Based in the western U.S., First Tech Federal Credit Union stands out for its stellar checking account and easy access to customer service. The credit union is simple to join online and participates in shared branching, making it accessible no matter where you are in the country. Interest rates on savings accounts and share certificates, however, are not the highest in the game.
The bottom line
- First Tech offers a great checking account with no monthly fees and a top interest rate of 1.58%, provided you meet certain criteria
- Although First Tech is headquartered in California, anyone can join
- Before you can open any other type of account at First Tech, you’ll have to open a Membership Savings account, which requires a minimum balance of $5
- First Tech belongs to the Co-op ATM and shared branch networks, which consist of 30,000 surcharge-free cash machines and over 5,000 branches
» Want to explore other options? See NerdWallet’s best credit unions
Read on for more information about First Tech’s checking and savings products, share certificates, customer experience and overdraft fees.
5.0 / 5.0
First Tech offers several checking accounts, including a basic option called Carefree Checking and an HSA Checking option, for people who want an easy way to pay for medical expenses. For our ratings, we focused on a third option: Dividend Rewards Checking.
» Compare this with others at NerdWallet’s best checking accounts
3.5 / 5.0
Though you won’t make much interest on rates with the Carefree Savings account, a minimum opening balance of 1 cent and no monthly fee mean you won’t have to worry about how much money you keep in the account. You’ll have to open a Membership Savings account before you can open any other account, which requires a minimum balance of $5 but has no monthly maintenance fee and has an APY of 0.05%.
» Want to see higher rates? Explore NerdWallet’s best savings accounts
3.0 / 5.0
Some of First Tech’s certificates have good rates, but the credit union’s minimum deposit requirement is higher than that of some of our favorite share certificate and certificate of deposit providers.
» Looking for high interest CDs? Browse the best CD rates
4.5 / 5.0
Unlike many credit unions, First Tech is easy to join. The most straightforward ways to become a member are to work for the state of Oregon or a qualifying high-tech or telecom company, or to be related to a First Tech member. But you can also join First Tech by becoming a member of a nonprofit called Financial Fitness Association, which costs $8. Most credit unions don’t provide this type of option.
You’ll also need to open a free Membership Savings Account and fund it with at least $5 before being able to open other accounts.
First Tech’s website is fairly easy to use, and it mostly presents information in a clear and straightforward way. Members can contact the credit union by email, phone, Facebook or Twitter, or by filling out a form on its website.
First Tech’s mobile apps receive decent to high reviews, with the Android version receiving 3.7 out of 5 stars, and the iOS version receiving 5 out of 5 stars. The credit union doesn’t have an online chat feature.
3.0 / 5.0
The credit union’s overdraft policy could be better. You’ll owe $28 every time you overdraw your account, and there’s no limit to how many of these fees you can incur in one day.
The credit union does, however, offer free overdraft transfers from a linked First Tech savings account, and you can use a personal line of credit for overdraft protection. Transfers on the latter are also free, with interest rates starting at 11.99%.
Strong checking accounts, flaws elsewhere
First Tech is a strong option if you’re looking for a high-interest checking account and are willing to jump through some hoops to get one. But you’ll find higher rates on savings accounts and CDs elsewhere. If the idea of joining a credit union appeals, browsing our picks for best credit unions will give you a good idea of what else is available.
Updated Oct. 6, 2017
NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of each category: checking, savings, CDs, 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 tech and customer service. Several Nerds contribute to each financial institution’s ratings to ensure consistency and accuracy.
What the ratings mean:
— Above average
— Below average