The history of Alliant Credit Union

An interior look at the lobby of Alliant Credit Union's Corporate Headquarters
May 15, 2024 | Ben Heinze

Today, Alliant is one of the largest credit unions in the U.S., with over 850,000 members nationwide and 88 years of history. While Alliant’s core mission and values remain the same as when it was founded, many aspects of the credit union (and banking as a whole) look dramatically different now. Discover key moments throughout Alliant’s history and how it transformed into one of the largest credit unions.

1935: The United Airlines Employees’ Credit Union is founded

On October 26, 1935, a small group of United Airlines employees came together to organize a credit union. Originally founded as the United Airlines Employees’ Credit Union, this tight-knit group of employees envisioned providing a safe place to save and get loans at fair rates. By year-end, the credit union had grown to:

  • 146 members
  • $5,088 in assets (about $116,000 in 2024 dollars)
  • 38 loans
  • $4,210 loan total (about $96,000 in 2024 dollars)

Even today, this early history exists throughout Alliant’s DNA. Alliant is still a credit union—a not-for-profit financial institution where all members are owners. United Airlines employees still make up a significant portion of Alliant’s membership. The total asset and loan numbers may be much larger today, but Alliant remains dedicated to offering great rates.

2003: Transformation to Alliant Credit Union

After steady growth among United Airlines employees and their families throughout the rest of the 20th century, the United Airlines Employees’ Credit Union changed its name to Alliant Credit Union in 2003, greatly expanding those eligible for membership. The name was chosen as a combination of the words all + alliance + reliant, with the three circles in Alliant’s logo representing each word.

This was far more than a name change, though. Now, membership was possible for not only United Airlines employees and their families, but those who lived or worked in designated communities near O’Hare airport, other select employer groups and their families and more. Opening these additional membership avenues has greatly expanded the credit union as a whole: In membership, assets and the products and services can be offered.

2008: Formation of the Alliant Credit Union Foundation

Established in 2008, the Alliant Credit Union Foundation is a not-for-profit charitable foundation with a vision to provide reliable broadband, digital literacy resources and technology equipment for underserved communities including, rural, digitally challenged and under-resourced populations through investments with strategic, charitable partners.

While the Alliant Credit Union Foundation is a separate, independent legal entity from Alliant Credit Union, it is operated by a Board of Directors comprised of Alliant Credit Union employees. A $4 million grant from Alliant Credit Union also made initial funding for the Foundation possible.

Today, becoming an Alliant Credit Union Foundation digital inclusion advocate allows you to become eligible for Alliant membership. Alliant will even make the one-time $5 contribution to the Foundation on your behalf.

2020: Alliant goes fully digital

The process of transforming Alliant into the fully digital financial institution it is today began gradually in 2014. Despite Alliant membership continuing to grow, branches saw less and less use. In other words, many Alliant members already used Alliant as a digital credit union.

By 2020, only two Alliant branches remained, and they were scheduled to close at the end of 2020. This timeline was accelerated due to the pandemic, with the final branches instead closing in the spring of 2020. Going forward, Alliant has remained a fully digital financial institution outside of its corporate headquarters in Chicago.

Being fully digital provides several advantages for members. The cost savings from not having branches allows Alliant to pass on those savings to members, meaning more competitive rates, fewer fees, richer credit card rewards, better service and more. Additionally, going all-in on digital means making online and mobile banking, as well as 24/7 phone support, the best it can be is a top priority.

Today: From small beginnings to now

Alliant now ranks as one of the largest credit unions in the nation, serving over 850,000 members nationwide with more than $20 billion in assets. In the future, Alliant will focus on initiatives to elevate and advance what makes the credit union stand out from other financial institutions. This means leveraging cutting-edge technological advances, accelerating our journey to an industry-leading member experience and more.


While Alliant today looks very different from the small credit union it started as, our underlying values and mission to serve our members remain the same. Alliant’s founders’ initial desire for a safe place to save and get loans at fair rates remains true today, with high deposit rates, low loan rates, rich credit card rewards, outstanding service and more.


Learn more about Alliant and credit unions:

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