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Written by Cyndie Martini
on December 12, 2018

Credit Unions may be not-for-profit organizations, but in order for them to continue to serve their customer base, they do need income, meaning growth is as important for them as it is for any for-profit business. With that in mind, 2018 has been a great year for credit unions as a whole, with a focus on credit cards leading many of them to impressive levels of growth

Why Credit Cards?

Many credit unions put a hard focus on pushing credit cards this year, and that's no surprise -- after all, when it comes to lending, in most cases credit cards will yield more profit than anything else, including mortgages, commercial loans, and auto loans. With so many credit unions recognizing that and putting a focus on credit cards, many enjoyed quite a bit of growth as a result.

Credit card debt held by credit unions grew 8.2% just in the past year, up to $60.2 billion. That's 6% of the total U.S. credit card market -- especially impressive, since that's the highest it's been since the Federal Reserve added credit unions to their tracking in 1984! 17.4% of all credit union members, almost 1 in 5, has a credit card through their credit union.

Overall Growth

While it still remains to be seen what the final numbers will be at the end of the year, right now it appears that national credit unions are on track to see an annual membership growth of over 5%. That's an impressive number we haven't seen since the 1980s, so it's something financial forecasters are cautiously excited about.

The credit union growth isn't just a short-term trend, either -- 2018 is looking like it will be the 5th year in a row that we will see loan growth in the double digits. While the rate of growth has slowed overall from last year, it has not slowed as much as many forecasted, and credit cards have grown faster than they did in 2017. All of this growth is despite the Fed raising its rates several times this year, leaving forecasters looking optimistic for ongoing credit union growth in 2019.


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