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Your Roadmap to Membership with Our Step-by-Step Application Process

Your Roadmap to Membership with Our Step-by-Step Application Process

Credit union advantages are numerous and worth learning how to join a credit union. Fortunately, becoming a member of Valley Credit Union is simple and quick. 

In this post, we’ll walk you through our straightforward credit union application process and other good-to-know details about switching to a credit union. We’ll cover:

  • Credit union benefits
  • Steps to become a credit union member
  • Tips for a smoother transition to a credit union
  • Credit union application FAQs

Why Joining Matters

Generally speaking, the benefits of a credit union are hard to beat — you really won’t want to pass them up! Not only do you get most of the same bells and whistles that a conventional bank offers, but credit unions also provide additional perks.

In terms of products and services, most credit unions have a variety of accounts and loans for you to choose from. For example, VCU offers financial instruments like:

  • Savings accounts
  • Checking accounts
  • Mortgages and HELOCs
  • Vehicle loans
  • Personal lines of credit
  • Credit cards
  • IRAs
  • Certificates of deposit (CDs)
  • Business lending

Credit unions usually have similar tech as banks, too. They leverage robust cyber-security measures (e.g., encryption) and modern tools (e.g., mobile and online banking).

When you look beyond the accounts, loans, etc., you’ll be pleased to see a long list of additional favorable features that are typical to credit unions. These often include:

  • Lower interest rates on money you borrow
  • Higher interest rates on your savings
  • Dividends
  • Fewer, lower, and more-easily-waived fees
  • Greater accessibility to financing
  • More flexible terms and conditions for borrowing
  • Global account access via a huge network of shared branches and ATMs
  • Financial and credit counseling and education
  • Youth banking programs
  • Community involvement and investment
  • Superior, personalized customer service

When you become a credit union member you get to take advantage of all this. You’ll probably realize the difference it makes in managing your money fairly quickly. All in — you’ll enjoy a comprehensive banking experience as a member of a credit union.


Understanding the Step-by-Step Application Process

Joining a credit union is easy. However, the specific steps you take may differ if you’re opening a new account versus switching an existing account from a bank to a credit union.

Step 0: Get Ready to Apply (Everyone)

  • Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements for the credit union you want to join.
  • Gather all the documents you’ll need to apply and open an account. At VCU, you just need a valid license or ID. Other credit unions may ask for other things — like a passport, proof of address, your Social Security number, employment verification, or financial statements.
  • Prepare some money to fund your new credit union account. You have to make an initial deposit to open an account and, depending on the credit union and account type, you may also need to pay some fees. At Valley Credit Union, you can open an account with as little as $5 cash!

Step 1: Submit Your Application (Everyone)

  • Fill in and sign the application form. You should be able to do this online or by visiting your local branch. VCU offers a streamlined application process — it’s just a one-page form that you submit via our website. (Look for the “Join Our Family” button!) The application collects the personal information needed to get you set up as a member and to open an account.

Application form

  • At VCU, your application is reviewed by an employee, who will reach out to you as soon as possible to complete the process. All in, you should know within 12-24 hours if your application was approved and you’ve been accepted as a new credit union member.

Step 2: Open Your Account (Everyone)

  • Once your application is approved, you’ll need to open a new account. As a VCU member, you can do this in person at your branch office or through the online portal. Other credit unions may have alternative protocols for opening new accounts, though.
  • Make sure you bring the documents and funds you prepped in Step: 0 with you.
  • This is a great opportunity to ask questions and learn even more about your credit union and the products, services, and support they offer you.

Step 3a: Deposit Your Funds (Members with New Accounts)

  • For brand new accounts, you’ll just put your money right in the account. Most likely that’ll be cash or a check.

Step 3b: Deposit Your Funds (Members Transferring Outside Accounts)

  • If you’re moving from another financial institution to a credit union, you’ll need to transfer your funds from the old account to your newly-opened credit union account. This needs to be done before you close the old bank account. You can move your money by direct deposit, wire transfer, or check.

Step 4: Get Your Tech Set Up (Everyone)

  • Once your account is active, you can sign up for online banking and download the mobile app.
  • Configure the alerts and notifications to suit your needs.
  • Get to know all the digital banking features and functionalities available to you so you can make the most of your credit union experience.

