Company Ties Not Required for Credit Unions

Dear Dr. Don,

Can I join a credit union on my own? I don't have any work-related connections that would allow me to join a company's credit union.

-- Marie Membership

Dear Marie,

Work-sponsored credit unions aren't the only avenue to joining a credit union. There are a host of possible connections that may qualify you to become a shareholder in one. Credit unions typically require a common bond of membership. But besides your employer, the common bond can be a school, a place of worship, membership in an organization or even a geographic area.

Members are called shareholders because credit unions are owned and run by their members, so deposits held in credit union accounts are considered "shares" and the depositors are "shareholders."

Shares in a federal credit unions and federally insured state credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, or NCUSIF. Insurance limits mirror bank deposits insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and like FDIC-insured deposits, the NCUSIF-insured shares are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

The National Association of Federal Credit Unions, NAFCU, has a credit union locator feature available on its website that will let you search where you live, and it describes the membership requirements for credit unions in that area. I did it for my area and found several credit unions that I'm qualified to join, apart from my employer's credit union.

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