Credit Unions reach milestone membership figure in the USA

26 Aug 2014

Credit unions continue to grow in the USA, where they have reached 100 million members as of June 2014. The latest figures released by the Credit Union National Association show that credit unions have welcomed 2.85m members over the past year, this being the largest reported increase in 25 years.

To celebrate this milestone, CUNA is encouraging credit union members to share pictures on and social media. The website allows credit unions to upload their selfies and post these online.

Vicky Christner, media relations manager at CUNA, explained: “We do take into account, in making that estimate, that there are some people who are members of more than one credit union. On the other hand: We also take into account that – in a number of cases – there may be one member in a family, but there may be many more family members (spouse, children) who are also using credit union services”.

Bill Hampell, president and interim chief executive of CUNA, said the increase in membership was the result of the growing customer satisfaction and trust in credit unions. He added that while banks were aiming to make profit for shareholders, credit unions were not-for-profit co-operatives that were owned and lead by their members.

He said: "Clearly, there is growing recognition for credit unions among consumers. They increasingly understand that a credit union places their interests above all else, particularly in returning financial benefits to consumer members in the forms of lower rates on loans, higher returns on savings, and lower and fewer fees.

“It's the structure of credit unions – as not-for-profit, democratically led and cooperatively owned financial institutions– that allows credit unions to maintain this focus on returning financial benefits to members. In fact, by doing so, credit unions have earned the satisfaction and trust of their existing members – and are attracting even more."

Chief economist at CUNA, Mike Schenk thinks the financial crisis has also played a role in the growth of credit unions by determining customers to search for an alternative to traditional banks.

He said: “In 2010, credit union membership barely grew, expanding by just about 0.65%, or about 600,000 memberships. But, with the spotlight turned in 2011 to the increasing fees banks were charging – particularly for debit cards and other products – and the additional publicity for the lower and fewer fees at credit unions by contrast, membership growth that year more than doubled over the previous year, by 1.4m– and the rate of growth has increased in each subsequent year."

The Chicago Booth Kellogg School Financial Trust Index published last year revealed that only 28% of people trusted banks, while 62% trusted credit unions.

Credit unions are leaders in terms of customer satisfaction. They scored 85 out of 100 in the American Satisfaction Index, compared to the 78 obtained by traditional banks.