Dear Heloise: What’s the difference between a credit union and a bank?

— Henry, age 13, in San Antonio

Henry, it basically comes down to nonprofit versus profit. A credit union is like a fraternity in that its members share something in common — military, an employment industry or maybe a religious affiliation, for example. It is in the business of serving its members by offering classes and financial educational opportunities. Credit unions are not concerned about making a profit because they usually are exempt from federal taxes and may receive money from the organizations their members belong to.

Pretty much anybody can be a customer of a bank. However, a bank is in business to make a profit, and typically charges more fees and higher interest rates than credit unions. But banks generally have more branches and ATMs, which is more convenient, and also may offer more types of loans.

Glad to see your interest in finances. It’s never too early to start.

 — Heloise

Where to write: Send your tips and tricks to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000; or email