Credit unions in the US have reached a milestone membership figure with 100 million members nationwide, according to figures released by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). This represents an increase of 2.9% from the previous 12 month.
Over the past year credit unions have received 2.85m members, the largest reported increase in over 25 years. The 100 million memberships figure is based on CUNA’s estimates for credit unions as of June.
“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,” said Vicki Christner, media relations manager at CUNA.
President and chief executive of CUNA, Bill Hampel thinks the figure reflects the growing customer satisfaction and trust in credit unions. 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.”
He explained that while banks tend to focus on making profit for shareholders, credit unions are not-for-profit co-operatives owned and lead by their members.
“It’s the structure of credit unions – as not-for-profit, democratically led and co-operatively 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.”
Customers trust credit unions more than banks, according to the Chicago Booth Kellogg School Financial Trust Index. The data collected by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business shows that trust in credit unions has reached 62% in 2013, while trust in banks was at 28%.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which gathered views from over 70,000 customers, also revealed that credit unions lead banks in customer satisfaction, scoring 85 out of 100, as opposed to 78 obtained by the banking sector.
Mike Schenk, chief economist at CUNA, explains the growth of the credit unions sectors in the context of the economic downturn. 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.”
• To mark the achievement of 100 million memberships, CUNA encourages credit union members to share pictures on americascreditunions.org and social media. The website allows credit unions to upload their selfies and post these to the side.