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Credit Union loans

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

About credit unions

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

Most credit union loans are for five years, or ten years if they are secured against your property. Some credit unions can lend for longer periods than this. Most credit unions charge low rates of interest. Credit union loans usually work out cheaper than home credit.

For more information about secured loans, see Mortgages and secured loans.

For more information about home credit, see Home credit (doorstep loans).

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.

If you don't repay a credit union loan, the credit union may cancel your membership. They can also take you to court to get their money back.

For more information about what a creditor can do if you don't repay what you owe, see What happens if you are taken to court for money you owe in Credit and debt fact sheets.

If you are struggling to pay a credit union loan or other debt, you can get help from an adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click nearest CAB.

Where to find a credit union

You can get information about credit unions from the Association of British Credit Unions (ABCUL) website at www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk or the ACE Credit Union Services website at www.acecus.org.

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.

In Northern Ireland, you can get information about credit unions by checking the website of the Ulster Federation of Credit Unions at www.ufcu.co.uk, or the Irish League of Credit Unions at www.creditunion.ie.

Further help and information

On Adviceguide

For more information about different ways of borrowing money and getting credit including dealing with loan sharks, see Types of borrowing.

You may also find the following Adviceguide information helpful:

The Money Advice Service

The Money Advice Service is a free, independent service. Their website (www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk) has lots of useful information about borrowing and managing your money.

Go to their website for more information about:

The Association of British Credit Unions (ABCUL)

www.abcul.org

ACE Credit Union Services

www.acecus.org

The Scottish League of Credit Unions

www.scottishcu.org

The Ulster Federation of Credit Unions

www.ufcu.co.uk

The Irish League of Credit Unions

www.creditunion.ie

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