Online Banking

Benefits of a Credit Union Account


In the Solomon Islands, dolphin teeth are used as currency. In Medieval Russia, a cow could be purchased for 100 red squirrel pelts. From the Dutch tulip bulb bubble to the wooden currency of Tenino, Washington, storing money has sometimes been a difficult and unpredictable process, but in the 21st century, it doesn’t have to be that way!

A checking account is a deposit account held by a bank or credit union that not only allows you to access your money without hunting dolphins, but it also lets you painlessly make cashless purchases online and in-person just like you would with a credit card. Credit union checking accounts are a great way to keep track and take control of your finances.

Today’s consumers have multiple options for opening a checking account, but the two most popular are banks and credit unions. Credit unions are similar to banks in many ways: they offer similar financial products, use similar ATMs, and are insured in the same way banks are. However, there are some key things that set credit unions apart: they’re owned by their members and are operated not-for-profit with the goal of providing the greatest value to those members. That means that while a bank is designed to make a profit for their investors, a credit union is designed to reinvest its earnings back to its members in the form of competitive rates on deposits and loans, lower fees and technology — one of the biggest benefits of joining a credit union. You may notice that people who use a bank are called “customers” while people who use a credit union are called “members.” That is because people who use a credit union are shareholders and co-owners in the organization itself, and that’s why savings accounts at credit unions are typically called “share accounts.” Becoming a member of a credit union is a great way to reap the benefits of being a part of a community and enjoy better rates with fewer fees.

Why Choose Credit Unions?

The biggest difference between credit unions and banks is their structure. While banks tend to be larger, credit unions are invested in their communities and focus on providing greater value to their members. There are several reasons to choose a credit union checking or savings account over a bank:

  • Lower interest. Since credit unions exist to serve their members rather than outside investors, credit unions generally offer lower interest rates on loans and credit cards, which is a major benefit of a credit union.
  • Higher interest. Yes, you read that right! While credit unions offer lower interest rates on loans and credit cards to their members, they also tend to offer HIGHER interest rates on saving and checking accounts. At every turn, credit unions are designed to benefit their members, not a group of investors.
  • ATM access. One of the benefits of large banks is their large network of ATMs and branch locations. However, in the last several decades, credit unions have made huge strides in catching up with banks. Arkansas Federal Credit Union has over 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs that its members can access 24/7.
  • Excellent customer service. In the 2010s, some big names in banking made headlines for creating fake accounts for their customers. The reality is that it’s easy for big banks to lose sight of their local clientele, while credit unions focus their efforts on a specific community they serve. Arkansas Federal, for example, focuses their membership to Arkansans and their families, which means their 130,000+ member-owners are getting the full attention of their local staff.
  • Member ownership. The biggest distinctive feature of a credit union is also one of its biggest perks: as a member of a credit union, you are also an owner. Next time somebody asks where your checking account is held, you could tell them it’s at a credit union you OWN. Aside from the bragging rights, that translates to lower fees, better interest rates, great personal service, and an institution that prioritizes your financial health over the lining the pockets of outside investors.

How to Bank at a Credit Union

To bank with a credit union, a person typically must fall within a credit union’s Field of Membership (FOM). A FOM may include individuals with a common occupation, association, or community bond. But if an individual does not directly qualify for membership this way, they may still be able to join if they already have a family member who banks there. For example, Arkansas Federal allows residents of Arkansas and their families to apply for membership, as well as belonging to a select list of employer groups. If you meet the requirements to join a credit union, consider opening a credit union checking account. Arkansas Federal has options for every member, from keeping it simple with their Everyday Checking to earning a high-yield with Elite or Premium Checking. There’s even an option for members trying to establish checking credibility with Essential Checking, so there is an option available for each person’s individual needs.

Take Advantage of the Benefits of a Credit Union

Banks are great at what they do. Unfortunately, they  use their customer’s money to make a profit for their investors, such as through charging high fees, giving very low interest on deposits  and collecting high interest on loans. Instead of making your money work for a bank, consider a credit union. Joining a credit union like Arkansas Federal is easy, convenient, and smart. Take advantage of their competitive interest rates and lower fees by becoming a member-owner and seeing for yourself what a difference opening a credit union checking account makes. Be the boss of your money by opening a checking account today or exploring the many other financial services Arkansas Federal offers.

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