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Earning Interest

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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The Top 6 Month CD Rates for March 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.

The top 6 month CD rates
Source: iStock

Short-term certificate of deposit (CD) accounts offer investors a safe opportunity to squirrel away money for a future expense. If you’re looking for a brief solution for storing your cash and want to earn more interest than a typical savings account will offer, a 6 month CD can make a lot of sense. (It’s also a good place to start if you’re building a CD ladder.)

Using information from DepositAccounts.com, another LendingTree company and a database of offerings at more than 17,100 banks and credit unions, we found the five banks and five credit unions with the top 6 month CD rates. If there was a tie, we chose the institution with the smaller minimum-deposit requirement. We pulled these rates on March 13, 2019, and we excluded promotional offerings. The national average APY on 6 month CDs (among banks and credit unions) is 0.86%, according to the DepositAccounts.com database. These options outperform that average by a long shot. (You may also want to view our picks for the overall best CD rates.)

Banks with the best 6 month CD rates

6 Month CD from ableBanking

ableBanking

6-month CD APY: 2.55%
Bank information: ableBanking was founded by former professionals from brick-and-mortar banks. A solely online bank, ableBanking is a division of Maine-based Northeast Bank, founded in 1872. CD accounts are open to all U.S. residents over 18 years of age.
Where to open CD account: Online
Minimum balance to open: $1,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: 90 days’ interest

LEARN MORE Secured

on ableBanking’s secure website

Member FDIC

6 Month Online Time Deposit from My eBanc

My eBanc

6 month CD APY: 2.53%
Bank information: BAC Florida Bank of Coral Gables, Fla., is part of The Pellas Group. The CD program, open to all foreign and domestic customers, is designated as a “BAC Internet Time Deposit.” Overseas CDs based on the euro are not insured by the FDIC.
Where to open CD account: Online
Minimum balance to open: $5,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: 90 days’ interest

LEARN MORE 

Member FDIC

Virtual Bank

VirtualBank

6 month CD APY: 2.50%
Bank information: VirtualBank is a subsidiary of Louisiana-based IBERIABANK Corp., offering 24/7 digital or telephone access on eCDs, open to applicants anywhere in the U.S.
Where to open CD account: Online (paperless account options)
Minimum balance to open: $10,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: 30 days’ interest

LEARN MORE Secured

on Virtual Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

6 Month CD from Live Oak Bank

Live Oak Bank

6 month CD APY: 2.45%
Bank information: Live Oak Bank is located in Wilmington, NC, but serves customers nationwide through online banking. While their initial focus was to help small businesses acquire funding, they now help all individuals through personal banking.
Where to open CD account: Online
Minimum balance to open: $2,500
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: 90 days’ interest

LEARN MORE Secured

on Live Oak Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

First Internet Bank

First Internet Bank

6 month CD APY: 2.43%
Bank information: A subsidiary of First Internet Bancorp, this online bank founded in 1999 has no branch locations, but offers service online in all 50 states.
Where to open CD account: Online
Minimum balance to open: $1,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: 90 days’ interest

LEARN MORE Secured

on First Internet Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Credit unions with the best 6 month CD rates

6 Month Regular Certificate from Advancial

Advancial

6 month CD APY: 2.62%
Credit union information: Advancial was established in 1937. Since then, they’ve been providing creative ways to serve their members.
Membership details: Anyone can join this credit union if they join Connex, which has a $5 membership fee. However, if you choose to join the way, you’ll have to join using a paper application. You can just reach out to the credit union to provide you with the paperwork via email. Before you do that, see if you qualify another way.
Where to open CD account: Online
Minimum balance to open: $1,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: Determined by the credit union.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Advancial’s secure website

NCUA Insured

PenFed Credit Union

PenFed Credit Union

6 month CD APY: 2.40%
Credit union information: PenFed, established in 1935, today serves more than 1.6 million members at branch locations in all 50 states and select overseas facilities.
Membership details: Open to current or retired members of the U.S. military, federal employees, affinity partners, members of qualifying organizations, or by donating to Voices for America’s Troops or the National Military Family Association.
Where to open CD account: You can open an account online or at one of their branches.
Minimum balance to open: $1,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: 90 days’ interest

