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The Most Convenient Credit Unions of 2018 Ranked

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Credit unions have historically had a special place in the U.S. economy. These community-based banks are, in effect, not-for-profit financial institutions owned by their depositors. That means by design credit unions have a vested interest in keeping the cost of services like loans and banking fees low for their customers, while offering competitive rates.

On the other hand, credit unions don’t enjoy the same economies of scale of larger banks, which means they struggle to afford higher costs of adopting the latest mobile banking technology or toll-free telephone banking services. So it may be fair to ask if, by joining a credit union, you may be trading lower fees for some inconveniences, such as likely incurring more out-of-network ATM fees and shorter banking hours.

In a new study, MagnifyMoney figured out which credit unions are the true standouts when it comes to offering consumers the same conveniences of a big bank.

We collected information on the 50 largest credit unions (by assets) in the U.S., and ranked their relative convenience in five separate categories:

  • Teller hours. Average hours each local branch is open per week.
  • ATM availability. Participation in both nationwide and regional surcharge-free ATM networks.
  • Telephone hours. Number of hours per week personalized teller service via phone is offered.
  • Mobile app. The user satisfaction of the credit union’s mobile app, as determined by Apple Pay and Android smartphone users.
  • Portable transaction data. The ability to download credit union transactions to personal finance applications like Quicken and Mint.com.

We found many credit unions have also used technology to their advantage, by creating services that are nearly as good as those provided at larger banks. Some credit unions even share their branches with one another, allowing, for example, a credit union member on the East Coast to use branches and ATMs from a different credit union in California.

The 15 most convenient credit unions overall

These credit unions excelled in many, if not all, of the five criteria we used to measure relative convenience. In general, they all offer longer-than-average branch hours; extended personalized telephone service (many open 24 hours); surcharge-free ATM networks; decent smartphone apps; and the ability to track your credit union transactions from applications outside of the website.

  1. Alliant
  2. Hudson Valley
  3. Wright-Patt
  4. Alaska USA
  5. BECU
  6. Redstone
  7. Delta Community
  8. PenFed
  9. Navy
  10. Wings Financial
  11. Security Service Federal Credit Union
  12. Police and Fire Federal Credit Union
  13. Suncoast Credit Union
  14. OnPoint Community Credit Union
  15. DCU

Credit unions with the longest hours

  1. Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union
  2. Police and Fire Federal Credit Union
  3. Alaska USA Federal Credit Union
  4. America First
  5. Wescom (tie) and Logix (tie)
  6. Wright-Patt
  7. Veridian
  8. Desert Schools
  9. DCU (tie) and Redwood (tie)

Traditional bank branches have been closing in droves. There are nearly 5,000 fewer bank branches today than five years ago, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation data. Meanwhile, credit unions have grown their modest footprint, with the average credit union having more branches than three years ago.

One aspect that allows credit unions to artificially expand their branch reach even further is by belonging to a cooperative that offers the same services you might receive in your hometown credit union branch. The Co-op network, one of the largest, allows its member credit union to share activities like teller deposits and withdrawals at over 5,600 credit union branches nationwide.

But locally, extended hours still count, so we checked the working hours of credit union branches of the 50 largest credit unions. All but two credit unions had branches that were open on average of more than 40 hours per week.

Credit unions with 24-hour telephone service

  • Alaska USA Federal Credit Union
  • Alliant Credit Union
  • BECU
  • Delta Community Credit Union
  • First Technology Federal Credit Union
  • Navy Federal Credit Union
  • Redwood Credit Union
  • Security Service Federal Credit Union

Even 40- to 60-hour branch hours aren’t always convenient if you have, for instance, a long commute or unusual working hours yourself. So we also wanted to see how personalized phone services were at these credit unions.

We were surprised when early one New York morning we decided to call Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, where it was really early (4:30 a.m.). Nonetheless, the representative indeed answered, and confirmed that banking assistance was available 24 hours a day. (To be fair, Alaska USA also has branches on the West Coast of the continental U.S.).

But seven other credit unions also offer round-the-clock telephone assistance, which may come in handy for procrastinators, or simply those who like to bank in the dead of night.

Best credit union smartphone apps

  • Eastman Credit Union
  • ESL Federal Credit Union
  • Redstone Federal Credit Union
  • SEFCU
  • Wright-Patt Credit Union
  • Visions Federal Credit Union
  • Delta Community Credit Union
  • Wings Financial Credit Union
  • Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union
  • Kinecta Federal Credit Union

If you can live without features like sending money on a separate mobile app like Venmo, credit union apps can be just as effective as those provided by the big banks, just with a little less bling and pizazz.

