ON April 14, the Credit Unions of Wales launched a Welsh Government -backed marketing campaign to encourage more Welsh savers and borrowers to choose this community based alternative to other financial organisations.

Credit unions are financial co-operatives owned and managed by the members who use them.

Members of a credit union save in a common fund. This fund can be then used to offer loans to the Credit Union's members at affordable rates of interest. Because Credit Unions are financial co-operatives, members’ savings and any interest earned on loans stays in the local community to benefit local people.

As well as basic financial services such as savings, loans and in some cases current accounts, many credit unions now offer Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs), insurance products and budgeting and debt management advice.

The Credit Unions of Wales campaign is entitled ‘Front of the queue’ as it puts the customer / member at the heart of the communications.

The campaign seeks to highlight the key points of difference between Credit Unions and other financial organisations:

• That members are shareholders

• That lending decisions are made by people not machines

• That what you see is what you pay

The Welsh Government is committed to supporting Credit Unions in Wales and has invested in them since 2000. Welsh Government funding helped open the Cardiff and Vale Credit Union office on 21 Holton Road in October last year which can be contacted on 029 2087 2373 or by email at info@cardiffcu.com

We recognise the important contribution Credit Unions can make in tackling financial exclusion, especially in communities where disadvantage persists.

For example, Credit Unions offer an affordable alternative to Pay Day Loans. Payday loans are short term loans, with very high interest rates intended to tide people over until they get paid. However, in many cases, individuals have struggled to repay and the effect of compound interest has left them in a spiral of debt.

If you would like further information about Credit Unions, you can also contact the Credit Unions in Wales Helpline on 0808 129 4050 or email creditunions@wales.gsi.gov.uk.