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Banks & Credit Unions


This project is the first of two parts to introduce students to the similarities and differences between banks and credit unions. Students evaluate these two types of financial institutions and apply learned knowledge in evaluating a local credit union and bank. They will determine which financial institution might best fits their needs.
Curriculum Link: Author: Melissa Smith, Updated: May 19, 2009

Expected Student Outcomes/Objectives

• Identify the differences and similarities between banks and credit unions.
• Locate local banks and credit unions.
• Evaluate which would be the better choice for them based on a set of criteria.

Description of Activities

Students will discover the differences and similarities between banks and credit unions and draw conclusions about which they would choose based on criteria important in selecting a savings institution.
• Americas Local Credit Unions, America's Credit Unions: Where people are worth more than money : Locate local credit unions and general credit union information.
• Overview of Credit Unions: This page provides thorough information to help students understand what exactly credit unions are.
• How Banks Work: This site is very helpful when explaining to students what banks are and how they work.
• Credit Union: This EconEdLink page provides a thorough definition of Credit Unions.
Credit Union
• Banks: This EconEdLink page provides a thorough definition of Banks.
• Local Banks: This MapQuest Maps page allows you to type in banks and your zip code to locate the nearest banks to your school.
• Credit Union Locator: This page allows students to locate credit unions local to their homes.
• Bank Criteria Worksheet: Criteria for choosing a bank or credit union.
• Interactive Activity: This EconEdLink activity helps students to understand the difference between banks and credit unions.

Activity 1: Similarities & Differences - What are these things?
Students will complete a Venn Diagram using the information they find on given web sites:
Students should first find general information about credit unions.
Students can also visit an overview of credit unions.
Have students find out how banks work.
They give a thorough definition of credit unions.
Students can also look at the definition of banks.
Venn Diagram will be printed when it's completed and used as a reference sheet for the student until the end of the project, when it will be turned in.

Activity 2: Where are they?
Students will locate banks and credit unions that are close to where they live and go to school - which ones would be most convenient for them? Students locate one bank and one credit union in their area with web sites and fill this information in to the Criteria for Choosing a Bank or Credit Union worksheet.
• Locate Local Banks (Enter "banks" in the place for name and enter your zip code)
• Locate Local Credit Unions; General Credit Union Information

Activity 3: Which one is better for me? Have students complete Bank Criteria Worksheet by using their venn diagram and Web sites they have researched.

Culminating Activity and/or Assessment

Banks and credit unions have become fundamentally the same thing. The differences are due to credit unions' history as grass-roots cooperative groups, while banks have always been for-profit institutions.

Have students use their venn diagrams and information they learned to complete the activity below.
Have students complete an Interactive Activity.

1. Split the students into small groups and have them discuss the tax status of banks and credit unions. Is the situation fair? Who does it benefit? Who does it hurt? Have the groups collaborate for a few minutes, then elect on member per group to share their thought with the class.
2. Give students the option to interview an employee of a bank or credit union and share their findings with the class. Require that they submit at least five questions for teacher approval before they conduct the interview.

Instructional Materials Needed

Computers, Internet, SmartBoard or LCD Projector, WhiteBoard/Markers, Online Links to Activities, Word Processing Software, Pencil/Paper, Printer.

Instructional Materials Provided

Online Teacher Instruction Materials, Links to Online Activities, Computer, Internet, Handouts. Student Online Version:

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Additional criteria

Cost: Free

Curriculum type: Project

Academic subject areas: English; Career-Technical Education

States' Career Clusters: Finance

California Industry sector(s): Business and Finance

Duration: two to three class periods

Grade Targets: 9, 10, 11, 12

Level of Expertise for CTE: Introductory

Standards Addressed: Detailed documentation of alignment with Common Core, NGSS, C3 or CTE Standards provided  

National Standards in Economics; California State Standards for Economics, US History and Geography. This also addresses new CA State CTE standards for Finance & Business.

Online curriculum

Keywords: Banking, Decision Making, Economic Systems, Money, Money Management, Savings

Source: Web Site

Curriculum Link:

Reviewer Comments

Introduces banks and credit unions in an easy to understand way. The lesson incorporates visuals, online information gathering and appropriate and applicable activities to complete.

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