No matter where your comfort zone lies on money matters, the first place to start is at one of the Top Credit Unions in California, such as Travis Credit Union. With headquarters in Vacaville, TCU has been named a best-in-state credit union in 2021 and 2020 by Forbes.
While it takes doing many things well to make this Forbes Top 10 list, credit unions, in general, do have a lot in common that make them a very good alternative to banks.
What is a Credit Union?
By definition, credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives that provide the same products and services offered by banks – but the similarities end there. While banks are focused on profits, credit unions are focused on improving the lives of their members and using their profits to do just that. The credit union industry’s philosophy of people helping people guides their mission.
Credit unions have operated in the United States since the early 1900s. The first U.S. credit union was the St. Mary’s Cooperative Credit Association, established on April 6, 1909, in Manchester, New Hampshire. Today, there are about 5,400 American credit unions, of which 288 are headquartered in California.
Are Credit Unions Better Than Banks?
There are several reasons why credit unions are better than banks. Credit union members benefit through higher yields on deposits, fewer or no fees on products and services, and lower interest rates on loans.
Also, each member is an owner of the credit union and has a vote in electing its board leadership. For example, Travis Credit Union is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors and Supervisory Committee. These volunteers are members of the credit union and are not paid for their work. Elections are held each April at TCU’s annual membership meeting.
Another difference between credit unions and banks is their mission. A credit union’s federal or state charter requires that it serve a specific community, which often includes areas that are underserved by banks. A bank’s mission is to earn profits for its shareholders. Credit unions exist to help people of all demographics improve their financial lives.
The one thing credit unions do offer that is similar to banks is insured deposit accounts. Credit union deposit accounts are federally insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), which is backed by the U.S. Government. This is similar to the deposit insurance protection offered by banks by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
How to join a credit union
Now that you know how credit unions work and why they can offer you benefits big banks can’t, it’s time to become a member. First, do an online search for credit unions near you. Next, visit their websites to learn about them. Credit Unions vary in size, locations, offerings as well as the by Online or Mobile Services. Select the one that best fits your needs.
Most allow you to apply for membership online. Typically, you’ll need to open a share account with a small deposit to establish your membership. Once you’re in, you’re able to apply for loans, open other types of accounts, set up direct deposit and tap into a lot of other services and benefits.
How Travis Credit Union is different
At Travis Credit Union, we take the people helping people philosophy to another level. Our focus is on the financial wellness of our members and on lifting the communities we serve in Northern California. We call this our Awesome Cause. What this means is that we’ll help you identify your path to financial wellness and provide you with a strategy to plan, save, spend and borrow better.
We’ll help you buy your first car and/or home, prepare you for life’s important moments and show you the ways to build your financial wellness so you can live more fully. Here are other things that make TCU different:
- Value-focused products and services
- A strong commitment to service
- A Financial Wellness Hub on traviscu.org
- Recognized nationally and locally for our financial education efforts and for giving back to the community
As mentioned earlier, our efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Along with the Forbes award, Travis Credit Union has been recognized at the state and national level for financial education and our philanthropy. We’ve been named the U.S. Air Force’s Distinguished Credit Union of the Year in recent years. And Travis CU is consistently voted the Best Credit Union by local newspaper readers in Vacaville, Fairfield and Vallejo.