Banks are not the only option available for banking services. Credit unions are an alternative worth considering. While credit unions have traditionally been restricted to specific areas or groups, there are now credit unions that anyone can join. 

Credit unions are not-for-profit entities owned by their members, which allows them to offer personal service, high interest on your deposits, and low interest rates on loans and credit cards.

In this article, we’ll take a look at 6 credit unions with membership criteria that anyone can meet, and we’ll explore their best products and services. 

What is a Credit Union and How is It Different From a Bank?

A credit union is a type of financial institution that is owned by its members. Credit unions have restrictions on who can join. Credit unions have traditionally served specific areas or organizations, like employees of an organization or a government agency.

Credit unions usually offer banking services to their members. These services include a variety of banking accounts, loans, business products, and more. 

Customer service is the key area where credit unions differ from banks. Credit unions are owned by their members, and their products are geared toward keeping money in their customers’ pockets. 

Because credit unions are not-for-profits (unlike banks), all profits are reinvested. This results in higher APYs (Annual Percentage Yields) for deposits and lower interest rates on their loans and credit cards.

While many credit unions are local, they often have partnerships with other credit unions to offer nationwide ATM and branch services.

There are even some credit unions that offer membership and services to anyone. In fact, all of the credit unions we will cover in this article have open membership. In most cases, you will have to join an organization and pay a nominal fee.

It is important to know that credit unions are not FDIC insured. Federal credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Credit unions that use this service will insure your individual account balances up to $250,000 (just like FDIC).

Credit unions that don’t have “Federal” in their name are usually insured by state agencies or private insurers. It’s important to know what a credit union’s insurance arrangements are.

Credit Unions that Anyone Can Join

In this article, we’ll look at 6 credit unions that all offer membership nationwide to anyone. Each offers basic banking services with minor differences in the products and rates offered. 

  • Connexus – Best for student loans & credit cards
  • Alliant – Best for online banking
  • Consumer – Best for business accounts
  • First Tech – Best for insurance & credit building
  • PenFed – Best for mortgage financing & resources
  • ETFCU – Best for rate transparency and specialized mortgages

We’ll explore the pros and cons of each of the credit unions on this list, and we’ll summarize their account offerings and terms. 

Connexus Credit Union

🏆 Best for student loans & credit cards

Connexus Credit Union home page

Connexus is a credit union based in the midwest, with over 400,000 members. 

Membership is open to anyone in the U.S., even though their physical branches are limited to 4 states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and New Hampshire.

Members outside of this geographical area can access their accounts via ATMs or credit union locations in the CO-OP or MoneyPass network.

This credit union offers a variety of personal account options, including checking and savings accounts, retirement accounts, loans, and more.

The two areas where Connexus excels are student loans and credit cards. They offer 10 credit cards (6 personal and 4 business). They also have a partnership with ISL Education Lending to offer a wide variety of student loans and refinancing plans.  

Connexus Credit Union Pros & Cons

✔ Pros

  • Offers a variety of credit cards – personal & business
  • Student loan options
  • Provides insurance services
  • Dedicated savings accounts for kids & holidays

❌ Cons

  • No business accounts
  • Requires membership fee

Accounts & Fees

Membership at Connexus is open to anyone with a $5 donation to the Connexus Association. 

Or you can qualify for free membership if you are a local resident, are a family member of an existing member, or have an association with one of their partner organizations

You will need to open a savings account and deposit a minimum of $5 to activate your membership. 

Available Accounts & Associated Fees

Account Minimum Deposit Minimum Balance/Requirements Interest Rate Maximum balance for APY
Innovative Checking None None None N/A
Xtraordinary Checking None 15 debit card transactions or $400 in purchases 1.75% APY $25,000
Member Share Savings $5 $100 for interest earnings 0.25% APY None
Money Market $1000 $1000 Up to 0.85% APY None

Rates are current as of 04/2022

In addition to the above accounts, Connexus offers specialized checking and savings accounts for teens as well as a holiday savings account. And they offer a basic IRA savings account and a health savings account (HSA).

