Source: Downriver Community Federal Credit Union

If you're looking for a credit union -- and there are lots of good reasons to do so -- and you're connected to a certain neighborhood south of Detroit, then the Downriver Community Federal Credit Union might be just what you need.

There are close to 7,000 credit unions in America that are owned by more than 100 million members. Credit unions have long been alternatives to banks, and they offer some advantages over banks, too. Before delving into those, let's quickly review this particular credit union.

Meet the Downriver Community Federal Credit Union
Founded in 1942, the Downriver Community Federal Credit Union is owned and controlled by more than 18,000 members, and sports assets topping $140 million. It's based in Ecorse, Mich., with offices in Lincoln Park, Woodhaven, and Wyandotte, as well as a bunch of other service centers around the state and hundreds more in 33 states.

Membership is open to those who live, work, worship, or attend school in any of the following Michigan communities: Allen Park, Brownstown Township, Ecorse, Flat Rock, Gibraltar, Grosse Ile, Huron Township, Lincoln Park, Melvindale, River Rouge, Riverview, Rockwood, Romulus, Southgate, Taylor, Trenton, Woodhaven and Wyandotte. Family members of eligible members are also eligible to join, as are businesses and other legal entities located in these communities. To join, you must open a prime share account, depositing at least $5. Once you do that, you can take advantage of other services offered. 

Why choose a credit union?
So why might you want to choose a credit union? Well, unlike for-profit banks that have incentives to charge you more in order to profit more, credit unions are owned by their members and are non-profits.

They offer competitive interest rates, usually topping those of local banks. Their service can be better, too. Remember that since banks are in the business of making money, they might steer you toward products or services that serve them more than they serve you. As the Credit Union National Association notes, "Unlike most other financial institutions, credit unions do not issue stock or pay dividends to outside stockholders. Instead, earnings are returned to our members in the form of lower loan rates, higher interest on deposits, and lower fees."

Whereas credit unions of yore had relatively few products and services, today they offer a wide range of them, such as savings and checking accounts, credit cards, debit cards, mortgages, new and used car loans, and more. Among the many Downriver Community Federal Credit Union offerings are savings and checking accounts, direct deposit, mortgages, car loans, student loans, home equity loans, business loans, and online banking.

Credit unions offer insurance, too. Just as bank accounts are protected by the FDIC, credit union accounts are insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund up to a standard maximum of $250,000. 

One downside has been that they often have fewer branches and locations than competing banks, and thus might offer fewer ATMs. But these days many credit unions have networked together and have expanded into other venues with ATMs that members can use for free. The Downriver Community Federal Credit Union has ATMs at its branches and at hundreds of service centers, and also at certain Rite Aid and CVS Health pharmacies.

In the past, it could sometimes be hard to join a credit union, as you had to work for a certain company or meet some other criteria. Rules have loosened over the years, though, and now many more Americans can join one. If the Downriver Community Federal Credit Union isn't the right fit, you may be eligible to join another.