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Union Bank Review: Checking, Savings and CDs

Banking, Banks & Credit Unions, CDs, Checking Accounts, Savings Accounts
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Union Bank
NerdWallet’s rating: 3.0 / 5.0

If you’re looking for a basic bank account with premium features, Union Bank has something to offer. Its customizable checking accounts let customers pick and choose their own perks. But these optional features also come with monthly fees.

The bottom line

  • Union Bank has checking accounts with optional premium features, such as ATM fee reimbursements and unlimited money orders
  • Savings accounts and certificates of deposit earn below-average rates, compared with competitors
  • Bank branches are primarily in three states: California, Oregon and Washington

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best banks and credit unions

Our Ratings
Checking
Savings
Certificates of deposit (CDs)
Customer experience
Overdraft fees
Overall

Read on for details about Union Bank’s checking and savings accounts, CDs, customer experience and fees.

Checking


3.0 / 5.0

Union Bank has four checking accounts designed for a range of customers, including teens just starting their banking journey as well as those who maintain a balance of $50,000 or more and want to earn interest. Banking by Design, the most basic account for adults, is available in California, Oregon and Washington, where Union Bank has branches.

Customizable options
Banking by Design is one of two Union Bank accounts that allow customers to add optional features for a fee; the other is Ready to Go checking. For example, you can sign up for two non-Union Bank ATM transactions a month with no Union Bank surcharge; the fee is usually $2 each. But the benefit itself costs $3 a month, and that’s on top of any monthly fees. Other customizable features cost $1 to $2 per month. They include:

  • Unlimited cashier’s checks and money orders
  • Unlimited incoming wire transfers
  • Unlimited premium checks

It’s good to have choices, but once you sign up for an extra, the charge is assessed regardless of whether you use it. So it may be cheaper to skip the add-ons if you don’t plan on using them often.

ProsCons
  • Monthly fees are waived with $250 deposited directly or by mobile check each month

  • Optional features, such as fee-free use of non-Union Bank ATMs and unlimited checks
  • Monthly fee of $5 in California and $3 in Oregon and Washington, if the requirement to waive isn’t met

  • With paper statements, monthly fee increases by $2

  • No interest

  • Small ATM network with just over 600 machines
Account reviewed for rating: Ready to Go Checking

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best checking accounts

Savings


2.5 / 5.0

With just a $50 minimum deposit, it’s easy to open a Union Bank regular savings account. But watch out for the $4 monthly fee. If you don’t want to lose money in your savings account, there are two ways to avoid the monthly charge: Keep a balance of at least $300, or make a deposit into your savings account of at least $25 each month.

ProsCons
  • Reasonable $50 minimum deposit
  • Only 0.01% APY, no matter the balance. That’s about as close to zero as you can get. Other banks offer more

  • $4 monthly fee unless you have $300 balance or $25 monthly deposit
Account reviewed for rating: Regular savings

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best high yield savings accounts

Certificates of deposit


2.5 / 5.0
Union Bank has CDs with terms from seven days to five years, though the annual percentage yields are nothing to get excited about. The highest is 0.50% APY, and that’s for a five-year CD. Even if the balance is over $50,000, you’d still earn just 0.50% APY. You can shop around and find savings accounts with higher APYs that wouldn’t tie up your cash.
ProsCons
  • Reasonable minimum deposit of $350.
  • Interest rates are low at 0.05% APY to 0.50% APY.
Account reviewed for rating: CDs

Customer experience


3.5 / 5.0

Union Bank offers its customers 365 branches across the West Coast. In addition, customer service representatives are available by phone 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays (Pacific time). It’s not a 24/7 operation, but the extended hours are convenient.

The bank also has online and mobile banking, so you can pay bills, check your account balance and transfer money without visiting a branch. The mobile app earns a solid 4 stars out of 5 in the Android store, but only 1.5 stars out of 5 for iOS devices. The biggest complaint seems to be the lack of Touch ID.

Overdraft fees


2.0 / 5.0

Overdrafts cost a hefty $33 each. If you’re not careful, you can rack up as many as five per day, for a total of $165 in penalties. In addition, Union Bank charges a continued overdraft fee for accounts that remain negative for six days in a row. On Day 7, the account is charged $6 a day for up to five business days.

You can guard against overdrafts by linking to a separate checking or savings account, credit card or cash reserve line of credit. Even then, you’ll pay a $10 fee for each day you make an overdraft transfer.

West Coast banking

Union Bank is a traditional institution with a full lineup of products, including checking, savings and CDs. But the accounts don’t earn much interest and tend to have fees. If you live on the West Coast and want the convenience of banking at a traditional branch, Union Bank is an option. There are, however, other affordable banks and credit unions near the Pacific Coast that might be a good fit.

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

Updated March 15, 2017.


Ratings methodology

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:
5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best
4.5 stars out of 5 — Very good; only minor caveats for most customers
4 stars out of 5 — Good; issues that might make a difference to some customers
3.5 stars out of 5 — Fair; make sure strengths and weaknesses are a good match for you
3 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution
2.5 stars out of 5 (or below) — Best to avoid