Credit Union Philosophy

Credit unions are unique … and, in today’s credit union, it is not enough to know how to price products and services. Everyone, including directors, managers, and staff, needs to understand why credit unions are in the business they are in. When our staff and volunteers understand and are comfortable speaking about this, we will thrive.


Credit unions are relative “newcomers” to the social and economic scene. As an idea, they have only been around since the mid-1880s, and the first U.S. credit union didn’t open its doors until 1909. But what a brilliant idea it was … and still is! Cooperative credit filled a real need in a new way. Credit unions could provide access to affordable, short-term credit for members of the working class, small farmers, or tradesmen in a community. And, because the very people who directly benefited had an ownership stake in the financial organization, they were careful to shepherd their investment (and pay back their loans).

Once the idea was planted, it was clear that credit unions — and the benefits they offer — were here to stay.


As someone who is involved with a credit union, it should come as no surprise that credit unions aren’t like any other financial institution. This difference is the reason we exist and why we’re tax-exempt.

You may have heard it before, but it bears repeating: The Credit Union Difference Is In The Structure. 

So, credit unions actually differ from other financial difference in these primary ways …

  1. We’re Not-For-Profit
  2. We’ve Got a Unique Ownership Structure
  3. Our Governance Model is Unusual
  4. We have Membership Eligibility or Requirements
  5. We Promote Financial Education
  6. We Serve a Social Purpose
  7. Credit Union Cooperative Principles


Credit Unions like Riegelwood Credit Union are here to help. Here are a few reasons why you should care about credit unions… 

  • As not-for-profit cooperatives where “people are worth more than money,” credit unions answer to their member-owners, not stockholders, and — as a result — credit unions consider it important to do more than just make a buck. This allows credit unions to give their members the most benefits possible, share their members’ values, and be real part of their community.
  • Credit unions offer people an alternative source of services for their financial needs. Their presence in the market helps keeps a lid on the for-profit financial service providers, forcing them to offer competitive rates and fees.
  • Many people in banking circles say “credit unions look like banks, sounds like banks, and offer the same services as banks, ergo they must be banks and should be taxed and regulated in the same way as a bank.” We know that’s not true, but to counter it effectively, you must understand the differences between your credit union and other financial institutions.