America First Credit Union Review: Checking, Savings, CD, Money Market and IRA Accounts

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Updated on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

America First Credit Union’s checking account options

Free Checking

This account is free…unless you need to use an out-of-network ATM, or if you overdraft your account.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.05%
$500
  • Minimum opening deposit: None
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: $1.50 if you use a non-America First ATM. You’ll also have to pay an ATM surcharge fee from the ATM’s owner, which will vary. If you travel overseas, you’ll also pay a 1% foreign transaction fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $25

At first glance, it seems like this would be a great free checking account. After all, not only does it not charge a monthly fee, but it also offers a small interest payment to boot. You can also earn cash back rewards via its ABC Deals program when you use your debit card at participating merchants (heads-up: you need to activate the deals online first), and you can set limits on how your card can be used to make purchases through its Card Guard program.

However, this is definitely one account you’ll want to avoid if you use ATMs frequently, since it does charge an ATM fee for using an out-of-network ATM. Furthermore, there are no ATM fee refunds available.

How to get America First Credit Union’s Free Checking account

First, you’ll need to apply for membership with the credit union if you’re eligible. You can do this online by filling out the application with your name, Social Security number, employment and income information, and a photo ID. You’ll need to deposit at least $1 in a Share Savings account to establish membership. After that, you can apply for the Free Checking account online.

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on America First Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Money Market Checking

You can earn a higher interest rate on your checking account money with the Money Market Checking account, but you’ll need a large opening deposit.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.05%
$0.01-$9,999.99
0.05%
$10,000-$24,999.99
0.05%
$25,000-$49,999.99
0.05%
$50,000-$99,999.99
0.05%
$100,000-$249,999.99
0.05%
Over $250,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: $10,000
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: $1.50 for using a non-America First ATM, plus at ATM surcharge fee from the ATM’s owner. If you use your debit card while traveling overseas, you’ll pay an additional 1% foreign transaction fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $25

You’ll need a large pile of cash to open this account: at least $10,000. But if you can swing it, this unlocks even higher interest rates than the Free Checking account. You also don’t need to keep that original $10,000 in there, so you can drop the balance back down without suffering any consequences later (although you will earn the lowest-tier interest rate if you do so).

Even though the name of this account is “Money Market Checking,” it’s not a true money market account because you’re not limited to just six transactions per month. Indeed, you can make as many transactions as you want per month without suffering any penalty fees.

This account also comes with the Card Guard program that lets you set up spending controls on your Visa card, as well as the ABC Deals cash back program.

How to get America First Credit Union’s Money Market Checking account

If you’re interested in opening this account, you can do so by logging into your account online. If you’re not yet a member, you’ll first need to check that you’re eligible for membership. If you are eligible, you’ll need to provide your Social Security number, a photo ID, and employment and income information as a part of the application process. You’ll also need to open a Share Savings account and deposit at least $1 in it to establish membership.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on America First Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

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How America First Credit Union’s checking accounts compare

It’s nice that America First Credit Union’s checking accounts offer interest and don’t charge monthly maintenance fees. Still, their interest rates are pretty poor compared to many other interest checking accounts.

And while it also does offer a cash back rewards program, you have to actually activate these offers online, which means that there’s no way to assess their value until after you’ve already signed up for an account. For this reason, it’s better to think of this program as icing on a (very small) cake instead of banking on it to earn a decent return.

Overall, while these aren’t bad checking accounts, we suggest passing on them for a checking account that will earn an excellent return on your money.

America First Credit Union’s savings account options

Share Savings

You’ll need to open this account in order to establish membership at the credit union.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.05%
$1
  • Minimum opening deposit: $1
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $1
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: You’ll pay $1.50 each time you use a non-America First ATM, plus an ATM surcharge fee from the ATM’s owner. If you use your card overseas, you’ll also pay a 1% foreign transaction fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $25

If you want to open any account at America First Credit Union, this is the account you’ll also need to open concurrently to establish membership.

However, this isn’t an account that you can just open up and let sit on autopilot. You’ll actually need to use it. If you go for more than 12 months without making any transactions into or out of this account, you’ll pay a $10 annual “inactive account” fee. If America First Credit Union doesn’t have a current address for you on file and it’s been more than a year, you’ll end up paying a $30 “dormant account” fee instead.

Like all savings accounts, this one is governed by Federal Reserve Regulation D rules, which state that you can’t make more than six pre-authorized, automatic, online, or telephone transfers out of the account per month.

