A Breakdown of Credit Unions by Asset Size: 2021 Edition

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An unbiased look at the different types of credit unions based on size.

Because of the benefits they provide, credit unions are a popular and rising option for many people. But how can you determine which one is the best fit for you? Credit unions are classified into four types: state-chartered, federally chartered, cooperative, and community.

Each type has its own set of benefits and drawbacks that may aid or hinder your decision-making process. With credit unions coming in a variety of sizes and philosophies, here’s a rundown of what each one has to offer.

State-chartered credit unions

The most common type of financial institution in the United States is a state-chartered credit union

They have a board of directors and executives that supervise operations, as well as a voluntary advisory council that helps members resolve disputes. Because they are part of a wider network, state-chartered credit unions also provide services to other state credit unions at reduced costs.

State-chartered credit unions are the largest in number and therefore offer a wider range of products and services than any other type of credit union. 

They are also federally insured, giving them the same level of protection as commercial banks against losses or theft caused by bank failure. State-chartered credit unions charge fewer fees for their members to use ATMs, and they also provide more affordable mortgages.

These kinds of credit unions are run with a very democratic system that makes it easy for members to have a say in the direction of their organization.

However, this is not always an advantage since some members may be disengaged or lack the education necessary to make good decisions on behalf of the organization. Some state-chartered credit unions are also very large, which can make it challenging for members to have any influence on their direction at all.

  • Estimated Asset Size: ~$20 billion
  • Organizational Structure: Board of Directors, Advisory Council
  • Philosophy: Democratic/Social Responsibility 

Federal charter credit unions

In contrast with state-chartered credit unions, federally chartered credit unions were created by an act of Congress and receive a federal charter as part of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). This makes all federally chartered credit unions accountable to the federal government. 

They’re also governed by an elected board and subject to oversight from a volunteer advisory council, but they don’t have as much autonomy over their operations since Congress must approve major changes in how the credit union operates.

Federal charter credit unions offer the same types of services as state credit unions, but they may charge higher fees and be stricter when it comes to approving loans. However, federally chartered credit unions provide more access to affordable mortgages than other financial institutions like banks and savings and loan associations (S&Ls).

  • Estimated Asset Size: $1.84 trillion
  • Organizational Structure: Board of Directors, Advisory Council
  • Philosophy: Democratic/Social Responsibility 

Cooperative credit unions

Credit unions are nonprofit organizations that make money by charging fees to members rather than charging interest on loans. 

This implies that, unlike most other financial institutions, they do not have shareholders or earnings. They also offer lower fees than other financial institutions, indicating that their mindset prioritizes members over corporate profits.

Cooperative credit unions are governed by a volunteer board of directors that controls how the institution functions both internally and with its community partners. They also have an advisory board that helps members and the cooperative’s leadership team resolve difficulties. 

  • Estimated Asset Size: ~$76 billion
  • Organizational Structure: Board of Directors, Advisory Council
  • Philosophy: Democratic/Social Responsibility 

Credit Union National Association (CUNA) 

Credit Union National Association (CUNA) memberships are reserved for state-chartered credit unions, but anyone can join as an associate member. Membership benefits include educational opportunities and access to a network of professionals who are working in the same industry.

CUNA members also have separate advisory councils that help govern their organization’s operations with suggestions on how to improve them while upholding best practices established by CUNA. 

This type of organizational structure ensures that credit unions are complying with industry standards, but it may not allow members to have much influence on how the organization operates.

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The Top 10 Biggest US Credit Unions by Asset Size

According to the NCUA, approximately 5,000 federally insured credit unions serve more than 120 million members in the United States. The NCUA insures credit unions, whereas the FDIC insures banks. The NCUA provided a comprehensive list and additional credit union data resources linked below:

These are the top ten credit unions in America based on their most recent year’s financial information:

Navy Federal Credit Union: $111.98 billion

The Navy Federal Credit Union is a global credit union based in Virginia that is chartered and governed by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). The Navy Federal Credit Union is the largest credit union in the United States, both in terms of assets and membership.

State Employees Credit Union: $41.37 billion

State Employees Credit Union, also known as North Carolina’s State-Owned and Operated Credit Union, is a credit union in the United States. It was founded in 1933 for state employees of North Carolina, making it one of the first credit unions in America. As of 2021, they have almost 500,000 members with over $42 billion in assets making it the third-largest credit union in America.

