Credit Union Vs Banks

Why choose a Credit Union?

02nd November 2022

Let’s start with the basics, including defining what a Credit Union is

Croí Laighean Credit Union has a friendly approach to modern finance. Although we are a financial institution, we combine all the traditional friendliness of a Credit Union with the modern banking facilities you demand. We may work with figures all day, but at CLCU you are more than just a number to us.

Croí Laighean Credit Union is not-for-profit, so any surplus is channelled into providing members with better products and services, loan rebates, or dividends. We also help our local community flourish through sponsorship initiatives that support schools, organisations, and clubs in your area.

We are often asked what Credit Unions offer that banks do not. Simply put, every credit union is owned by its members — the people who save with it and borrow from it. Everyone in our Credit Union is united by a Common Bond — and you’re eligible to join if you live, work, or study within this area. The common bond defines the area in which a Credit Union can operate.

Croi Laighean Common Bond map

What are the myths of the Credit Union…

There are many myths and misconceptions that have been passed down, but the reality is that a modern Credit Union such as Croí Laighean Credit Union offers everything that a modern bank offers.

  • You can only get small loans: Myth. We offer a wide variety of loans up to €100,000, and we even offer mortgages and larger business loans.
  • You must be a member for a long time to get a loan: Myth. You can join today and borrow today, you don’t need to have saved with us.
  • You can only borrow 3 times what you have saved: Myth. You can borrow as much as your repayment capacity allows and it doesn’t matter how much you have saved. In fact, Credit Unions are much more flexible in how they underwrite, as all loan applications are assessed by a person.
  • Credit Unions are more expensive: Myth. We have some of the most competitive loan rates in our common bond. For example, we offer a PCP Buster new car loan with an interest rate of just 5.5% (5.64% APR). Interest is also calculated on your reducing balance… and you get free loan insurance*
  • Loans take a long time to process: Myth. Loans are generally processed within one working day, and in many cases, quicker.
  • You can’t do day-to-day banking with the credit union: Myth. Our current account offers everything you will find from a traditional bank, but with a low monthly maintenance fee of just €4. You also get a globally accepted MasterCard debit card and access to our online banking portal and app.
  • Credit Unions are old fashioned: Myth. Croí Laighean Credit Union offers online banking, a mobile app along with traditional banking. We have everything you need including secure online banking, a dedicated Member Services Call Centre and convenient branch locations. We offer these services because one size doesn’t fit all. Sometimes you may need to talk to a real person, even if you normally bank online.

Credit Union vs Banks: the differences

Credit unions are very similar to banks, they offer similar services and operate in a similar way. Here at Croí Laighean Credit Union, we offer current accounts, savings accounts, loans, and other services that you would find in a regular bank. Now you’re probably thinking “so you are basically a bank” and the answer to that would be no…

The main difference between a Credit Union and a bank is that Credit Unions do not work for a profit and serve only to benefit their members – banks operate to earn a profit, benefiting their shareholders. We offer financial education, and community support – in the last 6 years we have donated over €600,000 to local clubs and groups.

Croí Laighean Credit Union Reviews Our underwriting is also more flexible to make borrowing easier for our members as loan applications are assessed by a person, not an algorithm. We assess your repayment ability, and we can tailor a loan to suit. We also offer advice to ensure our members get the very best service and the Credit Union has won the customer experience award for the past 6 years at the official CXi awards.


The Credit Union also offers a host of other benefits including:

  • Free Loan Insurance*. Your loans are insured at no direct cost to you which means that in the event of your passing, any outstanding loan balance will be paid off to relieve any financial stress on your loved ones, during this difficult period.
  • Nomination of your funds*. This facility enables you to nominate a recipient of your funds should you pass away. The nomination facility ensures that your funds are easily transferred to your loved ones in a timely manner.
  • Life benefit insurance*. This is a unique additional benefit at no direct cost to you, paid to your nominated person in the event of your death.

