A good mystery is most gratifying when there is a good resolution at the end. Some things might seem mysterious simply because they are different from what has been previously experienced and time has not allowed the opportunity to check it out.

Credit unions have been such a mystery to some. What is a credit union and how are they different from banks? Are they a safe alternative? Do credit unions offer better banking options?

Here is one mystery that is about to be solved!

How is a credit union different from a bank? The cooperative movement began back in the 1800s as crop failure and famine caused an innovative mill owner and baker meet the needs of neighbors by selling baked goods at an affordable price.

He took this idea a step further by organizing a “cooperative credit society” to address the financial needs of his community. Others built upon the cooperative idea and the credit union movement was born.

Credit unions are “member-owned” financial institutions that put their earnings back into the form of lower rates, higher deposit rates and lower fees. The Board of Directors believes so strongly in credit unions that they give of their time and talents as volunteers.

There are no large salaries or outside shareholders. Decisions are made according to what will provide a brighter future for members.

Credit unions were formed for service. They believe in community, and their staff members are often involved in providing financial education for local schools and businesses, as well as supporting local organizations that promote health and wellness.

Are credit unions a safe alternative to banks? Absolutely! They are federally insured through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). Members can be confident that their earnings are protected.

Do credit unions offer better banking options? Yes! Credit unions are full-service financial institutions that offer all the same products and services as big banks and often offer more for less. Credit union membership is simple and the possibilities are endless.

Credit unions continue their cooperative spirit with how easy it is to access your money, wherever life takes you. It is no mystery that credit unions simply offer better banking for a brighter future.

Carolyn Roman is the sales and service manager of CPM Federal Credit Union, based in North Charleston. cpmfed.com