The Credit Union Cooperative Principles

Credit union members talk about “the credit union difference” — if you’ve only ever used banks as your financial institution, you may think they’re exaggerating, but there are many fundamental differences that make credit unions a unique and preferred choice for members. We believe in people over profit, and that impacts the way we do business. From our overall structure down to the smallest detail, the credit union philosophy and the Cooperative Principles that we adhere to sets us apart.


The traditional seven Cooperative Principles were adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance in 1995 and continue to be the standardized set of principles used by all co-ops. However, in 2019 the Credit Union National Association and National Credit Union Foundation adopted a board resolution to support diversity, equity, and inclusion as a shared credit union cooperative principle, and for credit unions to continue to have a responsibility and take a leadership role in building and serving more diverse, equitable and inclusive communities.

Voluntary Membership

Credit unions are voluntary, cooperative organizations, offering services to people willing to accept the responsibilities and benefits of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.

We operate as not-for-profit institutions with volunteer boards of directors. Members are drawn from defined fields of membership.

Democratic Member Control

Credit Unions are democratic organizations owned and controlled by their members. One member equals one vote, with equal opportunity for participation in setting policies and making decisions.

Members’ Economic Participation

Members are the owners. They contribute to, and democratically control, the capital of the credit union.

Credit unions typically offer better rates, fees, and service than for-profit financial institutions, so members recognize benefits in proportion to their financial transactions and general usage.

Autonomy and Independence

Credit Unions are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members.

Education, Training and Information

Credit unions provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the cooperative.

Credit unions place particular importance on educational opportunities for their volunteer directors, and financial education for their members.

Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Credit unions serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, state, regional, national, and international structures.

Concern for Community

While focusing on member needs, credit unions work for the sustainable development of communities, including people of modest means, through policies developed and accepted by the members.


Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Credit unions support diversity, equity and inclusion as a shared credit union cooperative principle and continue to have a responsibility and take a leadership role in building and serving more diverse, equitable and inclusive communities. 

Want to Learn More?
Karen Smith Karen Smith SVP/Chief Advocacy Officer

800-745-5546, ext.124

Direct: 406-324-7376

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