Credit Union vs. Bank: What is Right for Your Military Family?

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Let’s face it: As a military spouse, you are the one in your family most likely handling the day-to-day bills as well as long-term financial planning, all while juggling PCS moves, deployments and other challenges unique to military life.

Researching the options can quickly feel overwhelming. Bank or credit union? Who has the best credit cards? Where can I get a car loan while my spouse is deployed? Where do I even start with a mortgage?

For military spouse, Kristen Seney, cost was the bottom line in her family’s decision to utilize a credit union instead of a traditional bank for all their financial products, including savings and checking accounts, credit cards and car loans. She felt that a credit union being a non-profit, plus the rates they could get on loans made the choice clear for her family.

Did you know?

  • Credit unions are financial cooperatives owned by their members. Financial experts say this cuts down on costs because there are no corporate shareholders dipping into profits, thus allowing credit unions to offer lower rates and fees.
  • Credit unions got their start in the U.S. as cooperatives among rural farmers and working-class families in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Banks at the time did not typically offer smaller loans or credit, or did so only with high interest rates. Those early cooperatives grew into the vast network of credit unions across the country today, each with its own targeted membership.

Seney banks with Navy Federal Credit Union, which serves active duty, veterans, and their families. She said she especially appreciates that NFCU has brick-and-mortar locations where members can get assistance in person.

Navy Federal is also convenient and easy to do business with via phone and online.

NFCU was ranked “No. 1 in Customer Experience for Full-Service Banking” by the Forrester Customer Experience Index, an annual survey of member service among large global brands.

Military spouse, Anne Shimer, said she appreciates the friendliness of her credit union over a corporate bank. She is also an NFCU member, using the credit union for checking and savings accounts, a mortgage and even an RV loan.

“Compassion and empathy for military members and their families are exhibited by the employees,” Shimer said. “I love the one-on-one relationship they show to everyone.”

Credit unions serve their members with a full range of banking products and services, including checking and savings accounts, mortgages, vehicle loans, credit cards, investment accounts, retirement planning and insurance.

Navy Federal also presents free seminars tailored specifically for military members and their families at bases around the country on topics like home buying, estate planning and retirement. In addition, NFCU has a wealth of information and resources on major military life events including deployment, PCS moves and returning to civilian life.

Wondering if a credit union is the right fit for your military family? Here are the answers to five questions that might help you decide:

  1. What is a credit union? A credit union is a non-profit cooperative whose sole purpose is to serve its members. Navy Federal, with more than 8 million members, is the world’s largest credit union.
  2. Who owns a credit union? You do! Well, that is, if you’re a member. Being member-owned means not only lower loan rates and lower fees on banking products, it also means having a financial institution whose employees are used to serving people with similar situations. NFCU, for example, serves the military, Department of Defense, veterans and their families and has products and services specifically designed to serve those members.
  3. What makes NFCU different than other credit unions or traditional banks?

Award-winning member service, low rates, a wide range of banking products and a proven track record of serving military families.

  1. Do I have to be in the Navy to join NFCU? Nope. Membership is open to active duty personnel, retirees, veterans and reservists from all branches of the armed forces, as well as Army and Air National Guard personnel, Delayed Entry Program personnel, Department of Defense civilians and U.S. government employees and contractors. Immediate family members of any of the above are also eligible to join. It’s like your own military community for banking.
  2. Why should I join NFCU as a military family member? Navy Federal has all the tools to make your financial tasks easier, including more than 300 brick-and-mortar branches on or near bases worldwide, user-friendly mobile banking via an app* or online and thousands of free ATMS worldwide. An 86-year history of serving military families is reflected in Navy Federal’s motto: “Our Members Are the Mission.”

Quotes were provided by a Navy Federal Union member

*Message and data rates may apply. Terms and conditions are available.

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