They also offer a variety of loans, including 

  • Auto loans & refinancing
  • Mortgages
  • Personal loans
  • Personal lines of credit
  • Student loans and refinancing
  • RV loans

One fee to be aware of is Connexus’s $5 inactivity fee. If your account remains inactive for 12 months or more, you’ll be charged this fee.

Alliant Credit Union

🏆 Best for online banking

Alliant Credit Union home page

Alliant is a unique credit union: they are 100% digital. There are no physical branches. Instead, they have their own network of 80,000+ ATMs that you can use with zero fees. 

Founded as the United Airlines Employees credit union back in 1935, membership has been opened to everyone. 

Membership is free if you are employed by one of their partner organizations, if you live in the Chicago area, or if you are a family member of an existing member. If none of these apply, you can join Alliant with a $5 donation to the Foster Care to Success program. 

You can set up membership, purchase insurance, open accounts, and apply for loans all via their online banking platform or mobile app. 

Alliant Credit Union Pros & Cons

✔ Pros

  • Well developed online banking platform
  • Mobile banking app
  • Full retirement and investment services
  • Start with a checking or savings account

❌ Cons

  • Limited business account options
  • Requires membership fee
  • No physical branches

Accounts & Fees

Aside from the required $5 membership donation, you will need to open either a checking account or savings account. Most credit unions require a savings account. 

In addition, you’ll need to maintain a $5 minimum balance in your account. Still, Alliant will help you out by gifting you a $5 deposit. 

Available Accounts & Associated Fees

Account Minimum Deposit Minimum Balance/Requirements Interest Rate Maximum balance for APY
High-Rate Checking $5* $5 and at least 1 deposit a month 0.25% APY None
High-Rate Savings $5* or $25 if it is your only account $5 or $100 for interest earnings 0.60% APY  None
Supplemental Savings $5 $5 or $100 for interest earnings 0.60% APY None

*Alliant gifts you $5 when you open the account.
Rates are current as of 04/2022

Traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are also available.

In addition to their banking and investment accounts, Alliant also offers a variety of loans with reasonable APRs, including

  • Mortgages
  • Home equity line of credit
  • Auto loans
  • RV loans
  • Personal loans
  • Commercial real estate loans

They also offer home, auto, and life insurance plans as well as two credit cards, one with a 12-month 0% introductory offer and the other with cashback earnings of up to 2.5%. 

All of these accounts can be set up and managed online or via their mobile app.

Consumers Credit Union

🏆 Best for business accounts

Consumers Credit Union home page

Consumers Credit Union is a Chicago-based financial institution with 18 branches located around the Chicago area. 

To support customers outside this limited geographical area, Consumers has joined the CO-OP Network, which offers over 30,000 free ATMs. 

Membership is open to anyone that joins the Consumers Cooperative Association

Consumer Pros & Cons

✔ Pros

  • Range of business accounts & services
  • High APY checking account
  • High rewards earning credit cards

❌ Cons

  • Requires membership donation
  • Branches limited to the Chicago area

Accounts & Fees

Membership in Consumers Credit Union is open to anyone. All that is required is a one-time $5 donation to the Consumers Cooperative Association. 

Available Accounts & Associated Fees

Account Minimum Deposit Minimum Balance/Requirements Interest Rate Maximum balance for APY
Free Checking $5 None None N/A
Rewards Checking $5 $500/month in deposits & 12 debit transactions/month* Up to 4.09% APY $10,000
Membership Share Savings $5 $5  0.03% APY None
Smart Saver None Deposit $50+/month and meet checking account minimums 1.5% APY Max $1000 deposit a month
Money Market None $100,000+ for max APY Up to 0.25% APY None
Freedom Business Checking None None None N/A
Business Savings $5 $5 for dividend earnings 0.05% APY None

*These are the minimum requirements for 2.09% APY. For higher rates, you’ll need a Consumer Visa credit card. 
Rates are current as of 04/2022

In addition to the accounts listed above, Consumer offers investment accounts, education accounts, holiday savings accounts, and more.

