National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)

What Is the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)?

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is an agency of the United States federal government. The federal government created the NCUA to monitor federal credit unions across the country.

Key Takeaways

  • Credit unions and banks offer similar financial products, like mortgages, auto loans, and savings accounts, but credit unions are not-for-profit institutions, unlike banks. 
  • The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) oversees the quality and operations of thousands of federal credit unions. 
  • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is the equivalent of the NCUA for banks. 

Understanding the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)

The NCUA is a federal agency founded in 1970 and headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. A three-member board heads the agency, all of whom are appointed directly by the president of the United States. The agency currently monitors over 9,500 federally insured credit unions that service over 80 million customer accounts.

The NCUA runs the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), which is one of the agency’s most massive responsibilities. The NCUSIF uses tax dollars to insure the deposits at all federal credit unions. Most NCUA insured institutions are federal and state-chartered credit unions and savings banks. Accounts insured in NCUA insured institutions are savings, share drafts or checking, money markets, share certificates or CDs, Individual Retirement Accounts, and Revocable Trust Accounts.

The National Credit Union Administration vs. the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

The NCUA is equivalent to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or FDIC. The FDIC is an independent federal agency that insures deposits in U.S. banks in the event of bank failures. Created in 1933 in response to the Great Depression, the FDIC maintains public confidence and encourages stability in the financial system through the promotion of sound banking practices.

The National Credit Union Association (NCUA) insures credit unions to protect their members' funds in savings, checking, money markets, and retirement accounts.

The FDIC aims to prevent run on the bank scenarios, which devastated many banks after the stock market crash of 1929, ultimately leading to the Great Depression. With the threat of their banks closing, small groups of worried customers rushed to withdraw their money. After fears spread, a stampede of customers, seeking to do the same, ultimately resulted in many banks being unable to support withdrawal requests. Those who were first to withdraw their money from a troubled bank would benefit, whereas those who waited risked losing their savings overnight. Before FDIC, there was no guarantee for the safety of deposits beyond the confidence in the bank's stability.

Insurance on deposits in extremely important in preventing future crises. Bank liquidity is like oxygen—if it gets cut off, there is a ripple effect in the system.

Practically all banks offer FDIC coverage, and consumers face less uncertainty regarding their deposits. In case of bank failure, the FDIC covers deposits up to $250,000; as a result, banks have a better opportunity to address problems under controlled circumstances, without triggering a run on the bank. The FDIC covers checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and money market accounts. FDIC insurance does not cover mutual funds, annuities, life insurance policies, stocks, or bonds.

The significant difference between the FDIC and the NCUA is the former deals only with credit institutions, and the latter uses the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund; the FDIC uses the Deposit Insurance Fund.