Best Credit Unions Anyone Can JoinFind out which credit unions allow anyone to join — and all the perks you can enjoy as a member.

 

Joining a credit union is easier than people might think. Some credit unions require members to meet strict criteria or pay high membership fees, but in many cases, it can be easy and cost-effective to join a credit union.

GOBankingRates conducted a study of credit unions anyone can join and rated each institution based on the following criteria:

  • Minimum balance to open
  • Basic savings account APY
  • Range of products offered
  • Customer service and support

Read on to learn which credit unions scored the highest.

The Best Credit Unions Anyone Can Join

If you’re considering joining a credit union, but don’t want to worry about meeting certain criteria, here are 11 credit unions that anyone can join.

Click on one of the following links to learn more about the credit unions anyone can join:

10 Best Credit Unions Anyone Can Join
Credit UnionSavings AccountMinimum Balance to OpenAPYHow to Join
gte financial logoGTE Financial Credit Union GTE Financial Savings$52.49%Join CU Savers program for $10.
Learn more.
alliant credit unionAlliant Credit Union High Rate Savings$51.00%Make a one-time donation of $10 to Foster Care to Success.
Learn more.
affinity plus federal credit unionAffinity Plus Federal Credit Union Membership Savings$101.00%Make a one-time donation of $25 to the Affinity Plus Foundation.
Learn more.
lake michigan credit unionLake Michigan Credit Union Member Savings$50.25%Make a one-time donation to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association.
Learn more.
connexus credit unionConnexus Credit Union Personal Savings Account$50.25%Make a one-time donation of $5 to the Connexus Association.
Learn more.
northrop grumman federal credit unionNorthrop Grumman Federal Credit Union Regular Savings$80.25%Make a one-time donation to the Southern California Historical Aviation Foundation.
Learn more.
american heritage federal credit unionAmerican Heritage Federal Credit Union Primary Share Savings$150.11%Make a one-time donation to the Kids-N-Hope Foundation.
Learn more.
melrose credit unionMelrose Credit Union Share Savings Account$250.50%Pay a one-time membership fee of $1 and a minimum opening deposit of $25.
Learn more.
nasa federal credit unionNASA Federal Credit UnionPrime Savings$50.10%Become a member of National Space Society (free).
Learn more.
nuvision federal credit unionNuVision Federal Credit Union Primary Savings$50.10%Become a member of the American Consumer Council ($5).
Learn more.
air force federal credit unionAir Force Federal Credit Union Regular Savings$50.10%Become a member of The Airman Heritage Foundation ($25 for one year).
Learn more.
Rates accurate as of Sept. 23, 2016
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What Is a Credit Union?

Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that function like a bank. A credit union is owned and controlled by its members — the people who actually use its services. Members of a credit union vote on important company decisions, like who gets to sit on the board of directors. Profits made by the company are returned to the members, which is why credit unions typically offer reduced fees, higher savings rates and lower interest rates on loans.

Like a bank, a credit union accepts deposits, offers loans and lines of credit, and provides other financial services. But unlike a bank, a credit union is member-owned and exists to serve its members rather than stockholders.

Related: What’s the Difference Between Banks and Credit Unions?

Can Anyone Join a Credit Union?

Normally, you have to meet certain criteria to join a credit union. For example, there are several credit unions just for members of the military, employees of certain organizations or members of certain labor unions, churches or alumni associations. Many credit unions also only serve people that live, work or worship in a certain area.

Although these rules might seem restrictive, these guidelines exist because credit unions are meant to serve a group of people with a common bond. Still, in many cases, the rules are less prohibitive than you might think. In fact, most credit unions extend membership to family members, so if you have a relative who’s a member of a credit union, you might be able to join, too.

Several credit unions extend membership to everyone, no matter your employer, geographical location, place of education or worship. To know to how to join a credit union like these, check out the details below.

Take a look at the details of the top, open-to-the-public credit unions you can join right now.

bank teller handing out cash gte financial
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GTE Financial Credit Union

How to join: Online, in store or over the phone
Who can join: Anyone who joins CU Savers Club
Fees: $5 Member Owner Share (one-time fee, refundable if you forfeit membership later), $10 to join CU Savers Club (one-time fee, nonrefundable)

Membership benefits:

  • Free checking account with no minimum balance
  • CU Rewards points
  • Unlimited check writing
  • Online banking with bill pay
  • Mobile banking
  • Popmoney
  • Deposit2GO
  • Access to 28,000 no-fee ATMs
  • Home, student and auto loans
  • Credit cards
  • Insurance products

Membership perks:

  • Exclusive discounts like 2-for-1 tickets to Legoland
  • DirectTV rebates
  • Sprint discounts
  • Free events
  • Contests and giveaways

GTE Financial Credit Union, a Florida institution since 1935, made this list because of its high savings rates and wide variety of financial services. The minimum balance to open a GTE Financial Savings account is just $5 and members can enjoy an interest rate of a whopping 2.49% APY — the highest of any savings account at any credit union in this study. Members benefits from a live-chat option with customer service reps, although GTE Financial doesn’t currently offer 24/7 phone support.

