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Best Credit Unions of 2018

Nov. 19, 2018
Banking, Banks & Credit Unions
NerdWallet adheres to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Some of the products we feature are from partners. Here’s how we make money.
We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

The best credit unions offer the same accounts and services as banks but often with much better terms. NerdWallet researched some of the country’s top institutions— both national and local — to determine our picks.

This year’s best credit unions have great rates, low fees and generous perks. Plus, they are easy to join. Here’s a closer look at their accounts and eligibility requirements.

Best credit union for checking and savings
Alliant Credit Union

at Alliant Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Alliant:

4.5 NerdWallet rating
  • Stellar 2.00% APY on $100+ in High-Rate Savings
  • Attractive 0.65% APY on High-Rate Checking
  • You’re eligible to apply by asking Alliant to make a $5 charitable donation on your behalf (read more below)
Best credit union for checking

Connexus:

4.0 NerdWallet rating
  • High 1.75% APY on checking balances up to $25,000
  • Reimburses up to $25 in ATM fees a month
  • Eligible to apply with a $5 charitable donation (read more below)
Best credit union for branch access
First Tech Federal Credit Union

at First Tech Federal Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

First Tech:

4.0 NerdWallet rating
  • More than 5,000 shared branches
  • Competitive interest on checking account
  • Eligible to apply with an $8 membership to the Financial Fitness Association (read more below)
Best credit union for teens and college students
Golden 1 Credit Union

at Golden 1 Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

The Golden 1:

4.0 NerdWallet rating
  • Accounts for teens and college students
  • Free checking and savings accounts for members
  • Eligible to apply with an $8 membership to the Financial Fitness Association (read more below)
Best credit union for APY
Consumers Credit Union

at Consumers Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Consumers:

4.0 NerdWallet rating
  • Up to 5.09% APY on checking balances of up to $10,000
  • No monthly fee on checking
  • Eligible to apply with a $5 payment to a sponsor organization (read more below)

Best credit unions

Alliant: Best credit union for checking and savings

4.5 NerdWallet rating
Alliant Credit Union

at Alliant Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Accounts: Alliant Credit Union‘s High-Rate Checking earns 0.65% annual percentage yield if you receive e-statements and have at least one electronic deposit a month. There is no minimum balance requirement and no monthly fee. And High-Rate Savings earns 2.00% APY on balances of $100 or more. There are no monthly fees if you opt for e-statements.

Eligibility and access: Alliant members have access to 80,000 fee-free ATMs across the country. You can be eligible to join Alliant by indicating your support for Foster Care to Success, a nonprofit that serves foster youth. Alliant will make a $5 donation on your behalf. You can also join if you live or work near Alliant’s Chicago area headquarters, are employed by a qualifying organization or are a family member of someone who’s eligible to join.

» To see how other banks’ rates compare, check out NerdWallet’s best savings accounts

Connexus: Best credit union for checking

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Accounts: If your goal is to maximize checking account perks, Connexus Credit Union’s Xtraordinary checking account is a winner. The account earns 1.75% APY on balances up to $25,000 and will reimburse up to $25 in non-network ATM fees if you meet four activity requirements, including subscribing to e-statements and making at least one online bill payment each month.

The MyRewards checking account still pays interest and has fewer requirements. Neither charges a monthly fee.

Eligibility and access: You can apply for an account if you join the Connexus Association, an affiliated organization that provides college scholarships and financial education. There is a one-time $5 fee to join the association.

First Tech: Best credit union for branch access

4.0 NerdWallet rating
First Tech Federal Credit Union

at First Tech Federal Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Accounts: First Tech Federal Credit Union’s Dividend Rewards checking account earns 2.00% APY on balances of up to $15,000, as long as you meet three activity requirements, including receiving e-statements and making 12 monthly debit card purchases. For balances above $15,000, the rate is 0.20% APY. Meet the qualifications, and First Tech will also refund fees for non-network ATM transactions within the country.

Eligibility and access: First Tech operates its own branches in eight states plus Puerto Rico, and it participates in the CO-OP Shared Branch network, with access to more than 5,000 financial institutions across the country and 30,000 ATMs. Some branches are open on Saturday mornings.

You can apply for membership if you’re a member of the nonprofit Financial Fitness Association, which costs $8. You can also apply if you’re an employee of a sponsoring company or an employee of the state of Oregon, or if you live in Oregon’s Lane County.

Golden 1: Best credit union for teens and college students

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Golden 1 Credit Union

at Golden 1 Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Accounts: Along with standard free and premium checking accounts for its members, Golden 1 Credit Union has three free checking accounts for teens and college students with varying levels of control for parents. At the beginner level, New Generation Checking has low ATM withdrawal limits and requires a parent or guardian be a co-owner. Student Checking gives college students full account privileges.

There’s also a Youth Savings account, which lets young account holders make deposits and withdrawals without a co-signer present, though a parent or legal guardian must be a joint owner. The account earns the same 0.15% APY as the regular savings account.

