Citizens Equity First Credit Union (CEFCU) Review: Checking, Savings, CD, Money Market and IRA Accounts

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Written By

Updated on Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s checking account options

Checking

CEFCU’s checking account is a standard, no-fee checking account that pays no interest.
  • Minimum opening deposit: $25
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: $0; $1 fee for each ATM transaction at non-Money Center 24® and non-CO-OP ATMs
  • ATM refund: none
  • Overdraft fee: $30, up to $120 per day; $8 per day with Overdraft Transfer

With a low $25 opening deposit requirement, no monthly fee and no ongoing balance requirements, CEFCU’s checking account fulfils the basic needs of most checking customers. While not chock-full of features, the account does offer some standard, no-frills checking account basics, including the following:

  • Mobile app
  • Debit card (could be under adult’s name)
  • Access to more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Online check ordering
  • eStatements
  • Overdraft protection options

CEFCU’s eStatements allow online access to account details for up to seven years.

The Checking account’s overdraft fee is high, but simple overdraft protection can be applied to reduce that cost dramatically.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

Dividend Checking

Dividend Checking allows customers with larger balances to earn interest on their checking account.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.05%
$2,500
0.05%
$5,000
0.05%
$10,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: $2,500
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0; $6 if balance is below $2,500
  • ATM fee: $0; $1 fee for each ATM transaction at non-Money Center 24® and non-CO-OP ATMs
  • ATM refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $30, up to $120 per day; $8 per day with Overdraft Transfer

With the exception of the dividend payout, CEFCU’s Dividend Checking account is essentially the same as the credit union’s non-dividend Checking account.

The minimum balance of $2,500 earns a dividend and waives the account’s $6 monthly maintenance fee. Dividends are paid out across three tiers, although rates are currently the same for all balances. Like CEFCU’s standard checking account, Dividend Checking offers mobile banking, a debit card, overdraft protection, online check ordering, eStatements and access to more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide. A modest $1 fee applies to non-network ATM transactions.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Milestone Checking

Milestone Checking is a youth account designed for teens aged 13 to 15.
  • Minimum opening deposit: $25
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: $0; $1 fee for each ATM transaction at non-Money Center 24® and non-CO-OP ATMs
  • ATM refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $30, up to $120 per day; $8 per day with Overdraft Transfer

Milestone Checking helps young customers learn to manage their finances until they qualify for standard accounts at CEFCU. Educational materials are provided with these accounts to help younger account holders understand banking basics.

Adults must sign on to these accounts, as minors cannot open their own accounts. Otherwise, the Milestone Checking account is the same as CEFCU’s basic Checking account, including fees and minimums.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

Capstone Checking

Capstone Checking is a youth account designed for older teens aged 16 to 17.
  • Minimum opening deposit: $25
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: $0; $1 fee for each ATM transaction at non-Money Center 24® and non-CO-OP ATMs
  • ATM refund: none
  • Overdraft fee: $30, up to $120 per day; $8 per day with Overdraft Transfer

As with the Milestone Checking account, the Capstone Checking account is designed for younger investors who do not yet qualify for the standard checking account. Capstone Checking is for slightly older teens, but it is otherwise identical to the Milestone Checking account. Both accounts offer the same features, benefits and terms of CEFCU’s basic checking account, along with additional supplementary educational materials.

How to get Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s checking accounts

As mentioned above, you can open most CEFCU checking accounts online. For the youth accounts, you’ll have to contact CEFCU or visit a CEFCU member center. You can reach CEFCU Monday through Saturday at (800) 542-3328.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

magnifying glass

How Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s checking accounts compare

The CEFCU checking account roster is fairly broad. Investors can choose between a standard, no-frills account and a more premium checking account that pays interest. However, the rates paid on the Dividend Checking account are below the national average and are not competitive at all with the best rates for checking accounts available today. However, teenagers looking to open a youth account may find that CEFCU offers great educational resources and decent starter accounts.

Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s savings account options

Savings

The simply named Savings account at CEFCU is the credit union’s primary membership savings account.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.10%
$5
0.10%
$1,000
0.10%
$10,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: $5, plus $1 one-time membership fee
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: $0; $1 fee for each ATM transaction at non-Money Center 24® and non-CO-OP ATMs
  • ATM refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: None

You’ll need to open a Savings account at CEFCU as part of your membership; the $6 total cost includes a mandatory $1 membership fee. The account has the same ATM fee structure as the credit union’s checking accounts, but overdrafts are not permitted in CEFCU savings accounts.

