Credit unions scored a public relations coup in a recent article published by Wall Street Cheat Sheet entitled "5 Reasons to Choose a Credit Union Over A Bank."

In the piece, author Chloe Della Costa cited various advantages credit unions provided relative to banks, including lower fees, better customer service and the availability of a wide variety of financial products similar to banks.

"With comparable if not superior offerings, credit unions have become a popular and sensible alternative to large banks," Della Costa wrote.

She noted that while only not more than one-third of Americans currently belong to a credit union, the industry is nonetheless growing in popularity — a direct result of the fallout from the 2007-2008 global financial crisis which exposed many of the abuses and excesses practiced by the large profit-driven banks leading to plunging confidence in such institutions.

"Credit unions are known for their superior customer service and support for local communities," Della Costa wrote, adding that credit unions are also keeping up with technological advances in order to provide improved services to customers, at lower cost.

For example, she cited that credit unions sometimes reimburse ATM fees incurred at other locations. "Many credit unions have also joined forces through the CO-OP ATM network or other shared branch alliances to offer members convenient out-of-state access," she noted.

As for what makes credit unions superior to banks, Della Costa cited the not-for-profit nature of credit unions (thereby making members co-owners of the enterprise rather than beholden to "powerful investors" who typically dominate bank ownership and whose main motivation is to maximize profits); the "community enrichment" that lies at the heart of credit unions; the fee-free checking accounts offered by credit unions which require no minimum balance requirements; the lower interest rates credit unions offer on mortgages, loans and credit cards; and the protection of federal credit union deposits through the auspices of the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF).

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