They also offer a variety of loans, credit cards, and other products. In particular, they have a wide range of business products, including:

  • 4 checking account types
  • Business savings
  • Business money market accounts
  • Commercial mortgages
  • Secured lines of credit
  • Equipment financing
  • 2 business credit cards
  • Additional business services

Consumers Credit Union offers a variety of banking products and services to their members, but the area where Consumers really stands out is their business offerings. They offer a variety of accounts, loans, and services dedicated to businesses and business owners.

First Tech Federal Credit Union

🏆 Best for insurance & credit building

First Tech Federal Credit Union home page

First Tech Federal Credit Union was founded in 1952 by employees at Hewlett-Packard. It has since opened up membership to anyone. However, those who work for certain tech companies are still offered banking services for free. 

Originally based in Oregon and California, Frist Tech now has 30+ locations scattered throughout the US. They have also partnered with the CO-OP network to offer free ATM and branch services nationwide at more than 30,000 locations. 

While First Tech offers a variety of products and services, there are two areas in particular in which they excel: insurance offerings and credit-building accounts. 

First Tech Pros & Cons

✔ Pros

  • Credit building products
  • A variety of insurance types
  • 6 credit cards to choose from
  • High-interest rate kids accounts

❌ Cons

  • Requires membership donation
  • Higher than normal minimum deposits
  • Lower than average interest rates

Accounts & Fees

Membership for First Tech is open to anyone. If you have a family member who is a member, you work/live in Lane County, Oregon, or you work for one of their partner companies, your membership is free. 

If none of the above apply, you can still become a member if you belong to the Computer History Museum ($15 membership fee) or the Financial Fitness Association ($8 membership fee).

Available Accounts & Associated Fees

Account Minimum Deposit Minimum Balance/Requirements  Interest Rate Maximum balance for APY
Rewards Checking $10 20 transactions & $1000/month in deposits for interest earnings 0.5% APY $15,000
Rewards Savings $25 Linked rewards checking for interest earnings Up to 2% APY or 0.5% APY  $1,000/$25,000
First Checking $10 None 0.05% APY None
Carefree checking $10 None None N/A
Membership Savings $10 $5 0.05% APY None
Carefree Savings $25 None 0.10% APY None
Instant Access Savings $5,000 $0.01 0.25% APY None

Rates are current as of 04/2022

In addition to the accounts listed above, First Tech also offers accounts dedicated to children/teens, IRAs, and business checking and savings accounts

On the loan front, Frist Tech offers various products that can help members with bad credit get financing, consolidate debt, and improve their credit. Such accounts include

  • A secured credit card
  • A low-APR balance transfer credit card
  • Secured loans & lines of credit
  • Student loan refinance
  • Mortgage refinance
  • Auto loan refinance

Additionally; First Tech offers a wide range of insurance; from car insurance and life insurance to pet insurance and earthquake insurance. They also have many types of business insurance

PenFed Credit Union

🏆 Best for mortgage financing & resources

PenFed Credit Union home page

PenFed, also known as Pentagon Federal, was originally established to serve government workers and members of the military. PenFed has now opened its doors to everyone. There is no membership fee or donation required!

All you need to do is apply and open a savings account with a minimum $5 deposit. 

While many of PenFed’s original locations served the DC area, they have since spread across the nation with more than 40 branch locations. To assist those who do not live/work near a branch, they are also members of the Allpoint network with over 55,000 free ATMs. 

PenFed offers the usual menu of banking accounts and loan accounts, but the one area where they excel is their mortgage resources

They offer a range of mortgage types from conventional to ARM and even a special PowerBuyer loan. They also offer home loan refinancing options, lender credit (up to $2,500), and home-buying education resources. 

PenFed Pros & Cons

✔ Pros

  • Free membership
  • Lender credit for mortgages
  • Multiple student loan resources

❌ Cons

  • No business accounts
  • Lower than normal APYs

Accounts & Fees

Membership for PedFed is now open to anyone and is 100% free.

