The bottom line
- $150 sign-up checking bonus for new customers (expires Dec. 31, 2017)
- Free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide
- Low savings rates except on 30-month certificates of deposit
- Small physical network: All of the bank’s 213 branches are in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin
- Standard web features and high overdraft fees
|Certificates of deposit (CDs)|
Read on for more details about Associated’s checking and savings accounts, CDs, customer experience and fees.
3.5 / 5.0
Associated checking customers get a solid perk: free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide. The bank offers this by partnering with MoneyPass, a surcharge-free ATM network. Illinois residents also get access to the STARsf ATM network.
New bank customers may qualify for a $150 sign-up bonus by Dec. 31, 2017, when they open a Brewers Checking account. This is a program on top of an Associated Checking or Elite Checking account that offers sports-themed benefits such as discounts on some Milwaukee Brewers games. You get the bonus if you open this account with at least $100 and, within the first 45 days of opening the account, use the bank’s online bill pay three times or receive a direct deposit of $300 or more.
Aside from the perks, the standard checking is a straightforward account. You can get the $11 monthly fee waived in several ways: get at least $500 in direct deposits a month, maintain a $1,000 minimum daily balance or keep $2,500 among all Associated accounts. You also can dodge the fee if you’re under 24 years old and sign up for electronic statements.
2.5 / 5.0
You can open an Associated Savings account with just $25 and get two out-of-network ATM fees waived per month, but that’s the extent of its virtues. Getting the $5 monthly fee waived isn’t onerous; just maintain a $300 daily balance or set up a recurring monthly transfer of $25 or more. But if you don’t get the fee waived, you’ll more than wipe out any interest you get from this account’s 0.05% savings rate.
Certificates of deposit
2.5 / 5.0
Associated’s shining star for savings is a 30-month CD with an annual percentage yield of 1%. All other standard CDs come with disappointing rates such as 0.10% or, for five-year terms, 0.35% at best. Higher, or “preferred,” rates are available for customers who have a qualifying Associated checking account, meaning the bank determines which are eligible. Regardless of the term, the minimum daily balance for standard CDs is $1,000.
A few CD specials have rates as high as 1.65%, which is on par with some of the best online bank CD rates, but you’ll need to satisfy higher minimum initial deposit requirements and have a qualifying Associated checking account.
3.5 / 5.0
Associated has branches in only three states, and for those who prefer online banking, the experience isn’t top of the line. The bank features some savings calculators but no in-depth budgeting tools or automatic savings programs. Associated’s mobile app comes with standard services, including online bill pay and check deposit abilities, but it gets only 2 stars for its current iOS app and 3.5 stars in the Google Play app store.
2.0 / 5.0
The bank’s overdraft fees are on par with bigger banks. If your checking account falls below zero, you’ll get hit with a $35 overdraft or nonsufficient funds fee, up to four times the same day. And if you keep an account overdrawn for more than five days in a row, you’ll face an additional fee of $7 for every day the account remains negative.
To avoid the fees, you can opt into overdraft protection transfers that send money from a linked savings or credit account to checking when your balance drops below zero. Each transfer costs $10, though.
If you’re in the neighborhood
If you’re looking for a high-yield savings account, consider turning to credit unions or online-only banks, which generally offer better checking options, too.
Updated April 5, 2017.
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.
The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.