Step 5: Take Advantage of Your Credit Union Benefits (Everyone)

  • You’re now privy to a ton of exclusive deals, discounts, and perks that are only available to members. Check out all that comes with your membership!

Step 6:  Close Your Old Bank Account (Members Transferring Outside Accounts)

  • You’ll need to update any automatic payments and direct deposits that are linked to your former bank account by giving the companies or individuals your new credit union account information.
  • It’s also important to update the online shopping sites, subscription services, bill payment platforms, etc. that you use with your new account number so payments go through.
  • Transfer any remaining funds from your old bank account to the credit union account.
  • When all that’s taken care of, you can close your now-empty bank account.

Tips for a Seamless Application Experience

We’ve already mentioned that you should make sure you are eligible to join your prospective credit union and to have all your documents in order. That’s a great start, but maybe you’d like some more practical tips for a smooth membership application process? We’ve got you covered!

  • Visit the credit union. If possible, go to the credit union and check it out before applying. You’ll get a feel for how attentive the staff is, get guidance on the application process, etc.
  • Be transparent. Provide complete, accurate, and honest information in your application — this helps in the approval process and establishes trust with the credit union.
  • Be tech-savvy. If you’re applying online, double-check to make sure you’re on the right webpage for the application. Confirm that you have a secure internet connection. (The URL should start with “https:” and there may be a lock icon in the address bar as well.) Consider using a private browser or VPN to further safeguard your personal details.
  • Check your credit history. Credit unions tend to be relatively lenient, but it's still a smart idea to review your credit report. Some credit unions might conduct a soft credit check as part of the application process and you don’t want any surprises.
  • Ask about other offers. Find out if there are any special programs or promotions for new members— like extra incentives to encourage membership.
  • Follow up. If you don't receive a response within the expected timeframe, don't hesitate to check in with the credit union.

Credit Union Application & Membership FAQs

Every credit union is unique, but here are answers to common questions based on VCU’s policies and practices.

How do I become a member of a credit union?

You just apply. It’s very quick — a one-page online application.

What information do I need to provide when applying for credit union membership?

We only need to see your valid driver’s license or ID.

Is there an application or membership fee to join a credit union?

No, we don’t charge a fee to join our credit union. But, you will need to open an account by depositing at least $5.

What eligibility criteria do I need to meet to become a credit union member?

Our membership is open to Oregon residents and businesses who live or work in Linn, Marion, Polk, or Yamhill county.

Are there age restrictions for joining a credit union?

No. In fact, we offer a wonderful Youth Banking program. Please note, though, that parents must open the accounts for their child, and children under 18 will need a cosigner for credit cards and loans.

Can I join a credit union if I have bad credit or a limited credit history?

Yes. We even offer products and services that can help you establish or rebuild your financial record.

How long does the credit union membership application process typically take?

Filling in the application only takes a few moments. If you submit your application online, it’ll be reviewed and processed immediately. Applications submitted in person are also quickly evaluated. Either way, you’ll know if your application was approved within a short while. 

Do credit unions perform credit checks as part of the membership application process?

Typically, no. For certain account types, we may run a soft check.


Valley Credit Union Application — So Easy & Fast!

Navigating the financial world can be tricky. But, with this guide to joining a credit union, at least you know what to expect from the application process.

Applying to become a credit union member is usually as simple as submitting a short form online. There are some additional to-dos if you're switching from another financial institution to a credit union — but nothing too complicated. Review and processing of your application is generally done very quickly so you can start reaping the benefits of your new credit union sooner.

Going into the application process well-prepared is your best bet for success.

We at VCU are ready to help if you need assistance with the application process. Just contact us today — we're happy to answer your questions.

About the Author

 Pat Force, President and CEO

Pat Force has been President and CEO of Valley Credit Union since 2016. He has worked in banking for over 30 years and has an MBA. Pat is passionate about credit unions and their “people helping people” philosophy. He enjoys collaborating with others to arrive at a result that works for the common good. Away from the office, Pat likes to spend time with family, travel, read and go for a nice, long hike.

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