Like most credit unions, there are criteria members must meet. But anyone who opens a GTE Financial Savings Account can enjoy credit union membership. The account costs $10 to join, but considering the impressive interest rates and other money-saving perks that GTE Financial offers, this is a small price to pay for the savings and other offerings.

business people in meeting alliant
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Alliant Credit Union

How to join: Online, in store or over the phone
Who can join: Anyone who makes a donation to Foster Care to Success
Fees: $5 minimum to open a High-Rate Savings account, minimum $10 contribution to Foster Care to Success (one-time fee, nonrefundable)

Membership benefits:

  • Free credit score access
  • Budget and planning tools
  • Free bill pay
  • Access to 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs
  • eDeposit and eDepositPlus
  • Integration with QuickBooks, Quicken and Microsoft Money
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Home, student and auto loans
  • Credit cards

Membership perks: No exclusive discounts known

Alliant Credit Union snagged a spot in GOBankingRates’ list of best credit unions anyone can join because of the 1% APY on its high-rate savings account, its wide variety of financial product offerings and 24/7 customer service. Alliant doesn’t offer its members exclusive discounts or perks, and it lacks a live-chat feature for customer service, but its savings account interest rate is still higher than most of the other credit unions on this list.

Anyone who contributes to the company’s Foster Care to Success program can become a member of this Chicago-based credit union. With a one-time donation of $10 or more to the program, you can apply to join Alliant Credit Union.

Foster Care to Success serves foster teens across the U.S., particularly those who are “aging out” of the foster care system. As a member, you’ll be supporting initiatives like scholarships for higher education, mentoring, and internships, plus you’ll gain access to user-friendly online and mobile banking and bill pay, market-leading interest rates and customer service that features 24/7 toll-free automated access and personal assistance.

man and woman in business meeting affinity plus
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Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union

How to join: Online, in store or over the phone
Who can join: Anyone who makes a donation to the Affinity Plus Foundation
Fees: $10 minimum balance to open an account, $25 donation to the Affinity Plus Foundation (one-time fee, nonrefundable)

Membership benefits:

  • Free checking
  • Savings accounts for kids
  • Business services
  • Online and mobile banking
  • Integration with Quicken and QuickBooks

Membership perks:

  • Rebates on buying or selling a home
  • No-pressure car-buying assistance
  • Discounted auto and home insurance
  • Discounted Sprint wireless plans
  • Discounted tickets to Nickelodeon Universe in the Mall of America and the Orpheum, State and Pantages theaters

The list of best credit unions anyone can join features Affinity Plus Credit Union because of its higher-than-average APY, full range of financial services and live-chat customer support, although 24/7 phone support is not currently available. If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements for this Minnesota-based credit union, you can become a member by making a one-time donation of $25 to the Affinity Plus Foundation, which supports nonprofits and educators who teach financial education.

Members of Affinity Plus Credit Union can get access to special savings rates, like 1% APY on the Membership Savings Account, as well as exclusive membership perks like free credit advice, rewards for making donations to charity, reduced interest rates or refunds on overdraft fees. Affinity Plus members also get various discounts.

Read: 10 Best Credit Unions for Travelers

hands receiving cash lake michigan credit union
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Lake Michigan Credit Union

How to join: Online, in store or over the phone
Who can join: Anyone who makes a donation to the ALS Association
Fees: $5 minimum balance to open an account, donation to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (one-time fee, nonrefundable)

Membership benefits:

  • Free checking
  • Online and mobile banking and bill pay
  • Unlimited check writing
  • Savings accounts for kids and teens
  • Business services
  • Pay cards for those who can’t get a regular savings account

Membership perks:

  • Discounts on personal and business Sprint mobile plans
  • Discounts on LifeLock protection against identity theft
  • Eligibility of family members to compete for Lloyd F. Hutt scholarships

Lake Michigan Credit Union, open since 1933, is one of the top credit unions anyone can join. Although this institution offers a variety of financial services and live-chat customer service, it only offers a 0.25% APY interest rate on the Member Savings account and lacks 24/7 customer phone support.

