Best Credit Unions of 2020

The top credit unions offer advantages unique from larger banks.

Credit unions are a bit of a different breed when it comes to financial services companies. Unlike major banks, which you can seemingly find on any street corner, credit unions are localized, generally serving particular communities or employers and offering special rates or terms for certain customers. However, in this day and age, many credit unions have broadened their membership requirements to allow more customers to join. GOBankingRates analyzed the Best Credit Unions of 2020 to help steer customers toward the best options. Evaluation criteria included the following:

  • Minimum deposits required
  • Monthly maintenance fees
  • Minimum balances required to avoid fees
  • Annual percentage yield (APY)
  • Availability and diversity of banking services
  • Customer service, including 24/7 and live chat availability

If you’re looking for specific information about the Best Credit Unions of 2020, you can jump ahead to your section of interest.

Read: 15 Best New Bank Promotions and Bonuses: December 2019

Here are GOBankingRates’ Best Credit Unions of 2020:

The Best Credit Unions of 2020
Credit UnionChecking FeeSavings APY12-Month CD APYAccess (ATM)
Bethpage$00.20%1.90%Over 500 on Long Island and thousands across the U.S.
Alliant$01.65%1.95%80,000-plus surcharge-free ATMs nationwide
VyStar$00.25%1.95%20,000 ATMs nationwide
Navy Federal Credit Union 2019 LogoNavy Federal$00.25%2.00%30,000 free CO-OP Network ATMs
PSECU$00.15%1.55%Nearly 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs
Digital$00.25%1.87%80,000 surcharge-free non-Digital Credit Union ATMs nationwide
Bank Fund Staff$0 0.00%1.35% Access to over 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs across the U.S. and Canada
Delta Community$0 0.35%1.99% Thousands of surcharge-free ATMs in the CO-OP ATM network
Wings Financial$0 1.11% 1.81%Over 70,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide
Wright-Patt Credit Union$00.15%1.71%40,000 lower-to-no-fee ATMs and 5,300 shared branching locations

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Best Credit Unions of 2020

All of the Best Credit Unions of 2020 have at least a few standout features. Read on for details to see which ones might best suit you.


Bethpage

Why We Like It: No-fee accounts, low minimums, decent rates and open eligibility for all make Bethpage an interesting option when it comes to credit unions. The credit union’s checking account is a standout product.

Benefits:

  • High 12-month CD rates
  • Low $50 CD minimum
  • No-fee checking, savings and CD accounts

Drawbacks:

  • Only 16 branches, all on Long Island

Fees: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $0

Minimum Deposit: 

  • Checking: $0 ($5 deposit into a Bethpage savings account required)
  • Savings: $5
  • 12-Month CD: $50

Minimum Balance: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $5 to earn APY
  • 12-Month CD: $50 to earn APY

Balance To Avoid Fees: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $0

APY: 

  • Checking: 0.50%
  • Savings: 0.20%
  • 12-Month CD: 1.90%

Access (ATM): Bethpage members pay no fees at over 30,000 CO-OP ATMs nationwide.

How To Open an Account: You can open a Bethpage account online in about five minutes with your Social Security number and a driver’s license or government-issued ID. You’ll also be asked for information to fund your account, with a minimum deposit of $5 into a Bethpage savings account required. Note that you can’t open an account online in all states; during the account-opening process, you’ll be notified if your state is eligible for online account processing.

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Alliant

Why We Like It: Alliant Credit Union impresses with over 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs, no-fee accounts and high APYs, particularly on its savings and CDs.

