.
  • And home, auto, or personal loans are all available with very competitive rates.

Are you ready to join a credit union? Looking for a great financial institution right here in the Albany area? Stop by and chat with us, and we’ll set you up quickly. You’re going to love all the things you can do right here with your money.



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