WASHINGTON (8/6/14)--Credit unions have reached and surpassed 100 million memberships nationwide--equating to one in every three Americans, the Credit Union National Association announced Tuesday.
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The count is based on data collected from credit unions and compiled by CUNA in its June 2014 monthly credit union estimates. CUNA estimates that credit union memberships expanded by 2.9% in the past 12 months, from June 2013 to June 2014, and the 100 million mark was eclipsed in June.
This represents a continuation, and acceleration, of trends previously reported: In 2013 memberships expanded by 2.5% and in 2012 memberships grew 2.1%. CUNA expects the membership growth to continue in the second half of 2014 and exceed the full-year growth of the previous year.
Credit unions added a total of 2.85 million additional memberships over the past year--the largest reported increase in more than a quarter century. And, in percentage terms, the 2.9% increase was the fastest since 2000, according to the CUNA analysis.
"Clearly, there is growing recognition for credit unions among consumers," said CUNA interim President/CEO Bill Hampel. "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 added that, in 2013, those financial benefits totaled more than $6 billion.
Hampel pointed out that, as cooperatives, credit unions are owned by their members and exist to provide financial services to those members. Banks, he noted, which are owned by shareholders, exist to return profits to those shareholders.
"It's the structure of credit unions--as not-for-profit, democratically led and cooperatively owned financial institutions--that allows credit unions to maintain this focus on returning financial benefits to members," CUNA leader Hampel said. "In fact, by doing so, credit unions have earned the satisfaction and trust of their existing members--and are attracting even more."
At least two key measurements of consumer attitudes have recently underscored the reputation that credit unions have built among their members. At year-end 2013, the American Customer Satisfaction Index found, for the fifth straight year, that credit unions lead banks in customer satisfaction--scoring 85 out of 100, compared to 78 for all banks. Credit unions have topped banks in each of the five years that they have appeared on the index.
In 2013, the Chicago Booth Kellogg School Financial Trust Index showed that consumers trust credit unions more than banks. The index, sponsored jointly by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, showed trust in credit unions is 62% while trust in big banks is 28%.
CUNA interim Chief Economist Mike Schenk said other factors within the financial services marketplace have played key roles in the credit union growth. He noted that a growing number of consumers continue to express dissatisfaction with big Wall Street banks due to economic downturn and consumer movements such as Bank Transfer Day in 2011, when consumers were urged through a grassroots movement--and primarily on social media--to leave big banks and move their money to a credit union or small bank because the organizations tend to offer better rates and incur fewer fees.
"In 2010, credit union membership barely grew, expanding by just about 0.65%, or about 600,000 memberships," Schenk said. "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 1.4 million--and the rate of growth has increased in each subsequent year."
Schenk noted that not everyone can join the same credit union, but there is a credit union for everyone. He noted that consumers wishing to find a credit union they are eligible to join should visit aSmarterChoice.org, a website that includes a comprehensive credit union finder with every credit union in the country, and helps consumers learn more about credit unions.
Additionally: Hundreds of credit union members have shared their credit union stories with their photo on americascreditunions.org and social media to show they are part of an organization that focuses on their best financial interests. Learn more about the 100 million credit union memberships nationwide milestone by visiting www.americascreditunions.org.