SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union Review: Checking, Savings, CD, Money Market and IRA Accounts

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Updated on Tuesday, September 1, 2020

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s checking account options

Free Checking

This account comes with no monthly maintenance fee — and no dividends.
  • Minimum opening deposit: $25, waived for school employees
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: $1 for non-SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union or non-CO-OP network ATMs
  • ATM fee refund: If you qualify for membership as a school employee, the ATM fee will be waived
  • Overdraft fee: $22

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s Free Checking account has limited fees and balance requirements, but it also earns no dividends — which is the equivalent of interest for credit unions. This account, along with many others from this credit union, will benefit you most if you are a current school employee since the minimum opening deposit and ATM fees will be waived for you. If you’d like to earn dividends on your checking account, be sure to check out other available options below.

If you’re between the ages of 16 and 18, the Free Checking account may interest you even though it doesn’t pay dividends. This is because SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s other checking account option (its Investment Checking account) is only available to those 18 and older.

How to get SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s Free Checking account

You can only open a Free Checking account over the phone or in person. Fortunately, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union has nearly 50 locations across Southern California, and can easily be reached at 800-462-8328. This toll-free number operates from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific time Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pacific time Saturday.

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on SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Investment Checking

While this checking account does come with fees and minimum balance requirements, there are several ways to dodge them.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.05%

$0-$24,999

0.08%

$25,000-$99,999

0.10%

$100,000+

  • Minimum opening deposit: $25; waived for school employees if you set up direct deposit
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $3 if you do not meet the minimum balance requirement, which is $1,000 if you have a direct deposit of $1 or more every month, or $2,500 if you do not have direct deposit set up. If you’re 62 or older, you’re exempt from this fee.
  • ATM fee: All transactions at SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union or CO-OP network ATMs are free. Your first six transactions per month at other ATMs are free. After that, you will be charged $1 per transaction at these outside ATMs.
  • ATM fee refund: The $1 ATM fee is waived if you qualify for membership as a school employee
  • Overdraft fee: $22

Unlike Free Checking, the credit union’s Investment Checking account does earn dividends based on a tiered model. While rates do pale in comparison to some of the best checking accounts around, it is fairly typical for financial institutions with brick-and-mortar locations.

While this account does come with a maintenance fee, there are several ways to avoid it.

Your ATM fees will be waived if you are a school employee, though they aren’t very high to begin with. Your first six transactions per month at non-SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union or non-CO-OP network ATMs are free regardless of your profession. Starting with your seventh transaction, you’ll be charged $1 each time you use one of these outside ATMs.

Keep in mind that you must be 18 or older to qualify for the Investment Checking account.

How to Get SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s Investment Checking account

Besides opening an Investment Checking account in person or over the phone, you can also do so online. First, you’ll need to be a member of the credit union. From there, you simply log in to your account, click “Open New Share” and then select ”Share Draft Checking.” This will get you set up to open your Investment Checking account online.

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How SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s checking accounts compare

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s checking account options aren’t anything to write home about with no or low dividends and a monthly maintenance fee on the one checking account that does offer dividends at all. There are checking accounts with higher rates and lower fees out there — especially if you go with an online-only bank.

Instead, the biggest reason to join this credit union is for its unique financial products for educators, some of which we’ll get to in the next section.

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s savings account options

Share Savings

This account is unlikely to be the reason why you join the credit union, but it is mandatory to establish membership.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.10%

$5

  • Minimum opening deposit: $5
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $5
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: $1 for non-SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union or non-CO-OP network ATMs
  • ATM fee refund: The $1 ATM fee is waived if you qualify for membership as a school employee
  • Overdraft fee: $22

The Share Savings account isn’t there to earn you a ton of money in dividends. Instead, its primary function is to establish and maintain your membership with the credit union. When you join the credit union, you will be required to deposit $5 into your Share Savings account. You will need to maintain a balance of at least $5 in this account to keep both your savings account and credit union membership active.

Bear in mind that all savings accounts are federally regulated by Regulation D. Because of this rule, you are allowed up to six “convenient” withdrawals or outbound transfers per month from your SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union savings account. The only type of withdrawal or transfer that counts as “inconvenient” at this financial institution — and is therefore allowed past six transactions — is coming into a branch office of the credit union.

If you complete more than six convenient withdrawals or outbound transfers in a month, the credit union will be forced to shut your account or convert it into a checking account.