Eligibility and access: You can apply for membership at Golden 1 by joining the Financial Fitness Association, which costs $8. You can also apply if you live or work in California or are an immediate family member of someone who qualifies for membership.

Consumers: Best credit union for APY

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Consumers Credit Union

at Consumers Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Accounts: Consumers Credit Union‘s Free Rewards checking account earns 5.09% APY on balances of $10,000 or less if you meet a series of requirements, including spending at least $1,000 per month on an affiliated credit card. Even if you can’t do that, meeting a lower level of requirements will still earn you 3.09% and reimbursement for all ATM fees. The account never charges monthly fees.

Consumers offers a few other checking options — including one for students — with fewer hoops to jump through, and a free savings account. However, it doesn’t pay much more interest than many big name banks.

Eligibility and access: Though Consumers is based in Illinois, anyone can become a member by joining a Consumers-affiliated nonprofit for $5.

Notable credit unions across the U.S.

These credit unions are worth a look if you can meet the somewhat strict membership requirements. To join, you generally have to live or work in a certain area, or your employer must sponsor memberships.

Worth considering
America First Credit Union

at America First Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

America First Credit Union

4.0 NerdWallet rating
  • Free checking account that earns interest (read more)
BECU

at BECU,

Member, FDIC

Boeing Employees Credit Union:

4.5 NerdWallet rating
  • 4.07% APY on checking and 6.17% APY on savings for balances up to $500 (read more)
SchoolsFirst FCU

at SchoolsFirst FCU,

Federally insured by the NCUA

SchoolsFirst Credit Union:

4.0 NerdWallet rating
  • Free youth and member accounts, with access to more than 28,000 fee-free ATMs (read more)
State Employees Credit Union

at State Employees Credit Union,

Member, FDIC

State Employees Credit Union:

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Suncoast Credit Union

at Suncoast Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Suncoast Credit Union:

4.0 NerdWallet rating
  • Checking and savings accounts earn a little interest and have no monthly fees (read more)

America First Credit Union

4.0 NerdWallet rating
America First Credit Union

at America First Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

This credit union is based in Ogden, Utah, but it participates in a credit union co-op network that gives members access to around 30,000 fee-free ATMs across the country. The America First regular checking account doesn’t have a monthly fee, and it earns a small amount of interest on balances of at least $500.

Boeing Employees Credit Union

4.5 NerdWallet rating
BECU

at BECU,

Member, FDIC

Most of BECU’s branches are in Washington state, but the credit union participates in a co-op network that gives members access to over 5,000 partner credit union locations and 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs across the country. BECU’s Member Advantage checking offers 4.07% APY on balances of $500 or less.

SchoolsFirst Credit Union

4.0 NerdWallet rating
SchoolsFirst FCU

at SchoolsFirst FCU,

Federally insured by the NCUA

This credit union has checking and savings accounts with no monthly fees, and it offers access to over 28,000 fee-free ATMs across the country. SchoolsFirst also has JV Club and Varsity Club savings and checking accounts for youth. You can apply if you are part of California’s public educational community or work at certain private schools in the state.

State Employees Credit Union

4.0 NerdWallet rating
State Employees Credit Union

at State Employees Credit Union,

Member, FDIC

State Employees Credit Unions’ checking and savings accounts both earn interest, but its savings certificates are particularly worth considering. A five-year certificate pays a competitive 2.55% APY. The credit union has a large branch network in North Carolina; membership is mostly limited to state employees and their family members.

Suncoast Credit Union

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Suncoast Credit Union

at Suncoast Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Tampa, Florida-based Suncoast offers checking and savings accounts that earn interest and have no monthly fees.

Members also have access to more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs through various networks.

 

These credit unions represent some of the best institutions overall, but there may also be local winners in your community. Use our checking account tool to see if there’s a credit union or bank near you that offers low fees and gives you a good return on your money.

Best Credit Unions

Credit UnionKey features
Alliant Credit UnionBest checking and savings
Connexus Credit UnionBest checking account
First Tech Federal Credit UnionBest branch access
Golden 1 Credit UnionBest for teens and college students
Consumers Credit UnionBest APY
America First Credit UnionNo monthly fee on regular checking account
Boeing Employees Credit UnionHigh APY on balances below $500
Schools First Credit UnionNo monthly fees and youth-friendly accounts
State Employees Credit UnionCompetitive certificate rates
Suncoast Credit UnionNo monthly fees and decent APYs

METHODOLOGY

To determine the best credit unions, we compared some of the nation’s largest credit unions with broad-based membership requirements. Financial institutions surveyed included State Employees’ Credit Union of North Carolina, Navy Federal Credit Union, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union,  Boeing Employees Credit Union, Schools First Federal Credit Union, The Golden 1 Credit Union, Alliant Credit Union, Consumers Credit Union, First Tech Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Star One Credit Union, America First Credit Union, Suncoast Credit Union, Connexus Credit Union.

How we rate banks and credit unions