If you’ve heard about old school banking from your parents or grandparents fee-free checking and being treated like a member of the family you may want to look into credit unions. There’s probably one located in your community, and even if there isn’t, credit unions today operate much like banks by offering their services online. You can have access to a credit union, and even the best credit unions, from your computer or mobile device.
In this guide, I’ve prepared a list of what I believe to be the best credit unions in America. Read the descriptions of each then choose one that you believe will work best for your personal needs and preferences. You may be surprised to find that credit unions provide just about all the same services banks do, but without all the fees and limitations.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union
Pentagon Federal Credit Union, more commonly known simply as PenFed, is one of the largest credit unions in the country, with more than $25 billion in deposits and two million members. And though the credit union has only 50 branches, they offer their services in all 50 states. The credit union was originally established for the benefit of members of the armed services, it’s now available to all consumers.
I like PenFed for their car loan programs. Not only do they offer loans for new and used cars, and for both purchases and refinances, but they also offer their car buying service for both new and used vehicles. It provides discounted vehicle pricing when you purchase through the service, as well as mechanical breakdown protection and GAP coverage
You can open a Premium Online Savings Account with just $5, and though the interest rate on the account is on the low end of the spectrum, there is no monthly maintenance fee. Plus, you’ll have access to more than 68,000 fee-free in-network ATMs across the country.
PenFed offers their Access America Checking, which requires a minimum of $25 open. But it’s an interest-bearing account currently paying 0.20% on balances below $20,000, and 0.50% on balances above. There’s a $10 monthly fee, but it can be waived if you maintain a daily balance of $500 or more or set up a monthly direct deposit of at least $500.
The credit union also offers money market savings certificates of deposit, IRAs, rewards credit cards, car loans, home financing, and personal loans.
Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union is the largest credit union in the US, with nine million members and more than $110 billion in total assets. The credit union was originally set up to provide banking services to members of the United States Navy, but eventually extended services to members of all branches of the US military, as well veterans and their families. Unfortunately, however, the credit union is not available if you are not a current or former member of the military or a military family member.
They offer several checking accounts, with the Flagship Checking account being the most noteworthy. It currently pays interest ranging from 0.35% to 0.45% APY, and though there’s a $10 monthly service charge, it’s waived with an average daily balance of $1,500 or more. The account also reimburses up to $120 per year in ATM fee rebates with direct deposit. It comes with a debit card that can be used fee-free at more than 28,000 in-network ATMs.
Navy Federal currently pays up to 0.25% on savings accounts, 0.50% on money market accounts, and up to 1.30% on CDs with terms of up to seven years. Of special interest is their Special EasyStart CD, which pays as high as 3.50% APY on a 12-month CD with a minimum deposit of $50, and a maximum of $3,000.