We annually rank the best smartphone apps of both banks and credit unions at MagnifyMoney, but have never looked at credit union apps separately.

As it turns out, most have relatively good ratings (as defined by iPhone and Android smartphone users). Of the 10 best-scoring credit unions, all but one ranked as high or higher than apps of the three largest brick-and-mortar banks (Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo). The credit union apps have all the features of those of larger banks, like deposit-by-photo and ability to check balances without logging into the app.

In addition, all of these credit unions allow you to download your transaction history to budget apps like Quicken and Mint.com.

Best surcharge-free ATM network coverage

  • Alliant Federal Credit Union
  • Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union
  • Northwest Federal Credit Union
  • OnPoint Community Credit Union
  • Suncoast Federal Credit Union
  • Wings Financial Credit Union
  • Wright-Patt Credit Union

Banks typically charge around $3.00 for a using a non-network ATM for cash withdrawals. Often, you get dinged for fees both coming and going by using the “wrong” ATM — once by the bank that owns the machine you use, and again by your own bank. By participating in surcharge-free ATM networks like CO-OP and Allpoint, credit union members can avoid these fees.

And with these ATMs available in many drug stores and other nationwide retail chains, you can be reasonably certain you won’t incur surcharge fees on your next out-of-town trip.

Pros and cons of credit unions

Pros:

  • Lower costs, better rates. Credit unions, on average, have more favorable rates on auto loans and credit card APRs than banks overall, and offer higher yields on savings products like CDs. And fees for checking accounts and overdraft fees are lower than those of banks.
  • More willing to work with you on providing credit. Many credit unions will allow their members to appeal credit decisions if they are initially turned down for credit. They may ask you to supply additional documentation, and a committee will review your appeal.
  • Same levels of insurance as FDIC-insured banks. Credit unions have their own insurance fund, run by the National Credit Union Administration, that insures accounts at the same $250,000 levels as the FDIC. This is important because credit unions can fail just like banks. Our sister site, Deposit Accounts, notes that five Credit Unions were liquidated last year.

Cons:

  • You may not be eligible to join. Historically, to join a credit union, one had to share a “common bond” with other members of the credit union — for example, by working for the same employer, or by some other shared affiliation. While some credit unions make this requirement easy to meet by offering multiple membership paths, others still require specific employment or residency requirements.
  • A credit union mortgage may sometimes be harder to come by than one offered by a bank. Although credit unions may have more flexibility to make loans with some products, that may not always extend to home mortgages. A recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia notes that credit unions turn down mortgage applications more often than small banks. (They also note that credit unions have lower charge-off rates than banks, which is good news for its members).
  • Don’t expect an instant response. While nearly all banks can immediately offer you a credit decision on loans and credit card applications, don’t expect the same sort of instant gratification with a credit union. Depending on the size of the credit union, it could take a number of business days before you hear back about a credit decision.

Methodology

MagnifyMoney collected information on the 50 largest credit unions (by assets) in the U.S., and ranked their relative convenience in five separate categories:

  • Teller Hours. Average hours each local branch is open per week.
  • ATM Availability. Participation in both nationwide and regional surcharge-free ATM networks.
  • Telephone Hours. Number of hours per week personalized teller service via phone is offered.
  • Mobile App. The user satisfaction of the credit union’s mobile app, as determined by Apple Pay and Android smartphone users.
  • Portable Transaction data. The ability to download credit union transactions to personal finance applications like Quicken and Mint.com.

Each category represented 20% of the credit union’s overall score. The highest score was 90.0 (out of 100) and the lowest score was 46.6. Credit union data was collected in November 2017 for mobile app ratings, and in February 2018 for all other categories.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Chris Horymski
Chris Horymski |

Chris Horymski is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Chris at chris.horymski@magnifymoney.com

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Best Money Market Rates & Accounts – January 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Updated January 14, 2019
Traditional banks are paying very low interest rates on money market accounts. For example, BB&T pays between 0.01% and 0.04% APY. Fortunately, you do not need to settle for such ridiculously low rates. You can easily find the best money market rates at internet banks paying 1.85% or more. If you put $50,000 into BB&T’s account at 0.04%, you will only earn $20 of interest over one year. That same money in an account paying 1.85% would earn you $925 of interest. And you can typically open and fund an online money market account in less than 10 minutes. Also, the differences between savings accounts and money market accounts are narrowing because rates on money market account are increasing each year. You can currently earn the same top rate with a savings account from one bank and a money market account from another.