How to get SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s Share Savings account

You will set up this account as part of your credit union membership application. You can complete this application online, at a branch or by submitting via mail. If you choose the latter option, you will need to print out your membership application and mail your paperwork to:

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union
ATTN: Membership Services
P.O. Box 11957
Santa Ana, CA 92711-1957

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Junior Varsity Club Account

The Junior Varsity Club Account is a fairly restrictive savings account for children through the age of 12.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.10%

$5

  • Minimum opening deposit: $5
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $5
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: $1 for non-SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union and non-CO-OP network ATMs
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $22

The Junior Varsity Club Account is a savings account for children through ages 12. It is relatively low in fees, with no monthly maintenance fee, and gives you a decent amount of oversight as a parent. While your child will not be issued an ATM card to make withdrawals, you as the parent will be.

Keep in mind that this account is also subject to Regulation D, so you won’t be able to make more than six withdrawals or outbound transfers per month unless you do so in a branch.

How to get SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s Junior Varsity Club Account

You can set up this account by calling 800-462-8328 or visiting any SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union branch.

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on SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Varsity Club Account

The Varsity Club Account is very similar to the Junior Varsity Club Account, save for the fact that it gives your child a bit more autonomy.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.10%

$5

  • Minimum opening deposit: $5
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $5
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: $1 for non-SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union and non-CO-OP network ATMs
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $22

The Varsity Club Account, built for children ages 13 to 17, gives your child a bit more freedom than the Junior Varsity Club Account. Your child will be issued a debit card in his or her own name. Children ages 13 to 15 can withdraw up to $40 a day. Children ages 16 to 17 can withdraw up to $100 a day.

Again, because this is a savings account, you and your child both need to remember that you will only be able to make six outbound transfers or withdrawals per month unless you visit a branch to complete the transaction.

How to get SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s Varsity Club Account

Visit a branch with your child or call 800-462-8328.

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on SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Summer Saver

One of SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s premier products, Summer Saver accounts come with high interest rates, high accessibility to your money and the goal of making educators’ financial lives easier throughout the summer months.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

2.75%

$0

  • Minimum opening deposit: $1
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: 1 cent
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: $1 for non-SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union and non-CO-OP network ATMs
  • ATM fee refund: ATM fee is waived if you qualify for membership as a school employee
  • Overdraft fee: $22

The Summer Saver account is one of the credit union’s most attractive products. Built specifically for educators, it allows you to stow away part of your paycheck every pay period to build a cushion for those summer months. This is especially helpful to staff who are paid hourly, as they’re less likely than salaried faculty to get paid on a 12-month schedule.

You must fund this account with at least $1 but no more than $2,000 every month in which you get paid. It has an extremely high interest rate, helping your money grow until school’s out. You get to pick the date when your savings will be transferred to your Share Savings account — anytime between June 1 and Aug. 31. You can withdraw your money anytime, bearing in mind that you can only make six withdrawals per month unless you make the transaction at a credit union branch office.

How to get SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s Summer Saver account

To open a Summer Saver account, you must visit a branch  or call 800-462-8328.

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on SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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How SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s savings accounts compare

Share Savings isn’t going to build very quickly — it’s just there to maintain your membership. The Junior Varsity and Varsity Club Accounts exist primarily to give your child a hands-on opportunity with their own money. As such, dividends are not competitive.

But the Summer Saver account shines. While it’s a great tool for educators paid on a 10-month or 11-month schedule, it also offers dividends that blow even the most competitive online-only savings accounts out of the water.

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s CD rates

Share Certificates

Share Certificates work like Certificates of Deposit, and the credit union gives you plenty of options for minimum deposits and corresponding dividends.

$500 Minimum Opening Deposit

Term

APY

30 days

0.10%

3-5 months

0.30%

6-11 months

0.55%

12-17 months

0.85%

18-23 months

0.90%

24-35 months

0.95%

36-47 months

1.01%

48-59 months

1.05%

60 months

1.15%

$20,000 Minimum Opening Deposit

Term

APY

30 days

0.25%

3-5 months

0.35%

6-11 months

0.60%

12-17 months

0.90%

18-23 months

0.95%

24-35 months

1.01%

36-47 months

1.05%

48-59 months

1.10%

60 months

1.20%

$50,000 Minimum Opening Deposit

Term

APY

30 days

0.35%

3-5 months

0.40%

6-11 months

0.65%

12-17 months

0.95%

18-23 months

1.01%

24-35 months

1.05%

36-47 months

1.10%

48-59 months

1.15%

60 months

1.25%

$100,000 Minimum Opening Deposit

Term

APY

30 days

0.45%

3-5 months

0.45%

6-11 months

0.70%

12-17 months

1.01%

18-23 months

1.05%

24-35 months

1.10%

36-47 months

1.15%

48-59 months

1.20%

60 months

1.30%

  • Minimum opening deposit: $500
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: Varies
  • Early withdrawal penalty: 30-day certificates: 30 days’ worth of dividends; certificates for more than than 30 days or less than 18 months: 90 days’ worth of dividends; 18 months or longer: 180 days’ worth of dividends

You may have heard of CDs at banks. Share Certificates are SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s equivalent. If you want to save money without being tempted to touch it, investing in a Share Certificate can be a good option. This product is a general catch-all certificate (we will cover more specific products below).

