Updated: 20 Feb 2017
What is a credit union?
A credit union is a financial co-operative that provides savings and loan facilities for the benefit of its members. As a co-operative, it is owned and controlled by those members, each of whom has one vote (once aged 16 or over) - regardless of how much or how little they have saved.
Who can join?
There are 100 credit unions in Northern Ireland affiliated to the Irish League of Credit Unions, each one an independent entity serving members drawn from a particular area or group - this is known as a common bond. For many credit unions that common bond is the area they live in.
For others the common bond might be the occupation members work in, the employer they work for or, perhaps, members are drawn from a society or association. This common bond is what enables members to know and trust one another.
What’s the difference?
Each credit union is an independent, 'not-for-profit' organisation that exists solely for the benefit of its members, not stock markets. Decisions are therefore made at a local level. As a member you are a shareholder, with one vote. The more savings you have, the more shares you have. Member savings provide the money to lend to other members. So everybody benefits because any surplus money generated is returned to members as a dividend or as a loan interest rebate. Alternatively, the surplus can be used to provide enhanced services to members.
How do I join?
- Find your local credit union in your local phone book or find out if your work or club has a credit union. Find out more at creditunionni.co.uk
- Fill out a membership form. There's a small entrance fee - no more than £1.00.
- Start saving. Each £1 you save is equal to a 1 share - although minimum savings of between one and five shares is required to hold membership.
- Save regularly and build up your savings - now you are a member, shareholder, owner and saver!
- You can now apply for a loan.
- You also have a vote and a say on how your credit union is run - indeed, members are encouraged to attend their credit union's annual general meeting and have their say.
What do credit unions offer?
Specific services and rates may vary between credit unions, depending on members' needs, but most credit unions offer the following:
Saving at your credit union has a number of benefits. Your saving is your shareholding, so the more you have saved, the greater your share of any dividend declared following the end of the financial year. Your savings are also protected by Life Savings Protection at no cost to eligible members. Find out more at creditunionni.co.uk or pick up the 'Loan Protection and Life Savings Insurance' leaflet from your credit union. All members’ savings are protected up to the value of £85,000 under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Credit union loans are designed to be ethical and flexible. Loans are based on what people can afford to repay and repayments are planned around individual circumstances. Loan insurance is included in loan packages at no cost to eligible members. Find out more at creditunionni.co.uk or pick up the 'Loan Protection and
Life Savings Insurance' leaflet at your credit union.
Credit unions are about steady growth and reasonable precautions. Insurance products are designed to protect members and their families. Insurance policies include Loan Protection and Life Savings Insurance, which all members benefit from, at no direct cost to them. Death Benefit Insurance is also available through the majority of credit unions.
Other Services available through credit unions may include:
- Easy Shares budgeting account
- Budgeting tips/Money management service
- Receipt of Benefit payments
- Debit card payments
- Foreign Exchange
- Pre-paid debit cards
- Bursary schemes
For more information on credit unions, or to locate your nearest credit union, visit: