Financial literacy

Bank or Credit Union For Your Money Pocket

When you are looking for a financial institution, your basic options are a bank or a credit union. You can give you money to both and come back to get it with some interest. You can take out a loan, apply for a credit card and use an ATM in the middle of the night why you need to buy some pizza.

On their surface, banks and credit unions function fairly similarly, but they are fundamentally different in purpose and in the way they view your money.

There are advantages and disadvantages of using both, and it is important to find out which one is best for your needs.



– More services. Because banks are profit driven, they try to make every as convenient for you as possible. They want your businesses and they try to earn it by offering as many services as possible so you don’t notice the terrible interest rates. Online banking, telephone banking, bank cards and travel insurance. If you want it, there is a bank service for that.

– More convenient locations. Economies of scale allow banks to become huge and span the country. Whether you travel to the other side of the city of the other side of the country, you will likely find an ATM close by.


– Lower interest on checking and savings accounts. Banks are for-profit institutions, so their focus is to offer you as low of an interest rate on your savings account as the market will bear. Usually fairly close to 0%.

– Focus on commercial loans. Banks earn money from large loans, and usually large loans are commercial loans. Therefore many banks focus on commercial customers and you and I are more of an afterthought.

– Competition between banks discourages sharing resources. Banks are competing with each other to get your dollar, so they are not usually willing to play well with other banks unless regulation forces them to.

Credit unions


– Not-for-profit. Credit unions are owned by their membership, so they are not interested in earning money. They are more interested in providing the services that the membership wants.

– A volunteer board of directors. The board of directors is made up of volunteers who have been elected by the members. Each member gets one vote. This means that the interests of all the members, big and small, are represented.

Lower interest on loans and Higher interest on Saving. Generally, members of credit unions want to borrow for less and earn more as they save. Because credit unions are not in it to make money, they try to strike a balance rather than maximize their profit.

– Dividend payout at year end. If the credit union does end up earning money at the end of the year, the extra cash is paid out to the membership based on how many shares they have in the bank. The more you save the more you earn.

– Controlled by the membership of the credit union. Because the members control the credit union, they decide what services the union will provide and how quickly new technologies are adopted.


– Controlled by the members of the credit union. If you are part of a credit union that does not reflect your needs, you can find yourself at the whim of the other members. If online banking is important to you, but the membership is made up of people who do not want it, you will have a difficult time making it happen.

– Locally based. Credit unions are often tied to a specific region or industry. They try to cater to the needs of the membership but if you leave the area you may not be able to access your money or have to pay high fees to do so.

– Fewer services. Smaller size means fewer needs and your credit union will usually only introduce services that its membership asks for.

There is a very real alternative to big banks that is available to anyone. So, if you are ready to work locally and be a part of a community that is working to help each other, it might be worth your while to visit a credit union. Check out what they have to offer, decide what you need and see if there is a fit.

Featured image credit: PEXELS


Olha graduated from Brigham Young University - Idaho. She joined PocketGuard in 2022 as a digital marketing manager with a strong background in product marketing. Olha is focused on brand awareness ...

Previous article
Next article
Back to the list of blog posts