Ascend Federal Credit Union Review 2022: Full-Suite Banking Services and Member Benefits

GOBankingRates Score

4.5
Quick Take: Ascend Financial Credit Union makes it possible for just about anyone to become a member, regardless of where they live or work. However, physical branch locations are only in select Tennessee counties. Members who live outside the area must rely on digital banking. Like many credit unions, Ascend offers more than traditional banking services. Members can get insurance coverage, seek retirement planning services and even open a Health Savings Account if eligible. They can also earn member perks, participate in profit-sharing and have access to a free budgeting tool.
  • Membership Eligibility
    5.0
  • Digital Experience
    4.5
  • Member Benefits
    4.5
  • Products
    4.0
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • Several ways to qualify for membership
  • Members-only benefits and discounts
  • Profit-sharing for eligible members
  • Access to a free money management tool
  • Mobile, online and phone banking available

Cons

  • Limits are sometimes placed on mobile deposits
  • Minimum account requirements for free checking
  • High personal loan rates for those with excellent credit
  • Youth and Certificate accounts only available to open at a physical branch

Ascend Federal Credit Union Overview

Ascend Federal Credit Union is a nonprofit financial cooperative started in 1951 in Tullahoma, Tenn. Originally, it served employees of Arnold Air Force Base. It’s the second-largest credit union in Tennesse after Eastman Credit Union. It serves 240,600 members and holds about $3.74 billion in assets.

There are 27 branch locations available for Tennessee residents. Ascend has members worldwide who access its online and mobile banking platform. Ascend offers a full suite of banking services in addition to retirement and investment services and insurance.

Key Features

Ascend Federal Credit Union has a lot to offer members. Here are a few key features that might be of particular interest to those looking to join a credit union.

Membership Eligibility

To qualify for Ascend Federal Credit Union membership, an applicant must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have a family member who is an Ascend member
  • Work for or belong to one of Ascend’s Select Employee Groups
  • Live in an underserved area
  • Belong to the Tennessee chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

Good To Know

For a one-time $25 donation, anyone can join the Tennessee chapter of The Nature Conservancy and become eligible for Ascend membership. Those interested can join and donate at the same time they apply for Ascend membership.

Digital Experience

Ascend offers several ways for members to do their banking without visiting a physical branch.

The credit union offers mobile, online and phone banking. Members who live within Ascend’s service area have access to ITMs — or interactive teller machines — that allow users to video conference with a customer service representative and do many of the same transactions that can be done inside a branch location.

Fee-free access to the Allpoint network of more than 55,000 ATMs worldwide makes it easy to get money almost anywhere. Ascend members also get fee-free access to the credit union’s proprietary Money Tower network ATMs.

Member Benefits

Quite a few perks are available to Ascend members. In addition to lower loan rates and flexible loan terms, benefits also include:

  • Access to a wide range of financial education videos, lessons, tools and calculators
  • Member profit-sharing based on the amount of interest earned and loans paid
  • Free access to Ascend’s robust money management tool, which allows members to create a budget, set money goals, track debt payoff, automate savings and more
  • Debit card purchase discounts.

Products

Ascend covers almost every banking need of its members, plus a few other services not necessarily available at other financial institutions.

Banking Services

In addition to checking, savings and money market accounts, Ascend also offers certificates, similar to CDs, or certificates of deposits, Christmas Club accounts and HSAs.

Loan Services

Ascend can help members get into a new home or car or borrow against their home equity. Members can also take out a recreational loan or a personal loan or a line of credit.

Ascend offers a few different Visa card options that have low rates and card perks only available to members.

Retirement and Investing Services

Ascend offers more than just basic banking and loan services. Available services include retirement planning help, life insurance guidance, IRA and pension rollovers, portfolio evaluations, college planning and long-term care planning.

Insurance

Members can get competitive rates on home, auto, credit disability and life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance.

Other Notable Features

A few other Ascend features are worth noting for those considering joining a credit union.

Rates

The rates for Ascend’s interest-bearing accounts are not as high as potential members might find elsewhere.

