Credit Union loans
A credit union is a self-help co-operative whose members pool their savings to provide each other with credit at a low interest rate. To be part of a credit union you have to share a common bond with other members. This is something you all have in common such as:
living or working in the same area
working for the same employer
belonging to the same church, trade union or other association
Each credit union has its own common bond, but this will usually be based on the examples above. If a credit union's rules allow, it may have more than one common bond. This means a common bond based on a local community organisation, such as a tenants' association or a social club attached to a workplace, may be combined with common bond based on living or working in an area. So if you live outside an area that a credit union serves, you could still join it, if you're a tenant in a housing association that's linked to the credit union or you're an employee of a national company whose local workplace is linked to the credit union.
If one member of your family is already a member of a credit union, other relatives living at the same address can usually join too.
Getting a loan from a credit union
Credit unions charge low rates of interest - no more than 3% each month. You can work out how much a credit union loan would cost you by using the loan calculator on the Association of British Credit Unions (ABCUL) website at www.abcul.coop.
Credit union loans usually work out cheaper than home credit or payday loans.
For more information about home credit, see Home credit (doorstep loans).
If you don't repay a credit union loan, the credit union might cancel your membership and take you to court. Check what they can do to get their money back.
If you are struggling to pay a credit union loan or other debt, you can get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.
Where to find a credit union
In Scotland, you can get information about credit unions by checking the website of the Scottish League of Credit Unions members at www.scottishcu.org.
If you’re struggling to repay your loan
Contact the Credit Union – they should help you deal with your repayments. For example they might offer to:
reduce or pause your payments for a limited time
stop adding interest to the loan for a limited time
help you work out a plan to pay what you owe
The Credit Union should give you time to consider your options and get help with your debts.
They should pause your account if you’re waiting for your circumstances to get better. For example, you might be waiting for your first payment of wages or benefits.
If the Credit Union pauses your account, it’s a good idea to use this time to get debt advice. Talk to an adviser if you’re not sure how to repay your loan.
If the Credit Union is offering you a new payment plan
You should think carefully about whether you can afford the monthly payments - you can work out your budget to check if the payments are affordable for you.
Further help and information
The Money Advice Service
The Money Advice Service website has lots of useful information about borrowing and managing your money.
The Association of British Credit Unions (ABCUL)
ACE Credit Union Services
The Scottish League of Credit Unions
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Page last reviewed on 20 February 2020