A Guide to Banks Vs. Credit Unions

Deciding where to get your college banking account as a student is a hard decision. You already have exams, friends, and getting locked out of your dorm to worry about, the last thing you think (or care) about is who’s going to handle your money. But locking in a student checking account with a long tenured establishment could pay off long past your senior year. When deciding between a bank vs. a credit union, there’s plenty of advantages of going with a credit union with over 50 years of experience.


While a majority of banks serve as for-profit institutions, credit unions are a not for profit financial cooperative. Let’s get this stigma out of the way. Credit Unions are not some exclusive club for the rich and wealthy. At FCFCU, we believe in banking for all. When you open your first banking account and become a member, you’re immediately given a voice. 
Call us, stop by one of our conveniently located financial centers, or get started online to become a member.

Building Credit with a Low Rate Credit Card:

You might have heard it from your parents before leaving the bird’s nest. “It’s never too early to build credit in college.” Take it from the experts when we say, they’re right! When you’re finally ready to buy your first car or rent your first apartment, there’s one detail that’s always checked : your credit score. One of the easiest ways to build your credit when starting college, is with a low interest credit card. Similar to banks, we offer debit and credit cards, but usually at a much lower rate. We never hide our rates, so feel free to compare. We’re confident you’ll like what you see. 

Smart Credit Card Spending:

It's important to be smart when opening your first credit card.  A large total credit line isn't an invitation for loose spending. You’ve probably been warned about racking up massive credit card debt seemingly out of nowhere, but we offer free financial planning tools on how to keep your credit debt low or non-existent. Our recommendation: use your credit card to make small purchases, maintain a low balance, and pay it off immediately with your student checking account in our digital banking app. Take advantage of a Visa Secured card’s low rates and start building your credit today.


When you’re a member of FCFCU, your banking with the home team. Banks are bigger by nature and have the advantage of serving customers throughout the country, but credit unions have the privilege of helping members in our community. That’s why, we are where you are and have locations located near each of the major Lehigh Valley college campuses.

Customer Service:

It’s your money, and your questions, and if you’re a student opening their first checking account, you might have plenty.  Shouldn’t the people who handle your cash and answer you be local? Credit unions are well regarded nationwide for their hospitality and treatment of their members, and First Commonwealth FCU is no exception. Our contact center team is locally operated within the Lehigh Valley. They may even be your neighbor!


Privacy is more at risk than ever. Before you even crack open a text book, you’re getting ads for the book in question. It feels every company is in a bidding war for our viewing habits. To banks, your financial history is a commodity to be traded and sold. At credit unions like FCFCU, your personal information is safe. We will never share your information with nonaffiliates for marketing reasons. Information about your transaction history and creditworthiness will also never be shared to our affiliates for everyday business purposes. Visit our privacy policy for complete personal information sharing details.


Another check in the box for credit unions over banks. Student checking account features no overdraft fees no monthly maintenance fee and no monthly minimum deposit. If you're looking to open a checking account, choose one where every dollar saved, is a dollar spent on a weeks-worth of ramen.


A misconception about credit unions is they lack convenience, are low-tech, and cater to members within a physical location.

Digital Banking:

FCFCU is neck and neck with nationwide banks in terms of online banking. With our Digital Banking app, our commitment to the future is evident with our easy, online banking. Easily transfer money between accounts, send and received money, and mobile check depositing means you can do all of your banking from your phone.

ATM Access:

The final misconception with credit unions is the lack of convenience. While banks have more branded ATMS than credit unions, there are more surcharge free options available with a credit union membership. FCFCU members gain access to a nationwide network of ATMs and more than 6,000 shared-branching locations. You’ll also have access to the ATMs found at Wawa® and Sheetz®. Now you’ll never have to pick between an Italian sub or a fried chicken sandwich again!

Final Verdict:

The choice is clear which type of banking is best for a college student. When you start banking with a credit union, you are making wise choices that will last well beyond your four (or more!) years at university.

As an added bonus, you’ll get complete access to Financial Wellness platform. Free and exclusive access to all FCFCU members. If you’re have trouble finding scholarships and internships, then look no further.