Who can become a credit union member…

Anyone can become a member of Croí Laighean Credit Union if you live, work or study within our common bond area.For more information on joining us, you can call our member service center or drop into your nearest branch.



What does it mean to be a Credit Union member…

As a member of the Credit Union, you instantly become one of its owners. This means you have a say in how it is run, might earn a dividend back from any profits made, and can run to be on the board who manage the Credit Union.

Compared to regular banks, Credit Unions tend to offer slightly lower rates of interest on their lending facilities. This is because CUs are all about offering a fair and more adaptable service to everyone in the community, helping to tackle social exclusion. At Croí Laighean Credit Union, we have taken the steps to create the fairest possible application process that we can. We use manual underwriting to make a decision on an application. This often means we will take into account the circumstances surrounding your credit score or past defaults, and use this to make a choice, rather than automatically saying no.

You have your say. Our annual general meeting (AGM) is held once a year, where all members are invited. This is the chance to have your say and speak with the board, and those working within Croí Laighean Credit Union, to discuss changes and updates. When a change is proposed, the majority vote determines if the change will go ahead or not.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Credit Union?

A credit union is a not-for-profit financial institution comprised of a group of people who are connected by a ‘common bond’ – this can be where they live, or who they work for. It’s very similar to a bank, but rather than owned by shareholders, it’s owned and run by its members.

How does a Credit Union work?

The Credit Union works by allowing members to save, and those savings are then loaned to other members at fair and reasonable rates of interest. A Credit Union doesn’t borrow money to lend, so it’s not tied to ECB rates. Any money that is generated from loan interest is used to fund our local community initiatives, enhance our services, or it’s given back to members via loan rebates and dividends.

Who owns a Credit Union?

The members own the Credit Union.

How do Credit Unions differ from banks?

  • Credit Unions are not for profit.
  • Credit Unions are not tied to the ECB as they don’t borrow money to lend to their members.
  • Credit Unions are owned and run by their members.
  • Credit Unions are renowned for their outstanding customer care and have won the overall business of the year award at the CXI awards for the last 9 years.
  • Credit Unions are community-focused because a thriving community helps everyone.

What are the similarities between Credit Unions and banks?

There is very little difference between a bank and a Credit Union. Both offer savings, loans, mortgages, and current accounts. Both have physical branches, online banking, an app, and digital wallets. The real difference is in how they are run.

A bank is owned by shareholders and focused on profits. A Credit Union is not-for-profit and member-owned. It’s solely focused on its members and the local community they live in.

Are Credit Unions better than banks?

Yes! The Credit Union has topped the league table for the best customer experience in Ireland for 9 years in a row. We care about our members and it shows. We offer some of the best loan rates around with car loans from 5.5% and mortgages from 3.75%.

We also offer free loan protection insurance and free life benefit insurance. Our experienced lenders manually assess every loan application to ensure you get a fair decision – we don’t rely on computer algorithms. Our current account is one of the best value accounts on the market with a flat monthly fee of just €4.

But don’t take our word for it, drop in today and see the difference!

What do I need to open a Credit Union account?

To join, you need to live, work, or study in our common bond, or be a direct family member of an existing member (parent, child, sibling, spouse, or partner). You will also need an up-to-date ID and proof of address dated within the last 6 months. Joining is simple and you can do it online and from the comfort of your home!

How much can I have in a Credit Union Account?

We have experienced very strong growth in member savings in recent years and as a result, we had to introduce a cap. Currently, we have a savings cap of €30,000, but this is constantly being monitored. You can also hold an additional €10,000 in a current account.

How much can I borrow from a Credit Union?

We offer personal loans of up to €100,000 and mortgages of up to €650,000.

How long does a Credit Union loan take?

We try to deal with each loan as quickly as possible but as we assess each loan manually, it can take a bit longer. The flip side is that as the loans are manually assessed, our decisions are fair and where possible, we always offer advice to help the loan application succeed.

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