NCUA Warns Advertisers About “Open to Everyone” Ads

The NCUA issued a stern warning to credit unions advertising that “anyone can join” as it looks to quash a loophole that has infuriated bankers for years.

Debbie Matz, Chairman of the NCUA, has put credit unions on notice: “If your credit union is advertising that anyone, without limitation, is able to become a member of your credit union, then you may be in violation of federal law and regulation.” That’s the opening sentence from a letter Matz sent to federal credit unions on September 3.

The NCUA is particularly concerned about advertising by federal credit unions stating their fields of membership are “open to anyone.” Several recent examples of such overly expansive advertising focus on becoming a credit union member by first joining a particular association, often one with limited- or no connection to the credit union’s true field of membership.

Mainstream publications have picked up on this message, as evidenced by articles listing federal credit unions perceived to have “open” membership.

“Some overly aggressive marketing campaigns by federal credit unions to facilitate membership through associational groups are providing consumers with misleading information about single and multiple common bond membership requirements,” Matz continues in her letter. “This gives the false impression that there are no restrictions on joining a federal credit union, which is not the case.”

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