Benefits:

  • Low- or no-minimum accounts
  • No-fee accounts
  • High savings and CD APYs
  • 80,000-plus surcharge-free ATMs
  • $20 in out-of-network ATM fee rebates

Drawbacks:

  • High minimum for CD accounts

Fees: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0 with eStatements
  • 12-Month CD: $0

Minimum Deposit: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $5
  • 12-Month CD: $1,000

Minimum Balance: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $5
  • 12-Month CD: $1,000

Balance To Avoid Fees: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0 with eStatements
  • 12-Month CD: $0

APY: 

  • Checking: 0.45%
  • Savings: 1.65%
  • 12-Month CD: 1.95%

Access (ATM): Receive $20 a month in ATM fee rebates when you use an out-of-network ATM (excludes 1% Visa foreign transaction fee). Alliant deposits the rebates into your checking account at the end of each day.

How To Open an Account: You can open an Alliant Credit Union account online, but first, you’ll have to qualify for membership. If you don’t qualify via an organization or your family, the easiest way to qualify is by paying a $5 membership fee to Foster Care to Success. You can then open an account by providing personal information, signing an account agreement and verifying your identity.

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VyStar

Why We Like It: No-fee accounts and a high 12-month CD APY make VyStar an attractive option.

Benefits:

  • High 12-month CD APY
  • No account fees
  • No-fee ATMs

Drawbacks:

  • Low savings and checking APY

Fees: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $0

Minimum Deposit: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $5
  • 12-Month CD: $500

Minimum Balance: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $5
  • 12-Month CD: $500

Balance To Avoid Fees: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $500

APY: 

  • Checking: 0.10%
  • Savings: 0.25%
  • 12-Month CD: 1.95%

Access (ATM): No fee for ATM withdrawals at any VyStar ATMs, and at over 20,000 ATMs in the U.S. Canada and Mexico.

How To Open an Account: You can open a VyStar account online, at a branch or via mail. You’ll need to become a member first and contribute $5 to a savings account. You’ll need to provide your Social Security number or Tax ID number, a U.S. driver’s license, passport or state ID, a valid email address and external bank account information. Only U.S. citizens or foreign residents can open an account at VyStar.

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Navy Federal Credit Union 2019 Logo-200x84

Navy Federal

Why We Like It: Navy Federal is a great choice for members of the armed forces, who enjoy no-fee accounts and a generous 12-month CD rate.

Benefits:

  • No-fee checking and savings accounts
  • High-APY 12-month CD

Drawbacks:

  • High CD minimum

Fees: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $0

Minimum Deposit: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $5
  • 12-Month CD: $1,000

Minimum Balance: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $1,000

Balance To Avoid Fees: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $0

APY: 

  • Checking: 0.05%
  • Savings: 0.25%
  • 12-Month CD: 2.00%

Access (ATM): No fee at Navy Federal or CO-OP ATMs; $1 at PLUS System ATMs, including overseas.

How To Open an Account: You can open an account online at Navy Federal Credit Union. After you demonstrate your eligibility, you’ll need to provide standard personal or financial information, including your Social Security number, date of birth and citizenship status.

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PSECU

Why We Like It: No-fee, no-minimum accounts plus hefty out-of-network ATM fee rebates make PSECU a good option.

Benefits:

  • No fees for checking, savings and CD accounts
  • Out-of-network ATM fee rebates of up to $20 monthly
  • Nearly 30,000-plus surcharge-free ATMs through the CO-OP network

Drawbacks:

  • Lower APYs on some bank accounts
  • Two physical branches serving Pennsylvania

Fees: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $0

Minimum Deposit: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $5
  • 12-Month CD: $500

Minimum Balance: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $5
  • 12-Month CD: $500

Balance To Avoid Fees: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $0

APY: 

  • Checking: 0.10%
  • Savings: 0.15%
  • 12-Month CD: 1.55%

Access (ATM): Rebates of out-of-network ATM fees of up to $20 per month with direct deposit, or up to $8 per month without.

How To Open an Account: You can open a PSECU account online in a few minutes after you determine your eligibility. You’ll need a current U.S. mailing address, Social Security number or Tax ID number, a valid form of photo ID and a credit or debit card to fund your savings account with at least $5. You’ll also need to provide your gross annual income and source of income.

