A coworker of mine asked me how to pick a credit union. He was fed up with his current bank (for reasons he never explained to me) and he knew that I had been a board member of North County Credit Union. So he asked me what he should look for when picking a credit union. I told him several things he should look for.
What are the policies of the credit union that you are looking at?
Unfortunately, I don't know what he was frustrated with, but I assume it was a policy of the bank he was a customer of. So I told him that he should check the policies of the credit union that he is looking to join and make sure they don't have the same policy as the bank that he was trying to get away from.
This information can be found by searching for something like "account agreement for |credit union|", where |credit union| is the name of the credit union that you're looking to join.
What fees will the credit union charge?
Check the fee schedule of the credit union that you're looking to join. This is actually the biggest reason that I moved my accounts from the bank that I was using to my current credit union. At one time, I was a member of Bank of America. About several months in, I started to notice mysterious charges on my bank statements. I visited the bank to see what was going on and found out that they charge money every time you go in to see a teller. Seeing a teller was the primary way that I put money in the bank. So basically, I was getting charged to put money in the bank.
This information can be found by searching for something like "fee schedule for |credit union|", where |credit union| is the name of the credit union that you're looking to join. One thing to remember is that some credit unions can be as bad as banks when it comes to the fees that they charge, so make sure you compare with your current bank.
Are you in the field of membership?
Some credit unions have small fields of membership. For example, I am not eligible to join South Side Community Federal Credit Union in Chicago because I don't have any affiliation with the south side of Chicago. So make sure you're eligible to join whatever credit union you're looking at.
Again, a search for "|credit union| field of membership", where |credit union| is the name of the credit union that you're looking to join, should let you know what the membership eligibility requirements are.
Where are the ATMs? Where are the branches?
Some (probably most) credit unions participate in the co-op network which has 30,000 ATMs so this probably won't be an issue, but it's a good idea to check anyway. Also, sooner or later you're going to have to go to a credit union branch. It's a good idea to know where those branches are. In addition, some credit unions participate in shared branching which greatly increases the number of locations. Check to see if your proposed credit union participates.
Here are some more questions to find out about.
- Do they have a mobile app that is supported on the device that I use? For example, if I happen to have a Windows tablet, will I be able to get an app for it?
- Do they support the products and features that you use more often? For example, do they support mobile check deposit or mobile bill pay?
- Who do they use for share insurance? NCUA? ASI? None at all? This can be a very important answer if they happen to go under.
In conclusion, there is a lot to look at and think about when selecting a credit union. The decision is not to be made lightly. Good luck.