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Programs & Resources

Switch to CommonWealth One from a Bank

What is the difference between a bank and a credit union?

Both banks and credit unions provide a variety of financial products and services, including:

  • Savings/checking accounts
  • Money market accounts
  • CDs and IRAs
  • Auto and other vehicle loans
  • Mortgages
  • Home equity loans
  • Credit cards
  • Personal loans and more!

The major difference between a credit union and a bank is that credit unions are full-service cooperative financial institutions that are owned by their members (the people who make deposits and withdrawals and take out loans).

Since credit unions are cooperatives, any earnings generated over and above their expenses are returned to their member/owners in the form of competitive rates for their savings and lower loan rates. And many of their services are low or no cost to their members. For example, CommonWealth One offers free checking accounts and fee-free debit cards along with credit cards that do not include an annual fee. 

As member owned financial institutions, credit unions are operated by an all volunteer Board of Directors that is elected by the membership where Banks are owned by stockholders and investors, not necessarily the people who use their products and services every day.

1) I’m confused about how credit union membership works. Do I have to be a member of a "union" to use a credit union?

Credit unions have nothing to do with labor unions. For most credit unions, you simply have to live or work in their geographic area. For CommonWealth One, if you live, work, worship or volunteer in Harrisonburg, VA, Washington D.C. or select areas of Alexandria, VA, you’re eligible for membership. 

2) Do credit unions insure your money like banks do?

CommonWealth One, and most credit unions, are insured by NCUA (the National Credit Union Administration). This is a government-backed agency just like the FDIC, and your deposits are insured up to $250,000 — just like the FDIC.

3) How much money do I need to deposit to open an account with a credit union?

Membership requires an initial deposit of just $5 at CommonWealth One! Some credit unions (very few) have started requiring a membership fee — but that’s not the case at CommonWealth One.

4) My bank has great online services. Do credit unions have easy online account access?

Most credit unions, including CommonWealth One, have good online banking capabilities. CommonWealth One provides members with the option to use Online Branch, where you can pay bills, transfer funds, check account information, and much more. We also feature MyDeposit, where you can scan and deposit checks from your smartphone; mobile and text banking where you can transfer funds, check balances, and more from your mobile device; emailed statements and more.

5) My bank has several branches near where I live and work. Don’t credit unions have limited branch locations?

CommonWealth One and many other credit unions belong to a network of shared credit union branches called Credit Union Service Centers. This gives you the ability to conduct face-to-face financial transactions at other credit unions near you. Find a shared branch using our ATM and Branch locator.

6) I worry about ATM fees. My bank has lots of ATMs in the area. Do credit unions have enough ATMs?

CommonWealth One and most other credit unions belong to a nationwide surcharge-free ATM network called CO-OP, the largest credit-union-only ATM network, with access to 55,000+ surcharge-free ATMs nationwide. And like your bank’s ATM card, your credit union ATM/debit card can be used at more than 800,000 ATMs worldwide via the NYCE, Cirrus, Pulse and PLUS networks.