Credit unions are federally or state-chartered savings institutions open to members who share a so-called common bond, such as employment, geographic proximity, or organization membership. At the end of 2011 there are about 7,400 credit unions in the United States, including the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, offering primarily consumer-oriented financial services; most are fairly small institutions, although a few are very large and operate in the national financial arena. The National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) insures deposits in federal credit unions and federally insured state-chartered credit unions. Almost 7,100 credit unions are federally-insured.
The credit union industry has a hierarchical structure. Local credit unions belong to 23 corporate credit unions. The corporate credit unions accept deposits from and make loans to member credit unions; they also provide wholesale financial and payments services to their credit union constituency. In the sector statement for credit unions, intrasector transactions are netted out, but the investments of the corporate credit unions with institutions outside the credit union sector are included in the sector's total assets.
Federally insured credit unions pay an annual premium into the NCUSIF, which holds only securities issued by the U.S. government; in the financial accounts, in the sector for credit unions, total holdings of Treasury securities include an amount equal to the accumulated contributions of insured credit unions shown on the NCUSIF's balance sheet.