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Credit Unions vs. Banks. What's really the difference?
There is no financial institution quite like a credit union. While credit unions are similar to banks in the services offered, the structure and mission are very different. This difference
is something credit unions, like us, are very proud of. As a not-for-profit financial cooperative, a credit union’s drive is to help you reach your financial goals. Whether you’re saving for your first home or preparing for retirement, credit unions work to help make your dreams a reality. In fact, the credit union industry, as a whole, strongly believes in the philosophy of People Helping People, existing to help individuals, like you, in bad times - as well as good. It is this same philosophy that motivates credit unions to deliver excellent service to members and develop personal relationships, as well as extend this service to the communities they serve through various charitable activities like blood drives, fundraisers and even financial education.
When choosing a financial institution, it is important to realize the differences that stand between a credit union, like us, and a bank because after all, you are trusting them with one of the most important assets in your life – your finances.
What's a Member-Owner?
When you become a credit union member, you become a partial owner of the organization. The $5 you keep in your savings account is your share in the organization; just like if you bought stock from a publicly-traded company on the NYSE. The difference? Your share entitles you to the same and equal voice as every other member. That’s why we not only call you a member
but an owner
, too; your opinion matters (cool, right?). Each credit union has a volunteer board of directors, elected by members through a democratic process, who are there to represent you and the interests of the entire membership. Because of this, you can find peace of mind knowing that your best interests are not lost in the profit-focused mindset of stockholders.
Unlike the stock market or most other types of financial institutions, credit unions don’t return profits to a small group of stockholders, but instead return them to member owners in the form of lower loan rates, higher deposit rates, and lower/fewer fees. All of this means more money back in your pocket year after year.
When it comes to the value of a Firefly membership
, you can expect much more. In 2017 alone, Firefly members saved over $24 million
, compared to leading banks, because with your best interests in mind, big things can happen for our members.
A Firefly membership delivers the value of time with convenient tools and access to your money.
We know you’re busy. From the work week to the weekend, you are constantly on the move and making it into your nearest Firefly branch location might not always be an option, but you still need to find that time to manage your finances on a day-to-day basis. In today’s world, what is something you likely have with you at all times? Your phone. With digital banking from Firefly
, any time and any place is a convenient opportunity to manage your finances with easy access to your accounts whether you’re at home or on-the-go! Having the ability to deposit checks, transfer money and manage your finances with a touch of your finger, and in a matter of minutes, allows you to get back to the more important things in your life.
If you haven’t, check out our digital banking. One of the many convenient features of our digital banking experience is Bill Pay
. You can access all of your bills in one place
so you can easily pay bills without having to visit multiple websites. Plus, save yourself more time every month with a one-time set up process to pay recurring bills like rent, car payments, utilities and more. This way, you don’t have to worry about missing a payment and paying late fees. And the best part? No. fee. Another way we give back to our members.
What about understanding your financial health? These days, it is a driver of many aspects of our lives including insurance premiums, approval for rental agreements, and potentially even employment. With Firefly, knowing your credit score just got easier. Our digital banking experience offers the ability to access your FICO® Score
– wait for it – for free. You no longer have to wait for various credit bureaus to get back to you with your score; save time and money by taking matters into your own hands. Plus, viewing your score within digital banking will not impact it. Take a look at more details on this helpful service.
What about managing physical money, like cash? Although ATM fees do not seem so daunting first hand, it is money that you can be saving with every withdrawal. As a Firefly member, you have access to over 60,000 surcharge-free ATMs
, so you don’t have to worry about having those fees add up to a larger loss.
Firefly is part of a shared branch network, too, meaning you can access your Firefly accounts from partner credit unions nationwide to conduct deposits, withdrawals, loan payments and transfers - just like you would at one of our Firefly branch locations. How great to have access to your money even if you are traveling out of state and need to manage your finances in branch? If you have some upcoming travel plans, search through the thousands of shared branch locations
to find one along the way.
A Firefly membership delivers the value of knowledge with financial education and helpful resources.
Firefly works hard to provide you with all of the resources you need to make the right decisions when it comes to your finances. If the credit union industry is focused on “People Helping People”, educating our members and the community is a great way to help guide them towards lifelong financial well-being based on our expertise in the world of money.
Maybe you learn best with numbers. Firefly offers a wide variety of interactive calculators
to help you prepare for financial decision-making including how much you could potentially borrow for a mortgage, breaking down monthly payments, or how long it may take to reach your savings goals.
Like more one-on-one guidance? Firefly regularly hosts seminars and workshops
where a variety of subject matter experts dive into financial concepts including credit card facts and myths and first-time home buying tips to help you get a leg up on your financial wellness.
Likewise, Firefly even offers financial education in workplaces
in the Twin Cities area with our Learn@Work program where educational specialists come on-site to talk to employees about many financial solutions. A nice enhancement to any employee benefits package - without a premium!
With our strong focus on education, it’s probably no surprise that Firefly partners with local schools
to provide free resources, including classroom visits by our financial experts and a financial education curriculum to start teaching students about the importance of managing money.
Learning is a good place to start or refresh your knowledge, but what if you know the right financial path but need help getting there? As a Firefly member, you also have free access to work with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota
, a full-service credit counseling agency, to help establish and maintain your financial health. They will provide the knowledge and tools you need to find freedom from debt.
A Firefly membership delivers the value of benefits with exclusive partnerships and discounts.
In addition to returning profits to our members in the form of lower rates, higher returns and fewer fees, Firefly members also have access to exclusive, money-saving benefits, too.
With Scorecard Rewards
, Firefly’s cardholder rewards program, you can earn points with every signature purchase made with your Firefly debit or credit cards. These points can then be redeemed for things like cash to put right back in your pocket, gift cards to enjoy for yourself or gift to someone else, hotel stays, airfare, and much more. If you’re going to be spending money every week on groceries and gas, you might as well get rewarded for the dollars that you spend, right? Plus, combine your points between cards and family members to grow your points even faster.
What about other regular expenses? As a Firefly member, you can also take advantage of exclusive discounts from our partnerships with Sprint and Enterprise Car Sales
. Between lower rates on your next auto loan or cash back for every phone line you have with Sprint, it truly pays to be a Firefly member. Another partnership of ours that is beneficial to our membership is the insurance discounts on home and auto policies
that can not only offer you nice savings but provide the necessary services you need.
It’s our mission to help guide our members forward and we want you to chase your dreams - whatever they may be! Firefly has multiple scholarship opportunities
available to our members to assist in higher education expenses and help make those dreams a reality. If you’re preparing for additional schooling, keep an eye out for scholarship opportunities from Firefly.
Choosing a financial institution to be your partner in every stage of financial life can seem like an overwhelming task. It is important to do your research and decide what matters most to you. With a Firefly membership, you have the ability to enjoy convenient tools, an abundance of resources and the access exclusive member benefits to help you live a life of financial well-being.