MagnifyMoney searches over 12,000 banks and credit unions to find the money market accounts paying the highest interest rates. Competition has been increasing and there is a pricing war. As a result, this month there are a lot of new names on the list (many of which you probably will not recognize). Here are the best rates for January 2019:

1. High Rate: UFB Direct – 2.30% APY, $5,000 minimum deposit and balance to avoid $10 monthly fee

UFB Premium Money Market from UFB DirectUFB Direct is a division of Axos Bank, a federally chartered, publicly traded and FDIC-insured bank based in San Diego. In recent months, UFB Direct has become increasingly aggressive with high rates targeting big balances. The APY of 2.30% is an outstanding rate, but you need to have a balance of at least $25,000. If your balance drops below that, you’ll earn an APY of 0.50%. You’ll also need to keep an average daily balance of at least $5,000 in the account in order to avoid a monthly maintenance fee of $10.00. You will get a Visa debit card and have access to limited check writing. We think this is the best option for people with big balances that they want to keep in a money market account.

LEARN MORE Secured

on UFB Direct’s secure website

Member FDIC

2. Trusted Bank: Capital One – 2.00% APY, $10,000 minimum balance to earn APY

360 Money Market from Capital OneYou may think of credit cards when you think of Capital One, but don’t overlook their deposit accounts. The 360 Money Market account currently comes with a great 2.00% APY. While the bank doesn’t require you to have a minimum amount to open the account, you will have to maintain a balance of $10,000 or more to earn their high rate. If your balance falls below that amount, you’ll earn an APY of 0.85%. We really like that Capital One doesn’t impose any monthly fees, and while they don’t offer checks, they do provide you with an ATM card that you can use to withdraw up to $1,000 per day. While you’re able to make an unlimited amount of withdrawals from an ATM per month, remember that you’re limited to making six certain transfers and withdrawals per cycle due to Federal Law. To access this account, you may do so online, in person, or on-the-go through Capital One’s mobile app.

LEARN MORE 

Member FDIC

3. Favorite Online Package: Ally – 0.90% APY, no minimum deposit and link to free checking

Online Savings Account from Ally BankAlly Bank is a very popular internet-only bank. If you keep a daily balance of $5,000 or less, you will earn the 0.90% APY. If you’re able to keep a minimum daily balance of $25,000 the APY increases to 1.00%. Although the interest rate on the money market account is not the highest, Ally does offer a very competitive overall package – particularly if you link the account to an Ally checking account. The checking account has no minimum balance and no monthly fee. You can link your money market account to your checking account to provide overdraft protection. Money would be transferred to your checking account with no transaction fee if you ever made a mistake. You would be able to access your money market account with your Ally ATM card, which has free AllPoint access and up to $10 of non-Ally ATM fees reimbursed every month. This money market account is a nice way to provide yourself with overdraft protection while earning interest. If you don’t need check-writing capabilities on your savings, you would still be better off with Ally’s savings account.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Ally Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

The rest of these accounts are listed by APY regardless of minimum balance.

4. Highest Overall Rate: Virtual Bank – 2.36% APY, no minimum balance to earn APY

eMoneyMarket from Virtual BankVirtual Bank, a division of IBERIABANK, is currently offering an introductory rate on their money market account that is the highest available. This rate is guaranteed for 12 months and will adjust to the standard rate that is in effect at the time. New customers can earn the 2.36% APY by depositing a minimum of $100. While there isn’t a minimum balance requirement to earn the APY, there is a balance requirement to avoid incurring the $5 monthly service fee. All you’ll have to do is maintain a daily minimum balance of $100 and they’ll waive the monthly fee. While this account doesn’t have any check writing capabilities, you can easily move money in and out of the account via ACH. Virtual Bank has a mobile app, that has the mobile check deposit feature, in addition to their online banking platform.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Virtual Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

5. High Rate: Bay State Savings Bank – 2.35% APY, $5,000 minimum to open and avoid $7 monthly fee

Smile Worcester County Consumer Money Market from Bay State Savings BankBay State Savings Bank opened its doors in 1895 with a commitment to “be the community bank of choice” for its community. As time has gone on, this community bank has evolved to include digital banking and welcomes all U.S. residents to apply for an account. The bank has also grown to acquire over $400 million in assets. Currently, it’s offering a high rate on a money market account that does more than just hold your money. The money that you deposit helps Bay State Savings Bank support the economic growth of areas in need within Worcester County. So, not only will you be earning an outstanding APY 2.35%, but you’ll also be helping to an area in need of support. There are a few items to be aware of prior to opening the account: there is a $7 monthly fee if you can’t maintain a $5,000 balance and outgoing ACH transfers are limited to $10,000 per transaction. This account does come with check-writing capabilities and online bill payment services. Bay State Savings Bank is not only insured by the FDIC, but they are also insured by the Depositors Insurance Fund (DIF).