While not boasting many additional features or benefits, CEFCU’s Savings account does come with online and mobile access, eStatements and direct deposit capability.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

NCUA Insured

My Use Savings

My Use Savings accounts are CEFCU’s secondary savings accounts, but it offers a low APY.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.10%
$0.01
0.10%
$1,000
0.10%
$10,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: $5
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: $0; $1 fee for each ATM transaction at non-Money Center 24® and non-CO-OP ATMs
  • ATM refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: None

Once you’ve opened your standard savings account at CEFCU, which serves as your membership account, you can open additional savings accounts as My Use Savings accounts. For example, if you want to open a separate account for a property purchase, a home remodeling project and a vacation, each of those would be its own My Use account.

You can open up to 35 individual My Use accounts, which are otherwise identical to standard savings accounts at CEFCU.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Holiday Saver

This is a holiday club account that transfers money at the end of the year to a regular checking or savings account.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.10%
$0.01
0.10%
$1,000
0.10%
$10,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: $5
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: $0; $1 fee for each ATM transaction at non-Money Center 24® and non-CO-OP ATMs
  • ATM refund: none
  • Overdraft fee: n/a

Money in the CEFCU Holiday Saver account is automatically rolled to another CEFCU account by Oct. 1 or Nov. 1. However, unlike holiday club accounts at many other institutions, this account allows access throughout the year without penalty. You can also make deposits at any time.

Overdrafts are not allowed in the Holiday Savers account. Interest is tiered. However, current rates are the same on all deposits.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Stepping Stone Savings

Stepping Stone Savings is designed for kids aged 3 to 12.
  • Minimum opening deposit: $5
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: n/a
  • ATM refund: n/a
  • Overdraft fee: None

As with the companion checking accounts, Stepping Stone Savings is the first “stone” in a series of savings account designed to get younger savers familiar with how financial services work.

The only “stone” account that doesn’t have a comparable checking account, Stepping Stone Savings is for the youngest account holders, aged 3 to 12. Stepping Stone Savings has the same structure as CEFCU’s standard savings account, with the exceptions of no debit/ATM card and additional educational information geared toward young customers. This account also earns interest, but you’ll have to call the credit union for current rates.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

Milestone Savings

Like the Milestone Checking account, Milestone Savings is targeted at teens aged 13 to 15.
  • Minimum opening deposit: $5
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: $0; $1 fee for each ATM transaction at non-Money Center 24® and non-CO-OP ATMs
  • ATM refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: None
Milestone Savings is CEFCU’s basic savings account designed for younger teens, like its checking account companion Milestone Checking. Except for the educational component, Milestone Savings acts just like a standard savings account at CEFCU, including having an ATM card and earning interest. You’ll have to call the credit union for current rates.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

Capstone Savings

As with its companion product Capstone Checking, Capstone Savings is designed for older teens, aged 16 to 17.
  • Minimum opening deposit: $5
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: $0; $1 fee for each ATM transaction at non-Money Center 24® and non-CO-OP ATMs
  • ATM refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: N/A

Capstone Savings is the final “stone” in the CEFCU youth account roster, designed for older minors. In keeping with the other accounts in the stone program, Capstone Savings is essentially the same as CEFCU’s Savings account, with the same fee structure, ATM access and opportunity to earn interest. The credit union doesn’t publish these rates online, so you’ll have to call for current rates.

How to get Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s savings accounts

As mentioned above, you can open both primary CEFCU savings accounts online. For the youth stone accounts, you’ll have to call CEFCU or visit a CEFCU member center. You can reach CEFCU Monday through Saturday at (800) 542-3328.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

magnifying glass

How Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s savings account compares

All of CEFCU’s savings accounts pay the same rates. Although rates are tiered, currently you won’t earn more on a higher balance. Across the board, rates are a bit below the national average, and well below the best available national savings rates. The accounts all come with basic savings features, with the exception of the Stepping Stone Savings account, which has no ATM access. Those looking for youth savings accounts, however, are well-served, with three options available at CEFCU.

Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s CD account options

Certificates

Certificates are CEFCU’s standard CDs, with maturities between three and 60 months.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APYTerm
0.20%
$1,0003 months
0.25%
$1,0006 months
0.35%
$1,00012 months
0.50%
$1,00018 months
0.65%
$1,00024 months
0.80%
$1,00036 months
0.95%
$1,00048 months
1.10%
$1,00060 months
  • Minimum opening deposit: $1,000
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $1,000
  • Early withdrawal penalty: If withdrawn after six calendar days following the date of deposit, the penalty is up to 90 days’ dividends for terms of less than 12 months, 180 days’ dividends for between 12 and 24 month maturities, and all dividends, up to 365 days’ dividends, for maturities longer than 24 months

Certificates at CEFCU are fairly standard in nature, with $1,000 minimums and a range of common maturities. Terms are fixed, and no additional deposits are allowed.

Certificates are insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), and they automatically renew at maturity. A grace period of six days exists after maturity, during which time funds can be withdrawn without triggering an early withdrawal penalty. There are no fees associated with CD accounts at CEFCU.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Jumbo Certificates

Jumbo Certificates are for CEFCU customers depositing at least $100,000.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APYTerm
0.25%
$100,0003 months
0.30%
$100,0006 months
0.40%
$100,00012 months
0.55%
$100,00018 months
0.70%
$100,00024 months
0.85%
$100,00036 months
1.00%
$100,00048 months
1.15%
$100,00060 months
  • Minimum opening deposit: $100,000
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $100,000
  • Early withdrawal penalty: If withdrawn after six calendar days following the date of deposit, the penalty is up to 90 days’ dividends for terms of less than 12 months, 180 days’ dividends for between 12 and 24 month maturities, and all dividends, up to 365 days’ dividends, for maturities longer than 24 months
With the exception of the $100,000 account minimum, features and benefits of CEFCU’s Jumbo CDs are the same as with its standard CDs. A six-day grace period exists before early withdrawal penalties are triggered; otherwise, CDs automatically renew into fixed terms. Jumbo CDs at CEFCU earn a slight interest premium over standard rates across all maturities. There are no fees associated with CD accounts at CEFCU.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

NCUA Insured

MySave Certificates

MySave Certificates are something of a hybrid between a savings account and a CD.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APYTerm
0.35%
$512 months
  • Minimum opening deposit: $5
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $5
  • Early withdrawal penalty: All dividends, if withdrawn after six (6) calendar days following the date of deposit

The MySave Certificate at CEFCU is something like a slush fund that pays higher interest than a savings account but has withdrawal restrictions like a CD. Accounts can be opened with as little as $5, and additional funds can be deposited at any time. Withdrawals are not allowable for 12 months after deposit without triggering early withdrawal penalties. Dividends, however, can be withdrawn free of charge at any time, or automatically transferred to another CEFCU checking or savings account. MySave Certificates are limited to a maximum deposit of $1,000.

How to get Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s CDs

As mentioned above, CEFCU CDs can be opened online, after a membership account is established. Customers can also contact CEFCU at (800) 542-3328 Monday through Saturday, or visit a Member Center in either Illinois or California.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

NCUA Insured

magnifying glass

How Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s CD rates compare

CD rates at Citizens Equity First Credit Union are competitive. For every maturity, CEFCU matches or beats the national average CD rate. The credit union still has some work to do, however, to reach the best available national CD rates. Although Jumbo Certificates earn a higher rate, the premium doesn’t amount to much. The MySave Certificate can be a good option for younger savers (depending on the type of established accompanied account) or those without significant amounts of money to invest.

Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s money market account options

Insured Money Market Account

The Insured Money Market Account is CEFCU’s only money market account option, and it fulfils the basic need for an account that’s a cross between a checking account and a savings account.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.15%
$2,500
0.20%
$25,000
0.25%
$50,000
0.30%
$100,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: $2,500
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $15; $0 if balance remains above $2,500
  • ATM fee: $0; $1 fee for each ATM transaction at non-Money Center 24® and non-CO-OP ATMs
  • ATM refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $30, up to $120 per day; $8 per day with Overdraft Transfer

CEFCU’s Insured Money Market account offers check writing and ATM access. Withdrawals are fee-free, although they must exceed $200 or CEFCU does assess a $15 fee. Deposits are insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Interest is tiered, with deposits of $100,000 or more earning the highest amount. The account shares the same ATM and overdraft fee structure as the bulk of the credit union’s checking and savings accounts.

