What is a credit union? And how is that different than a bank?

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives that are among the most stable institutions in America. They exist to serve the needs of their members, who really “own the joint” as voting members, and offer the same types of banking products and services you would find at other financial institutions. Those services include savings and checking accounts, loans, mortgages, internet home banking, bill payment, and more.

As an owner, each credit union member – regardless of how much money they have in their accounts – has one vote in electing board members. Members can also run for election to the board.  A bank, however, is owned and controlled by stockholders whose voting power depends on the number of shares owned. Customers don’t have voting rights, cannot be elected to the board, and have no say in how their bank is operated. Credit unions are financial cooperatives that put their earnings back into the credit union in the form of lower loan rates or new financial services.  Banks are for-profit corporations, with declared earnings paid to the stockholders.

Credit union deposits are federally insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), a branch of the federal government, backed by the federal government.  In the entire history of the United States, taxpayer funds have never been used to bail out a credit union.


What’s the Vocal difference?

Vocal Credit Union has been safe, secure, and insured since 1954.  Today we have two Montana branches – Helena and White Sulphur Springs – and serve over 4,100 members. Vocal members have access to over 32,000 surcharge-free ATMs through the CO-OP Network. 

We work cooperatively with our credit union colleagues to create better experiences for all our members, and strive to help all of our members achieve financial freedom through financial education. We continually strive to add new products and services that fit the needs of our membership.

Vocal is run by seven volunteer board members whose principle duties include: setting strategic direction for the organization, financial stewardship of the credit union, setting policies, and managing the CEO.  Vocal also has four volunteers that serve on the Supervisory Committee.  The Supervisory Committee serves as the internal watchdog for the members, and ensures that policies and regulations are being adhered to.

Vocal Credit Union is one of five credit unions certified as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in the state of Montana. CDFIs invest in their local communities by providing important funding sources to people who are often denied loans from larger mainstream banks and credit unions.