Self-Help Credit Union Review: Checking, Savings and CDs

Self-Help Credit Union offers an interest checking account and decent rates on savings, money market and certificate accounts. Most notably, it’s a socially responsible banking option.
Ruth Sarreal
By Ruth Sarreal 

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Overall bank rating

Self-Help Credit Union
  • Savings

  • Checking

  • CD rates

  • Banking experience

  • Overdraft fees

4.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line:

Self-Help Credit Union is a socially responsible credit union offering checking, savings, money market, and certificate accounts. The community-centered credit union has branches in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, and is also part of the Co-Op Network, offering access to shared branches and thousands of ATMs across the country. Membership is open to anyone who joins the Black- and Hispanic-owned credit union’s nonprofit by paying a nominal, one-time fee. Note that while you can join the credit union online, you can only open accounts in a branch or by mail.

Best for: Customers who want to bank with a socially responsible credit union, support local and green initiatives, and don’t mind not earning top rates.

Pros

  • Membership is open to all.
  • No overdraft fees.
  • Participates in shared branching and shared ATM network.
  • No monthly maintenance fee on savings account.
  • Certificates include options to help fund eco-friendly initiatives, empower children and women, and invest locally.

Cons

  • Accounts can’t be opened online.
  • Low rates on savings.
  • Limited customer support by phone.
  • Excess transaction fees on savings and money market accounts.

Full review

Self-Help Credit Union Savings Account
Self-Help Credit Union Savings Account

Savings

Federally insured by NCUA

4.0

/5
 NerdWallet rating 
APY
0.15%

The savings account at Self-Help Credit Union requires just a $5 minimum deposit to open, and there’s no monthly fee. Then, you’ll earn dividends (credit unions’ version of interest) of 0.15% annual percentage yield on all balances. That’s not a very competitive rate, but it’s still much higher than the 0.01% APY that some large banks pay.

The account allows six free transactions per month, but additional transactions cost $1 each (up to $10). If your account doesn’t have any activity for 12 months, the credit union will charge $10 each quarter.

The credit union’s money market account offers a better rate, but requires a $500 minimum balance to avoid a monthly fee. We did not consider the money market account while rating Self-Help Credit Union.

» Want to compare? Explore our picks for best money market accounts

Self-Help Credit Union Personal Checking
Self-Help Credit Union Personal Checking

Checking

Federally insured by NCUA

4.0

/5
 NerdWallet rating 
Monthly fee
$5.00
Waived with direct deposit or $2,500 minimum balance
APY
0.10%
With $0 min. balance for APY

The personal checking account from Self-Help Credit Union doesn’t have a minimum deposit requirement to open. It also offers a 0.10% APY; that isn’t much, but many large banks don’t offer any interest for standard checking accounts.

The $5 monthly fee is waived for account holders who are 24 years or younger, 65 years or older, or who have monthly direct deposits totaling at least $500 into any Self-Help account or have a $2,500 average daily balance across Self-Help accounts.

Up to six free ATM withdrawals are included each month, but you can get unlimited withdrawals at a branch.

» Searching for checking options? Check out the best checking accounts

Self-Help Credit Union Term Certificate
Self-Help Credit Union Term Certificate

CD

Federally insured by NCUA

5.0

/5
 NerdWallet rating 
1-year APY
3.56%
3-year APY
3.72%
5-year APY
3.77%
Minimum deposit
$500

Self-Help pays decent rates on its term certificates, its version of certificates of deposit. Terms range from three months to five years.

While the terms and rates aren’t outstanding, the credit union also offers specialty certificates that allow you to support specific initiatives: There are certificates that help fund eco-friendly projects; help fund empowerment of women and children; or support Self-Help’s work in western North Carolina’s communities, which includes economic development projects.

» Looking for all the best options? Browse NerdWallet's top certificate rates list

Banking experience

4.0

NerdWallet rating 

Self-Help Credit Union offers more than 30 of its own branches in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, and access to over 5,000 branches across the country through a shared network with other credit unions. Self-Help Federal Credit Union is its sister credit union, with branches in California, Illinois, Washington and Wisconsin. As part of the Co-Op Network of ATMs, Self-Help also offers its members free access to more than 30,000 ATMs nationwide. Self-Help members can get free financial capability training through the credit union’s branches.

Phone support is fairly limited — it’s only available during typical business hours on weekdays — and mobile app user ratings are mixed.

But unlike what you’ll find at many credit unions, Self-Help membership is open to anyone who wants to join. Membership is free for those who live, work, worship or go to school in an eligible county or who have an employer or family affiliation. Otherwise, anyone can become a member by first joining the credit union’s nonprofit with a one-time fee of $5. You can apply for membership online, but you’ll need to open specific accounts in-person at a branch or mail in your applications.

Self-Help Credit Union is a compelling choice for those who want to be a part of a credit union that’s socially responsible. Self-Help’s work supports low-income communities disproportionately affected by climate change and pollution, and the credit union explicitly states that it doesn’t invest in projects that involve fossil fuel extraction or production.

Overdraft fees

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

Like a growing number of financial institutions, Self-Help Credit Union no longer charges overdraft fees. Free overdraft coverage is available, so if funds are short in an account, money will be transferred from a linked account to cover ACH transfers and checks. Eligible linked accounts include savings, money market, personal lines of credit and home equity lines of credit.

» Tend to overdraw your account? See our list of best banks for overdrafts

Self-Help Credit Union Savings Account
Self-Help Credit Union Savings Account

Savings

Federally insured by NCUA

4.0

/5
 NerdWallet rating 
APY
0.15%

The savings account at Self-Help Credit Union requires just a $5 minimum deposit to open, and there’s no monthly fee. Then, you’ll earn dividends (credit unions’ version of interest) of 0.15% annual percentage yield on all balances. That’s not a very competitive rate, but it’s still much higher than the 0.01% APY that some large banks pay.

The account allows six free transactions per month, but additional transactions cost $1 each (up to $10). If your account doesn’t have any activity for 12 months, the credit union will charge $10 each quarter.

The credit union’s money market account offers a better rate, but requires a $500 minimum balance to avoid a monthly fee. We did not consider the money market account while rating Self-Help Credit Union.

» Want to compare? Explore our picks for best money market accounts

How does Self-Help Credit Union compare?

NerdWallet rating 

4.5

/5
NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5
NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5

APY 

4.00%

With $0 min. balance for APY

APY 

3.75%

With $0 min. balance for APY

APY 

3.30%

With $0 min. balance for APY

Bonus 

N/A

Bonus 

$250

Earn up to $250 with direct deposit. Terms apply.

Bonus 

$200

Requirements to qualify

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, banking 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.