Whether you’re chasing higher rates on deposits or just looking to move away from traditional banks, there’s probably a credit union out there for you. Here are some of NerdWallet’s top picks.
Easiest to join
To be eligible for membership in many credit unions, you must live or work in a particular region or have a certain employer. Some, though, have requirements that make it easier for more consumers to qualify, such as donating to a charity. Here are three:
Alliant Credit UnionAlliant Credit Union, you need only to donate $10 to the nonprofit Foster Care to Success, an organization that supports foster children. You’re also eligible if you live or work in a community near the credit union’s Chicago headquarters or are an employee with a partner organization.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union
The credit union offers especially strong rates on its money market certificates, which operate like CDs. A 1-year certificate earns an impressive APY of 1.11%. Pentagon FCU also gets high marks for its online tools and mobile apps.
Connexus Credit union
Once in, you can take advantage of low-cost checking and savings products and loans that have favorable rates compared with the fees many banks charge.
Best checking accounts
Connexus Xtraordinary Checking
Checking accounts are technically called “share draft” accounts at credit unions, but they work just like checking accounts at traditional banks. Still, the high yield your money can earn sets this credit union apart from other institutions.
Alliant High Rate Checking
And technology lovers take note: Alliant is also NerdWallet’s pick for best mobile experience among credit unions.
Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking
This is another one that’s easy to join too. Become a member of the affiliated Consumers Cooperative Association for a one-time $5 fee, and you’re eligible to join Consumers Credit Union and open an account.
Best high-yield savings accounts
Alliant High-Rate Savings
State Employees’ Credit Union Share Account
Membership is limited to North Carolina state and county employees or their immediate families. But if you qualify, SECU offers a low-cost account with a very attractive rate.
Best for military personnel
Security Service Federal Credit Union
You can join if you’re a member of a military unit that’s within a Security Service FCU geographic area, or if you or a family member lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school within the area.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union
Civilians also are eligible to become members if they join the nonprofit Voices for America’s Troops ($14 donation) or National Military Family Association ($15 donation).
Andrews Federal Credit Union
You can join by being a member of the military or by making a $15 donation to the nonprofit American Consumer Council. The credit union is also a member of the Shared Branch network, which means you could visit a number of credit unions across the country to access your Andrews FCU accounts.
This post has been updated. It was originally published in August 2015.
To determine the best credit unions, we took a close look at the nation’s largest credit unions with broad-based membership requirements.
Financial institutions surveyed included Alliant Credit Union, Andrews Federal Credit Union, Boeing Employees Credit Union, Connexus Credit Union, Consumers Credit Union, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union and State Employees’ Credit Union of North Carolina.