When you join a credit union, you own a stake in the organization's future. That's because a credit union is the only financial institution owned by its members.
It's this feature that makes credit unions unique. Rather than pushing to make large profits for stockholders, a credit union returns earnings to its members in the form of higher dividend rates, additional services, or discounted loan rates.
The credit union idea is a simple one: People should be able to pool their money and make loans to each other. The guiding principles have always been: (1) only people who are credit union members should borrow there; (2) loans are made for "prudent and productive" purposes; and (3) a person's desire to repay (character) is considered more important than the ability to repay (income). Members are, after all, borrowing their own money and that of their fellow members. These principles govern most of the world's credit unions.
Credit unions cater to individuals through the "Once a Member, Always a Member," philosophy. They permit lifelong membership even if a person leaves the field of membership or locality.