If you live in North Carolina, there’s a good chance you’re near a State Employees’ Credit Union branch. But accessibility isn’t SECU’s only perk.
The bottom line
- SECU has more than 260 branches and more than 1,100 network ATMs in North Carolina, making it one of the largest credit unions in the United States. But it has no presence outside of the state.
- To be eligible for membership, you generally have to be a public employee in North Carolina, or be related to one.
- Overdraft fees are lower than those found at other banks and credit unions, and SECU also has an overdraft fee forgiveness policy.
» See how SECU compares with NerdWallet’s best credit unions.
Read on for more details about State Employees’ Credit Union’s checking and savings accounts, share certificates, customer experience and overdraft fees.
4.0 / 5.0
SECU checking earns dividends that are compounded daily. (Learn more about how compound interest grows your money.)
- The 0.25% annual percentage yield on SECU’s basic checking account is better than what many traditional banks and even some online banks offer.
- No minimum deposit required to open account. But once the account is open, you must keep enough in it to cover the $1 monthly maintenance fee and any other charges you incur.
- There are more than a thousand ATMs in North Carolina.
- The $1 monthly service fee cannot be waived. There are other credit unions and banks with checking accounts that don’t charge any monthly fees.
- No fee-free ATM presence outside of North Carolina. You would face ATM surcharge fees when traveling out of state.
» Want more options? See NerdWallet’s best checking accounts.
Share savings accounts
4.5 / 5.0
Like many credit unions, SECU requires members to open a share account, which is the credit union version of a savings account.
- Earns 0.75% APY. This is well above the national average yield of 0.09%.
- Just $25 minimum to open an account.
- $1 monthly fee if your minimum balance falls below $25 on the statement cutoff date.
» See higher rates on our list of best savings accounts.
4.0 / 5.0
SECU offers a variety of share term certificates, the credit union equivalent of certificates of deposit. The certificate terms range from six months to five years.
- Offers from 1.55% APY for a six-month certificate to a 2.05% APY for a five-year certificate, some of the best rates available.
- Requires a minimum deposit of $250, which is reasonable compared to other banks and credit unions, which often have minimums of $1,000 or more.
- For longer-term certificates, you can get slightly better rates at a few other banks and credit unions, though often with a higher minimum deposit.
» Check out our list of best CD rates.
4.0 / 5.0
SECU’s network is best for those living in North Carolina. Membership is limited primarily to employees of the government and their families. If you’re eligible, though, you’re joining a big community. The credit union claims membership of about 20% of North Carolina’s residents.
- Call center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- It boasts solid ratings for its iOS and Android apps.
- SECU branches and free ATMs don’t extend beyond the state.
- You can’t qualify for membership by living or worshipping in a certain geographic area, as you can with some other credit unions.
4.0 / 5.0
Overdraft and nonsufficient funds fees are low compared with those of many other financial institutions.
- Fee forgiveness. SECU waives NSF fees for the first two days you overspend your checking account per year.
- SECU offers a program called Another Chance Alert to let members know about pending NSF transactions. The program gives members until 5:30 p.m. that day to make a checking deposit to cover the shortfall.
- Low NSF fees. If you overdraw your account after those first two forgiveness days, the NSF fee is $12 per item. But that’s well below the average for the country’s largest credit unions — $26 — according to recent NerdWallet research.
- Overdraft transfers are a cheap option to avoid NSF fees. You link an SECU savings or credit account to your checking account as a backup for overdraft transfers. You get two free per year, and after that the credit union will charge 50 cents per transfer — up to six transfers each month.
- If you have more than six overdraft transfers in a month, the transfer fee goes up to the same amount as an NSF fee, $12. Repeatedly going above six can cause members to lose the overdraft transfer option.
» Learn the basics about overdraft fees.
Doing business locally
For those who don’t qualify for SECU membership, we can recommend great credit unions with similar products. But if you live in North Carolina and want to do business with a local financial institution that has a large state presence, SECU might be a good choice for you.
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.