Credit cooperative formed by a group of people with some common bond who, in effect, save their money together and make low-cost loans to each other. The loans are usually short-term consumer loans, mainly for automobiles, household needs, medical debts, and emergencies. Credit unions generally operate under government charter and supervision. They are particularly important in less developed countries, where they may be the only source of credit for their members. The first cooperative societies providing credit were founded in Germany and Italy in the mid-19th century; the first North American credit unions were founded by Alphonse Desjardins in Lévis, Quebec (1900), and Manchester, N.H. (1909). The Credit Union National Association (CUNA), a federation of U.S. credit unions, was established in 1934 and became a worldwide association in 1958.
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