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.
|Alliant Credit Union Read More||0.55%||$5|| |
|Digital Federal Credit Union Read More||6.17%||$5|| |
|Consumers Credit Union Read More||2.09%||$0|| |
|Connexus Credit Union Read More||1.75%||$0|| |
|Navy Federal Credit Union Read More||0.05%||$0|| |
|Golden 1 Credit Union Read More||0.08%||$1|| |
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 High Deposits: 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. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’ve deposited $500 or $100,000 -- 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 Savings Account for Low Deposits: 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 Credit Union for High Yield Checking: Consumers Credit Union
There are three tiers of annual percentage yield (APY) that you can earn when you’re a Consumers Credit Union (CCU) Free 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. CCU does have 30,000 fee-free ATMs around the country, though, along with almost 1,800 physical branch locations, so 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 Rate||Eligible Balance||Requirements|
|2.09% APY||Up to $10,000|| |
|3.09% APY||Up to $10,000|| |
|4.09% APY||Up to $10,000|| |
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.
Runner-up: Connexus Credit Union
Best Credit Union for Free Checking: Connexus Credit Union
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 1.75% rate, you’ll need to meet one of the following requirements: make 15 debit card purchases or hold $400 in e-statements and debit card spending.
Another thing to note is that this checking account comes with a cap of $25,000; that is, if your account holds more than $25,000, your APY will be cut down to 0.25%.
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. Connexus currently manages more than $2.94 billion in assets and serves close to 400,000 members.
Runner-up: Teachers Federal Credit Union
Best Credit Union for Veterans and Their Families: Navy Federal Credit Union
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 (NFCU). All different types of banking, retirement planning, loans and credit card services are available through this organization.
NFCU 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, 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 very large network of branches and free ATMs for its members. Its mobile app and website each have ATM/branch locator tools. But if you find you’re not near an NFCU location or machine, most checking accounts come with ATM fee rebates, so feel free to use an out-of-network ATM for cash.
If you’re a member and are looking to buy a house or car, you’ll receive special rates and bonuses for going through NFCU. 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.
Runner-up: Air Force Federal Credit Union
Best Credit Union for Children, Teens & Young Adults: Golden 1 Credit Union
Whether your child was just born or is finishing up college, there’s a banking option available for him or her at Golden 1 Credit Union. A youth savings account is for any child under the age of 18 and is meant to help him or her learn about fiscal responsibility. The APY for this account is a decent 0.08%, and it only takes $1 to open with no monthly fees.
A new generation checking account is focused on teens between 13 and 17, though parents or a legal guardian will remain joint owner. The teen will get a Visa® debit card (if he or she is approved) and free checks. But if your child prefers using technology, Golden 1 also has a mobile app, a website, text banking, mobile check deposit and a free wire transfer service called Popmoney®. This is a fee-free offer, and you can open an account regardless of how much money you decide to deposit initially.
Once he or she is off to college, your child can open a student checking account, affording your scholar all the same features as the above account. Your kid will receive access to Golden 1’s widespread ATM network, so no matter where the school is located there should be a free ATM around. Immediately following the five-year anniversary of this account’s creation, it’ll be converted to a normal free checking account.
To reinforce good financial practices further with your child, Golden 1 has an online financial wellness center. Here your kid will be able to access webinars, podcasts, videos and a learning lab that features a complete curriculum.
This credit union is mainly joinable for anyone who lives and/or works in California. However, if you have a relative who is already a member or you’re an employee of one of the credit union’s select employee groups, you can also get in on Golden 1. For anyone who doesn’t meet any of these requirements though, joining the Financial Fitness Association for $8 a month will earn you membership as well.