The Best Credit Unions Anyone Can Join in 2018

When you’re looking for a financial institution to handle your money, it’s important you find the best place for you. There are hundreds and hundreds of options you can choose from.

When you’re looking around for the best choice, it’s important you toss credit unions into the mix.

Credit unions offer all of the same services and products as a traditional bank, except they tend to have much better rates. If you’re looking for a safe place to get a better rate than you’ll find with a bank savings account, then getting the higher rates at a credit union can be an excellent option.

Just like with banks, if you have your money in a credit union, it will be protected up to $250,000.

Another benefit of choosing a credit union over a bank is they have lower borrower rates. Big banks are notorious for their massive fees and charges.

This is yet another area where credit unions shine over banks. They have much lower monthly rates, fees, and charges.

The Best Credit Unions This Year

Below is a list of some of the best credit unions across the nation, but there are a few caveats to the list you should take note of when shopping around.

Two important factors which went on this list are availability and size, which means smaller, local credit unions were not included in the list (because it would have taken forever).

All of the credit unions on this list are great choices, but you should also look at credit unions in your own town.

When compiling the list of best credit unions, the requirements to join had to be universal. The vast majority of credit unions only allow members who “live, work, or worship” in the city limits of the union.

For this list, the unions don’t have any location restrictions for members.

The next thing you should consider is what’s important to you and your financial needs.

If you want a credit union who has lower fees, then one union will be better than others. On the other hand, if you want better loan rates, then another credit union will make a better choice. There is no one “best credit union,” which is why I broke them up into “best for” categories individually.

First Tech – Best for Members who Travel

One of the most common complaints of credit unions is they are smaller and less accessible than large banks. Some of the larger banks can have several thousand branch locations across the nation, while credit unions may only have a couple dozen.

If you want access to the most locations and branches, then First Tech is the union for you. First Tech has over 5,000 locations across the nation and you will have access to over 30,000 ATMs with no charges.

Their headquarters is in California, but you don’t have to live in-state to join. In fact, you can become a member online and it’s very simple to do.

If you want to become a member and open an account, you can do it in less than an hour.

They have several account types you can open.

They have a couple of checking options, including:

Carefree Checking
HAS Checking
Dividend Rewards Checking

As far as I can tell, none of these plans have any monthly fees, but if they do, they are very well hidden. Additionally, they don’t have a minimum opening balance (technically they do, but it’s $0.01).

For their Dividends Reward Checking account, you can earn a 1.57% rate if you qualify.

This is drastically higher than you’ll find with any other checking account on the market, but there are a few things you have to do to earn this rate every year.

If you want to enjoy the high-interest rate, you need to:

make at least 12 debit card transactions every month
sign up for e-statements
have at least one direct deposit or ACH withdrawal

One additional advantage of First Tech is their quality website and app, both of which are extremely easy to use, even if you don’t have much experience with banking apps. Their iOS app has 5 out of 5 stars, which is rare for most banking and credit union apps.

Alliant – Best for High-Interest Rate Seekers

There are several ways you can qualify to be a member of Alliant Credit Union.

They partner with tons of companies across the nation, but if your business isn’t on their list, all you have to do is donate to the Foster Care to Success (FCS) nonprofit, which Alliant partners with.

The FCS offers grants, mentoring, internships, and opportunities for teens in the United States who are “aging out” of foster care. By making a $10 donation (or more), you’ll become an FCS member, which allows you to become an Alliant member.

There are a couple of different accounts Alliant offers, but I’m going to focus on the High-Rate Checking and the High-Rate Savings account.

If you want a new checking account, Alliant offers a 0.65% APY with no monthly fees or minimum balance.
If you want a savings account, check out Alliant’s High-Rate Savings account, which has a 1.30% APY.

See how this compares to the top online savings accounts right now.

As long as you sign up for their eStatements, you won’t pay a monthly fee. They require you make a $5 initial deposit, but they reimburse you the $5.

Golden1 – Best for Parents of Teens and College Students

If you have a teen in your or college student in your house and you want to get them started with a credit union account, Golden1 has two different accounts you can open.

The New Generation Checking is available for teens between the ages of 13 and 17. There are no monthly fees or minimum deposit requirements, and when the teen turns 18, the account is automatically turned into a Free Checking account.

Another option for students is the Student Checking (appropriately named), and it’s available to students who are 17 or older, as long as they have proof of enrollment or attendance of a college. After five years, this plan also becomes a Free Checking account.

If you live in one of the 38 Californian counties, you can qualify to become a member.

The other way is to join the Financial Fitness Association, which will cost $8. Afterwards, you become a member.

Don’t worry parents, there are checking and savings account options for adults as well.

Their Premium Checking account earns dividends as long as you keep a balance of $1,000. Not only will this policy earn dividends if you keep $1,000 in the policy, but you will also be exempt from any monthly fees.

Honorable Mention – USAA

The reason USAA only receives an honorable mention is because it’s not available to everyone, like the other credit unions on our list.
To be eligible to join USAA, you have to be active or retired military or have an immediate family member or spouse who served in the military.

While the requirements are stricter than the other unions, if you qualify, it’s one of the best options out there.

If you join USAA, you have access to any of their dozens of financial products they offer. They sell just about every type of insurance product, credit card, or bank account you can imagine.

Their basic checking account has no monthly service fee and will earn interest if you hold over $1,000 in the account.

One drawback of their basic checking account is the APY is a meager 0.01%.

Their savings account, on the other hand, can net you a 0.05% to 0.30% APY if you open up a USAA Performance First, starting with $10,000.

Just like with their checking account, you won’t pay any monthly service fee, regardless of how much money you have in the account.

One of the unique benefits for members of USAA is they have access to 60,000 USAA-preferred ATMs without having to pay any fees. If you have to use a non-preferred ATM, they will refund the bank ATM fee.

Finding the Best Credit Union for You

These are only four of the hundreds of credit unions out there. If none of these work for you, don’t worry.

There are plenty of other options out there.

Take the time to decide what’s most important to you. As we mentioned early, make sure you compare the local credit unions close to you. The smaller, local credit unions can be on par with the larger ones we listed above.

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