How to get America First Credit Union’s Share Savings account

If you’re eligible for membership, it only takes a few minutes to apply for an account online. You’ll need to provide your name, address, employment details and other information when you apply.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on America First Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Student Savings

America First Credit Union’s student savings account offers a better rate for low balances.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.50%
$0.01-$499.99
0.40%
$500-$999.99
0.05%
Over $1,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: None
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0.01
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: $1.50 each time you use a non-America First ATM. You’ll also have to pay a surcharge fee from the ATM’s owner. If you travel abroad and use your card, you’ll also have to pay a 1% foreign transaction fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $25

Teaching your kids and teens about the wonders of compounding interest is hard with a savings account that barely earns any interest, like America First Credit Union’s regular Share Savings account. At least with this Student Savings account they’ll earn a better rate, so they can see interest pile up faster than at many other banks.

Kids, teens and college students are eligible for this savings account until they reach age 26. After that, it’ll be automatically converted into a much lower-earning Money Market Savings account.

Account holders are also limited to just six transactions per month out of this account, as per Federal Reserve Regulation D. Types of transactions that fall under this limit include pre-authorized, online, telephone, or automatic transfers.

How to get America First Credit Union’s Student Savings account

If you or your student is eligible for membership with America First Credit Union, you can apply for this account online or by visiting a local branch.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on America First Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

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How America First Credit Union’s savings accounts compare

Unfortunately, America First Credit Union doesn’t offer the greatest of interest rates on its savings accounts. They’re not terrible — for that you’ll need to visit one of the big-name banks — but they’re also not that great, especially compared with other options.

To earn the most money possible on your savings, we recommend these top online savings accounts instead. They’re offering rates almost 20 times higher than America First Credit Union.

America First Credit Union’s CD rates

Regular Certificates

These CDs offer pretty good interest rates, but they’re still not the best.
TermAPY
3-5 months0.20%
6-11 months0.25%
12-23 months0.35%
24-29 months0.40%
30-35 months0.45%
36-47 months0.50%
48-59 months0.65%
Over 60 months0.70%
  • Minimum opening deposit: $500
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: $500
  • Early withdrawal penalty: This will depend on your CD’s term length. The penalty will be either $5 or one of the following, whichever is greater:
    • For CDs of 12 months or less, you’ll pay 60 days’ worth of interest
    • For CDs over 12 months, you’ll pay 180 days’ worth of interest

There are several things to like about these CDs. First, there’s the low minimum deposit — just $500 — which makes these CDs accessible to almost anyone. There are also several options for dealing with interest payments. You can choose to have them deposited into another America First Credit Union account, or rolled back into the CD to earn more interest.

When your CD matures, it’ll automatically renew into another Regular Certificate. If you’d rather withdraw the money and use it, you do get a 10-day grace period to withdraw the cash penalty-free. After that, you’ll either need to pay the early withdrawal penalty to withdraw the money, or wait until it matures again.

America First Credit Union also offers the option to create laddered certificates with these accounts. If you opt for this service, each of the series of certificates you open will automatically be renewed for whichever long-term certificate option you select (such as 60 months), instead of their original terms.

How to get America First Credit Union’s Regular Certificates

If you’re eligible for membership, you can open a Regular CD account in just a few minutes. You’ll need to apply for membership first, which includes opening a Share Savings account and funding it with at least $1. You’ll also need to provide your Social Security number, photo ID, and employment and income information, among other things, on the application.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on America First Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Bump Certificate

If interest rates rise, you can boost your interest rate to the new APY, but only once per term.
TermAPY
3-5 months0.05%
6-11 months0.10%
12-23 months0.20%
24-29 months0.25%
30-35 months0.30%
36-47 months0.35%
48-59 months0.50%
Over 60 months0.55%
  • Minimum opening deposit: $500
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: $500
  • Early withdrawal penalty: You’ll pay either $5 or one of the penalties listed below, whichever is greater:
    • For CDs of 12 months or less, you’ll pay 60 days’ worth of interest
    • For CDs over 12 months, you’ll pay 180 days’ worth of interest

Some people are a bit leery about locking their money away at a set APY these days. After all, interest rates are rising, and you could miss out on that extra juice if America First Credit Union decides to raise its rates as well.

This Bump Certificate solves that problem by allowing you to bump up your interest rate if rates rise. However, you only get to do it once per term, so choose wisely.

Once this certificate matures it’ll renew into a Regular Certificate, not another Bump Certificate. If you’d rather withdraw the money or open a new CD, you will have a 10-day grace period to make any changes or withdraw the money without penalty.

