As many long-time readers of this blog know, the best rates are often at credit unions. Another well known fact is that it can be difficult to qualify for membership at several credit unions. With some credit unions offering deposit rates more than a percentage point above the best bank rates, you can see we why people want to join.
Field of Membership
We have been fortunate that credit unions have been able to expand membership over the years. All credit unions must limit their membership to a common bond. This is called a credit union's Field of Membership (FOM). In the past, FOMs were primarily based on where you were employed. A large number of credit unions now have community-based FOMs which allow anyone to join who lives in certain areas. Often these FOMs not only include those who live in the area, but also those who work, have a business, attend school or worship in that area.
In addition to community-based FOMs, more credit unions have made membership available nationwide thanks to associations. The common bond for this case is membership in an association, and if the association makes it easy for anyone to join, the credit union effectively becomes available nationwide. This New York Times article had an interesting discussion of this issue. I'm very grateful that credit unions have been able to expand this way. It has made great credit unions like Alliant Credit Union and Pentagon Federal Credit Union available to everyone.
Two Important Credit Union Membership Principles
There are a two important membership related principles that all credit unions that I've come across share. These principles make it easier for you to join a credit union and stay a member. First, if your immediate family member is a member of a credit union, you are eligible to join. Second, once you become a member of a credit union, you can remain a member for life. If your original qualification goes away, it won't require you to leave the credit union. For example, if you qualified for membership based on your employer, and you leave your job after you joined the credit union, you can keep your credit union membership. This is also the same for associations.
Strange Eligibility Requirements
I thought it would be interesting to compile a list of strange credit union eligibility requirements. Not all are strange. Some are just a bit unusual in how they either restrict membership or make it easy to qualify. I'm not sure how some of these credit unions are allowed to have these FOMs, but they continue to be listed at their websites. It would be interesting to know more about the history of these FOMs and the regulations behind them. Most of the credit unions that I included have a history of offering great deposit rates. So if you find a new way to qualify, please leave a comment.
- Progressive Credit Union - You must be recommended by another member. This might be the most unique credit union requirement, and it also seems to be the toughest. I don't think any readers have been able to find a member who was willing to provide a recommendation. Many readers have tried due to Progressive's very competitive CD rates.
- Self Reliance New York FCU - Must be a member of Selfreliance Association of American Ukrainians. Readers have reported that they accept only those where born or have parents who were born in Ukraine. Many readers have tried to join this association so they can join the credit union and take advantage of very competitive CD rates. Readers have reported that the association is very strict about membership.
- Polish & Slavic FCU - Anyone who is of Polish or Slavic descent may become a member.
- Christian Community Credit Union - Membership is open to individuals, within the Christian Community, who affirm its Statement of Faith.
- America's Christian Credit Union - Those who "align themselves with Wesleyan Christian doctrine" are eligible to join.
- Melrose Credit Union - From their website: "Since Melrose Credit Union has an open New York State charter there are no geographic or group affiliation field of membership restrictions". Other NY credit unions have similar membership requirements. Perhaps NY has special credit union laws?
- NorthWest Plus Credit Union - Membership is open to those that live, work or worship in Washington State. Many other Washington State credit unions include the whole state in their FOMs. Perhaps Washington State has special credit union laws?
- South Division Credit Union - From their website: "South Division Credit Union is a nationwide family community that accepts Members from any U.S. neighborhood of family and friends with a household USPS Zip Code ranging between 01000-99999."
- American Airlines Credit Union - In addition to American Airline employees, those employed in the air transportation industry are eligible for membership. Unfortunately, customers of American Airlines don't qualify.
- Wings Financial Credit Union - It used to be like American Airlines CU in that only those employed in the air transportation industry could qualify for membership. However, the credit union recently expanded membership to include those who live or work in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro area.