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America First Credit Union Review: Checking, Savings and CDs

Banking, Banks & Credit Unions, Checking Accounts, Savings Accounts
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America First Credit Union Review: Checking and Savings

America First Credit Union
NerdWallet’s rating: 4.0 / 5.0

4.0 stars out of 5

America First Federal Credit Union
Learn more
at America First
America First’s checking and savings accounts are easy to open and fee-free, but the share certificates are what really shine. If you live in Utah, Nevada or the Phoenix area, and are looking for a place to park your money, America First is worth considering.

The bottom line

  • America First offers a good checking account and some of the most competitive share certificate rates to be found. Savings account interest rates aren’t as competitive.
  • For residents of Utah, Nevada and certain parts of metro Phoenix, joining is easy. If you deposit and keep at least $1 in a Share Savings Account, you’ll have access to all of America First’s products and services.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best credit unions

Our Ratings
Checking accounts4.5 stars out of 5
Savings accounts4.0 stars out of 5
Certificates4.5 stars out of 5
Customer experience3.5 stars out of 5
Overdraft fees2.5 stars out of 5
Overall4.0 stars out of 5

Checking

4.5 stars out of 5
4.5 / 5.0

America First offers two types of checking accounts: Regular Checking and Money Market Checking. Regular Checking is free to open, although you must have at least $500 in the account to start earning interest. (For Money Market Checking, you need $10,000 to open an account.) In both cases, the rates aren’t high to start, and you’ll probably get a higher return by putting that money into a savings account.

ProsCons
  • No monthly fee and no minimum opening deposit
  • It's part of the credit union Co-op ATM network, which means free access to over 30,000 ATMs across the country
  • You don’t earn any interest unless you have a balance of $500 or more
Account reviewed for rating: Regular Checking.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best checking accounts

Savings and money market accounts

4.0 stars out of 5
4.0 / 5.0

America First’s savings and money market accounts set themselves apart from the crowd with very low minimum opening balances: $1 and $0, respectively. Interest rates are decent but unremarkable.

ProsCons
  • $0 or $1 minimum deposits
  • Tiered interest rates mean that if you have more money in the account, you’ll get a higher interest rate, of up to 0.30%
  • Interest rates are not super competitive; a regular savings account earns 0.10%
  • To qualify for higher rates, you need a minimum of $10,000 in your account
Accounts reviewed for rating: Share Savings and Money Market $0-$4,999.99.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best savings accounts

Share certificates

4.5 stars out of 5
4.5 / 5.0

With high interest rates and low minimum deposits, America First’s share certificates are some of the best products the credit union has to offer.

ProsCons
  • Very competitive rates; the 2.55% annual percentage yield on its five-year certificate comes close to the industry’s highest rate
  • A manageable $500 minimum deposit for all certificates
  • Offers a wide range of terms, from three months to five years
  • None

Customer experience

3.5 stars out of 5
3.5 / 5.0

People who live in the region can become members by keeping just $1 in a Share Savings Account. In return, they get a well-functioning website and mobile apps that let them apply for loans, deposit checks and transfer money between accounts no matter where they are. Customers also can get help through Twitter or by phone.

One downside is that America First does not participate in the shared branch system used by many other credit unions. To bank in person, you’ll be limited to certain parts of Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Arizona, where all of its more than 120 branches are clustered.

Overdraft fees

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

America First’s overdraft policies are a mixed bag. If you don’t enroll in overdraft services and try to buy something that costs more than the money you have in your account, your debit card will be denied, costing you nothing except perhaps an embarrassing moment at the store.

If you do enroll, the credit union will transfer money to your checking account from a line of credit for free when your account is overdrawn. But if neither your checking account nor the line of credit has enough money to cover the charge, you’ll be hit with a $25 fee. You’ll be charged for each overdraft, no matter how many you accrue per day. If you’re out shopping and haven’t realized that you’ve overdrawn your account, that can get expensive quickly.

Best for long-term savers

America First Federal Credit Union
Learn more
at America First
America First is a solid choice for residents of Utah and southern Nevada. Low interest rates on savings and checking accounts mean you’ll be better off keeping your money in one of the high-interest certificates, if you can afford to lock that money up for a while.

Amber Murakami-Fester is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: amufe@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @iamyams.

Updated Aug. 28, 2017.


Ratings methodology

NerdWallet’s overall ratings for banks and credit unions are weighted averages of several categories: checking, savings, certificates of deposit or credit union share certificates, customer experience and overdraft fees.

Factors we consider, depending on the category, include rates and fees, ATM and branch access, account features and limits, user-facing technology, customer service and innovation.

Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.