Q&A: What you need to know about credit unions

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Checking » Credit Union » By The Numbers: 2012 Credit Union Primer

What is needed to open a checking account?

According to Bankrate's 2012 Credit Union Checking Survey, which included 50 credit unions nationally, it takes as little as $1 and as much as $25 at most credit unions in the survey to open a credit union checking account, although one institution requires $100.

Credit union accounts also have consumer-friendly balance requirements to avoid fees, with 72 percent of those surveyed having no minimum balance and only 10 percent requiring a balance of $100 or more to avoid fees.

Can you get free checking?

According to Bankrate's 2012 Credit Union Survey, 72 percent of credit unions offer free checking accounts. By contrast, only 45 percent of banks offer free checking, according to Bankrate's latest checking study in 2011.

How high are the ATM fees?

In Bankrate's 2012 survey, 30 percent of credit unions surveyed have no fee for ATM use outside of the ATM network or provide at least one free withdrawal per week before a fee kicks in, compared to 29 percent of banks surveyed in 2011. The most common fees are $1 and $1.50, compared to $2 at banks.

What interest rates or yields can you expect?

ProductCredit unionsBanksThrifts
Mortgage (30-year fixed)3.78%3.72%3.84%
CD (five-year)1.58%0.89%1.28%
Car loan (48-month)4.16%3.82%4.81%
Source: Bankrate.com survey of national averages, released July 18, 2012.

How many people belong to credit unions?

At the end of 2011, there were 93.9 million credit union members in the U.S.

How many credit unions are there in the U.S.?

At the end of 2011, there were 7,351 credit unions operating in the U.S.

What are the nation's total credit union assets?

In total, credit union assets exceed $982 billion.

What are the nation's total credit union savings?

Credit union savings stand at $846 billion (shares and deposits) while loans outstanding total $587 billion.

What services do credit unions offer?

Credit unions can offer the full range of financial services, including deposits, mortgages, auto loans and credit cards. Many have begun to offer online banking, student loans and even business loans.

How do credit unions operate?

Credit unionsBanks
Owned by membersOwned by shareholders
Mostly operated by volunteer boardsGoverned by paid boards
Not-for-profit. Surplus earnings are rolled back into the credit union to lower costs for members.For-profit


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