Still, Lake Michigan Credit Union members enjoy significant perks like discounts on Sprint mobile accounts and special LifeLock rates. To become a member you can make a one-time donation to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association, West Michigan Chapter. The ALS Association is a nonprofit that raises money for research and patient services and promotes awareness of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

man and woman reviewing data connexus credit union
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Connexus Credit Union

How to join: Online, in store or over the phone
Who can join: Anyone who makes a donation to the Connexus Association
Fees: $5 minimum account balance for a Personal Savings Account, $5 donation to the Connexus Association (one-time fee, nonrefundable)

Membership benefits:

  • Free checking
  • Savings accounts for kids
  • Special holiday savings accounts
  • Health savings accounts
  • Education IRAs
  • Business services
  • Online and mobile banking and bill pay

Membership perks:

  • Free access to financial counseling by GreenPath

Connexus Credit Union is another Minnesota-based institution from the study offering a range of financial products and convenient customer support. Members enjoy services like home, student and auto loans and credit cards, but Connexus doesn’t currently offer insurance products or 24/7 phone support.

To join Connexus Credit Union, you can make a one-time $5 donation to the Connexus Association. The Connexus Association is a nonprofit that supports charitable organizations like the American Cancer Society, United Way, American Red Cross, Special Olympics and more.

Once you join the association, you are eligible to become a member of the Connexus Credit Union and can take advantage of benefits like a high-yield checking account that allows members to earn 1.75% APY on balances up to $25,000, money market savings accounts with 0.5% to 1.15% APY and up to 2% APY on share certificates.

couple shaking hands with woman northrop grumman federal credit union
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Northrop Grumman Federal Credit Union

How to join: Online, in store or over the phone
Who can join: Anyone who makes a donation to the Southern California Historical Aviation Foundation
Fees: $8 minimum to open a Regular Savings Account, donation to Southern California Historical Aviation Foundation (one-time fee, nonrefundable)

Membership benefits:

Membership perks:

  • Discounts on Kash Chandani & Company tax services
  • Discounts on Get Away Today Vacations

From student, home, and auto loans to credit cards, Northrop Grumman Federal Credit Union offers comprehensive financial services. This credit union does not offer live-chat or 24/7 phone customer service. Northrop Grumman members also don’t get some of the discounts and exclusive perks that other credit unions offer, and its regular savings account earns 0.25% APY.

If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements, you can make a one-time donation to The Southern California Historical Aviation Foundation, which is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and displaying aircraft artifacts and history of Southern California’s heritage. Once you make the donation, you can become a member of Northrop Grumman Federal Credit Union and take advantage of offerings like auto loans with fixed interest rates, investment advice from financial advisors and credit card balance transfer rates of 4.99% APR.

customer filling out deposit form at bank american heritage federal credit union
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American Heritage Federal Credit Union

How to join: Online, in store, mail or over the phone
Who can join: Anyone who makes a donation to the Kids-N-Hope Foundation
Fees: $15 minimum to open a Primary Share Savings account, donation to Kids-N-Hope Foundation (one-time fee, nonrefundable)

Membership benefits:

  • Free checking
  • Online banking and bill pay
  • Home, student and auto loans
  • Credit cards

Membership perks:

  • 20 percent rebate of commission when you buy or sell your home
  • ScoreCard Rewards
  • Sprint mobile discounts
  • Auto purchase discounts

Philadelphia-based American Heritage Federal Credit Union requires a small deposit of $15 to open a savings account. The Primary Share Savings account from AHFCU only gets 0.11% APY, one of the lowest on the list. But members can get access to rates and perks like 1.91% APY on a 59-month CD, 4% APY on a four-month CD, or a rebate up to 20 percent of your realtor’s commission when you buy or sell your home.

You can become a member of American Heritage Federal Credit Union by meeting eligibility requirements or by making a one-time donation to the Kids-N-Hope Foundation, which helps children receive specialized care like music therapy.

couple filing taxes melrose credit union
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Melrose Credit Union

How to join: Online
Who can join: Anyone
Fees: $25 minimum opening deposit, $1 membership fee (one-time fee, nonrefundable)

Membership benefits:

  • Free checking
  • Free starter checks
  • Online banking and bill pay
  • Kids’ accounts
  • Business services
  • Home, student and auto loans

Membership perks:

  • Free financial education workshops and seminars
  • Free EZ Legal Services
  • Free Certified financial planning

Melrose Credit Union is dedicated to providing its members affordable loans and free financial education. Auto loan rates are 6% to 7% APR and unsecured loans have a 14% APY. Members earn about 0.5% APY on the Share Savings Account, which is about average when compared to the basic savings accounts from other credit unions on this list.

Melrose Credit Union offers loans but does not offer credit cards, live chat or 24/7 customer service. The minimum opening deposit of $25 is also one of the highest in the study. Still, this is one of the easiest and cheapest credit unions to join.

Because Melrose Credit Union has an open New York State charter, there are no restrictions on who can become a member. Anyone who pays the one-time membership fee of $1 and makes a $25 opening deposit can join.