The only time you can withdraw your money from your Share Certificate without incurring penalties is during the 10 days after its maturity. If you do not withdraw the money during this time period, it will automatically be reinvested in a new Share Certificate with the same term.

How to get SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s Share Certificates

You can open a Share Certificate online by logging in to your account. Alternatively, you can open a certificate by visiting a branch location or calling 800-462-8328.

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College Saver Share Certificate

The College Saver Share Certificate is most commonly used as a laddered CD that will count heavily against your child when they go to apply for financial aid.

Term

APY

12 months

0.95%

  • Minimum opening deposit: $200
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: $200
  • Early withdrawal penalty: 90 days’ worth of dividends

The College Saver Share Certificate is for children younger than 18. It has a term of 12 months. Unless you withdraw the money during the 10-day grace period after maturation, it will be automatically invested into another 12-month College Saver Share Certificate every year until your child turns 18.

You should take note that this certificate is a custodial account in your child’s name. That means that any money saved will be weighted against them heavily when they fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. If you open a share certificate for their benefit in your own name outside of the College Saver program, it will not be weighted as heavily.

How to get SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s College Saver Share Certificate

College Saver Share Certificates can only be opened at a branch or over the phone at 800-462-8328.

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on SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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My Club Custom Savings Account

Despite its name, the My Club Custom Savings Account is actually a share certificate that has no minimum opening deposit requirements.

Term

APY

6-18 months

0.55%

  • Minimum opening deposit: $0
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: 1 cent
  • Early withdrawal penalty: None

You get to customize your My Club share certificate terms and initial deposit amount. You can pick a term anywhere between six and 18 months. After its initial maturation, it will be automatically reinvested in a 12-month share certificate should you decide not to withdraw your money during the 10 days after maturation.

This certificate is of note for its flexibility and nonexistent initial deposit requirement. If you only have a small amount to put into a CD, this account is the option for you.

How to get SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s My Club Custom Savings Account

You cannot open this account online. Instead, you’ll have to visit a branch or call 800-462-8328.

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on SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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Paycheck Planner

Paycheck Planner is another unique financial product for school employees on 10- or 11-month pay schedules.

Term

APY

10 or 11 months

2.75%

  • Minimum opening deposit: $0
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: 1 cent
  • Early withdrawal penalty: $50 and closure of account

Like the Summer Saver account, Paycheck Planner is built for those who work in education and received their pay on a 10- or 11-month schedule. As a certificate, this plan comes with more restrictions — but also higher odds that you’ll have enough money to get you through summer. It’s essentially forced savings.

If you get paid on a 10-month schedule, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union will automatically transfer 16.70% of your paycheck to your Paycheck Planner account every pay period. If you get paid on an 11-month schedule, that percentage is 8.30%. You also have the option of making one additional deposit during the maturation period, which cannot exceed $3,000.

When summer comes, 10-month employees will be able to choose any two consecutive months between June and September to receive their Paycheck Planner savings in two equal payments. Eleven-month employees will choose one month for their singular payment: June, July or August.

How to get SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s Paycheck Planner

To open a Paycheck Planner account, you must visit a branch or call 800-426-8328.

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on SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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How SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s CD rates compare

Unless you work in education with a pay cycle that aligns with a Paycheck Planner account, the credit union’s rates are lacking. You can find CD rates out there that will beat SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union by entire percentage points. The College Saver rate gets closest to being competitive for a CD of its term length and required minimum initial deposit, but it is a potentially dangerous way to save for college if you plan on relying on any type of financial aid for your child’s education.

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s money market account option

Liquid Advantage Money Market Account

A money market account with rates higher than the credit union’s Share Savings account, but far lower rates than those offered by other lenders.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.15%

$2,000

0.20%

$10,000

0.25%

$25,000

0.35%

$50,000

0.45%

$100,000

  • Minimum opening deposit: $2,000
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $2,000
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: $1 at all non-SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union or non-CO-OP network ATMs
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $22

Money market accounts are similar to savings accounts, save for the fact that they tend to require higher monthly balances and offer higher interest rates. The Liquid Advantage Money Market Account is no exception, at times offering rates up to six times that of a Share Savings account.

