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2021's Best Credit Unions

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We maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments. This post contains links from our advertisers, and we may receive compensation when you click these links. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone. | Advertiser Disclosure
We maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments. This post contains links from our advertisers, and we may receive compensation when you click these links. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone. | Advertiser Disclosure

Finding the Best Credit Union in 2021

Credit unions are a fantastic alternative to banks. They often use simplified fee structures and provide offers based on their members’ precise needs. While some have very specific membership requirements, others will allow anyone to join for a small payment or donation.

Bank APY Minimum Deposit Highlights
Digital Federal Credit Union Digital Federal Credit Union logo Read More 6.17% $5
  • Best Savings Account for Low Deposits
  • Great intro APY
Alliant Credit Union Alliant Credit Union logo Read More 0.55% $5
  • Best Savings Account for High Deposits
  • High APY
Consumers Credit Union Consumers Credit Union logo Read More 2.09% $5
  • Best Credit Union for High-Yield Checking
  • Great APY for high balances
Connexus Credit Union Connexus Credit Union logo Read More 1.75% $0
  • Best Credit Union for Free Checking
  • Widespread ATM access
Navy Federal Credit Union Navy Federal Credit Union logo Read More 0.05% $0
  • Best Credit Union for Veterans and Their Families
  • Large free ATM network
Pen Air Federal Credit Union Pen Air Federal Credit Union logo Read More 0.50% $25
  • Best Credit Union for Children, Teens & Young Adults
  • Great interest rate

How We Determine the Best Credit Unions

SmartAsset’s experts examined the offerings of 20 top credit unions. We scored the best by taking into account each institution’s financial offerings, fees, account minimums, interest rates and membership requirements.

Best Savings Account for Low Deposits: Digital Federal Credit Union

Digital Federal Credit Union

If you just don’t have that much to open a savings account with, a Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) Primary Savings account might be good option. A substantial 6.17% APY will apply to the first $1,000 you deposit in this DCU account. It only takes a $5 deposit to open an account, so you won’t have to break the bank to get in on this bonus rate. After that, your interest-earning potential will see a serious dip, as any amount over the initial $1,000 will receive a 0.25% APY decrease. 

Current and retired employees or members of eligible companies or organizations make up the majority of DCU’s member base. If you don’t fall into one of those categories, though, you’ll need to be a spouse or immediate family member of someone who does, or live, work, attend school or worship in a qualified community.

DCU is much more than a personal banking destination. Becoming a member with this credit union could deliver wider options for your financial life. Members can take advantage of vehicle loans, student loans, personal loans, rewards and low interest credit cards, insurance offers, realty services, financial advisor services and business banking.

Best Savings Account for High Deposits: Alliant Credit Union

Alliant Credit Union

While some high APY savings accounts will slowly decline their rates as the account’s size grows, Alliant Credit Union’s High-Rate Savings account does just the opposite. As long as you hold your account’s average daily balance above $100, Alliant will apply a 0.55% APY to it. So it doesn’t matter if you’ve deposited $500 or $100,000, as you’ll still earn interest at the same rate.

Just for choosing to get your bank statements digitally, Alliant will waive your monthly maintenance fee. This will ensure that what you receive back in interest will remain in your savings account for good. And although a $5 minimum opening deposit isn’t much to ask, Alliant will cover that for you as well.

There aren’t many branches with this credit union, making its mobile and online experiences extra important. Alliant has well-rated apps for both Android and Apple, along with an intuitive website. Each allows you to deposit checks remotely, though there are upwards of 80,000 fee-free ATMs you can use to make deposits and withdrawals through as well.

To join Alliant’s network of members, you’ll need to meet at least one of a few preconditions:

Best Credit Union for High-Yield Checking: Consumers Credit Union

Consumers Credit Union

There are three APY tiers that you can earn when you’re a Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking account holder. There are varying requirements to earn each, including stipulations based on account balance, transactions, online banking and digital documentation.

As long as you reach the 2.09% APY plateau, you’ll receive the lucrative benefit of having your out-of-network ATM fees reimbursed directly to your account. Consumers has 30,000 fee-free ATMs around the country, though, along with a network of shared branches. In other words, coming across a free ATM shouldn’t be overly difficult.

Interest rates this high are rare on a checking account and make this offer unique. For example, if you reach a 2.09% APY with a balance of $10,000, you could earn nearly $210 in interest over a full year. The account does not include monthly service fees or minimum balances.