The credit union’s free EZ Legal Services are an impressive offer: Members can get access to free wills, living wills, powers of attorney, healthcare proxies and funeral directives. Also, most additional services are discounted by 30 percent, including attorneys’ hourly rates and flat fees for most common legal cases.

Read: 10 Best Credit Unions for Car Loans

empty bank teller windows nasa federal credit union
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NASA Federal Credit Union

How to join: Online
Who can join: Anyone who joins the National Space Society
Fees: $0

Membership benefits:

  • Free checking
  • One NSF fee waived per year
  • Cash-back debit card
  • Online and mobile banking and bill pay
  • Business services
  • Access to 30,000 free ATMs

Membership perks:

  • $1 Membership Rewards program
  • Rebate for buying or selling a home
  • Discounts on tax preparation products and services
  • Discounts on Sprint mobile plans
  • Discounts on Allied moving services
  • Discounts on DirectTV
  • Discounts on ShopAmerica

NASA Federal Credit Union has a wide range of financial products, such as various loans, credit cards and insurance products, as well as 24/7 customer phone support, but it lacks membership perks and high interest rates when compared to other credit unions. The Prime Savings account requires just $5 to open and has a 0.1% APY interest rate.

Still, there are other perks that offset the less-than-impressive savings rates, such as the Membership Rewards Program. The program is based on how much money you keep in your accounts, and rewards consist of perks like periodic discounts on loan rates, free out-of-network ATM transactions, and free online banking.

If you are a National Space Society member, you are eligible to join the NASA Federal Credit Union. And because memberships to the NSS are free, this is an easy and inexpensive way to get access to the NASA credit union. All you need is $5 to open an account, and you’re in.

man signing paperwork in meeting nuvision federal credit union
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NuVision Federal Credit Union

How to join: Online
Who can join: Anyone who becomes a member of the American Consumer Council
Fees: $5 opening balance, $5 membership to the American Consumer Council

Membership benefits:

  • Online and mobile banking and bill pay
  • Business services
  • Youth accounts
  • Loyalty Rewards program
  • Home, auto and student loans
  • Credit cards
  • Insurance products
  • Exclusive mortgage rates

Membership perks:

  • Discounts on SeaWorld tickets
  • Discounts on DirectTV
  • Discounts on legal services
  • Discounts on moving services
  • Discounts on mortgage rates

NuVision Federal Credit Union tied for a place in the study of credit unions anyone can join. The Primary Savings account has a minimum opening deposit of $5, but just a 0.1% APY. The institution does offer a full range of financial services as well as live-chat customer service.

Unlike the other credit unions on the list, NuVision doesn’t offer a basic free checking account: Members must maintain a $1,200 monthly average balance at minimum or at least $500 in direct deposits and make a minimum of seven debit card transactions per month to waive the account maintenance fee.

You can become eligible to join NuVision Credit Union by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council, which provides education and information about the value and worth of consumer products and services. Once you pay the $5 membership fee to join the American Consumer Council, you can enjoy NuVision Federal Credit Union membership and access benefits like discounts and exclusive mortgage rates.

Read: 8 Ways Your Money Habits Are Ruining Your Relationship

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Air Force Federal Credit Union

How to join: Online
Who can join: Anyone who becomes a member of The Airman Heritage Foundation
Fees: $5 minimum opening deposit, $25 annual membership to The Airman Heritage Foundation

Membership benefits:

  • Free checking
  • No minimum balance
  • Online and mobile banking and bill pay
  • Access to 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs
  • Christmas Club savings program
  • Cash-back rewards

Membership perks: No current offers listed

The Air Force Federal Credit Union is dedicated to serving the financial needs of military members and their families. A regular savings account is just $5 to open but only earns 0.1% APY. The credit union offers home, auto, and student loans as well as credit cards and customer service via live chat, but members will have to look elsewhere for insurance products or 24/7 customer phone support.

To become a member of the AFFCU, you’ll have to meet eligibility requirements, which are broad, or become a member of The Airman Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the heritage and service of American airmen. Membership to this foundation will cost you $25 for one year, $70 for three years or $300 for a lifetime. Consider the membership perks and interest rates to make sure the costs outweigh the benefits.

Methodology: GOBankingRates assessed information about credit unions, including sourcing information from the financial institution provider websites as of Sept. 23, 2016. To comprise this list of the best credit unions anyone can join, GOBankingRates considered the following factors: (1) minimum balance to open an account; (2) savings account APY; (3) variety of products available; and (4) customer service offerings. 

GOBankingRates is a personal finance and consumer interest rate website owned by ConsumerTrack, Inc., an online marketing company serving top-tier banks, credit unions, and other financial services organizations. Some companies mentioned in this article might be clients of ConsumerTrack, Inc., which serves more than 100 national, local and online financial institutions. Rankings and roundups are completely objective, and no institution, client or otherwise, paid for inclusion or specific placement. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the companies included in the article.