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Digital

Why We Like It: No-fee accounts and a sky-high 6.17% savings APY (on the first $1,000) make Digital Credit Union a standout.

Benefits:

  • Ultra-high 6.17% savings APY on the first $1,000
  • No-fee accounts
  • Decent 12-month CD APY

Drawbacks:

  • No APY on checking account
  • Savings APY drops dramatically after the first $1,000

Fees: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $0

Minimum Deposit: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $5
  • 12-Month CD: $500

Minimum Balance: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $500

Balance To Avoid Fees: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $0

APY: 

  • Checking: 0.00%
  • Savings: 0.25% (6.17% on the first $1,000)
  • 12-Month CD: 1.87%

Access (ATM): Digital doesn’t charge fees for any ATM usage and reimburses as much as $25 in third-party surcharges depending on the type of account you open.

How To Open an Account: You can join the credit union and open an account online with your government-issued ID, Social Security card, proof of address and funding information.

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Bank Fund Staff

Why We Like It: No-fee, no-minimum accounts, coupled with 24/7 phone customer service, make Bank Fund Staff Federal Credit Union an attractive option.

Benefits:

  • Rebates of up to six monthly out-of-network ATM fee surcharges
  • No-fee accounts
  • 24/7 customer service

Drawbacks:

  • Overall, the credit union doesn’t offer standout rates

Fees: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $0 
  • 12-Month CD: No fee listed

Minimum Deposit: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $5 
  • 12-Month CD: $1,000 

Minimum Balance: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $0 
  • 12-Month CD: $1,000 

Balance To Avoid Fees: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $5 (to maintain membership)
  • 12-Month CD: $1,000 

APY: 

  • Checking: 0.20%
  • Savings: 0.00%
  • 12-Month CD: 1.35%

Access (ATM): No charge at Bank Fund Staff Federal Credit Union ATMs; up to six ATM surcharges at non-BFSFCU ATMs rebated monthly. 

How To Open an Account: You can open an account online at Bank Fund Staff with a driver’s license or passport, a Social Security number or Tax ID number and bank account information. The credit union recommends that you fund your accounts with at least $25 when you sign up. 

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Delta Community

Why We Like It: The standout product at Delta Community Credit Union is the 12-month CD, with a rate of 1.99% and no fees. The credit union also shines when it comes to its mobile app and customer service.

Benefits:

  • High 12-month CD rate
  • No-fee accounts
  • Low minimums

Drawbacks:

  • High overdraft fee of $35 per instance, plus a $5/month inactivity fee if your account is dormant for at least six months and your combined balance is below $60 

Fees: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $0 
  • 12-Month CD: $0 

Minimum Deposit: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $5 
  • 12-Month CD: $1,000 

Minimum Balance: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $5 
  • 12-Month CD: $1,000 

Balance To Avoid Fees: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $0 
  • 12-Month CD: $1,000 

APY: 

  • Checking: 0.03%
  • Savings: 0.35%
  • 12-Month CD: 1.99%

Access (ATM): No ATM fees at Delta Community terminals; for out-of-network terminals, third-party fees may apply, with no rebates

How To Open an Account: You can open a Delta Community account online in about five minutes. You’ll need to be a credit union member and provide your address, date of birth, Social Security number and valid driver’s license or state-issued ID. 

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Wings Financial

Why We Like It: Wings Financial has one of the top-yielding checking accounts available, although it carries direct deposit and debit card activity requirements.

Benefits:

Drawbacks:

  • Best yields are only achieved with high balances (savings) or activity requirements (checking)

Fees: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $0 
  • 12-Month CD: $0

Minimum Deposit: 

  • Checking: $0 (with $5 minimum savings deposit) 
  • Savings: $5 
  • 12-Month CD: $500 

Read: Pros and Cons of Online Savings Accounts

Minimum Balance: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $5 
  • 12-Month CD: $500 

Balance To Avoid Fees: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $0 
  • 12-Month CD: $500 (minimum balance) 

APY: 

  • Checking: 2.02%
  • Savings: 1.11%
  • 12-Month CD: 1.81%

Access (ATM): Over 70,000 surcharge-free ATMs via the Allpoint or CO-OP networks; $2.50 per transaction after 10 at out-of-network ATMs, per statement cycle. 

