As I sat down to write this yesterday, I decided to conduct a bit of an informal experiment. I turned to my friend sitting next to me, a fellow journalism major.

“Do you know what a credit union is?” I asked him.

“Um, not really,” he said.

I turned to another friend. He studies business, and is headed to graduate school in the fall.

“Do you know what a credit union is?” I asked.

He frowned. “Isn’t is just like, a bank?”

I wish I could say I was surprised by my results.

Today’s young millennials and Gen Z-ers will struggle with student loan debt in great numbers and stress significantly more about money and work than the average adult. They’ve lived through a housing market meltdown and now, a worldwide economic crisis caused by COVID-19. They should have every reason to be intentional with their finances.

So why aren’t more of them choosing to open accounts with high-interest, financially responsible, community-focused credit unions?

Here at Zogo, we’ve found the answer is simple. Young people don’t know much about credit unions — if they know what a credit union is at all.

Over the past few months, we’ve talked to dozens of college students about banking, finance and where they stash their savings. Here’s how some of them described a credit union:

  • “I know they’re supposed to be better in some ways, but they’re not as large and readily available. But I know they have better numbers in terms of interest rates and stuff like that. And its community managed or something. I don’t know the specifics; I just know they exist.”
  • “Umm, I don’t know. They’re groups of people that help bring up your credit?”
  • “I’ve heard of credit unions. I’ve just never really known what they were. I know it’s something to do with finance.”
  • “No clue.”
  • “It’s different than a bank. I definitely learned the difference between them but I learned it like five years ago… so I don’t know.”

I happen to be the anomaly — I’m a college student that banks with a credit union. Why? I wish I could say it’s because I did my research, shopped around and selected my current institution — Coastal Federal Credit Union — as the best option.

But honestly? I opened an account there because my parents had one.

At Zogo, we think that if more young people — and more people in general — had a stronger foundation in personal finance, they’d be able to make better, more intentional financial decisions, including where they choose to bank.

Now more than ever, young people should feel empowered to take control of their finances. Zogo is committed to helping them get there.