Cooperative Banks and Credit Unions
A credit union is a cooperative bank that is owned and managed by its members, all of whom have accounts in the bank. There are over 50,000 credit unions worldwide, and thousands of credit unions in the United States holding assets ranging from over 10 billion dollars to under 1 million dollars. Credit Unions may be chartered under state or federal law.
In the United States, credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that exist to serve their members rather than to maximize corporate profits. Membership eligibility may be based on living or working in a geographical location, being a member or an employee of a select organization (e.g. a profession, business, labor union, advocacy organization, or church), or being a relative of an existing member. Like banks, credit unions accept deposits and make loans. But as member-owned institutions, credit unions focus on providing a safe place to save and borrow at reasonable rates. Unlike banks, credit unions return surplus income to their members in the form of dividends.
Credit unions may form a cooperative federation (e.g. a credit union league, a credit union central, or a corporate credit union) for support, lobbying, financial services, and running for-profit businesses like ATM networks and credit card processing.
Sample Bylaws from Cooperative Banks and Credit Unions
● Golden1 Credit Union headquartered in California, is one of the largest credit unions in the country and is state chartered.
● Santa Cruz Community Credit Union in California, is a Credit Union with multiple offices in Santa Cruz County.
● Northwoods Community Credit Union is located in Wisconsin. Bylaws
● Columbia Credit Union is located in Washington. Bylaws
● University of Iowa Credit Union. Bylaws
● BECU, headquartered in Washington, is one of the largest credit unions in the country and is state chartered. Bylaws
● Alliant Credit Union, headquartered in Illinois, is one of the largest credit unions in the country and is state chartered.
● State Employees Credit Union, headquartered in North Carolina, is one of the largest credit unions in the country and is state chartered.
● The Cooperative Bank (UK) Articles of Association
● National Credit Union Administration links to regulations and legal resources including governance and bylaws
● Vancity is one of many large credit unions in Canada.
● World Council of Credit Unions’ governance guides and sample legal documents including bylaws
● Consumer Cooperative Federation: European Association of Cooperative Banks. Link to list of member European Consumer Cooperative Banks. Articles of Association
● MyCreditUnion.gov links to search tool to find local credit unions.
● National Credit Union Administration links to search tool to find a credit union by defined parameters such as location, federal or state chartered, and field of membership (bond of association).
Other Resources on Credit Unions
● National Credit Union Administration
● National Association of State Credit Unions
● Credit Union National Association (a cooperative federation)
● World Council of Credit Unions
● Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions
Material on this page was compiled by Jill Jacobs, an attorney, SELC volunteer, and Sustainable Economies Law Fellow.