LEARN MORE Secured

on PenFed Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

36 Month Share Certificate from Communitywide Federal Credit Union

CommunityWide Federal Credit Union

6 month CD APY: 2.30%
Credit union information: Founded as a credit union to provide quality financial services to individuals in South Bend, IN, CommunityWide Federal Credit Union has grown to offer their services to various communities within Indiana as well as the digital world.
Membership details: Anyone can become a member by donating to a list of organizations including the Y.M.C.A. If you’re a member of the Michiana Goodwill Boosters or Marine Corps. League of St. Joseph Valley, you’re also eligible to become a member.
Where to open CD account: Online
Minimum balance to open: $2,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: Equal to the amount withdrawn multiplied by the remaining days left in the term.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Communitywide Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

6 Month Share Certificate from Interior Federal Credit Union

Interior Federal Credit Union

6 month CD APY: 2.02%
Credit union information: Interior Federal Credit Union was established in 1935 with the intention to promote financial wellness. During the Great Depression, employees of the Department of the Interior (the federal department that is responsible for the conservation of federal lands and natural resources) couldn’t get credit at their local banks, so they formed this credit union. Today, the credit union serves U.S. residents nationwide.
Membership details: Anyone can join by the credit union by joining the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, which you can do when you’re filling out your application. Check to see, however, if you’re able to join through employment, organization affiliation, or through an immediate family member.
Where to open CD account: You can open an account online or at one of their branches.
Minimum balance to open: $500
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: 30 days’ worth of interest.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Interior Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Service Credit Union

Service Credit Union

6 month CD APY: 2.00%
Credit union information: Founded in Portsmouth, N.H., in 1957, Service Credit Union originally served employees of Pease Air Force Base. Today, it has grown to serve over 200,000 people throughout New Hampshire, North Dakota, Massachusetts, and even Germany.
Membership details: To become a member, you must live or work, or have family members that live or work in New Hampshire or Falmouth, Bourne, Mashpee, and Sandwich, Mass. Current members of the military, veterans, retirees, and reservists of the U.S. Armed Forces along with their families are also eligible for membership.
Where to open CD account: You can open an account online or at one of their many branches.
Minimum balance to open: $250
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: Determined by credit union

LEARN MORE Secured

on Service Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Pros and cons of using 6 month CDs

Pros:

  • The CD rates offered by banks and credit unions are generally higher than those on savings accounts.
  • The rates are fixed and guaranteed for the length of their term.
  • The discipline of keeping the funds in the CD means the money will be available upon maturity. (Note: Most banks offer a seven-day grace period to reinvest or withdraw the investment, after which the funds will roll over into a new CD. However, you are not guaranteed the same rate.)

Cons:

  • Six-month CD rates are lower than those offered on longer CD investment terms.
  • To tap into the CD funds — even for emergencies — consumers must accept a loss through penalties, which can include a percentage of the funds, a percentage of the earned interest, or a combination of both. A typical penalty on a short-term CD is between 30 and 90 days’ worth of interest earnings.
  • If you’re not confident you can do without access to the funds for six months, you may be better off putting your money in a traditional savings account, which is likely to earn less interest than a CD.
  • Since CD rollovers may reset at a different percentage rate, consumers must speak with the bank before the grace period ends to ensure they are getting the best deal.

Using a 6 month CD for laddering

A CD ladder comprises small-amount CDs with varying terms and respective interest rates that contribute to a long-term investment strategy. After the 6 month CD matures, investors can withdraw the funds for a predetermined expense. Or, they can reinvest the money into a longer-term CD with a better rate. By staggering the maturity dates on short-term CDs, consumers have access to their cash on a regular, predictable basis.

Where can you open a CD account?

Consumers can open 6 month CD accounts (or longer) from banks and credit unions. Bank and credit union CD rates are based on Federal Reserve rates, and there may be strategic times to pursue these short-term instruments following a rate increase.

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.

Gabby Hyman
Gabby Hyman |

Gabby Hyman is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Gabby here

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