State Employees’ Credit Union
The bottom line
- SECU offers more 250 branches and 1,100 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.
- The credit union has a forgiving overdraft policy.
- SECU’s share certificates — the credit union equivalent of certificates of deposit — get a high NerdWallet rating, 4.5 stars out of a possible 5.
Read on for more details about State Employees’ Credit Union’s checking and savings accounts, share certificates, customer experience and overdraft fees.
3.5 / 5.0
SECU offers a basic checking account that earns a 0.25% annual percentage yield, or APY, on all balances. That’s more than what many traditional banks and even some online banks offer.
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.
SECU members can direct the mandatory fee to go to the SECU Foundation, a nonprofit that supports local communities. But the payment is not tax-deductible.
4.0 / 5.0
A savings account — often called a share account at a credit union — is required for SECU membership. It has a low $25 minimum-deposit requirement and an attractive 0.75% 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 basic money market account that earns an APY of 1.01% in return for a higher minimum deposit.
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 at many other banks and credit unions.
3.0 / 5.0
Though SECU has hundreds of ATMs in North Carolina, it isn’t a member of a cooperative network of ATMs, so you could face ATM fees when traveling out of state. But the high number of branches and ATMs is helpful if you live and do business in North Carolina.
SECU also doesn’t provide a mobile banking app for smartphones and tablets, though it does offer a mobile version of its webpage. And its call center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The credit union claims membership of about 20% of North Carolina’s 10 million residents. But it’s not easy to join SECU if you don’t work for the government. You generally have to be a public employee in North Carolina, or be related to one, to be eligible. You can’t qualify by living, working or worshipping in a certain geographic area, as you can with some other credit unions.
4.0 / 5.0
SECU outshines many other institutions when it comes to low fees, especially for overdrafts. The credit union waives nonsufficient funds fees for the first two days per year when items are returned for not having a sufficient balance in the account. So you won’t pay a penalty for an occasional overspending mistake.
If a transaction is rejected because of nonsufficient funds after the two fee-free days, the credit union charges $12 per item. That’s not cheap, but it’s well below the national median of $34 to $35.
And SECU offers a program called Another Chance to alert members of pending NSF transactions. The program gives members until 5:30 p.m. that day to make a checking deposit to cover the shortfall and avoid having an item returned.
You can also choose to link another SECU savings or credit account to your checking account for overdraft transfers, and the credit union will only charge 50 cents per transfer, whereas some large traditional banks charge $10. Even better, SECU waives those transfer fees for the first two days per year that they occur.
You still need to be careful about overspending on a SECU account. 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. But that’s not the case at SECU. After you’ve used up your waived-fee days, there’s no daily limit on those fees charged by the credit union.
Doing business locally
Updated Oct. 7, 2016.
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:
— Among the very best
— Very good; only minor caveats for most customers
— Good; issues that might make a difference to some customers
— Fair; make sure strengths and weaknesses are a good match for you
— Poor; proceed with great caution
(or below) — Best to avoid