Credit unions are an alternative way of banking in Canada. Not-for-profit, community-centered, and highly personalized when it comes to financial products and customer service, it’s safe to say that credit unions are leading the cooperative movement in Canada and across the globe.
There are currently 14 credit unions in Alberta with more than 200 branches across rural and urban communities.
I used to work at a credit union in Canada for several years, so I know a lot about how they operate.
Most of them offer great products and services for personal banking, business banking, and agri-businesses. Better yet, they all have a 100%guarantee on your deposits, making them an incredibly safe and reliable banking option in Alberta.
Today’s post will go through some of the best credit unions in Alberta, covering what they do best, their values, and more.
Let’s get started!
First, let’s cover the basics. What is the difference between a bank and a credit union?
Banks and credit unions are both regulated financial institutions offering financial products and services such as bank accounts, investing services, loans, mortgages, insurance, and more.
Differences in operations and governing structures
Banks are for-profit organizations with a handful of “top shareholders” at the top of the business. They may even be traded publicly.
Therefore, many banks are mostly concerned with making a profit to please these shareholders, sporting high fees and a profit-centric business model.
Credit unions, on the other hand, are not-for-profit and owned by their customers/members. Each person wanting to be served by a credit union must purchase a share, which usually only costs a few dollars.
Along with having access to the credit union’s financial products, these members can have a say in how the credit union is run by voting for certain matters or raising their concerns with the employees.
Many credit unions in Canada operate locally and have deeper roots in their community than their bank counterparts.
This is partly because they were first created to fill in the financial inclusion gaps left by big banks, making them equally centred around the well-being of their community as around profit.
Due to their community-based nature, many credit unions serve a specific geographic area (such as a single Canadian province) or a set of people who share a vocation (such as police officers).
Despite not always being able to take advantage of economies of scale, their specialization allows them to cater their products to the needs of their customers and provide exceptional service.
Here are the best credit unions in Alberta based on products, services, and values.
1. Servus Credit Union: Best Overall
Number of Branches: 100+
Banking: Personal and Business
Servus Credit Union is Canada’s fourth-biggest credit union and the biggest credit union in Alberta.
They serve more than 380,000 member-owners and have more than 100 branches across the province, giving their members the convenience to do their in-person banking anywhere in Alberta.
Being voted the second-best “bank” in Canada by Forbes in 2021, Servus is a big force in Alberta when it comes to its financial offerings and purpose.
They have a wide scope of products ranging from bank accounts, mortgages, loans, wealth, and insurance, along with services for businesses (including agri-business.)
Servus is also well-known in Alberta for its Mastercard credit cards, including their award-winning World Elite Mastercard, which has exclusive offers and offers a VIP experience worldwide.
When it comes to values, Servus’ history goes way back. The root of their “family tree,” Mangan credit union of Alberta, was created in 1938 in the aftermath of the Great Depression when banks were opting out of lending money to farmers and small businesses.
So Albertans banded together to pool their money and lend it to their neighbours, starting Mangan and keeping family businesses operating in hard times.
More than 80 years later, Mangan has evolved, merged, and branched off many times, finally birthing what is now Servus Credit Union. The company says that Mangan’s founding purpose still leads them today.
2. connectFirst: Best for Agri-Business Banking
Location: Central and Southern Alberta
Number of Branches: 40+
Banking: Personal and Business
connectFirst credit union’s mission is to “make money make a difference” by doing what’s right for each of its members. They operate in central and southern Alberta, with a focus on the “shared Alberta experience.”
As such, their focus on what it means to be an Albertan and what their community needs makes them the best credit union in the province for agri-business banking.
connectFirst’s agri-business account fees are low, and their various products are custom-fit for farmers looking to get from one season to the next with a financial safety net, helping them prosper through many generations.
Whether it’s catered spending or savings accounts, agricultural mortgages, operating lines of credit, agriculture overdraft, term loans, or investment options, they’ve likely got what you need for your agri-business in Alberta, and at good rates and low fees.
We also love that connectFirst’s executive team is primarily women. It’s good to see gender diversity in executive positions in the banking sector.
3. 1st Choice Savings and Credit Union: Best for Low-Fee Chequing
Location: Southern Alberta (based out of Lethbridge, Alberta)
Number of Branches: 7+
Banking: Personal and Business
1st Choice Savings and Credit Union Ltd. offers personal, business, and agri-business services to Southern Albertans. Based out of Lethbridge, you can become a member-owner of this credit union by being an Alberta resident and buying at least one share, which costs $1.
1st Choice currently serves about 17,000 member-owners and is guided by serving their community and providing a superior experience. Their company goal is to enrich the financial well-being of their members.
One of their best offerings is their low-fee chequing account. Although many credit unions in Alberta charge relatively high fees for their spending accounts, 1st Choice is different.
Their Daily Basic account has no monthly fees (with no minimum balance needed) and unlimited free Interac e-Transfers.
Their Daily Savings account also is completely fee-free, with no minimum balance required.
A combination of these two accounts can give you the cheapest account options in Albertan credit unions, with the perk of not worrying about minimum balances.
4. Vision Credit Union: Best for Rural Alberta Residents and RRSP Loans
Location: Alberta-Wide (with several branches in Northern Alberta)
Number of Branches: 18
Banking: Personal and Business
Vision Credit Union is the third-largest credit union in Alberta with more than $1 billion in assets, serving more than 26,000 members. Like most others, this credit union offers personal, business and agri-business services.
Vision is a good option for those who live in rural parts of Alberta. Its branch network is diverse and its 18 branches serve many communities that may not be served by other credit unions and banks in the province.
Another great feature of Vision is its RRSP loan offering. With this product, Vision members can take advantage of low-interest rates and borrow their annual RRSP contribution, lowering their tax payments and building wealth for retirement.
The largest credit union in Alberta is Servus Credit Union, with over 380,000 member-owners and more than 100 branches across the province. Servus is a community-based and regulated financial institution with roots dating back to 1938.
The company is headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta. It has various subsidiaries, such as Credit Union Central Alberta Limited, Servus Wealth Strategies Ltd. (which offers financial planning, life insurance, and investments), and All Source Mortgages Ltd. (an independent mortgage broker.)
They employ about 2,000 staff members across the board.
Yes, your deposits (including the earned interest on your deposits) are 100% guaranteed in all Albertan credit unions, making them very reliable and safe.
This unlimited guarantee is thanks to Alberta’s Credit Union Deposit Guarantee Corporation, which provides risk-based regulatory oversight and a 100% deposit guarantee to all credit unions in Alberta.
The general mandate of this organization is to enable a safe and sound credit union system in the province.
Do note that credit unions across Canada are regulated by different bodies, which means that not all credit unions have a 100% guarantee like Alberta. However, most Canadian credit unions offer a deposit guarantee of up to $250,000, which is still quite higher than the guarantee offered by most banks.
How much do banks guarantee? A large proportion of Canadian banks are protected by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC), which offers a guarantee of up to $100,000 per account.
Credit unions are a safe and convenient method of banking, and there are several good options in Alberta, depending on your needs and location.
You can get started by buying a share, getting personalized financial service, and becoming a part of the growing cooperative movement in Canada. Are you reading up on credit unions? Check out this post on the best credit unions in Ontario.