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.
|Digital Federal Credit Union Read More||6.17%||$5|| |
|Alliant Credit Union Read More||0.55%||$5|| |
|La Capitol Federal Credit Union Read More||4.25%||$50|| |
|Consumers Credit Union Read More||4.09%||$5|| |
|Navy Federal Credit Union Read More||0.05%||$0|| |
|Pen Air Federal Credit Union Read More||0.40%||$25|| |
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
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
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:
La Capitol Federal Credit Union
Most people probably haven't heard of La Capitol Federal Credit Union, and that's because it primarily operates in Louisiana. It mainly serves those who work, live or study in the Baton Rouge area, but that doesn't have to stop you from signing up if you live elsewhere. You can become a member of La Capitol by joining the Louisiana Association for Personal Financial Achievement (ACHIEVE). You can get a membership if you give a one-time donation of $20 and keep at least $5 in a La Capitol savings account, both of which are pretty easily attainable requirements.
Once you've made your donation and opened a La Capitol Federal Credit Union account, you can start earning a massive 4.25% APY on balances up to $3,000. Balances between $3,000 and $10,000 will earn a 2.00% APY, which is still quite strong. Balances above $10,000 earn a 0.10% APY. Know that you'll only earn just a 0.10% APY and have to pay an $8 monthly maintenance fee if you don't meet the following conditions:
- Use e-Statements
- Make 15 debit card swipes per month OR have $1,000 average daily balance
This checking account makes users jump through fewer hoops than most others when it comes to earning an elevated APY. You don't need to make direct deposits, like many banks require. Plus, you get up to $25 each statement period in ATM reimbursments. Even though La Capitol isn't well know, it's a solid checking account option.
Best Credit Union for Free Checking: Consumers Credit Union
Illinois-based Consumers Credit Union is up next on our list. There are three APY tiers that you can earn when you’re a Rewards Checking account holder here. There are varying requirements to earn each, including stipulations based on account balance, transactions, online banking and digital documentation.
As long as you reach one of these APY plateaus, you’ll receive the lucrative benefit of having your out-of-network ATM fees reimbursed directly to your account. Consumers Credit Union 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.
|2.09% APY||Up to $10,000|| |
|3.09% APY||Up to $10,000|| |
|4.09% APY||Up to $10,000|| |
Should your account's balance surpass the $10,000 cap on the rates above, Consumers Credit Union will afford you lower APYs on the difference. More specifically, balances of $10,000.01 to $25,000 will receive a 0.20% APY, whereas balances above $25,000 will receive a 0.10% APY.
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 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. 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
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 0.40% APY, which is one of the better rates currently on the market for a children's account. 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