What is a Credit Union

What is a Credit Union?

  • Not-for-profit. Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives that exist to serve members, not to make a profit. Unlike most other financial institutions, credit unions do not issue stock or pay dividends to outside stockholders. Instead, earnings are returned to members in the form of lower fees, lower loan rates and higher interest on deposits.
  • Ownership. Credit unions are economic democracies. Each credit union member has equal ownership and one vote—regardless of how much money a member has on deposit. At a credit union, every customer is both a member and an owner.
  • Boards Elected by Members. Each credit union is governed by a board of directors, elected by and from the credit union's membership. 
  • Membership Eligibility. By federal statute, credit unions cannot serve the general public—yet some credit unions, like Westerra, have been granted state or federal charters to serve specific geographic areas. People qualify for a credit union membership through their employer, organizational affiliations like churches or social groups, or by living in a specific geographic area or community.
  • Financial Education for Members. Credit unions assist members to become better-educated consumers of financial services.
  • Social Purpose: People Helping People. Credit unions exist to help people, not make a profit.  A credit union’s goal is to serve all members well, including those of modest means.

What is a Cooperative?
Cooperatives are defined as a group of people acting together to meet the common needs and aspirations of its members, sharing ownership and making decisions democratically.  Co-ops are not about making big profits for shareholders, but creating value for members.

How are Non-Profits Different from Not-for-Profits?
Non-profits operate on donations - not-for-profits operate on proceeds generated from their business operations.

Who Can Join Westerra?
Westerra membership is open to all who live or work in the 7-county Denver metro area, including Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties.  Westerra believes that everyone should have the opportunity choose a not-for-profit credit union as an alternative to the for-profit banking system.  Westerra strives to help more people discover the financial education and opportunities that Westerra offers them and their families.

Find out why more Coloradans are choosing Westerra.