What is a credit union?

Credit unions are community savings & loans providers

Traditionally, credit unions have been small, non-profit financial organisations set up by members with something in common to benefit their community. That common factor may be living in the same town, working in the same industry (eg, the Police Credit Union) or belonging to a particular trade union.

Many credit unions are professionalising, having moved away from the man and his ledger in the church hall collecting savings and offering loans. Many now offer products online, and most have some form of commercial premises.

There are now about 500 credit unions in the UK, 113 in Scotland alone serving over 250,000 people.

Credit unions are not-for-profit - and your money's safe...

Credit unions aim to help you take control of your money by encouraging you to save what you can, and borrow only what you can afford to repay. In essence, they're savings and loan co-operatives, where the members pool their savings to lend to one another and help to run the credit union.

This is done in a ‘not-for-profit’ way, so the cash is only used to run the services and reward the members, and NOT to pay outside shareholders, like most other financial institutions

Credit unions are for everyone

They’re there to provide a financial community. The idea is that members mutually benefit as there’s no profit for third-party shareholders.

This can often mean helping those who can’t get access to ordinary bank products; a lifeline in less well-off communities for folks grappling with their finances. Plus, they can be a welcome alternative to payday loans or doorstep lending.

Credit unions offer savings and loans. But some offer current accounts and even mortgages

By putting money in there, you’re helping others in your community.

You'll usually qualify to join one or two unions

They’re all specific, so you need to check if there’s one that suits you in your area, or one for people in your profession. If you live in or near the Baillieston area then you will probably qualify with us.

Generally, to be part of a credit union, you need to share a ‘common bond’ with other members. Once you’re a member, you can become involved in decision-making by attending AGMs or other member meetings. Some of the smaller ones may also be looking for help to run it.

You can also usually stay in the union if you're not in the bond anymore, for example if you move house or job, although smaller unions may not have the resources to be able to deal with this.