The credit union movement began as an economic experiment. In mid-19th century Germany, early pioneers like Friedrich Raiffeisen and Hermann Schulze-Delizch were the first to develop practical credit associations, or credit unions, to help farmers struggling from the effects of famine and exorbitant interest rates charged by money lenders.
As these societies developed, member control became critical to their success and fundamental credit union principals. Membership requirements based on character, one member one vote and the election of a committee to approve loans came into practice. In addition to their economic role, early founders saw credit unions as a way of building community, teaching and encouraging thrift, social reform and self-help. These were important ideas at a time when Europe was torn between capitalism and communism.
Due in large part to the efforts of Pierre Jay, a central banker, and Edward Felene, a merchant and philanthropist from Boston, the first credit union in the United States was chartered in 1909. But the movement grew slowly. It was stalled by legislative and organization disputes; however, an idea as sound as the credit union could not be denied. The need for affordable credit was obvious to most companies and factories. On pay days, their offices were often crowded with sheriffs, loan sharks and process servers all waiting for a piece of the worker’s pay. Enlightened owners and managers realized that employees deep in debt would have a hard time thinking about their jobs and a credit union would help.
Many early credit unions developed in urban areas, especially among railroad and postal workers, civil servants and teachers. From these groups, an ever widening variety of membership developed. They spread the word about credit unions in their industries and neighborhoods.
Our Credit Union was chartered in 1951 as the Griffiss Employees Credit Union. We operated out of a desk in the Headquarters Building at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York and serviced only civilian members. As our Credit Union grew, our charter was amended to include military personnel and an expanded field of membership. We also increased the variety of products and services offered. Our name was then changed to Griffiss-Oneida Federal Credit Union.
In 1985, Griffiss-Oneida Federal Credit Union merged with DeWitt First Federal Credit Union in Syracuse and our name was changed again to Up State Federal Credit Union. In 1988, we merged with Fort Drum Federal Credit Union. In 2000, we changed our federal charter to a New York state charter and changed our name again to AmeriCU Credit Union.
AmeriCU Credit Union serves over 125,000 members throughout central and northern New York with a complete line of financial services – including savings, consumer and real estate loans, credit cards, online banking, kiosk services, our own proprietary ATM network and toll-free automated TeleLink service. Financial Center offices are located throughout northern and central New York State. All member accounts are insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
Most importantly, the concept and philosophy of the credit union movement’s beginnings – co-operative field of membership, one member one vote, education and affordable credit – are still integral parts of our daily operation and are what set us apart from our competitors. The credit union creed of “Not for Profit, But for Service” carries on in a movement created to serve the people.
Not a member? Not a problem! Open an account with just $5 if you live, work, worship or attend school in Central or Northern NY.