Why join a credit union?
In short, credit unions are good for people and their communities.
They're a great way of saving money, accessing affordable credit, being part of a local community and helping your local community to prosper. They are ethically run, community-owned businesses.
Credit unions provide a personal service in which the member is an individual and not an account number. Crucially, credit unions give their customers a real say in the way that the community business is run.
Credit unions aim to help you take control of your money by encouraging you to save what you can and borrow only what you can afford to repay. In essence, they're savings and loan co-operatives, where the members pool their savings to lend to one another and help to run the credit union. This is done in a 'not-for-profit' way, so the cash is only used to run the services and reward the members, and NOT to pay outside shareholders, like most other financial institutions.
Credit unions help improve financial health. Most of us have debts, big or small and sometimes we worry about them. Saving regularly and borrowing with a credit union can help to take some of these worries away. You can plan how you manage your money. A credit union will never put pressure on you to borrow more.
A key appeal of credit unions is the ability to offer small loans of £50 to £3,000, which most high-street banks won't do. They're a much cheaper alternative to payday loans and other high interest lenders.
They operate on entirely democratic principles. Every member has one vote, irrespective of their financial stake in the organisation. This means that:
• no individual person can dominate the decision-making process
• no interest groups have a greater say than others
• no vested interest can be pursued at the expense of the members
• without the members' consent, no-one can force a credit union to be taken over or merge with another organisation
• the constitution (or rules) can be changed only with the consent of the members.
The membership of a credit union is offered on the basis of open and voluntary membership. Credit unions are non-discriminatory in that their membership is drawn from the community at large.
Every member of a credit union has four fundamental rights:
• a right to dividend if declared
• a right to vote on any matter tabled for discussion at a general meeting, as well as other democratic rights enshrined in the constitution of the credit union
• a right to information, such as annual report and financial statements of the credit union
• a right to have capital returned.