What is a Credit Union?

A credit union is a not-for-profit financial cooperative that is owned by its members. Operating under the philosophy of “not for charity, not for profit, but for service,” credit unions exist for an entirely different purpose than banks. Here are the primary differences between credit unions and banks:

Member-Owner, Not Customers

At a credit union, you are the owner, not a group of stockholders. Credit unions have no stockholders; rather, a member’s deposits are his or her shares of ownership in the credit union. As an owner, you are also a member of the credit union, not a customer. You must be eligible to join a credit union, but most credit unions—including NWGACU—have a wide field of membership that allows almost anyone to join. Being a member-owner also means you are treated like a person, not a number.


Because there are no stockholders to pay, credit unions return their profits to the membership. Profit is returned in the form of new and low-cost services, lower loan rates, and higher dividend dates. The not-for-profit and tax-exempt status has traditionally allowed credit unions to be a much better value than banks!

“People Helping People”

Each credit union was founded by a group of people who pooled together their money to lend to one another at a lower rate of interest than banks. Credit unions operate for the purpose of serving the financial needs of the members and helping them achieve personal goals, and all operating decisions are made from the perspective of the best interest of the members.

Volunteer Leadership

The operations of a credit union are overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors that is comprised of credit union members. Without the influence of salary, the Board of Directors is free to provide impartial leadership that is in the best interest of their fellow members.

One Member, One Equal Vote

The volunteer Board of Directors is democratically elected by the credit union membership. Each member-owner, regardless of the size of his or her shares, receives one vote.