How to get Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s money market account

As mentioned above, CEFCU’s Insured Money Market account can be opened online, after a membership savings account is established. Customers can also contact member services at (800) 542-3328, Monday through Saturday, or visit a Member Center in either California or Illinois.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

NCUA Insured

magnifying glass

How Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s money market account compares

The APY on the CEFCU Insured Money Market rate is fairly high. Even the lowest interest-rate tier pays above the national average, with the top tier paying more than double the average rate. Still, customers can find higher rates elsewhere, as the best available money market rates nationwide are not to be found at CEFCU.

Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s IRA account options

IRA CDs

CEFCU’s range of IRA CDs have smaller minimum balance requirements and a more abbreviated maturity schedule than the credit union’s non-IRA CDs.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APYTerm
0.35%
$50012 months
0.65%
$50024 months
0.80%
$50036 months
0.95%
$50048 months
1.10%
$50060 months
  • Minimum opening deposit: $500
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $500
  • Early withdrawal penalty: If withdrawn after six calendar days following the date of deposit, the penalty is up to 90 days’ dividends for terms of less than 12 months, 180 days’ dividends for between 12 and 24 month maturities, and all dividends, up to 365 days’ dividends, for maturities longer than 24 months
CDs in CEFCU IRAs have a more straightforward term schedule, with maturities landing on complete years only, from one to five. For terms that overlap, IRA CDs have the same APY as CEFCU’s non-IRA CDs. All IRAs at CEFCU also share the same early withdrawal penalty terms.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Jumbo IRA CDs

Jumbo IRA CDs have a more limited maturity schedule than the credit union’s non-IRA jumbos, but are otherwise similar.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APYTerm
0.40%
$100,00012 months
0.70%
$100,00024 months
0.85%
$100,00036 months
1.00%
$100,00048 months
1.15%
$100,00060 months
  • Minimum opening deposit: $100,000
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $100,000
  • Early withdrawal penalty: If withdrawn after six calendar days following the date of deposit, the penalty is up to 90 days’ dividends for terms of less than 12 months, 180 days’ dividends for between 12 and 24 month maturities, and all dividends, up to 365 days’ dividends, for maturities longer than 24 months
Jumbo CDs at CEFCU have the same minimum deposit of $100,000 as all jumbo CDs. Terms are from one to five years, in complete-year increments only. Rates are the same as the credit unions non-IRA jumbos for maturities that overlap. Jumbo IRA CDs also have the same early withdrawal penalty.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

NCUA Insured

IRA Savings Account

The IRA Savings account is an interest-bearing parking place for funds that are not invested elsewhere, such as in a CD.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.10%
$5
  • Minimum opening deposit: $5
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: N/A
  • ATM refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: N/A

Money that piles up in a CEFCU IRA can be invested in the IRA savings account, which pays the same rate as non-IRA savings accounts at the credit union. There is no ATM access or check writing available for this account, and it cannot be overdrawn. No monthly maintenance fees are assessed.

How to get Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s IRA accounts

As mentioned above, CEFCU IRA accounts cannot be opened online. You must either contact the credit union at (800) 542-3328, Monday through Saturday, or visit a branch.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on CEFCU’s secure website

NCUA Insured

magnifying glass

How Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s IRA accounts compare

IRA CD rates at CEFCU are generally near or above national average rates. As with the credit union’s non-IRA CDs, however, CEFCU can’t compete with the best available national IRA CD rates. The IRA Savings account is a nice option to have for otherwise uninvested funds, as you can still earn interest while you wait.

Overall review of Citizens Equity First Credit Union’s products

Citizens Equity First Credit Union, more commonly dubbed CEFCU, has a broad product line, and most accounts have no fees whatsoever. Account minimums are generally reasonable, and the high overdraft fee, where applicable, can be reduced with overdraft protection.

Those seeking accounts for minors are well-served at CEFCU, with plenty of checking and savings account options. Rates are a mixed bag at CEFCU. For the most part, you can earn a moderate rate on products ranging from savings accounts to CDs, with checking rates below average and money market rates above average. However, you can still earn a much higher APY at other institutions.

CEFCU might be best suited for Illinois-based customers who want to see a friendly face at a local branch and aren’t as interested in getting the absolute best yields on their accounts.

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.

Do you have a question?