Available Accounts & Associated Fees

Account Minimum Deposit Minimum Balance/Requirements  Interest Rate Maximum balance for APY
Free Checking $25 None None $15,000
Access America Checking $25 $500 Up to 0.35% APY $1,000/$25,000
Regular Savings $5 None 0.05% APY None
Premium Savings $5 None 0.6% APY None
Money Market Savings $25 $100,000 for max APY Up to 0.15% APY None

Rates current as of 04/2022

PenFed also offers several credit cards as well as personal loans, auto loans, and student loans. They do not offer business loans.

There are also many mortgage options offered through PenFed. They offer FHA loans, VA loans, conventional loans, ARM loans, jumbo loans, and a special PowerBuyer loan which is geared toward those purchasing a home in a hot housing market. 

Additionally, there are multiple home loan refinance options available. 

And, when you obtain a mortgage loan from PenFed, you’ll be rewarded with a lender credit. Up to $2,500, depending on the purchase price of your home.  

Evansville Teacher’s Federal Credit Union

🏆 Best for rate transparency and specialized mortgages

ETFCU home page

Evansville Teacher’s Federal Credit Union, ETFCU for short, is an Indiana-based credit union. 

You don’t have to be a teacher to join, though. Membership is open to anyone willing to make a $5 donation to their partner alumni association fund. 

ETFCU has physical branches spread across Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennesee. To support their customers nationwide, they have also joined the Alliance One network, which boasts nearly 5,000 ATMs.  

ETFCU offers the usual range of services, but they go a step above in disclosing their rates for banking accounts and loans

They also offer some pretty unique home financing options. 

This includes home types that other lenders may deny, such as manufactured homes, and dedicated loans for certain occupations.

ETFCU Pros & Cons

✔ Pros

  • Unique mortgage options
  • Transparent rates
  • High-interest rate checking
  • Partnership with a brokerage service

❌ Cons

  • Requires membership fee
  • Higher than normal minimum deposits
  • Limited ATM coverage

Accounts & Fees

Membership at ETFCU is open to anyone. Those who work for a qualifying organization or have a family member who has membership will receive their membership at ETFCU for free. 

Those who aren’t immediately eligible can join with a $5 donation to the Mater Dei Freinds & Alumni Association.  

Available Accounts & Associated Fees

Account Minimum Deposit Minimum Balance/Requirements  Interest Rate Maximum balance for APY
Vertical Checking $25 15 debit purchases and 1 deposit a month 3.30% APY $20,000
Platinum Rewards Checking $25 15 debit purchases and 1 deposit a month 500 scorecard points a month and 1 point per $2 spent $1,000/$25,000
Classic Checking $25 $500 for interest earnings 0.005% APY None
Investor Checking $25 $1000 for interest earnings Up to 0.22% APY None
Share Savings $200 $5 for interest earnings 0.05% APY None
Money Market Savings $1,000 $1,000 or $100,000 for max APY Up to 0.27% APY None

Rates current as of 04/2022

ETFCU also offers a variety of loans, credit cards, and business accounts. In addition, they have a partnership with CUNA Brokerage Services to offer a variety of investment services

ETFCU also offers some highly specialized mortgages. In addition to common mortgage types, like conventional and FHA, ETFCU issues loans for the following

  • Pole barn homes
  • Manufactured homes
  • Fannie Mae Home Ready
  • Renovations
  • Community Hero – nurses, first responders, teachers, etc.
  • Condo loan
  • Freddie Mac Home Possible
  • Bridge loan
  • USDA Rural Housing 
  • Lot purchases
  • Physicians – MD, DO, DDS, DMD, OD, DP, or DPM
  • Construction 

Many of their home loan products also come with gift cards of up to $500 at closing.

Comparing Credit Unions that Anyone Can Join

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the 6 credit unions anyone can join. We focus on the accounts offered and their terms to help you choose the best credit union for your needs.