How to get America First Credit Union’s Bump Certificate

If you’re already a member, you can open this account easily online or by going into a branch. If you’re not already a member, you’ll first need to apply for membership if you’re eligible. You’ll need to open a Share Savings account and deposit at least $1 in it to establish membership.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on America First Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Dedicated Savings

This hybrid certificate/savings account allows you to keep making deposits all the way until the certificate matures.
TermAPY
3-5 months0.20%
6-11 months0.25%
12-23 months0.35%
24-29 months0.40%
30-35 months0.45%
36-47 months0.50%
48-59 months0.65%
Over 60 months0.70%
  • Minimum opening deposit: $0
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: $0
  • Early withdrawal penalty: If you withdraw money early, you’ll pay either a $5 fee or one of the following fees, whichever is greater:
    • For CDs of 12 months or less, you’ll pay 60 days’ worth of interest
    • For CDs over 12 months, you’ll pay 180 days’ worth of interest.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could earn the high interest rates from CDs, but still make deposits into them as you come across the money? That’s the idea behind this unique account.

Here’s the catch: you’ll need to set up automatic monthly deposits into the account of at least $10. If you have extra money in a given month, you can also deposit more money into the account (up to $10,000 per month). Finally, you can only deposit up to $100,000 in this account — not the full $250,000 that is eligible for insurance coverage under the NCUA.

When your account matures, it’ll automatically renew into another Dedicated Savings account. If you’d rather use the money for whatever your dedicated purpose was — such as a vacation, new car, or other purchase — you must withdraw it within the 10-day grace period or pay an early withdrawal penalty.

How to get America First Credit Union’s Dedicated Savings account

Before you can open this account, you’ll need to apply for membership, if you’re not already a member. You’ll need to check whether you’re eligible for membership, and if you are, you can fill out an application online or visit a local branch. Once you’ve established membership by opening a Share Savings account and depositing at least $1 into it, you can open this account as well.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on America First Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Flexible Certificate

This 12 month certificate allows you to withdraw money penalty-free at four regularly-spaced intervals throughout its term.
TermAPY
12 months0.30%
  • Minimum opening deposit: $500
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: $500
  • Early withdrawal penalty: If you withdraw money outside of the fee-free periods, you’ll pay either $5 or 60 days’ worth of interest, whichever is greater.

Does the idea of locking your money away for such a long time in order to earn higher interest rates scare you? If so, this might be an account to consider. With this certificate, a brief five-day window opens up at the beginning of each quarter where you can withdraw your money penalty-free if you need it.

This allows you more frequent access to your money, while also earning higher interest rates than a 3 month (i.e., quarterly) certificate. These interest rates still aren’t as high as the longer-term certificates such as the 60 month certificate, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Another benefit of this certificate is that you can make additional deposits at any time, up to $10,000 per month. You can only keep $100,000 in the account, however. When this account matures, it’ll automatically renew for a Regular Certificate, not another Flexible Certificate. You’ll get a longer period — 10 days — to withdraw the money or make any changes penalty-free.

How to get America First Credit Union’s Flexible Certificate

You can open this CD by walking into a local branch, or by logging in online. If you’re not yet a member, you’ll first need to apply for membership (as long as you’re eligible) and deposit at least $1 into a Share Savings account. Once that’s done, you can open this account.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on America First Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

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How America First Credit Union’s CD rates compare

America First Credit Union offers a lot of high-quality options for its CD accounts. No matter what you’re looking for — the ability to deposit additional money, make penalty-free early withdrawals, or earn higher interest rates — America First Credit Union has a CD for you.

Furthermore, the rates it offers are pretty decent. They’re not the highest (for that you’ll need to check out these CDs), but they’re quite close to the top performers.

Overall, America First Credit Union isn’t a bad option for opening a CD, especially if you’re looking for an odd or unique CD. However, you can still earn better rates elsewhere.

America First Credit Union’s money market account option

Money Market Savings

If you put the bulk of your savings here instead of the Share Savings account, you’ll earn a better rate.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.05%
$0.01-$4,999.99
0.10%
$5,000-$9,999.99
0.10%
$10,000-$24,999.99
0.10%
$25,000-$49,999.99
0.10%
$50,000-$99,999.99
0.10%
$100,000-$249,999.99
0.15%
Over $250,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: None
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0.01
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: $1.50 if you use a non-America First ATM, plus any extra ATM surcharge fees. If you use your card abroad, you’ll also pay a 1% foreign transaction fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $25

Everyone has to open a Share Savings account and fund it with at least $1 as a condition of membership. But if you’d rather earn more than that account’s measly interest rate, consider this one instead. It’s only slightly more measly.

