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What is the difference between a credit union, mutual bank, a mutual building society and a publicly-listed bank?

Credit unions, mutual building societies and mutual banks have a mutual structure and their first point of business is to focus on their members (customers). Anyone can join and become a member. Each member of a credit union, mutual building society and mutual bank owns the organisation they belong to, and have a vote in the organisation’s governance.

This means we focus on community banking services that benefit our members.

Unlike publicly-listed banks, credit unions, mutual building societies and mutual banks aren’t publicly-listed companies and so they don’t maximise profits to pay external shareholders. Instead, they put their profits back into outstanding customer service, better products, competitive mortgage rates and fairer, competitive pricing for their members.

Quick statistics on credit unions, mutual building societies and mutual banks:

  • They are focused on benefits for their members – and not profits for shareholders;
  • They consistently are among the highest levels of customer satisfaction in the Australian banking market;
  • Provide quality, professional, ethical banking and offer competitive rates and pricing for close to 4.5 million members across Australia;
  • Deliver better service, fairer fees and a true community focus.
Are credit unions, mutual building societies and mutual banks safe?

Yes. All credit unions, mutual building societies and mutual banks are Authorised Deposit-taking Institutions (ADIs), and are regulated in the same way as all other Australian banks. They are regulated by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) under the Corporations Act 2001, and by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) under the Banking Act 1959.

All ADIs - that is, all Australian credit unions, mutual banks, mutual building societies and banks - meet the same strict, legally-enforceable standards, under the Banking Act and strict oversight by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA). APRA’s strict rules on safety and capital continue to apply to all banks, building societies and credit unions to the same high standards.

Deposits in all ADIs of up to $250,000 were guaranteed by the Federal Government on a permanent basis from 1 February 2012.

Do credit unions, mutual building societies and mutual banks offer the same kind of products as banks?

Yes – and often you’ll get a better deal at a credit union, mutual building society or mutual bank. Credit unions, mutual building societies and mutual banks offer all your banking needs. To name just a few:

  • low-rate and rewards credit cards
  • debit cards
  • competitive mortgage rates
  • competitive term deposit rates
  • personal loans, and
  • car loans

Independent websites like InfoChoice and CANSTAR regularly feature the very competitive mortgage rates and term-deposit rates of credit unions, mutual building societies and mutual banks. To compare rates on InfoChoice, click here or CANSTAR, click here.

Is there any difference between credit unions, mutual building societies and mutual banks?

Being mutual ADIs, all credit unions, mutual building societies and mutual banks have a customer owned or mutual structure as their business model as well as having closely-aligned values. There may be small differences due to historical or regional differences, but being a customer (member) of any mutual ADI gives you the same exceptional benefits.

Where do I find a credit union, building society or mutual bank close to me?

To find a credit union, building society or mutual bank close to you, Search our Member Directory.

What are friendly societies and what do they do?

Friendly societies are member-focused organisations that help Australians become financially independent and plan for life events through the provision of savings, investment and insurance products. These include education savings plans, superannuation products, health and travel insurance, and funeral plans.

Friendly societies have almost 1 million members across Australia and over $5bn in assets.

Not all friendly societies offer financial services. Some provide aged care and health services, while a small number are fraternal societies centred on social and community activities.

To find out more about friendly societies, click here

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