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How Do I Open a Checking Account at a Credit Union?

Most people choose to store their money in a financial institution, rather than keeping it all at home. It’s both safer and more productive. You have some options when choosing a financial institution where you can open a savings or checking account, but many people choose to bank with a credit union.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of credit unions, look at different types of accounts you can have at credit unions in Wisconsin, and walk through the process of opening your own credit union checking account.

Why Bank With Credit Unions in Wisconsin?
Credit unions are financial institutions where you can store your money for safekeeping, earn interest on your saved funds, and borrow money for things like buying a home or starting a business. As at a bank, your money is insured when you open an account at a credit union. Banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and credit unions by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

While credit unions have some similarities to banks, it’s their differences that really set them apart and make credit unions a great option. To start, credit unions are not-for-profit entities, which means they are collectively owned by their members. This allows them to be more community- and member-focused and to return the profits they earn to members through more competitive interest rates and lower fees. They also tend to be more locally based, so you work with employees who are knowledgeable about your community.

You typically have to meet certain criteria to become a member of a given credit union. This can be as specific as working in a particular field or as general as living, working, or attending school in a particular state or county. At Capital Credit Union, membership is open to anyone who lives, attends school, owns property, works, or owns/runs a business in one of twelve eligible northeast Wisconsin counties.

What Are the Main Types of Accounts at a Credit Union?
Credit unions offer many of the same types of accounts that you’ll find at a bank—and perhaps some others that you won’t. Different credit unions, of course, may offer different types of accounts that you can open. This should not be considered a complete, exhaustive list, but rather a list of what you can expect at typical credit unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the United States.

  • Checking account: The standard type of account at a lending institution like a credit union or bank, checking accounts at a credit union offer you easy and convenient access to your money. These accounts tend to have lower interest rates but may make up for it in other ways, such as offering cash-back rewards incentives and debit cards so you can access your funds from wherever. We’ll discuss how you can open a checking account at a credit union later in the next section.
  • Savings account: If you don’t immediately need access to your money, using a savings account is a great idea. Savings accounts are usually the default account at a credit union, and it may be necessary to open one in order to gain membership. Savings accounts at credit unions often have better interest rates than at big banks. There are also many different types of savings accounts at a credit union.
  • Money market accounts: With these high-yield, short-term accounts, you can invest money rather than just saving it. This carries with it the risk any investment would, but it could be very fruitful in the short term too.
  • IRA accounts: Whether a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA, these accounts let you plan for your retirement so that you have money saved away for your golden years.
  • Share certificates: This is a higher-yield way to save money. You “park” your money in a certificate account for a set period of time, leave it there untouched, and then access your money and the profits when that time is up. 

How to Open a Checking Account with a Credit Union
Becoming a member of a credit union and opening a checking account is a fairly simple process.

Step 1: Find a Credit Union and Choose an Account
Start by searching for credit unions in your area and narrow the list down to those where you meet the eligibility criteria. Next, take a look at the checking accounts they offer. You want an account that meets your needs, so look for an option that provides the services you’re looking for. Capital Credit Union, for instance, has four checking account options
1. Cha Ching Checking
2. MyMedia Checking
3. MyMoney Checking
4. MyChoice Checking
A few things to consider when comparing accounts are associated fees, interest rates, member fees, minimum balance requirements, whether there’s a fee for using a debit card, and bonuses, such as overdraft protection or cash-back rewards.

Step 2: Gather Required Documents
Once you’ve found your chosen credit union and decided on an account, it’s time to apply. Gathering the necessary documents ahead of time will help the application process go smoothly. You’ll need the typical identification documents when opening an account:

  • Government-issued ID (such as a driver’s license or passport)
  • Proof of address (such as a utility bill or paycheck stub)
  • Your Social Security number
Usually, opening an account requires a small minimum deposit. At Capital Credit Union, it’s just $5. If you plan to make that deposit via a transfer from another account, be sure to have the routing and account numbers on hand for that transaction. If you intend to use a debit or credit card, have it at the ready.

Step 3: Fill Out the Application
Most credit unions around the United States make it easy to apply online, but if you have any questions, there’s sometimes no real substitute for doing this in person at your local credit union branch.

Since opening a savings account tends to be the default for becoming a member of a credit union, you may need to open a savings account along with your new checking account. For most institutions, it can be done with a single application for both.

Step 4: Transfer Funds
At this point, you need to add funds to the account so you can start using it. If you’re applying online, you’ll be able to transfer the funds. If you visit a branch, you also have the option to deposit cash or a check.

Step 5: Start Using Your Credit Union Checking Account – And Reap the Benefits!
That’s it! You’re a credit union member now. From here on out, you can use your checking account and enjoy all the many perks of membership at a locally minded institution dedicated to helping their communities thrive.

If you’re looking for a great credit union in northeast Wisconsin, consider contacting Capital Credit Union today.
Capital Credit Union is federally insured by the NCUA.

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