Membership: Who can join a credit union, and how?

Finding the right financial institution for your needs can be challenging, especially given the myriad of products, services, and incentives that are out there today.

Among these endless options, many consumers are turning to credit unions as their financial institution of choice. And it makes sense, given their competitive rates and broad range of products. But with many credit unions to choose from, how do you find the right one? And how do you know if you’re eligible to join?

Who can join a credit union?

A credit union is run by and serves people within a specific community. Therefore, access is granted through the institution’s defined “field of membership.” In other words, to join, you must qualify through a common association. Commonality can be based on a number of factors:

  • Location
  • Employer
  • Group or family membership
  • Church, school, or other alumni affiliation
  • Other community-based entities

“Some credit unions require you to have served in the military to join. Others, such as a college-affiliated union, may require you to have taken one class to become a member,” says Karen Guy, marketing analyst at Cobalt Credit Union. “To be eligible at Cobalt, you just have to live, work, worship, attend school, or conduct business in one of our counties of service, or have someone in your immediate family who meets those qualifications. For example, if you live in Texas and your sister lives in Omaha, you qualify for Cobalt CU membership.”

So how do I find the right credit union for me?

The easiest way is to ask around. Your friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and employer may already be affiliated with a credit union; therefore, your association with them may make you eligible to join their institution. So don’t be shy – ask away!

If no one in your network is associated with a credit union, you can find one by location or through an affiliation. Then, check out their website or call them to get more details on their membership requirements. Review their materials to learn more about their services, fees, and offerings. You can also check the credit union’s Safe & Sound rating.

How do I join?

Once you’ve determined your eligibility and gone through the necessary application process, you can usually open an account with a small deposit. For example, Cobalt Credit Union will let you join by opening a savings account with as little as $5; others may require up to $100.

A credit union is a solid option to traditional banking. With just a little research, you can easily find one that matches the services that you value.

Are you a credit union member, or have you been waiting to make the switch? Share your feedback in the comments.

To learn more about credit unions, or if you’re interested in becoming a member of Cobalt Credit Union, contact Member Services at 402.292.8000.