APY Eligible Balance Other Requirements
2.09% APY Up to $10,000
  • Complete at least 12 debit card purchases each month
  • Direct deposits or ACH credits must total $500 or more each month
  • Enroll in eDocuments
3.09% APY Up to $10,000
  • Meet all the needs for a 2.09% APY
  • Spend at least $500 with a Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card over a month
4.09% APY Up to $10,000
  • Meet all the needs for a 2.09% APY
  • Spend at least $1,000 with a Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card over a month

To become a member of CCU, all you have to do is make two $5 payments. You pay one to the credit union’s sponsor, the Consumers Cooperative Association, and you deposit the other right into your member savings account. You must maintain that $5 balance to remain a member.

Best Credit Union for Free Checking: Connexus Credit Union

Connexus Xtraordinary Checking Account

Connexus Credit Union offers a free, high-yield checking account option for those looking to skip out on minimum account balance requirements and monthly fees. The Xtraordinary Checking account also comes with free Connexus ATM use and access to more than 54,000 surcharge-free ATMs.

To earn the account's incredible 1.75% rate, you’ll need to meet one of the following monthly requirements: make 15 debit card purchases or spend $400 on your debit card and enroll in e-Statements. Another thing to note about the aforementioned rate is that it comes with a balance cap of $25,000. You can surpass this limit, but any money above it will receive a much lower 0.25% APY.

Connexus' website shows that it's a member-focused institution that serves customers across the country. The bank also offers several customer support services, including a live chat option. The credit union's mobile apps are very highly rated on both the Apple and Android app stores as well.

Best Credit Union for Veterans and Their Families: Navy Federal Credit Union

Free Easy Checking

Current and former members of the U.S. military and Department of Defense (DoD) and their families will find an expansive selection of financial offerings with Navy Federal Credit Union. All different types of banking, retirement planning, home loan and credit card services are available through this organization.

Navy Federal has plenty of checking and savings accounts to choose from. All checking accounts come with free checks and a debit card, with offerings for active military members, certain civilians, teens, students and anyone looking for a high APY. If you’re more in the market for savings, the credit union has basic accounts, college savings accounts, estate management accounts and goal-focused accounts.

Unlike some other credit unions, Navy Federal has a large network of branches and free ATMs for its members. Its mobile apps and website each have ATM/branch locator tools. But if you find you’re not near a Navy Federal location or ATM, most checking accounts come with ATM fee rebates, so feel free to use an out-of-network ATM for cash. In particular, Navy Federal's standard checking account, Free Easy Checking, comes with up to $10 in ATM fee rebates per month.

If you’re a member and are looking to buy a house or car, you’ll receive special rates and bonuses for going through Navy Federal. The RealtyPlus® program the credit union offers even allows you to earn cash back on your home purchase, along with savings on any moving services you might need.

Best Credit Union for Children, Teens & Young Adults: Pen Air Federal Credit Union

Level UP Savings Account

Pen Air Federal Credit Union is a large credit union with branches in Alabama and Florida. However, the institution's services can be applied for and accessed online or through your mobile device if you don't live in these states. The firm has a handful of strong offerings, with its Level UP Youth Accounts being some of its best accounts. In fact, Pen Air offers both a youth savings account and a youth checking account.

The Level UP Savings Account is available as a joint account for children 18 or younger, and it only requires a $25 minimum deposit to open. Once you become an account holder, your balance will begin earning a 0.50% APY, which is one of the better rates currently on the market. As a way of padding your child's future account balance, Pen Air offers a $10 bonus when you open your account. But if you reach $250 and $500 balances, you'll receive another $20 and $30 bonus, respectively. That means your bonus could be as much as $60 in total.

Pen Air's Level UP Spending Account is the checking account partner of the aforementioned savings account. This account is designed to teach children from 8 to 18 how to manage their money on a daily and monthly basis. The account comes with a free debit card, online and mobile banking privileges and money mangement features that are backed by parental controls. You and your child will also have access to free educational resources so they can learn about money.

Like all credit unions, you must become a member of Pen Air before opening an account. Here's the various ways you and your family can join:

  • Join Friends of the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society by making a $1 donation
  • Have an immediate family member or member of your household who is a Pen Air member
  • Hold one of the following statuses: active military, military reserve, retired military, coast guard, active civil service or retired civil service
  • Work or belong to an eligible organization or association
Save more with these rates that beat the National Average
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