The rules of this account work much the same way as for the Share Savings account. You can only make six pre-authorized, automatic, online, or telephone withdrawals out of the account per month due to Federal Reserve Regulation D guidelines. Unlike many money market accounts, this one doesn’t actually come with checks — for that, you’ll need to open up a Money Market Checking account, complete with its low rate.

One final benefit of this account is that it’s not subject to the “inactivity” and “dormant” annual account fees that the Share Savings account imposes. That means you can effectively abandon this account if you don’t need it anymore. If you do use this as your primary savings account, you’ll just need to remember to move some money in or out of your Share Savings account once per year to avoid this pesky fee.

How to get America First Credit Union’s Money Market Savings account

You can easily apply for this account online or by visiting a local branch, if you are eligible for membership. You’ll first need to establish membership by applying for a Share Savings account. The application asks for information such as your Social Security number, employment and income information, and a photo ID, among other things. Once you’ve established membership, you can apply for this account as well.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on America First Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

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How America First Credit Union’s money market account compares

Just like its savings accounts, America First Credit Union’s money market account falls short in the interest rate department. There are many, many accounts out there offering higher rates than this account, even without all of the fuss with meeting tiered interest rates.

If you’d like to check out a better account, we recommend these high-yielding money market accounts.

America First Credit Union’s IRA options

IRA CDs

You can open these as regular certificates, bump certificates, or laddered certificates.
TermAPY
3-5 months0.20%
6-11 months0.25%
12-23 months0.35%
24-29 months0.40%
30-35 months0.45%
36-47 months0.50%
48-59 months0.65%
Over 60 months0.70%
  • Minimum opening deposit: $500
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: $500
  • Early withdrawal penalty: This will depend on your certificate’s term. You’ll either pay $5 or one of the following, whichever is more:
    • For CDs of 12 months or under, you’ll pay 60 days’ worth of interest.
    • For CDs over 12 months, you’ll pay 180 days’ worth of interest.

These certificates are the exact same thing as America First Credit Union’s regular certificates, only within the framework of an IRA. You can open it as a regular, bump, or ladder certificate within either a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.

When your certificate matures, it’ll roll over into another certificate, the type of which depends on what certificate you open originally. Bump certificates and regular certificates will renew into regular certificates, while the ladder certificates will renew for whatever the longest-term option you select is. If you need to withdraw the money from your IRA when it matures, you get a 10-day penalty-free grace period.

How to get America First Credit Union’s IRA CDs

If you’re a member, you can apply for these accounts through America First’s online IRA portal. If you’re not yet a member, you’ll need to apply for membership first.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on America First Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

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How America First Credit Union’s IRA CD rates compare

America First Credit Union’s IRA certificate rates are the same as for its normal certificate rates. And while its normal certificate rates are quite good compared to others in its class, IRA CD rates at other banks are actually pushing even higher. Therefore, we recommend looking at the IRA CD rates being offered at other banks before settling on these ones.

IRA Accumulator

This IRA savings account doesn’t offer a very good rate.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.10%
$0.01
  • Minimum opening deposit: None
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: $0.01
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • Overdraft fee: $25

IRAs are already meant to be long-term investments. But if you want to maintain some liquidity in your account — for example, if you’ll be saving up for a larger investment later and want to be able to pull the money out at any time — this account is one way to do it.

Unfortunately, it still doesn’t offer a very good interest rate, so we recommend casting your net a bit wider. This account also doesn’t come with ATM access in case you need to get to the money in an emergency, or withdraw it to deposit it in another IRA investment.

If you do decide to go ahead with this account, you can open it as either a Traditional or a Roth IRA.

How to get America First Credit Union’s IRA Accumulator account

Unfortunately, you’ll need to visit a branch in person if you want to open this account. There isn’t an option to do it online.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on America First Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Overall review of America First Credit Union’s banking products

We like America First primarily for one thing, and one thing only: its CDs. There are so many CDs to choose from that almost anyone will be happy, and will earn good interest rates to boot. They’re not technically the highest-earning CDs out there, but they’re also not that far off.

As for the rest of its accounts, they’re not worth the hassle. While there aren’t any monthly account fees, which is nice, they generally offer interest rates so low as to hardly be worth your time. Furthermore, the membership criteria of this credit union is fairly restricted, so even if you wanted to join, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to.

Overall, we suggest keeping your eyes on the horizon and looking for other bank accounts that earn higher interest rates.