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Low-Income Designation

A critical component of the NCUA’s efforts to support credit unions is the low-income designation. To qualify as a low-income designated credit union, a majority of a credit union’s membership must meet certain low-income thresholds based on data available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

What Are the Benefits of the Designation?

  • An exception from the statutory cap on member business lending, which expands access to capital for small businesses and helps credit unions to diversity portfolios;
  • Eligibility for grants and low-interest loans from the Community Development Revolving Loan Fund;
  • Ability to accept non-member deposits from any source; and
  • Authority to obtain supplemental capital.

How Can a Credit Union Qualify for the Designation?

To qualify as a low-income credit union, a majority of the credit union’s membership (50.01 percent) must meet certain low-income thresholds, based on data from the Census Bureau and requirements outlined in the NCUA’s Rules and Regulations.

All federally insured credit unions that meet the eligibility criteria can receive the low-income designation. However, some state-chartered credit unions may not be afforded all of the designation’s benefits. State-charter credit unions should contact their state supervisory authority to determine their low-income designation criteria and benefits.

For assistance in determining whether your credit union qualifies for a low-income designation, contact the NCUA’s Office of Credit Union Resources and Expansion at or 703.518.1150.

How Can a Credit Union Determine if Its Membership or Areas of Service Qualify as Low-Income?

The NCUA determines a federal credit union’s qualification status based on data obtained through examinations. The agency will notify a federal credit union if a majority of its membership qualifies as low-income. Federal credit unions that do not receive notification, but believe they qualify for the designation, may submit information supporting a potential designation to the NCUA directly. Staff from the Office of Credit Union Resources and Expansion will work with credit unions to determine if there are other ways for them to get to a low-income designation.

The NCUA developed “The Low-Income Designated Area Workbook,” which uses the current year American Community Survey data to determine which geographic areas are classified as low-income. The workbook lists the counties, census tracts, census block groups, and zip codes within the United States and Puerto Rico.

There are at least two ways a credit union can use the information found in the workbook:

  • To analyze low-income areas to see how many existing or potential members of the credit union reside within a low-income designated geographic area; and
  • To develop new forms of outreach targeting potential new members residing in low-income designated areas within a credit union’s field of membership.

For questions on the Low-Income Designated Area Workbook, please contact the NCUA’s Office of Credit Union Resources and Expansion by email at or at 703.518.1150.

Where Can I Find More Information About the Low-income Designation and Serving Low-income Areas?

The NCUA developed a series of frequently asked questions about the Low-Income Designated Area Workbook that credit unions can review.

Credit unions can also visit the NCUA’s Learning Management Service for educational materials on serving the underserved, new and emerging markets, and low-income communities.

Additional information on serving the underserved can be found on the NCUA’s webpage, Serving the Underserved.

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