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Community First Credit Union of Florida Review: Checking, Savings and CDs

Banking, Banks & Credit Unions, CDs, Checking Accounts, Savings Accounts
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NerdWallet’s rating: 3.5 / 5.0
3.5 stars out of 5

Community First Credit Union
Learn more
at Community First Credit Union
It’s easy for residents of northeastern Florida to find big banks. What’s not always so easy is finding ways to avoid the high fees big banks often charge. Instead, area residents can choose a more affordable hometown alternative, Community First Credit Union of Florida, in Jacksonville. The credit union offers accounts with no monthly fees and even has its own rewards program.

The bottom line

  • Community First Credit Union of Florida has an attractive checking account that earns interest, offers a rewards program and has low deposit requirements.
  • The credit union has branches only in the Jacksonville area and is limited to people who live, work or attend schools in nearby counties and their family members.
  • Community First savings accounts and CDs have low fees but also low dividend rates; dividends are the credit union equivalent of interest earned at banks.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best credit unions

Our Ratings
Checking accounts5 stars out of 5
Savings & money market accounts3.5 stars out of 5
Certificates of deposit (CDs)3.0 stars out of 5
Customer experience2.5 stars out of 5
Overdraft fees2.5 stars out of 5
Overall3.5 stars out of 5

Read on for more details about Community First Credit Union of Florida’s checking and savings accounts, CDs, customer experience and fees.

Checking

5.0 stars out of 5
5.0 / 5.0

Community First Credit Union of Florida offers four checking accounts that fit a variety of customer needs, including its all-purpose Advantage Checking, which has no minimum balance and no monthly fees, and Bonus Debit Checking, which refunds up to $10 in out-of-network ATM fees each month.

For members, this can be a welcome relief from big banks that require direct deposit or an average balance of $1,500, for instance, to avoid a monthly charge of $12, the fee that Bank of America and Chase assess for their basic checking accounts.

Advantage Checking is especially attractive because of the 1.51% interest it earns on the first $500 deposited.

ProsCons
  • No monthly fee.

  • 1.51% APY on the first $500 when you make at least six transactions each month; 0.10% APY on amounts above $500.

  • Access to 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide.

  • Minimum opening deposit only $25.

  • No ongoing minimum balance required.

  • UChoose Rewards program earns points for signature-based debit or credit transactions. Points can be redeemed for products and gift cards.
  • None.
Account reviewed for rating: Advantage Checking

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best checking accounts

Savings

3.5 stars out of 5
3.5 / 5.0

Community First Credit Union of Florida offers a Primary Share Savings account with a 0.25% APY, but you need at least $100 in the account to earn dividends.

Community First also has a money market account, with a $1,000 minimum requirement to open. But with APYs from 0.25% to 0.40%, depending on the balance, you won’t earn a great deal more than with the Primary Share Savings. And it takes only $5 to open the savings account.

ProsCons
  • Dividends of 0.25% APY.

  • Only $5 to open and maintain account.
  • $100 balance required to earn dividends.

  • Dividend rate is low compared with other credit unions with high yield savings accounts of 1.00% APY.


Account reviewed for rating: Primary Share Savings

Certificates of deposit

3.0 stars out of 5
3.0 / 5.0

Community First Credit Union of Florida offers CDs that range from terms of three months to five years. The credit union has a low $500 minimum deposit. Many other banks and credit unions have minimum balances of $1,000 or more.

But the CDs earn low rates, starting at 0.30% APY. And you’ll have to tie up your money for at least four years to earn more than 1.0% APY.

ProsCons
  • Low minimum balance of just $500.
  • Fairly low rates for regular CDs. APYs range from 0.30% for a standard CD with a three-month term to 1.50% for a five-year CD.

  • CD term of at least four years required to earn more than 1.00% APY. To compare, Suncoast Credit Union in Tampa, Florida, has a share certificate with an 18-month term and $500 minimum deposit that earns 1.10% APY.

Customer experience

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

As with other credit unions, customers have to meet requirements to join and open an account with Community First. Generally, people who live, work or attend schools in counties near its headquarters, and their family members, are eligible.

Community First doesn’t participate in a shared-branch network, which means the only options for branch access are local. This could be a big drawback for members who have to travel outside of northeastern Florida’s First Coast area. The credit union does participate in a nationwide shared-ATM network, with access to 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs, so members have some ability to bank, albeit limited.

For those who want to bank online, Community First offers a mobile website that allows members to check balances, transfer money and see transaction histories. The credit union also has a mobile app for iOS and Android devices. It has received good reviews on the Android store, but some users complain of trouble using the mobile deposit feature. The app doesn’t yet have a rating in iTunes.

Although Community First offers 24/7 account information, it doesn’t have a 24/7 customer service department. Members can reach the credit union during normal business hours during the week, as well as all day Saturday.

Overdraft fees

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

Community First may have low fees for its accounts, but overdrafts are another matter. The credit union charges $32 for each overdraft or item returned for nonsufficient funds. On top of that, Community First doesn’t limit the number of fees charged in a day. Other banks and credit unions cap the daily number of overdraft fees, often to a maximum of four. And a few institutions don’t charge more than one overdraft fee a day.

Even though Community First charges overdraft fees, the credit union doesn’t have continuous overdraft fees — so you won’t be hit with additional charges if your balance is negative for several days in a row. But if the account stays below zero for an extended period of time, say six weeks, the credit union could close the account and notify a reporting agency, such as ChexSystems.

You can choose to link a savings account or line of credit to your checking account for overdraft protection, but the credit union will charge a fee of $2 for a transfer from a savings account. There’s no transfer fee for a line of credit, but you’d have to pay interest on the amount you borrow. The interest rate ranges from 10% to 18% depending on your credit history. Although the transfer of funds isn’t free, the fee is comparatively reasonable. Some institutions charge $10 per transfer.

Checking account is hard to beat

Community First Credit Union
Learn more
at Community First Credit Union
Many banks and credit unions offer standard checking and savings accounts with low fees, but the interest and rewards offered with Community First Credit Union of Florida’s Advantage Checking account are hard to beat, as long as you avoid overdrafts.

If you’re local to the area, and you don’t mind banking at a smaller institution, the credit union is worth a look.

Margarette Burnette is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mburnette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @margarette.


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.