Banks offer a lot of perks, but the structure of a credit union is focused around the community. Credit unions are owned by people who live and work within the community rather than shareholders. This often means they are able to offer even better rates, fees, and services. If you’re considering moving from a bank to a credit union, good news: Making the switch is easy. In fact, you can do it in just three steps:
1. Do your research
Credit unions are able to offer the benefits they do because they’re a co-op. A co-op, short for co-operative, means that the institution is owned by members. Many credit unions offer membership to the general public, but some still serve people according to where they live, where they work, or other associations they might belong to. You can use the Credit Union Match tool to find a credit union to join near you.
Once you’ve found a credit union, check on the branch locations, especially if having access to a walk-in location is important to you. Remember, most credit unions offer mobile apps and online banking, and many credit unions also participate in ATM networks like the Co-Op Financial Services network and the Alliance One network so patrons can use any ATM in the network without fees. This can give credit union patrons access to more ATMs than any commercial bank, but it’s up to you to check your credit union’s participation.
2. Get the documents
Once you’ve decided on a credit union, visit a branch to sign up. You can even start the process online or over the phone; however, you will need to finish up in person due to federal identification requirements asked of all financial institutions.
Many credit unions have created “switch kits” to make signing up easy. The kits usually include all of the forms, identification requirements, and other paperwork you’ll need to take to your current financial institution and fill out for the credit union to make the transition as smooth as possible. Even if your credit union doesn’t have a kit, they likely have information outlining what you need to do. If you have any questions during the process, just ask!
3. Update your accounts
After your credit union account is open, you’ll want to be sure to update your paycheck direct deposit, any recurring bank transfers for bills, and any saved debit card info you use for online purchases.
While you do that, consider leaving some money in your old account—just enough to cover any bills you may have forgotten to transfer. Once you’re confident that all of your automatic payments and deposits are linked to your new account (usually after about a month of paying attention to both accounts) you can withdraw the last few dollars from your bank and close the account.
If you’ve been considering making a move to a credit union, we hope this guide helps you. Making the switch isn’t that hard and can be done in just three steps.