1. Credit unions are not banks.
Twice as many respondents found credit unions trustworthy compared with banks. A recent study of 10,000 millennials found that four of their most hated brands were banks.
Four years ago, Kristen Christian, who as a cooperative activist is always thinking about credit unions, became so disgusted by the way Bank of America was nickel-and-diming its customers she created a Facebook event called Bank Transfer Day . Soon 54,900 of people had liked the Facebook event, contributing to more than 2.2 million new credit union members for the 12-month period encompassing Bank Transfer Day.
"People were angry," she says. "So many Americans don't want to sit around complaining and waiting for the world to change." She wanted to channel that anger into something positive. "The alternative (to complaining) is saying, ‘You don't like the big banks?' Great, join a credit union."
2. "People helping people" is the credit union motto.
"Credit unions exist to help people, not make a profit. Our goal is to serve all of our members well, including those of modest means—every member counts." - Credit Union National Association
In other words, at a credit union, it's not the amount of money you have that determines if you'll be treated fairly. This doesn't mean credit unions will just give you a loan and not hold you accountable for paying it back. Credit unions have to generate revenue to stay viable, but they're also not going to take advantage of you.
3. Credit unions are not-for-profit.
This is one of the biggest reasons credit unions and millennials are a natural fit. Credit unions return profits to their members, often through better loan rates, fewer fees, and perks like surcharge-free ATMs. Despite being saddled with more student debt than any generation in history, millennials have proven to be one of the most giving and to value organizations that are not driven solely by the pursuit of profit.
It matters to millennials that the businesses they support are ethical and community-minded, and credit unions have proven to be both of those things.
4. You're a member, not a customer.
Credit unions are financial cooperatives, which means they're owned by the people who bank there. Credit unions offer saving accounts, debit cards, and loans just like banks do, but at a credit union the money you deposit—no matter how paltry—makes you a partial owner or "member."
5. Credit unions are part of the original sharing economy.
Millennials have helped spur a new economy that sidesteps traditional businesses by renting out something they're not using—a house, apartment, or car, for instance—for use by others. This model helped make start-ups such as Airbnb and Uber quickly and massively popular—to such a degree that the hotel and taxi industries have been going after them in court.
It matters to millennials that the businesses they support are ethical and community-minded.
Credit unions began as a way for people without access to traditional banking services to pool their money and make loans to each other. If banks wouldn't lend to them, the thinking went, then they would lend to each other. In America, credit unions took off during the Great Depression when banks began failing, and they've been helping Americans take control of their finances ever since.
6. Credit unions are local.
Millennials have grown up with the local movement—the idea that you should eat and shop locally whenever possible as part of a lifestyle that helps keep your communities vibrant and healthy. With banks, up to 97% of the money you deposit can leave the community.
"At a bank, your savings could go anywhere," says Amaia Stecker, CUNA's social media manager for A Smarter Choice, a website aimed at connecting consumers with credit unions in their communities. "By saving your money in a credit union, you're able to support other people in the community with their goals and dreams and desires."
In other words, your deposits could be part of a loan that helps a local teen buy her first car or a family their first home or an entrepreneur set up a small business. I'm guessing that for most millennials this is probably more meaningful than a bank rolling your money into acollateralized debt obligation or some other byzantine financial product.
7. Credit unions are committed to financial education.
Numerous studies have found that millennials struggle with personal finances so it's especially helpful for us that part of a credit union's operational philosophy is financial education. Education is one of the seven cooperative principles credit unions follow.
8. You can trust a credit union.
Knowing that credit unions operate for your best interests takes a lot of the anxiety out of making financial decisions. A recent survey found that twice as many respondents found credit unions trustworthy compared with banks.
9. Many credit unions offer the same perks as banks.
Services vary depending on the size and resources of the credit union. "There are credit unions with all different kinds of capabilities, and every credit union is different, which is what makes them unique and able to serve members so well," Stecker says. "You just have to find the right credit union for you."
Many credit unions have robust mobile banking platforms. Some allow paper check deposits by submitting a photo of the check on your phone. Which is good, because 90% of millennials report using online or mobile for their everyday banking needs.
10. Credit unions are a better deal.
Credit unions generally offer better loan rates, credit cards, and fewer fees than banks. The average lifetime savings for someone using a credit union in Wisconsin, for instance, is $117,000.
"To a certain extent it's always better to get a better deal, but social responsibility, the idea that you're actually contributing to something and helping your neighbors, matters more," Stecker says.
All the other perks of credit union membership? They're just icing.
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