How To Open an Account: You can open a Wings Financial account online if you’re a legal resident of the U.S. and at least 18 years old. You’ll need your Social Security number and a government-issued ID to begin the process. 

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Wright-Patt Federal Credit Union

Why We Like It: Wright-Patt Federal Credit Union has no fees on most accounts and a high savings APY. 

Benefits:

  • Account minimums are low, even for CDs
  • Savings APY is high

Drawbacks:

  • Wright-Patt has a convoluted ATM fee schedule for non-WPCU ATMs

Fees: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $0 
  • 12-Month CD: No fee listed

Minimum Deposit: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $5 
  • 12-Month CD: $500

Minimum Balance: 

  • Checking: $0
  • Savings: $5
  • 12-Month CD: $500

Balance To Avoid Fees: 

  • Checking: $0 
  • Savings: $0
  • 12-Month CD: $0

APY: 

  • Checking: 0.04%
  • Savings: 0.15%
  • 12-Month CD: 1.71%

Access (ATM): All WPCU ATMs are free; non-WPCU ATMs charge $0.60 after a certain number of transactions, depending on your account level. Fees at PLUS ATMs are $1.50.

How To Open an Account: You can open a Wright-Patt account online, but first you’ll have to become a member. You’ll also have to deposit $5 into a savings account. From there, you can choose the account type you wish to open.

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Tips for Choosing the Best Credit Union

Credit unions have both advantages and disadvantages compared with traditional banks, but the methods you should use to evaluate them are similar. Here are some of the factors you should consider when trying to pick a credit union.

Know What Kind of Fees the Credit Union Charges

High fees can counteract any benefits you get from banking with a particular credit union. Even accounts with no monthly fee can prove costly if they carry high overdraft, transfer or other fees.

Read the Fine Print

Some accounts that may seem attractive on the surface may be less appealing in the fine print. A credit union may offer an enticing savings rate on an initial deposit but a less-satisfying rate on subsequent deposits. Make sure you read over the details and requirements for every account you sign up for.

Check APY

In the competitive world of financial services, many credit unions now offer no-fee and no-minimum checking and savings accounts. In this environment, APY becomes king. Check to see if the high APY you see is variable or promotional.

Browse the Website and Mobile App

Most credit unions now offer mobile and web access to accounts. If you’re a customer that values the ability to check your accounts or move money on the go — rather than having to visit a branch — electronic access is an important feature to check.

Related: How to Open a Bank Account Online: Everything You Need to Know

Look for National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Insurance

    Most legitimate credit unions have NCUA insurance, which is somewhat akin to the FDIC insurance carried by major banks. If a credit union doesn’t prominently display its NCUA insurance, look for one that does.

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    Credit Unions vs. Traditional Banks

    The most noteworthy distinction between credit unions and banks is that credit unions are not-for-profit institutions. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be charged any fees or interest at a credit union. Here’s a breakdown of the main characteristics that distinguish credit unions and banks.

    Advantages of a Credit Union 

    • Low- or no-fee accounts: Credit unions often try to pass along their reduced costs in the form of low- or no-fee accounts.
    • Personal touch: Credit unions are locally focused and strive to build personal and business relationships within a community. You likely won’t be a faceless member at most credit unions, unless you choose to be.
    • NCUA insurance: Credit unions don’t carry FDIC insurance, but NCUA insurance still works to cover customer accounts up to $250,000.

    Learn: Money Market Accounts vs. Savings Accounts: What’s the Difference?

