Can I Join Your Credit Union? The Question Potential Members Ask

Field of Membership is often a barrier for potential members of a financial institution. The industry should use a single system to validate eligibility.

Sam Brownell


Feb 12



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Sam Brownell

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Sam Brownell

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asOriginally published on CUInsight

This question often plagues consumers’ decisions whether to choose your credit union as their financial institution. According to CUNA’s research, 40% of consumers believe they cannot join a single credit union. Over the last few years, a digital campaign launched to help credit unions clear up this mystery for consumers. This effort is a significant first step for educating potential members about the benefits of a credit union, but what happens after that? With so many different charter types and specific field of membership rules, consumers just need to learn whether they can join a particular credit union. Credit unions’ 10% market share demonstrates their failure to gain traction with American consumers.

The credit union difference resonates with consumers. CUNA Awareness Initiative research demonstrated very strong positive responses from consumers on basic credit union characteristics:

  • 87% responded favorably to the idea that credit unions return earnings to their members.
  • 83% provided a favorable response to the face their boards are elected members
  • 82% responded that credit unions’ not-for-profit status was favorable.

FOMs are the chief culprit. Two major problems stem from credit unions’ fields of membership, which will only worsen if credit unions and their business partners do not take action.

  1. Until now it has been nearly impossible to determine all of the credit unions a consumer is eligible to join. As a result, consumers usually don’t even find credit union offers when they shop for financial products online using sites like LendingTree, Credit Karma,, and NerdWallet. Those sites cannot determine consumers’ eligibility, so they don’t bother to include credit unions. Millions of consumers who are using these sites—and millions more—are missing out on great money-saving opportunities from their credit unions, and your credit union is missing out on solid, tech-savvy members!
  2. A mere 10% successfully obtain membership from credit unions through online applications, reinforcing the notion that credit unions are not easy to use. In addition, 30% of the consumers on average who do complete applications are denied membership based on their credit. The result: 89% of consumers who start online applications with credit unions fail to get the product they wanted.

There are a few different options that are currently on the market for finding the perfect credit union match. If you search find a credit union in Google, the first relevant searches bring up the NCUA's Credit Union Finder and a handful of others, but it only shows consumers local branches based on geography, and as we all know, many credit unions’ fields of membership don’t work that way. The next steps suggested by the NCUA's website is to read a credit union's field of membership rules and to search for them on the credit union's website. As an industry we ask the consumer to do far more work than necessary; they will follow the path of least resistance, which is likely a bank. We must make it as simple as possible.


None of them address a member's eligibility based on a credit union's field of membership rules until now. CUCollaborate has developed a tool called Credit Union Match available to credit unions to help with the hurdle of eligibility. Our tool helps capture basic information from the potential member, analyzes every possible credit union's field of membership rules and sends it to the credit union for which they’re eligible. Not only can you market to potential leads based on the information we have gathered for you, but you can also understand how that member qualifies for your credit union.


The cooperative credit union community should focus on more people being able join any credit union, not just theirs – although that of course would be sweet! To be able to do this, we need to have the ability to capture anyone that is eligible to join any credit union and collaboratively raise the awareness, esteem and membership in credit unions.  


The main point is that the credit union industry as a whole would do well to designate one system used across the board for membership eligibility. We shouldn't be competing with each other to have the best tool; we should be collaborating to ensure that the field of membership confusion is not a barrier to consumers discovering credit unions’ not-for-profit, mission-driven services. Credit unions are the best consumer financial solution, and CUCollaborate wants more to know it and join!

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