Pentagon: $24.77 billion

The Pentagon Federal Credit Union, also known as PenFed is the largest credit union headquartered in Northern Virginia. It was established on July 31st, 1935 to serve employees of the Defense Department and civilian defense workers at Fort Myer during World War II. As of 2021, they have over $24 billion in assets with more than one million members making them the third-largest credit union in America.

BECU: $22.17 billion

BECU is dedicated to enhancing the financial well-being of its members and communities. They assist members in saving money and achieving their financial objectives by providing financial products, services, and educational outreach. Since their inception in 1935, they have been dedicated to improving people’s financial lives.

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union: $16.76 billion

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union (“SFCU”) is a California-based, not-for-profit financial cooperative that was created by local school employees to serve them better. 

They offer an array of products and services for personal use, small business owners, and nonprofits – including checking accounts with free online bill pay; home loans; credit cards; personal loans, and business checking accounts.

In addition, they have a full suite of online financial management tools to help members track spending, pay bills or manage cash flow from virtually anywhere with internet access. They also provide free consumer education resources for planning college savings through 529 plans, managing debt, and building wealth. 

First Tech Federal Credit Union: $13.11 billion 

First Tech Federal Credit Union is a non profit financial cooperative with over 130,000 members worldwide. 

Founded in 1935 as the first credit union on the West Coast and regulated by NCUA, they are committed to helping their members achieve financial success through savings plans, affordable loans, and free checking accounts that can help protect against identity theft. 

They’re also committed to the communities they serve. In 2017, First Tech donated over $650K and volunteered more than 16,000 hours of employee service in support of their community. 

They offer a wide range of free financial literacy workshops for those looking to learn basic tools needed to make sound decisions about money management including budgeting, credit scores, and building good savings habits. 

Golden 1 Credit Union: $12.99 billion

Golden One Credit Union is one of the largest credit unions in America, serving over 660,000 members worldwide. 

Founded in 1933 with $15 and five members at a Sacramento schoolhouse, they now offer financial products including savings accounts; checking accounts; certificates (CDs) to meet your investment needs; auto loans; home loans; business checking; debit cards, and credit cards.

In addition, they offer free online banking access anytime to help you manage your money; remote deposit capture services that let you make deposits from anywhere with an internet connection. They also have easy-to-use mobile apps so members can bank on their schedule when it’s convenient for them.

Alliant Credit Union: $12.24 billion

Alliant Credit Union was founded in 1935 and is based in Chicago. 

Alliant serves over 280,000 members worldwide through a full suite of financial products including savings accounts; checking accounts; certificates (CDs); home loans; business checking to help small businesses thrive and grow their job opportunities while offering free consumer education resources for those looking to learn about personal finance basics.

In addition, they offer personal loans and student loan refinancing to help credit union members get a lower rate or refinance their existing student debt. They also have free online bill pay that lets you manage your bills from any computer with internet access as well as advanced tools for managing money on the go through an easy-to-use mobile app. 

America First Credit Union: $11.71 billion

America First Credit Union is headquartered in Ogden, Utah, and serves over 950,000 members worldwide. 

They’re one of the largest credit unions in America with a long history of helping their members get ahead financially through savings accounts; checking accounts; personal loans to help you consolidate your debt or make home improvements; business lending for small businesses looking to grow and thrive; and affordable mortgage loans to help you own a home, condo or townhome.

In addition, they provide members with easy access to their money through free checking accounts that come with no service fees for daily transactions at ATMs nationwide. They also offer several online financial management tools including free online bill pay, mobile banking, and free e-statements.

Suncoast Credit Union: $10.53 billion

Suncoast Credit Union is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, and serves over 400,000 members worldwide. 

Suncoast offers a wide range of financial products that include savings accounts; checking accounts; certificates (CDs); money market accounts that provide higher interest rates than traditional savings with the ability to write checks on your balance – all at highly competitive returns.

In addition, they offer personal loans to help you consolidate your debt or make home improvements; business checking that helps small businesses thrive and grow their job opportunities while offering free consumer education resources for those looking to learn about personal finance basics. 

They also have easy-to-use mobile banking apps so members can bank on the go through an app available for iOS and Android devices.

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