People who don't belong to credit unions believe banks offer better service and simpler credit terms, according to a poll by the Gallup Organization.
The survey, "Awareness and Image of Business Cooperatives," indicated that credit unions needed to do a better job of marketing themselves to potential customers.
Among noncustomers, 59% said banks offered the best chance for a personal loan and 56% named banks as their choice for a car loan.
The findings "run counter to the usual perception," said Ben Ely, an Alexandria, Va.-based banking consultant.
The results indicate that people may be unfamiliar with credit unions and that banks have improved their performance in consumer lending, he said. Credit unions fared better with their own customers.
According to the survey, 63% consider credit unions the easiest place to get a personal loan or a line of credit and 68% consider them most likely to grant a car loan.
"Perhaps we need to do a better job of reaching out to make nonmembers aware of credit unions and the benefits of being a credit union member," said Mark Wolf, vice president of public affairs for the Credit Union National Association.
Banks edged credit unions among all survey respondents, with 45% saying banks were most likely to grant personal loans and 42% saying they were most likely to grant a car loan.
Of all respondents, 45% said banks did the best job of meeting customer needs and 43% said they were the most trustworthy. Points for Meeting Needs Credit union customers gave their institutions high marks, with 59% saying that credit unions provide employees "most personally committed" to meeting their financial needs. Similarly, 54% of members said credit unions are the most trust-worthy financial institution.
The Gallup survey, released last month, said 36% of the 2,023 respondents belonged to a credit union. Of those who were familiar with credit unions but weren't customers, 41% believed they were eligible to join one.
The survey was commissioned by the Credit Union National Association, CUNA Mutual Insurance Group National Cooperative Bank, and the National Cooperative Bus-iness Association.