The first credit union in the United States was opened in 1909. Credit unions have been exempt from federal income tax since 1916 because they are "organized and operated for mutual purposes and without profit."
In 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act into law, creating a national system to charter and to supervise federal credit unions. The credit union movement grew steadily in the 1940s and 1950s. By 1960, credit union membership amounted to more than 6 million individuals belonging to more than 10,000 federal credit unions.
In 1970, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) became an independent federal agency. Congress also created the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) to protect deposits at credit unions. The 1970s also brought major changes in the products offered by financial institutions. In 1977, federal legislation allowed U.S. credit unions to offer new services to their members, including share certificates and mortgages.
Today, there are 6,143 credit unions throughout the United States with a combined $1.2 trillion in assets. The total combined assets of U.S. banks are $15.6 trillion.
NEW YORK CREDIT UNIONS
There are 376 credit unions in the state serving more than 5 million members, with combined assets of $72 billion.
- Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives, serving members who share something in common: employment, association membership or residence in a particular geographic area.
- As not-for-profit cooperatives, credit unions share earnings with their members through better savings and loan rates, as well as generally lower fees than banks. Surveys consistently rank credit unions first among financial institutions in consumer satisfaction.
- 30% of Americans are credit union members
- Credit unions hold 6% of all financial assets, while banks hold 94% of financial assets.
PHILOSOPHY AND STRUCTURE
- Credit unions are member-owned and democratically controlled institutions that take pride in their "people helping people" philosophy.
- Credit union boards of directors are elected by members. Each member has an equal vote, regardless of how much money he or she has with the credit union. Only members may serve as directors, and directors usually serve for free. Volunteers are an important credit union resource.
- Credit unions have no outside stockholders, so after reserves are set aside, earnings are returned to members through dividends on savings, lower loan rates and fees, or additional services.
DIFFERENCE FROM BANKS
- Credit unions operate differently from banks. Members are not just customers; they are owners with a say in the future of their credit union. In addition, credit unions' not-for-profit status means all earnings are returned to benefit all members.
- Banks exist to make a profit for shareholders, so the focus is on earning money from customers, not returning earnings to benefit customers.
SAFETY AND SOUNDNESS
- Due to prudent lending and management practices, most credit unions have not felt the adverse effects of recent economic downturns as banks have.
REGULATION AND SUPERVISION
- Federally chartered credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), an independent agency. New York's state-chartered credit unions are regulated by the NYS Department of Financial Services (DFS).