Not-for-profit status fosters members-first mentality
Pro: Credit unions have superior service.
"Credit unions are cooperatives owned by their members," says Pat Keefe, a spokesman for CUNA. "Their mission is to provide their members with affordable financial services -- not to gouge them as profit centers."
That mission leads to very satisfied members, too. In the American Customer Satisfaction Index 2015 survey from CFI Group, credit unions beat banks, with customers rating their overall satisfaction at a score of 87 out of 100, 8 points greater than the banking average.
Con: There's limited eligibility.
Becoming a member has its hurdles.
Unlike banks, consumers cannot open an account at any credit union they choose. Many credit unions cater to specific geographic areas, employee groups, associations or religious or fraternal affiliations.
However, Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate's senior financial analyst, says joining a credit union has gotten much easier.
"Credit union fields of membership have been expanded in recent years," McBride says. "Increasingly, it's no longer a requirement to be an employee of 1 specific company, but there may be dozens that are eligible through the same credit union."