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Golden 1 Credit Union Freedom Checking account review

A spending account geared toward students with a B average or higher.’s rating: 4.6 / 5.0


The Golden 1 Credit Union Freedom Checking account is an account for students aged 16 or 17. This account provides essential banking services, including ATM access and online banking features. But your child will need to show a B average or higher to qualify.

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$0 per month



Minimum deposit to open


Fee$0 per month
Minimum deposit to open$0
ATMsover 30,000 in-network ATMs
ATM transaction fee$0
Out-of-network ATM fee$2
Overdraft fee$30

Review by

Kimberly Ellis is a writer at Finder. She hails from New York City with a BA from Queens College and a New York State teaching certificate. After teaching in both public and private schools, Kimberly decided to take the world by storm and dive into the media industry — where she covers everything from home loans and investing to K–12 education and shopping. She’s also an aspiring polyglot, always in a book and forever on the hunt for the perfect classic red lipstick.

Expert review

Golden 1 Credit Union offers a basic checking account for students with good grades. It’s free and you can open the account with as low as $0 as long as your child has a B grade point average. But they’ll only need proof of their grades when you open the account, so if it drops, you won’t be forced to close the account.

But your child won’t have access to Popmoney (a person-to-person payment service), online bill pay and external transfers until they turn 18 and the account converts to a Free Checking account. If you want an account that entices your child to continue earning good grades, consider debit cards for kids that allow you to set chores, allowance and bonus rewards.

How do I open a Golden 1 Credit Union Freedom Checking account?

Sign up for a Golden 1 Credit Union Freedom Checking account only by visiting a local branch.


All Californians are eligible for a Golden 1 Credit Union membership. To qualify for a Freedom Checking account, you’ll need to meet these eligibility requirements.

  • Parent or guardian must be at least 18 years old
  • Teen must be 16 or 17 years old
  • Teen must be a student with a B average or higher
  • Live or work in California or be a family member of a current member
  • Open a Regular Savings account, which has a $1 minimum deposit

Once your kid turns 18, the account automatically converts to a Golden 1 Free Checking account.

Required information

Have the following information ready when you apply to join Golden 1 Credit Union for a minor:

  • A state-issued ID with your current address
  • Passport
  • Report card showing a B average or higher

If you don’t have either state-issued ID or a passport, you’ll need to bring two of the following:

  • School ID card
  • Social Security Card
  • Certified copy of the child’s birth certificate

What are the benefits of Golden 1 Credit Union’s Freedom Checking Account?

Here’s a quick look at the perks of a Golden 1 Credit Union Freedom Checking account:

  • No minimum deposit. While you need to fund your savings account with a minimum of $0, your teen’s Freedom Checking account has no opening deposit requirement.
  • No monthly maintenance fee. It doesn’t cost a thing to maintain this account.
  • Access funds independently. Your child can deposit and withdraw funds without the presence of a parent or legal guardian.

What should I look out for?

Consider the following factors before signing up for a Golden 1 Credit Union Freedom Checking account:

  • Savings account requirement. You’ll need to open a savings account to qualify for Golden 1 membership.
  • Grade-point average requirement. You must demonstrate a B grade point average when you open the account. But it’s not necessary to maintain that average to keep the account.
  • Limited deposit and withdrawal options. Some banking options, including person-to-person payments and bill pay, are not available to minors.
  • Overdraft protection fee. You sign up for overdraft protection to cover overdrawn funds, but you’ll have to pay $5 for it. Without the protection, you’ll get hit with a $30 overdraft fee.

Golden 1 Credit Union’s ATM network and fees

Golden 1 Credit Union partners with CO-OP, an expansive network of free ATMs all over the country, to offer free access to your cash. Choose from over 30,000 in-network ATMs, or pay $2 per transaction to use an out-of-network ATM.

Compare Golden 1 Credit Union Freedom Checking with other checking accounts

Compare other accounts for teens by monthly fee, minimum opening deposit and ATMs.

Name Product APY Minimum deposit to open ATMs Out-of-network ATM fee
Finder Rating: 4.5 / 5: ★★★★★
You can withdraw money from our network of 30,000 ATMs for free.
Step banking accounts help teens and kids as young as age 6 to learn to manage money manage their money while building their credit scores. Earn $1 for every person that joins using your unique link or code. They'll also get $1.
Finder Rating: 4 / 5: ★★★★★
Copper is a digital checking account that teaches your teen healthy money habits through interactive quizzes and an intuitive mobile app. The teen also receives a free $5 when signing up and completing the savings goal.
Finder Rating: 4.2 / 5: ★★★★★
No access to ATMs
Jassby is a virtual debit card for kids, complete with chores and allowance tracking.
Axos Bank First Checking
Finder Rating: 3.5 / 5: ★★★★★
Axos Bank First Checking
Made for teens ages 13 to 17, this account earns 0.1% APY and has no monthly fees.
Nationwide First Checking
Nationwide First Checking
No access to ATMs

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How do I deposit or withdraw my money?

Deposit or withdraw your money at any Golden 1 Credit Union branch, ATM and CO-OP Shared Branch location.

Other deposit methods include:

  • Mobile check deposits
  • Direct deposit

Pay bills using:

  • Paper checks
  • Debit card
  • Golden 1 transfers to another Golden 1 member

What other checking options does Golden 1 Credit Union offer?

Golden 1 Credit Union offers an assortment of checking accounts:

  • New Generation Checking. Your teen as young as 13 can have a checking account with a parent or legal guardian as the joint owner. When your child turns 18, the account converts to a Free Checking account.
  • Student Checking. For your 17-year-old child that is college- or university-bound. After five years, the account switches over to a Free Checking Account.
  • Free Checking. A no-frills account with no minimum deposit and no monthly maintenance fees.
  • Premium Checking. A checking account that earns interest if you have a minimum daily balance of $1,000. It comes with a $25 opening deposit minimum and a $8 monthly maintenance fee, which can be waived.

How to contact Golden 1 Credit Union customer service?

Get in touch with a customer service rep by:

  • Calling 877-465-3361 on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. PT and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.
  • Emailing to get a response within one business day. But you can’t reply to the email you receive, you’ll need to start a new email thread for any follow-up or new questions.
  • Visiting a local branch for more information.

Kids’ debit card ratings

★★★★★ — Excellent

★★★★★ — Good

★★★★★ — Average

★★★★★ — Subpar

★★★★★ — Poor

We analyze top debit cards for kids and rate them one to five stars based on factors that are most important to you. We rate kids’ checking accounts by these factors: Monthly fee, features, ATM access, customer support options, and availability. We also consider APY as a factor only for those that earn interest. We rate prepaid debit cards for kids by these factors: monthly fees, features, customer support options and account availability.

Read the full methodology of how we rate Kids’ debit card accounts.

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