Learn the differences, pros and cons, and decide which is right for you

What is a credit union, and how do they differ from banks? Credit unions are owned by their members. We always put our members first. Learn more about the SF Fire Credit Union member-first difference.

Discover the Credit Union Difference


Tired paying fees to access your money each month? Want to get lower rates on loans? Sick of being treated like a number, not a person?

If so, you might want to consider SF Fire Credit Union. The financial success of our members comes first, not profits.

We offer the same products and services as the big banks, but with some important differences. Our checking account has no monthly fees or minimum balance, for example.

But you might still be asking: what is a credit union? And how are we different from what you’re used to from a financial institution.

Learn more about what a credit union is, what we offer our members, and what we do to put their financial success first. You can also download this helpful infographic on Credit Unions vs. Banks


What is a credit union?

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions owned and operated by their members. Credit unions are founded on the model and belief of “people helping people.”

According to the Credit Union National Association, more than 118 million Americans are members of credit unions across the country.

Banks, on the other hand, are owned and operated by their stockholders, who make decisions based on making the most money for the corporation.

With the credit union model, members pool their funds together to provide loans to other members. Any profits made by the credit union are returned to the members in the form of lower rates and fees, better savings, and investment rates.

A credit union offers many of the same services as a bank. For example, SF Fire Credit Union offers the Bay Area’s best checking account, savings accounts, home loans and auto loans, and our fee-friendly Platinum Visa® Credit Card.

Some people think that big bank customers have better access to their accounts because banks have more ATMs. But that’s not really true.

As an SF Fire Credit Union member, you have access to our Co-Op network of over 30,000 ATMs nationwide. That’s more than Bank of America and Wells Fargo combined.


For profit vs. not-for-profit

A big difference between banks and credit unions is their profit status.

Banks are for-profit institutions that are privately owned or publicly traded. Banks are primarily in the business of making money for their shareholders. This is one of the reasons banks typically charge more fees, have higher rates on loans, and lower APYs on savings products.

Credit unions, on the other hand, are not-for-profit institutions, and don’t have to worry about shareholders. Instead, the primary mission of a credit union is to provide its members with the best possible products and services. Credit union members typically get lower rates on loans, pay fewer (and lower) fees, and earn higher APYs on their savings accounts.

The entire structure of a credit union is focused on giving back to the members that give to it. And a lot of people take pride in being a member of a credit union, because they know they’re supporting their community and making a difference.


Personal vs. impersonal service

Most credit unions have deep roots in their communities, and genuinely care about the financial success of their members. Credit unions in general are well-known for their personal approach to customer service.

We’ve been in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1951. We’ve gotten to know our members through generations. We know their stories, their goals, their financial dreams.

With us, you’re more than just a number, you’re an individual member with unique financial needs. We’ll take the time to get to know you and help you get where you want to go.


Membership vs. non-membership

While it’s true that you don’t have to become a member to get started with a bank, you do have to go through an application process for most of their products and services.

Joining SF Fire Credit Union is quick, simple, and easy. If you live, work, attend school, or worship in San Francisco, San Mateo, or Marin county, you can become a member.

Our application, whether online or in a branch, takes just a few minutes to complete.

Get started today, and come home to where the Bay Area banks.


Why SF Fire Credit Union?

As a not-for-profit financial institution, we put our members first. This means personal customer service tailored to fit your unique financial needs and goals.

Founded in 1951 by firefighters for firefighters, we are a credit union dedicated to building financial success in our community.

We are defined by our legacy of supporting San Francisco firefighters. We give back to the fire community through fundraising, special rates, and discounted loans.

When you support us, you support them.

Today, we continue to serve firefighters while also extending membership to those who live, work, or attend school in San Francisco, San Mateo, or Marin counties.

Just as firefighters protect the physical security of the community, our institution protects its financial security.

Unlike banks, we are a not-for-profit cooperative owned and operated by members like you. We are defined by our commitment to member-first service, community engagement, and innovation.

Our profits go back to our community and our members, not Wall Street. We have deep roots in the Bay Area and are proud to be your local credit union.

We live here too, so it’s our community as well.

Join SF Fire Credit Union today, and come home to where the Bay Area banks.

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As a local credit union, we want to get to know you and help you achieve your goals. Come into a branch or call us today. Our people are happy to serve you.


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