The Banking Basics of a Credit Union

August 11, 2014

This is the second post in our series about Credit Unions. As mentioned last month, Melissa Grosser, lifestyle PR professional in Toronto, is exploring the alternatives to banks, and seeing if a credit union is right for her.

You can read the first article in the series: What is a Credit Union? Uncovering the Financial Institution Alternative


Even though I have been a long-standing client of a typical bank since my early teenage years, as I move further into adulthood, I always wondered the following: Am I getting the best deal here? Is there an alternative that my money should seek a relationship with?

This is an easy question for many young professionals. Being a young professional myself, buying a future home or paying off debt is always on the brain. Even saving a dollar or two a month off of my bank fees brings me excitement. Seriously, it does!

In my mission for seeking other financial institution options, it came to my surprise that credit unions actually offer the same simple services that a large, traditional bank offers. To be honest, before this, I truly believed credit unions only specialized in loans.

The Banking Basics of a Credit Union

Basic services such as opening and maintaining a chequing and savings account at a credit union is a great option for avid savers, who are looking for both variety in how to store their money, as well as ditching those surprise administrative fees. Even better, when you join a credit union, you join as a member. That’s because credit unions believe in co-operative banking – meaning that banking is based on the idea that profits should have a higher purpose. They should be returned to you (members) in the form of great rates and better service. And they should be put back into the community to do good where you live.

As much as I am loyal to my bank of 15+ years, I am starting to test out a credit union for some of my basic banking needs. Here are some things that I learned that will probably pleasantly surprise you too:

1)    You can get a normal debit and/or credit card through a credit union. Just because it isn’t your typical bank, doesn’t mean you aren’t given the plastic hardware. And the card has pretty significant reach too – there are so many surcharge free ATMs that a credit union member can access all over the country!

2)    Credit unions offer a variety of account options to their members. This is great because regardless of how small your savings might be, you won’t be turned away from having the opportunity to store and grow your money at a credit union. To cater to all members, credit unions offer unique banking packages, from basic plans and high-volume value packages to pay-as-you-go options.

3)    In most cases (this is my favourite one!), credit unions are very transparent and upfront about any admin fees and in some cases, they are either non-existent or extremely low. Plus, they are accompanied by tons of freebies, such as online banking transactions, because credit unions make sure profits are used to provide more value to members.

4)    Like the large-standing banks, credit unions can still sweeten the deal with a new member gift. You don’t need to say goodbye to those fun “free iPod” giveaways.

Additional things I learned that one would love about basic banking under the credit union system would be the low monthly overdraft protection fee (which can be as little as $2.50 per month), low wire transfer rates and remaining competitive to offer members a good bang for their buck.

I figure that every dollar I can save on banking fees is another loonie I can put towards my future home, that dream vacation or other goals that I have in mind.


Curious if co-operative banking is for you? You can visit to find your closest Ontario credit union. For those who live outside of Ontario, find your closest credit union at


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  • Michelle August 11, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    I’ve always belonged to a credit union, and I love it. The customer service is great, the same people have worked there the whole time I’ve been banking there pretty much, and the services they offer are usually better and more affordable.

    • Marissa Anwar August 11, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      I love the homey feeling of being a familiar face at somewhere. That, along with the affordable rates, are a win-win in my books.

  • Kassandra August 11, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    When I lived in Montreal and had a mortgage it was held by Caisse Desjardins; a cooperative bank. I had a very positive experience with them and enjoyed the yearly “ristourne” cheque we would receive as a shareholder.

    • Marissa Anwar August 11, 2014 at 7:59 pm

      It’s always nice when they treat as an integral part of the process, isn’t it?

  • Michelle@PennyThots August 11, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    I bank with a credit union and I love it. There isn’t anything that I can’t do there that I couldn’t do with my standard bank. I still have a debit card, and it has lower withdraw rates compared to some of the other larger chains. It is hard when I need to take out money because there not a lot of “chains” I can go visit, but that just means I need to be smarter about my banking visits.

    • Marissa Anwar August 11, 2014 at 7:59 pm

      That’s great to hear, Michelle. I hear what you’re saying about taking money out. I tend to just use cash back from places like Walmart, or my local grocery store, avoiding a trip to the bank machine all together.

  • Cat@BudgetBlonde August 11, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    I was a part of a local credit union in college. It was really nice actually but I moved on when I moved away.

    • Marissa Anwar August 11, 2014 at 11:33 pm

      Awesome. Have you thought of going back?

  • Thomas August 12, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    My banking needs are pretty basic so I use an online bank. I find it covers all my needs and it doesn’t cost a thing. If I ever found that I need more from my bank I would definitely go with a local credit union.

  • janice September 19, 2014 at 10:40 am

    good read