LEARN MORE Secured

on Bay State Savings Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

6. High Rate: earn.bank – 2.31% APY, $100 to open, $0 minimum balance, $10k to avoid $10 monthly fee

Money Market Account from earn.bankearn.bank is a division of Silvergate Bank, a state-chartered bank headquartered in San Diego, CA. The state-chartered bank has over $1 billion in assets, and your deposit would be FDIC insured up to the legal limit. Silvergate Bank created earn.bank to provide “a transparent, powerful savings vehicle that will help you meet your savings goals”. At 2.31% APY, the internet-only bank is certainly starting out strong. You only need $100 to open the account and there isn’t a minimum balance requirement to earn the high rate. A few downsides to this account include a $10 monthly maintenance fee that comes with a steep balance requirement if you want it waived. You would need to maintain an average daily balance of $10,000 to avoid the monthly fee. The account does not come with check-writing privileges and there is no ATM access. You’ll also want to make sure you’re enrolled in eStatements as you’ll be charged a $25 fee for each paper statement you receive. You can deposit your funds via ACH (electronic transfer), which can take a couple of days. Just remember: there is a limit of 6 withdrawals per calendar month.

7. High Rate: Northpointe Bank – 2.30% APY, $25,000 minimum balance, checks and debit card available

Liquid Money Market from Northpointe BankNorthpointe Bank, is a fairly large bank located in Grand Rapids, MI. They have over $1 billion in assets and have only been around since 1999. Currently, they’re offering a 2.30% APY on their money market account. While you’ll only need $1,000 to open the account, you’ll have to have a minimum balance amount of $25,000 to earn the high APY. If you have a balance between $1,000 and $2,500, you’ll earn an APY of 0.20%. If your balance is between $2,500 and $25,000, you’ll earn 0.25% APY. Once your balance exceeds $1 million, the APY will drop to 0.50%. This account comes with a debit card and checks. Northpointe Bank does not charge a monthly maintenance fee, but will charge a $15 Excess Transaction Fee each time you exceed six certain transactions a month. The offer online banking and have a mobile banking app.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Northpointe Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

 

8. High Rate: Pacific National Bank – 2.25% APY, $5,000 minimum balance to earn APY

MMDA Online Special (New Money Only) from Pacific National BankPacific National Bank has quite an interesting history. In 1982, Banco Del Pacifico Ecuador (BPE) decided to establish Banco Del Pacifico International in Miami, FL as an Edge Act bank. The Edge Act allowed national banks to do international banking through divisions chartered by the Federal Reserve Bank. By 1985, Banco Del Pacifico International decided to become a national bank charter and changed its name to Pacific National Bank. Since this change, the bank has acquired over $454 million in assets. The bank initially offered its services to South Florida residents, but decided to expand to all U.S. residents with a valid Social Security Number in 2016.Today, Pacific National Bank is offering an online special on its money market account. With a minimum deposit of $5,000, you could earn an APY of 2.25%. You’ll need to maintain that amount in the account on a daily basis to waive the monthly maintenance fee of $25 and to continue earning the high rate. Check writing is available with this account, but keep in mind that you can only make six certain transaction within a month due to federal law. If you exceed six certain transactions within a month, Pacific National Bank will charge a fee of $20 per additional transaction. You may also make ACH transfers, free of charge, without any limits after the initial funding. In addition to banking online, the bank offers a mobile banking app for your convenience.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Pacific National Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

 

9. High Rate: BankPurely – 2.25% APY, $25,000 minimum balance, ATM access

BankPurely
BankPurely, a division of Flushing Bank, currently offers a 2.25% APY on their money market account. You’ll have to either deposit a minimum amount of $25,000 or grow your balance to that amount in order to earn interest. If you’re not able to deposit that amount, you may want to go with Sallie Mae since they have a great rate for a lower deposit amount. However, BankPurely does provide an ATM card, which gives you access to surcharge-free ATMs within the Allpoint Network. Just keep in mind that you’ll be limited to withdrawing $1,000 per business day. Per Federal law, you’ll also be restricted to making six transfers per month. You’ll have access to online banking as well as to their mobile banking app to manage your account. Plus, if you open an account with BankPurely, they’ll plant a tree.

