How to Join a Credit Union

If you're tired of the extravagant fees that some banks charge or being treated as a number instead of a person, the solution might be to join a credit union. Because they are smaller, many credit unions will often treat you with respect and get to know you as a person, charge no monthly fees at all, offer better interest rates and often work with your credit when other financial institutions won't. It's generally no harder to join a credit union than it is to join a bank, and you'll be happy with the results.

Start With People You Know

Ask at the HR department at your work and see if a particular credit union works with your employer. Many credit unions service a particular or profession. For example, teachers, medical professionals and the military often have their own credit unions.

Ask your parents if they belong to a credit union through their work or profession. Most credit unions allow family members to join. Ask your co-workers as well and find out where they belong.

Some states have made it much easier to join a credit union where you don't have to belong to any particular group; all you have to do is walk in the door to join.

Visit Local Branches

Use the National Credit Union Administration's credit union locator tool to find credit unions in your area. Call a few local credit unions and ask several pertinent questions, such as how much money is needed to join, what paperwork will be needed, and any applicable service fees. Write down the answers to the questions.

Rate them not only for their answers but also by the way you are treated. Were they courteous to you? The way you are treated is sometimes just as important as the other things.

You can also check out the credit union's website. What services to they offer online? Do they offer online banking and bill pay? Based on what you discover, decide where you want to join.

Open an Account

Go you the credit union you chose with the amount of money you need as well as any documentation they require. To join most credit unions, you will need your driver's license or picture I.D. and Social Security card. If the credit union requires that you belong to a particular group for profession, they may also need a check stub or other proof of your membership.

You may need additional things as well depending on where you are joining. For example, Charlotte Metro Credit Union also asks to see a valid checking account, debit card, or credit card.

Fill out the application. When you are done, let the personnel at the credit union know. A customer service person will speak with you as soon as they can. Once approved, congratulations. You now belong to a credit union!

Understand Your Account 

Speak with the customer service person and customize your account. You will be able to order checks and ATM or debit cards. Ask any questions that come to mind such as details on overdraft protection and how long it will take to get materials. You will be given a set of stock checks without your name on them, papers and pamphlets explaining many credit union features and the schedule of fees. Make sure you read through those documents thoroughly.

Some banks and credit unions has started scanning your license or picture I.D. If this is offered, take advantage of it. It will give your account a little extra protection and allow you to come in the bank for business without your I.D. in the future because they will be able to bring up your picture to verify it's you.

Most credit union require that you open a savings before you open a checking and that you keep a minimum amount in savings at all times. This amount can differ from $5 to $50.