Remember that as a savings account, you will only be able to make six withdrawals per month without incurring additional fees, having your account shut down or having it turned into a checking account.

How to get SchoolFirst Federal Credit Union’s Liquid Advantage Money Market Account

To open this type of account, you will have to visit a branch or set it up over the phone by calling 800-462-8328.

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on SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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How SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s money market account compares

While the Liquid Advantage Money Market Account certainly has an edge over the credit union’s Share Savings option, it doesn’t do so well when you compare it to competitor’s money market offerings. If a higher APY is your goal, you’ll be able to find it elsewhere.

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s IRA options

IRA CD rates

IRA Share Certificate

A conservative investment option for your individual retirement account with average dividend rates.

$500 Minimum Opening Deposit

Term

APY

30 days

0.15%

3-5 months

0.35%

6-11 months

0.60%

12-17 months

0.90%

18-23 months

0.95%

24-35 months

1.01%

36-47 months

1.05%

48-59 months

1.10%

60 months

1.20%

$20,000 Minimum Opening Deposit

Term

APY

30 days

0.30%

3-5 months

0.40%

6-11 months

0.65%

12-17 months

0.95%

18-23 months

1.01%

24-35 months

1.05%

36-47 months

1.10%

48-59 months

1.15%

60 months

1.25%

$50,000 Minimum Opening Deposit

Term

APY

30 days

0.40%

3-5 months

0.45%

6-11 months

0.70%

12-17 months

1.01%

18-23 months

1.05%

24-35 months

1.10%

36-47 months

1.15%

48-59 months

1.20%

60 months

1.30%

$100,000 Minimum Opening Deposit

Term

APY

30 days

0.50%

3-5 months

0.50%

6-11 months

0.75%

12-17 months

1.05%

18-23 months

1.10%

24-35 months

1.15%

36-47 months

1.20%

48-59 months

1.25%

60 months

1.35%

  • Minimum opening deposit: $500
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: Varies
  • Early withdrawal penalty: 30-day certificates: 30 days’ worth of dividends; certificates for more than than 30 days or less than 18 months: 90 days’ worth of dividends; 18 months or longer: 180 days’ worth of dividends. These penalties are in addition to IRS penalties. Penalties will be waived if you’re older than 59½ and making automatic, regular or required minimum distributions.

SchoolFirst Federal Credit Union’s IRA Share Certificates are the credit union’s equivalent to IRA CDs. IRA CDs are CDs that you hold in your IRA. They are a conservative investment, gaining a set percentage of dividends over the CD’s term. The dividend APY will vary based on when you open your certificate, as opening rates can change from month to month.

How to get SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s IRA Share Certificate

There are four different ways you can open an IRA share certificate. You can do so online, at one of the credit union’s physical locations, by calling 800-462-8328 or by emailing [email protected]

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on SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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How SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s IRA CD rates compare

Both minimum deposits and interest rates for the credit union’s IRA Share Certificates are about average for an IRA CD. You can find higher IRA CD rates out there, though, so keep looking.

Accumulation IRA Savings Account

The Accumulation IRA Savings Account is a savings account inside your IRA that requires a lot more paperwork.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.25%

$10

  • Minimum opening deposit: $10
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $10
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: You cannot make an ATM withdrawal from this account
  • ATM fee refund: N/A
  • Overdraft fee: Because you have to fill out paperwork to make a withdrawal from this account at SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, you will not be able to overdraw.

The credit union’s IRA Savings Account is another conservative option to put inside your IRA portfolio. It operates just like a savings account outside of an IRA, but withdrawals are more complicated with this type of account at SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union and require more paperwork. Withdrawals also may incur IRS or state tax penalties.

How to get SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s Accumulation IRA Savings Account

To open this type of account, you can log in online, visit a branch, email [email protected] or call 800-462-8328.

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on SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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Overall review of SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s banking products

Generally speaking, the dividend rates on SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s banking products aren’t anything to write home about. They’re not terrible, but there are far better options out there. We do appreciate how almost all of the accounts are no- or low-fee, but depending on how you manage your money, that may not be enough to make up for these low rates.

But if you are a school employee, you’ll appreciate the institution waiving outside ATM fees, and have access to their most competitive products: Summer Saver and Payroll Planner accounts. You will have to weigh whether the benefits of these products are worth losing out on the higher rates you can find at other financial institutions. After all, with enough self-discipline, you can budget your 10- or 11-month pay yourself to last you the entire year.

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