Credit Union Membership Cost Minimum Deposit Branch Locations ATM Network Business Accounts? Investment Accounts?
Connexus $5 $5 savings
$0 checking
WI, MN, OH, & NH CO-OP Network & MoneyPass Network Credit Card Only Yes
Alliant $5 $25 savings
$5 checking
None Alliant Network Real Estate Only Yes
Consumers $5 $5 savings
$5 checking
Chicago, IL CO-OP Network  Yes Yes
First Tech Federal $8/$15 $5 savings
$10 checking
8 states CO-OP Network  Yes Yes
PenFed free $5 savings
$25 checking
12+ states Allpoint No Yes
ETFCU $5 $5 savings
$25 checking
IN, KY, TN Alliance One Yes Yes

What to Know When Shopping for a Credit Union

There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping around for the perfect credit union. 

Size – Does the credit union have locations in your area? If not, do they work with an ATM network? 

Insurance – The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) offers insurance up to $250,000 per customer account for Federal credit unions. But not all credit unions use this insurance. Some credit unions use state or private insurance instead. 

Account Requirements Versus Earnings – For instance, a checking account may have a high APY rate, which means little if you can’t meet the minimum balance and transaction requirements. 

Account types available – Does the credit union offer all of the banking and borrowing services you need? If they don’t, you could find yourself with accounts scattered across many financial institutions. 

How We Reviewed Credit Unions that Anyone Can Join

There are certain minimum requirements that we have that all of these credit unions achieved, including

  1. Membership is open to anyone
  2. Easy membership sign-up online
  3. Offer a mobile app and online banking
  4. Offer basic checking, savings, and certificate accounts

From here; we then evaluated the differences in each of these credit Unions. 

Membership Cost

All credit unions require membership. Many offer membership for free to individuals based on where they live, work, or the organizations they are a part of. 

But they also offer membership nationwide. Most of the credit unions we looked at required a $5 donation to a partner organization. Though there was one credit union that required $8 and another that offered membership for free.

Minimum Deposit

To open an account at nearly any financial institution, you need to make a deposit. All of the credit unions on our list required a $5 minimum deposit for their base account. This $5 is your “share” of the membership. 

Many of the credit unions on our list had different minimum deposit requirements for their checking accounts. 

Branch Locations

Most credit unions have a limited geographical area they serve with their brick and mortar locations. 

Some of the credit unions on our list were limited to one city, i.e., Chicago, and others have locations spread across the US. All of these credit unions offer digital banking services.

ATM Network

Since most credit unions have few actual branches and ATMs; most have partnered with an ATM network. These ATM networks offer customers access to surcharge-free ATMs and credit union locations. 

Some ATM networks offer a few thousand options, while others offer close to 100,000 ATM options. 

Business Accounts

Not all credit unions offer business accounts. Some credit unions only offer limited services to business owners, such as credit cards. In contrast, others offer a full range of business accounts and loans. 

Investment Accounts

When considering long-term investing, a credit union might not be your go-to. But some credit unions do offer a variety of investment accounts. Usually, these are limited to basic tax-incentive savings accounts (i.e. HSAs). 

That said, some credit unions have partnered with brokerage services to offer a full range of investment accounts. 

Best For Feature

After we looked through all of the other comparison criteria and the full range of services each credit union provided, we were able to pinpoint which area a credit union best serves. 

Bottom Line

Credit unions can offer the same variety of services that a traditional bank can, and the customer service you are likely to receive will be far superior. Many traditional banks still offer a much wider range of products and services, and if your banking needs are complex a traditional bank may be a better option.

Sure, credit unions require membership, but the potential dividend earnings and interest rate savings outweigh the initial cost. 

That said, if you decide you want to open an account with a credit union, look closely at all of the features they offer. After all, you don’t want to get stuck with a credit union that doesn’t offer all of the services you need or has account requirements that you cannot meet. 

The post 6 Best Credit Unions that Anyone Can Join appeared first on FinMasters.


Categories: Uncategorized