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SECU Review: State Employees’ Credit Union Checking and Savings

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State Employees’ Credit Union

NerdWallet’s rating: 4.0 / 5.0

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State Employees’ Credit Union’s branches are about as common as Starbucks locations across North Carolina. But size isn’t SECU’s only perk.

The bottom line

  • SECU offers more than 250 branches and 1,000 network ATMs in North Carolina, making it one of the largest credit unions in the U.S., but it has no presence outside the state
  • To be eligible for membership, you generally have to be a public employee in North Carolina, or be related to one
  • Great rates on SECU’s share certificates — the credit union equivalent of certificates of deposit — help them get a high NerdWallet rating, 4.5 stars out of a possible 5

» Compare more CDs on our roundup of best CD rates this month

Read on for more details about State Employees’ Credit Union’s checking and savings accounts, share certificates, customer experience and overdraft fees.

Checking

4.5 / 5.0

SECU’s checking account earns 0.25% annual percentage yield on all balances. That’s more than what many traditional banks and even some online banks offer.

But the account also has a mandatory $1 monthly service charge. That may not seem like much more than an annoyance, but there are other credit unions and banks with checking accounts that don’t have any monthly fees.

Free ATMs in North Carolina but not elsewhere: Despite having hundreds of ATMs in North Carolina, SECU isn’t a member of a nationwide shared network of ATMs, so you could face fees when traveling out of state.

ProsCons
  • Earns 0.25% APY
  • No minimum deposit required to open account, but your initial deposit must cover the cost of the first $1 monthly fee and any checks you choose to order
  • $1 monthly service fee that cannot be waived
  • ATM fees: 75 cents for out-of-network ATM transactions that are completed and 35 cents for any out-of-network transactions that get denied

» Want more options? See NerdWallet’s best checking accounts

Savings and money markets

4.0 / 5.0

SECU requires you to open a savings account — often called a share account at a credit union.

It has a low $25 minimum-deposit requirement, and the 0.75% APY is well above the national average of 0.06% APY. The SECU share account can be a good place to park your cash, as long as you keep at least $25 in the account. If the balance falls below that amount, there’s a $1 monthly fee.

SECU also offers a money market account that earns an APY of 1.01% in return for a higher minimum deposit than the share account.

ProsCons
  • Earns 0.75% APY on the share account compared with the 0.01% you usually find for basic savings accounts at many large banks
  • $25 minimum required at opening and to be kept in account monthly
  • If you have $250 to deposit, you can opt for the money market and an APY of 1.01%
  • $1 monthly fee if your minimum balance falls below $25 on the statement date
Account reviewed for rating: Share Account

» See higher rates on our list of best savings accounts

Share certificates

4.5 / 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 and earn better rates than many other bank and credit union certificates. Some banks, however, offer higher rates, which you can compare here.

ProsCons
  • Solid rates, including 1.25% APY on one-year certificates, 1.75% on three-year certificates and 2.00% APY on five-year certificates
  • Low minimum deposit of $250
  • Some online banks have higher rates but SECU's offering is competitive

Customer experience

3.5 / 5.0

SECU’s network is best for those living in North Carolina. Its branches and ATMs don’t extend beyond the state.

Membership is limited primarily to employees of the government and their families. You can’t qualify by living, working or worshipping in a certain geographic area, as you can with some other credit unions. If you’re eligible, though, you’re joining a big community. The credit union claims membership of about 20% of North Carolina’s 10 million residents.

No mobile banking app is available for smartphone or tablets, but SECU offers a mobile version of its website. And its call center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Overdraft fees

4.0 / 5.0

Overdraft fees are low compared with those of many other financial institutions. SECU waives nonsufficient funds fees for the first two days you overspend your checking account per year. After that, it charges $12 per item. The national median cost of an overdraft fee is $34. Another plus: Unlike many banks, SECU doesn’t have an overdraft penalty program, which would let your balance go negative and lead to overdraft coverage fees.

SECU doesn’t have a daily limit for nonsufficient funds fees. Some banks charge a maximum of five NSF fees daily, even if a customer has more than five instances of nonsufficient funds on a given day.

» Learn the basics about overdraft fees

SECU offers a bonus program called Another Chance to alert members about pending nonsufficient funds transactions. The program gives members until 5:30 p.m. that day to make a checking deposit to cover the shortfall.

Overdraft transfers are a cheap option if you’re worried about getting hit with nonsufficient funds fees. You link an SECU savings or credit account to your checking account for overdraft transfers, and the credit union will charge only 50 cents per transfer for up to six transfers each month (after your two free days are used up). After six transfers in a month, the fee goes up the nonsufficient funds fee amount of $12. Repeatedly going above six can cause you to lose this overdraft transfer option.

Banking locally

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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’s active in the community, SECU might be a good choice for you.

Margarette Burnette is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mburnette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @margarette. NerdWallet writer Devan Goldstein contributed to this article.

Updated Dec. 7, 2017.


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.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.