Credit union savings accounts

In credit unions members pool their savings and lend to one another. Members have something in common, such as the same employer, church or trade union, or living in the same area. Credit unions use the money they earn to improve services and reward their members.

Is a credit union savings account for you?

A credit union savings account might be for you if:

  • you want a flexible account that lets you save what you can, when you can
  • you like the idea of saving with a not-for-profit organisation run by the members that use its services
  • you’ve had difficulty opening an account with a bank or building society

How credit union savings accounts work

  • Credit unions are member-run community organisations where members pool their savings so they can lend to one another.
  • The members of a credit union have something in common, such as working for the same company, living in the same area or belonging to a certain church or trade union. This is called having a 'common bond'.
  • There are several ways you can save with a credit union – via local collection points, by direct debit or by having money deducted directly from your wages.
  • In most cases, instead of having a fixed interest rate, you’ll receive a yearly payout called a ‘dividend’ on your savings. The amount will vary depending on how much profit the credit union makes.
  • All credit unions offer basic savings accounts and loans. Some also offer additional investment options, such as ISAs.
  • Credit unions are not run for profit. Instead of paying out earnings to shareholders, they use the money they earn to improve services and reward their members.
  • Credit unions vary greatly in size - some are small community groups while others have thousands of members.

Risk and return

  • Credit unions aren’t allowed to invest in risky ventures or to lend out all their money at once.
  • The more you save, the larger your share of the yearly dividend payout will be.
  • Dividends can be low, or even zero, if the credit union isn’t earning a profit.

Access to your money

Tip

Not every credit union offers the full range of options for withdrawals. Before you open an account, check how you can pay money in and take it out.

  • You can withdraw money at any time.
  • You can take out cash at the local credit union office or arrange a transfer to your bank account.
  • Some credit unions will give you a debit card.

Charges

  • Generally credit union savings accounts do not make charges, but check with individual providers.

Safe and secure?

  • Your savings are secure except in the unlikely event of the credit union going bust.
  • If your credit union fails and you lose money, you can claim back up to £85,000 under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

How to open an account

The first step is to find a suitable credit union and become a member.

Find a credit union in Northern Ireland at the:

Irish League of Credit Unions

Ulster Federation of Credit Unions

When joining, you’ll need to provide ID and proof of address.

Before you open an account use the link below to check that sure your chosen credit union is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Tax

Credit Unions do not, by law, have to deduct tax - it is the responsibility of the member to declare their dividend for tax.

If things go wrong

Because credit unions are regulated by FCA they have to meet certain standards. This means if you have a problem that you can’t resolve with them direct, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Follow the link below to find out more.