    Disadvantages of a Credit Union

    • Membership requirements: Credit unions only offer services to members, although membership requirements for some can be lax.
    • Limited geographic reach: Credit unions are nearly always limited to a few states or regions.
    • Limited services: Although most credit unions offer basic products like checking accounts, savings accounts, CDs, money market accounts and loans, many can’t compete with large international banks in terms of more complex product types or services.
    • Technology may be behind the times: Without the massive financial backing of its larger competitors, some credit unions aren’t as technologically advanced in terms of mobile apps or web-based services.
    • Customer service hours may be limited: Some credit unions don’t have the personnel or funding to man 24-hour support lines or live chat.

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    FAQ

    Credit unions don’t have the massive marketing budgets of larger banks, so they remain a mystery to many customers. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding credit unions.

    Can I Use Both a Credit Union and a Bank?

    As a consumer, you’re free to use whichever type of financial institution you like, assuming you qualify for membership into a credit union. Sometimes using both institutions makes sense, as you can leverage the strengths of each type. For example, you may want to take out a loan with your local credit union, which may have easier qualification requirements and lower rates, while keeping some money at an international bank that may be better equipped for global ATM access or mobile account management.

    Learn: Are Banks Open Today? See Full List of All Bank Holidays

    Are Credit Unions Safe to Use?

    Most credit unions are federally insured via NCUA insurance, which from the perspective of a customer is similar to the FDIC insurance at member banks. Credit unions with this federal insurance will prominently display the NCUA logo. Some credit unions may have private insurance, but to be extra safe, you may want to stick to NCUA-backed institutions. No federally insured credit union has ever lost even a penny of customer funds. 

    How Do You Join a Credit Union?

    Most credit unions allow online applications for accounts, but not all. In some cases, you may have to visit a branch. Joining a credit union requires application for membership at the time you open an account.

    Do All Credit Unions Have Membership Requirements?

    All credit unions have membership requirements, but some are more lax than others. For example, Bethpage Credit Union is open to all customers who apply, but others may require you to live in a specific geographic region or work for a specified employer.

    Read: Investing in Certificates of Deposit: The Ultimate Guide

    Do Credit Unions Pay More Interest than Banks?

    Credit unions often pay higher interest rates than larger banks because they are nonprofit institutions. However, this is not always the case. Some large banks offer promotional rates on products that may top credit union rates, while others are moving into the high-yield savings battleground in an effort to keep customer assets.

    More From GOBankingRates

    Methodology: To compile its list of the Best Credit Unions of 2020, GOBankingRates surveyed the top 50 credit unions, according to the National Credit Union Administration’s list of credit unions sorted by asset size, excluding nonactive institutions, investment credit unions and any institutions that require customers to use investment services to access commercial accounts.

    GOBankingRates scored the credit unions on the following factors: (1) minimum deposit to open a checking account; (2) monthly fee associated with the checking account; (3) minimum balance needed to avoid the monthly fee associated with the checking account; (4) the APY of the checking account; (5) minimum deposit needed to open a savings account; (6) minimum balance to achieve an APY with that savings account; (7) the APY earned with the savings account; (8) minimum required to open a certificate of deposit (CD); (9) the APY of a 12-month CD; (10) the APY of a 5-year CD; (11) availability and diversity of banking services, including personal loans, auto loans, mortgage loans, credit cards and kid-focused accounts; and (12) customer service, 24/7 and live chat availability. Each factor was then scored and combined with the lowest score being best.

    Both the checking and savings accounts surveyed were the smallest threshold (minimum deposit) to join offered by each credit union. 

    GOBankingRates’ rankings for the Best Banks of 2020 were based on rates and other information compiled from individual institutions’ websites and/or conversations with representatives from the financial institutions throughout September 2019 and October 2019. Rates are subject to change. All other information on accounts is accurate as of Dec. 9, 2019. All costs, terms and conditions are subject to change at the discretion of each financial institution. For more information, see the complete methodology for the rankings.

    About the Author

    After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.