Have you ever wondered what makes a credit union different? 

From the outside, credit unions and banks look very much the same. Branches, drive throughs, checking accounts, loans, credit cards, tellers...the list goes on and on. From a consumer standpoint, credit unions and banks offer the same type of products and services and can help you with your every day financial needs but there is a big difference and having a clear understanding of that could save you thousands over your lifetime. 

1. Credit Unions are not for profit. We aren't a charity but we are a financial cooperative that exists to serve it's members. Any one who has an account with the credit union is considered an owner and has an equal vote. The votes are cast to select a board of directors who oversees the organization. 

2. The board members are volunteers. Banks board members are very similar to any other company in that it's typically the owners and top investors in that organization and they are paid to serve on the board. Those who serve on the board of a credit union are volunteers who are selected from among the membership. This is designed to allow those board members to be the voice on the members behalf. 

3. The profits are given back to members. At the end of the year when we make money, the funds go back to the members in the form of a dividend bonus/interest rebate. With a bank, the profits are typically given to those investors who run the organization (see point 2). At a credit union, the profits, or income, are held for reserves and given back to members instead.  

Now that you know the basic differences, what does this mean to you? 

Interest Rates - Currently the average auto loan rate in the U.S. is 4.35% APR, this is a number pulled from Bankrate.com. While it isn't a bad rate, the lowest auto rate at True Sky is currently 2.74% APR. 

Fees - According to NerdWallet.com, overdraft fees at the big banks are $35-$40 while credit unions tend to charge about $25. Some other fees that vary include wire transfer charges, application fees, late payment charges and annual fees.  

Ownership - 2016 was predicted to be the largest year in banking consolidation in over a decade. U.S. News reports that many of the smaller banks are being bought up by the larger ones and this trend is not looking to slow down. This means the local banks are continuing to go away and bigger banks are making more headway. Because many of the big banks are publicly traded companies, they are under pressure to maximize profits and keep costs down. While they do offer more locations and advanced technology, sometimes this comes at the cost of less personal service and more fees.

Now that you know, the choice is yours.