It’s likely a grossly understated number.
As of this writing and according to the US Census, there were about 327.4 million US citizens and almost 7.5 billion people worldwide. United States credit union membership reached 112.66 million members and 2.89 billion potential members by year-end 2017.
That’s all very impressive, particularly the potential membership count that is about nine times the total US population and about 26 times the current membership count. But consider this.
Only one of the nation’s credit unions claims a potential membership essentially equal to the entire US population. That would be the nation’s largest community-chartered credit union: Bethpage Federal Credit Union.
To be sure, having a potential member count in the multi-millions is rarified territory. As of Dec. 2017, only 1% (59) of the nation’s credit unions had a potential membership count of 7 million or more. Being the inquisitive guy, I took a look at this group. And for the record, I will not name names of what I found.
A credit union in the lower 8-digit range of potential membership has an entire state in their potential field. But they also include anyone belonging to a specific non-profit association. Checking this association’s website shows that virtually anyone in the country can belong. Let’s add 300 million to our 2.9 billion.
Another credit union in the lower 8-digit level of potential membership has an entire state and a significant number of counties in an adjoining state. And like the first example, belonging to a specified non-profit organization also qualifies you for credit union membership. This non-profit also appears to allow anyone in the US to join.
For those keeping score at home, we’ve just added 600 million or about 20% to our national potential membership, with just two credit unions.
It’s not just the very largest potential membership credit unions who are understating their potential. I found one in the mid 6-digit range for potential membership. This particular credit union focuses on employee groups, noting employees of “hundreds” of employers are eligible.
But…wait for it…they too have not just one but two non-profit associations whose members are also eligible. Neither of these appear to have a limit on who in the nation can join. Let’s add another 325 million to our potential list.
And then there’s another mid 6-digit range potential membership credit union that also has many employee groups and, in their case, many non-profit associations available, too. There’s another 325 million to add to the potential.
Altogether, that is more than 1.2 billion (+43%) potential members added looking at just four credit unions.
By no means is this all. The point is, the potential membership count for US credit unions, even as large as currently counted, is way under-stated.