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Best credit unions
We researched 30+ credit unions to bring you the five best for savings, CDs, rewards and more.
The best credit union offers the same bank accounts you know and love from traditional banks — but typically with better terms and more personalized customer service. Most credit unions are only available to residents in select counties or states, but a few extend membership to customers nationwide.
For our research, we independently analyzed over 30 credit unions to find those with nationwide availability, relatively lenient membership requirements and the ability to open most accounts online. Then, we dug into the details to figure out which credit union was best for a specific need — whether that’s savings, small business banking, military benefits, rewards and more.
Closer look at the best credit unions
Take a closer look at the five best credit unions by exploring their pros and cons.
Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking
Finder Rating: 4 / 5 ★★★★★
|Minimum deposit to open||$500|
DCU Primary Savings Account
Finder Rating: 4.9 / 5 ★★★★★
|APY||Up to 6.17%|
|Minimum deposit to open||$5|
Navy Federal Credit Union Business Checking
Finder Rating: 3.8 / 5★★★★★
|Fee||$0 per month|
|Minimum deposit to open||$0|
|Fee||$0 per month|
|Minimum deposit to open||$0|
6 factors to consider when choosing the best credit union
Consider these five factors when selecting the best credit union for you.
- Membership requirements. Most credit unions are only open to those who live or work in select cities or states or are employed by certain companies or organizations. But some, like Alliant Credit Union, let anyone join when you donate to a partner charity.
- Fees. Some smaller credit unions may charge fees for most accounts and waive them when you meet certain balance requirements. Others with a more national presence may have no monthly fees at all.
- Interest rates. Rates vary greatly from credit union to credit union. Some smaller credit unions act more like traditional banks and have APYs that hover around 0.05%. Others mimic online banks and have some of the top rates in the nation. You’ll notice most call their interest rates “dividends” — but they mean the same thing.
- ATM access. Credit unions are typically regional and only have a handful of ATMs, which can make it difficult to withdraw money if you’re traveling outside of the area. Institutions that want their members to have broader access to free ATMs typically join the CO-OP network, which has over 30,000 ATMs spread across 50 states and 10 countries.
- Internet and mobile banking portals. More and more of our everyday banking transactions are carried out online or via our smartphones. With this in mind, read reviews and testimonials to find out how user-friendly the credit union’s Internet banking portal and mobile app are.
- Other perks. Credit unions are notorious for offering extra perks to their members, like discounts on travel and shopping, free financial education and more.
Are credit unions safe?
Yes. Much like FDIC deposit insurance at banks, deposits at credit unions are insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Also, federally chartered credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration, whereas state-chartered credit unions are regulated at the state level.
Pros and cons of credit unions
Credit unions have these benefits and drawbacks.
- Better customer service. Credit unions are known for having superior customer service because they operate as nonprofits and are owned by you, its members.
- Better terms. Credit unions typically have higher interest rates and lower fees than traditional banks.
- Local branches. If you like to visit a local branch to withdraw money and deposit checks, a credit union may give you the personalized experience you’re looking for.
- Membership requirements. You typically need to live in a certain area or belong to a certain organization to be eligible for membership. But there are a few credit unions, such as those on our list, that have looser requirements.
- Fewer bank accounts. Smaller credit unions may not offer high-yield savings accounts, business bank accounts or other products. Make sure the credit union has all the banking products you need before opening a new account.
- Older technology. Credit unions are known for being behind the times when it comes to technology. Make sure the one you choose has a mobile app that lets you deposit checks, transfer money and locate the nearest ATM.
Questions to ask when choosing a credit union
If you’re thinking about joining a credit union, consider the following factors when making your decision:
- Does the credit union have a branch close to you?
- Does it offer the accounts, credit cards and services you require?
- Does it charge high fees on its products?
- How long has it been established? Does it have a good reputation?
- Does it offer online banking? If so, is it easy to use?
- Can it offer prompt and friendly customer support whenever you need help?
- Is it chartered at the state or federal level? If the state, is it covered by the National Credit Union Administration?
- Do you qualify for an account?
What is a credit union?
Credit unions are nonprofit institutions known for offering higher interest rates on their products than other for-profit banks. Historically, credit unions were set up to help workers access banking services and products without high rates and fees typically associated with traditional banks.
Unlike banks, customers at credit unions are considered members who are also part-owners of the credit union. As such, members can take part in decision-making processes like voting for the board of directors.
3 alternatives to a credit union
A credit union is best for anyone who wants a more personalized, community-driven banking experience. You may have to deal with slower technology and fewer products, but you’ll often experience better customer service. If those qualities aren’t at the top of your list, here are three alternatives to consider.
- Traditional bank. The closest match to a credit union is a traditional bank. You’ll find plenty of branch locations, but watch out for low interest rates and high fees.
- Online bank. If you don’t regularly deposit cash, consider an online bank. They have lower overhead costs, which means you’ll find competitive APYs and low fees, helping you keep more money in your pocket.
- Digital bank. If you want to keep all your banking needs digitally, look at digital banks. They’re breaking the entire banking mold by offering early direct deposits and tech-forward mobile apps that help you budget and automate your savings.
If you’re looking for a more personalized banking experience, a credit union may be just the ticket. Most offer products with competitive rates and minimal fees, allowing you to grow your savings and reach your financial goals faster. But watch out for eligibility requirements, which could be strict depending on where you look.
Before deciding, compare your options with our guide to bank accounts.
Compare credit union accounts
Narrow down top credit unions by APY, fees and more to find the best for your budget and financial goals. Select Compare for up to four credit unions to see their benefits side by side.
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