HARRISBURG Credit unions have reached and surpassed 100 million memberships nationwide, the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association announced recently. Furthermore, membership in Pennsylvania credit unions also is growing and stands at 3.8 million memberships, according to a news release from the assocation. There are 6,620 credit unions operating in the United States and 475 are headquartered in Pennsylvania.
The 100 million memberships count is based on data collected from credit unions and compiled by the Credit Union National Association in its June 2014 Monthly Credit Union Estimates. CUNA estimates that credit union memberships expanded by 2.9 percent in the past 12 months, and the 100 million mark was eclipsed in June. CUNA expects the membership growth to continue in the second half of 2014 and exceed the full-year growth of the previous year.
Credit unions, the news release said, added a total of 2.85 million additional memberships over the past year - the largest reported increase in more than a quarter century. And, in percentage terms, the 2.5 percent increase was the fastest since 2000, according to the CUNA analysis.
"As we celebrate this national milestone, credit union memberships in Pennsylvania are approaching four million," PCUA President and CEO Patrick Conway said. "Credit unions offer Pennsylvanians affordable financial products and services."
Conway noted that not everyone can join the same credit union, but there is a credit union for everyone. "I encourage consumers to visit www.iBelong.org and check out the benefits of credit unions," Conway said.
"Clearly, there is growing recognition for credit unions among consumers," CUNA interim President and CEO Bill Hampel said. "They increasingly understand that a credit union places their interests above all else, particularly in returning financial benefits to consumer members in the forms of lower rates on loans, higher returns on savings, and lower and fewer fees."
He added that, in 2013, those financial benefits totaled more than $6 billion nationally and $221 million in Pennsylvania.
Hampel pointed out that, as cooperatives, credit unions are owned by their members and exist to provide financial services to those members. Banks, he noted, which are owned by shareholders, exist to return profits to those shareholders.
"It's the structure of credit unions - as not-for-profit, democratically led and cooperatively-owned financial institutions that allows credit unions to maintain this focus on returning financial benefits to members," Hampel said. "In fact, by doing so, credit unions have earned the satisfaction and trust of their existing members - and are attracting even more."
CUNA Chief Economist Mike Schenk said other factors within the financial services marketplace have played key roles in the credit union growth. He noted that a growing number of consumers continue to express dissatisfaction with big Wall Street banks due to the economic downturn and consumer movements such as Bank Transfer Day in 2011, when consumers were urged through a grassroots movement - primarily on social media - to leave big banks and move their money to a credit union or small bank because the organizations tend to offer better rates and incur fewer fees.
To celebrate the 100 million membership milestone, credit union members are encouraged to share their credit union story with their photo on www.americascreditunions.org and on social media to show they are part of an organization that focuses on their best financial interests, the news release said.
The Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Credit Union Association is a trade association that provides legislative, promotional, educational, and operational support for credit unions in Pennsylvania. Credit unions headquartered in Pennsylvania have assets in excess of $38 billion and serve 3.8 million members. For more information about PCUA, visit www.PCUA.org or follow @PCUA on Twitter. For additional information about credit unions or to find a credit union, visit www.ibelong.org.
With its network of affiliated state credit union associations, the Credit Union National Association serves America's credit unions, which are owned by more than 100 million consumer members, according to the news release. Credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives providing affordable financial services to people from all walks of life. For more information about CUNA, visit www.cuna.org, or follow @CUNA on Twitter. For more information about credit unions, visit www.aSmarterChoice.org and follow @asmarterchoice on Twitter.