LEARN MORE Secured

on BankPurely’s secure website

Member FDIC

10. Top Choice: Sallie Mae – 2.20% APY, no minimum balance and checks available

Money Market from Sallie Mae BankIf you have student loan debt, you probably are not very excited to see Sallie Mae at the top of this list. However, many people are unaware that Sallie Mae also operates an internet-only FDIC-insured bank with some of the best interest rates in the country. You can earn 2.20% APY, compounded daily and paid monthly. There is no minimum balance and no monthly maintenance fees. You will have check-writing capabilities (although the standard money market limit of six per month applies to this account). The easiest (and best) way to fund and access your funds is via electronic transfer from your existing checking account. If you want a simple account with no fees and check access – this is a good bet. Sallie Mae has just recently increased the APY, making this one the best rates in the country.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Sallie Mae Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

11. High Rate: Self-Help Credit Union – up to 1.91% APY, $500 minimum deposit and minimum balance

Money Market from Self-Help Credit UnionSelf-Help is a credit union that anyone can join. If you don’t live, work or worship in one of their eligible counties, you can join by donating $5 to the Center for Community Self-Help. The contribution is tax deductible and will make you eligible for credit union membership. (You can learn more about how to join the credit union here.) At a credit union, your funds are insured up to $250,000 – but it is by the NCUA instead of the FDIC. The money market offers an APY of 1.91% on balances from that are at least $500. You also need to maintain the balance during the month – otherwise you will be charged a monthly maintenance fee. You are allowed 6 free withdrawals or transfers from the account each month (including checks).

LEARN MORE Secured

on Self-Help Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Special Mention: Great Rate for Small Deposits: Premier Members Credit Union – 4.00% APY up to $2k

Premier Members Credit Union

Premier Members Credit Union is open to anyone willing to make a $5 donation Impact on Education, a charity for the Boulder Valley School District. This credit union is currently offering an incredible rate of 4.00% with only $5 to open the account. You can earn this APY on balances up to $2,000. Amazingly, even if you grow the balance up to $5,000, you’ll earn 1.49% APY. As the balance increases, the APY decreases to the following:

  • $5,000.01-$10,000: 0.75%
  • $10,000.01-$50,000: 0.50%
  • $50,000.01-$100,000: 0.40%
  • $100,000.01-$250,000: 0.35%
  • $250,000.01+: 0.30%

Premier Members Credit Union rewards low balance savers by placing the highest rate with the lowest deposit, but if the balance grows they start using a reverse tier system where they blend the APY as the balance grows. Checks are available with this account, but you can only make six withdrawals per month. Each additional withdrawal will be assessed a $10 fee.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Premier Members Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

3 Questions To Ask Before Opening A Money Market Account

1. Should I open a savings account or a money market account?

Many years ago, money market accounts were higher risk and paid higher returns. The financial crisis of 2008 changed all of that. Money market accounts are now FDIC-insured up to the legal maximum ($250,000 per institution per individual). Interest rates are now very similar – and there is no material difference. In other words – choose whichever account you want.

In general, you tend to get slightly lower interest rates on money market accounts because you have check-writing capabilities. The best savings accounts pay at least 2.20% APY – very similar to the rates on this page. But at Ally, for example, you can get 2.00% APY on a savings account (no check-writing) and 0.90% on the money market account (with check writing).   

We have written a full explanation of the difference between money market and savings accounts here.

2. Am I willing to make a longer term commitment? 

Savings accounts and money market accounts pay much lower interest rates than CDs. Right now you can easily get a 1-year CD paying 2.60% APY (with only a $1,000 minimum). You can find the best CD rates here. If you build a CD ladder, you can take advantage of 5-year rates that are now as high as 3.60%.

Money market accounts are great places to keep money that you might need immediately. But the interest rate on a money market account can change right away, at the bank’s discretion. To lock in a higher interest rate, you should consider a CD. If you need to get access to your CD early, would forfeit interest (typically from 3-6 months). In most circumstances, putting more of your money into CDs can really help boost your returns.

3. Is a money market account the same as a money market fund? 

No, money market accounts (offered by FDIC-insured banks) are not the same as money market funds (most likely sold by your broker). In fact, we really don’t know why people even buy money market funds in the current environment.

For example, Vanguard offers the Prime Money Market Fund. Like other money market funds, this one “invests in short-term, high-quality securities.” Its objective is to keep the fund trading at $1 and generate a decent return. Right now that return is 1.00% – a bit lower than the returns you see from the money market accounts listed in this article. However, money market funds do not have FDIC insurance.

Most people compare the return of a money market fund (sold by their broker) to the interest rate paid by a traditional bank (0.03%, sold by their local bank teller). As a result, they are willing to take the risk of a money market fund. However, as you can see from the best money market accounts in this article, you can get FDIC insurance and beat the return of most funds. Why earn 1.00% with no FDIC-insurance when you can easily earn 2.36% and have FDIC insurance.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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