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Credit Unions vs. Banks

Credit Unions vs Banks: What’s the Difference?

Credit unions and banks are different. Yes, they’re both types of financial institutions and they offer many similar-seeming products and services. But they’re structured differently, and that matters – at a credit union, you’re a member, not a customer.

Ultimately, everyone's going to choose the financial institution that's right for their needs. In order to do that, it's helpful to know exactly what you're choosing between when you're evaluating banks vs. credit unions.

Banks are for-profit corporations.

They're owned by private investors and stakeholders. At a bank, you're a customer. Your transactions (eventually, in one way or another) earn money for the bank. In a very simple, stripped-down example, when you get a loan from a bank, the interest is the bank's profit and that gets returned not to you, but to the shareholder in the form of increased stock value and/or dividends.

Credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives.

As not-for-profits, credit unions return profits to members in the form of better rates, fewer fees, and more financial services. At a credit union, you're a member, and you're also an owner. By putting your money into the credit union, you “buy” a piece of the cooperative model. Access to your money is easy and surcharge-free at member ATMs.

In the credit union model, when you get a loan from a credit union, the interest allows the credit union to make more loans to other members. But the credit union isn't trying to make as much as possible from the transaction. It's just trying to make enough to keep the credit union healthy. 

It's in our best interest to help.

Because credit unions do well when members do well, we have a vested interest in the financial health of our members. Thus, we're committed to offering financial education to our members and communities. We often don't charge all of the fees that banks charge. And we try to offer lower rates on products like loans and credit cards.


BECU is values-driven, not profit-driven.


We support our community.

We're proud to roll up our sleeves and help the fellow artists, businesses, schools and students of our community. Our own employees get 12 hours of paid time off every year to volunteer, and we organize volunteering activities during work hours. We also give scholarships to college students through the BECU Foundation and support local non-profits through the People Helping People Awards.

We believe in experts.

Visit with a member consultant at a BECU Neighborhood Financial Center  – you can even book an appointment online. They'll sit down with you and talk through your options so you can make an informed decision about your finances.

We invest in tech.

Our Online Banking, Mobile Banking and advanced ATMs  are designed to give you control over your money anywhere. Our financial centers are cashless. By eliminating physical handling of money, we reduce risk and expense. And you, as a member, get maximum value in return.

We work together.

We're part of the CO-OP, a network of 3,500 credit unions. Through the CO-OP, members have access to more than 4,000 Shared Branch locations across the country. Plus, between BECU ATMs, ATMs in Rite-Aid stores (in WA state) and CO-OP ATMs – you have access to more than 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide.

We listen to you.

We conduct quarterly surveys to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty, asking, “how likely are you to recommend BECU to a friend or colleague?” In 2014, BECU's score was over 70%, well above the financial institution average (29%), and the credit union average (59.79%).

We save you money.

As a cooperative, we're all lifting each other toward financial health. Compared to average bank customers, BECU members may save more as a result of our lower rates and fewer fees.

We offer discounts.

Get member-only discounts. We create partnerships with local businesses in order to save our members money on everything from sporting events and concerts to festivals and trade shows.

You matter to us.

Joining is free and easy. No deposit is required to become a member of the credit union. No minimum monthly balance. No fees to maintain membership.

Learn more about membership benefits