Account Type Ascend Federal Credit Union APY  Eastman Credit Union APY
Checking 0% % to 0%
Savings 0% 0%
Christmas Club 0% N/A
Money Market Accounts  0% to 0% % to %
Certificates % to % 0% to %

While deposit account rates aren’t as good as can be found elsewhere, Ascend does offer lower credit card APRs that range from 9.5% to 18.0% for the Visa Platinum and Visa Platinum Rewards cards. The Student Visa has a 9.90% APR, and the Secured Visa Platinum has a 15.90% APR.

Customer Service

Ascend makes customer service representatives available in a few different ways. Members can receive customer service by:

  • Visiting a branch location
  • Using an ITM  
  • Chatting via online banking
  • Emailing
  • Calling during business hours

Fees

Ascend’s fees may seem excessive for some services and exceptional for others.

Unless a member meets specific minimum account requirements, Ascend charges a $5 check-cashing fee per item and a $3 account maintenance fee applicable to all accounts. Ascend offers coin counting services but charges members 10% for amounts over $25.

Ascend offers members two Visa card options with no annual fees and no fees for balance transfers or cash advances.

What Sets Ascend Federal Credit Union Apart

The most notable feature of Ascend is how easy it is to become a member. A one-time $25 donation to The Nature Conservancy guarantees membership to just about anyone.

Ascend has a wide array of services that can provide one-stop shopping for everything from banking and retirement planning services to insurance. The free Money Management budgeting tool can save members from the monthly subscription fee of a paid budgeting app.

Ascend Federal Credit Union vs. Competitors

For those considering a credit union membership, here’s how Ascend compares to two other credit unions that made the GOBankingRates list of Best Credit Unions.

Eastman Credit Union

Eastman Credit Union’s free checking account might be attractive for those looking to join a credit union. By contrast, Ascend checking account holders must meet minimum requirements to waive checking fees. Ascend’s minimal eligibility requirements might be easier to meet than Eastman’s. Both of these credit unions pay dividends and APY on interest-bearing accounts.

Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union has strict membership requirements compared to Ascend. Navy Federal Credit Union offers % APY on savings, which is considerably higher than Ascend’s 0% APY. It also provides exceptional certificate rates, as high as .00% APY, compared to Ascend’s high of % APY.

Also, Navy Federal Credit Union offers a broader selection of credit cards to meet members’ needs.

How To Apply

To apply for membership with Ascend Federal Credit Union, a potential member must be 18 or older and a U.S. resident. Applicants will need to meet membership eligibility and provide the following information whether opening an account online or at a branch location:

  • A government-issued ID with a current address
  • Previous address, if current address is less than two years old
  • Social Security number
  • Phone number
  • Credit card, debit card or banking account information to fund an account.

All applicants are required to open a savings account to join.

Who Ascend Federal Credit Union Is Right For

Ascend may be an ideal choice for anyone looking to join a credit union but hasn’t been able to qualify with other institutions. Also, for those who like the idea of one-stop shopping for banking, insurance and retirement planning needs, Ascend can be a great option.

Final Take

While Ascend’s rates on its interest-bearing accounts are not as high as those of some other credit unions, it has less stringent membership requirements. Its member perks are attractive, from its Money Management platform to member profit-sharing. And the mobile and online banking functionality, along with fee-free ATM access at more than 55,000 locations, make Ascend accessible no matter where a member lives.

Ascent Federal Credit Union FAQ

Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about Ascend Federal Credit Union.
  • Is Ascend insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation?
    • No, Ascend Federal Credit Union is not insured by the FDIC. It is chartered, regulated and insured by the National Credit Union Association.
  • How much does it cost to open a checking account with Ascend?
    • Ascend's Preferred checking account requires an initial deposit of $25. A Legacy checking account requires either the setup of a direct deposit, an automatic incoming transfer or an initial $20 deposit.
  • How do I withdraw money from Ascend?
    • Members can withdraw from their Ascend account at any branch location, ITM or ATM. The locator map on the website can help users find a branch, fee-free ATM or ITM.

Rates are subject to change; unless otherwise noted, rates are updated periodically. All other information on accounts is accurate as of April 29, 2022.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Ascent Federal Credit Union. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Ascent Federal Credit Union.

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About the Author

Andrea Norris has been in the web publishing business for the past 15 years both as a content contributor and a copy editor specializing in personal finance, frugal living, home and auto topics. She writes both short and long-form content and is well-practiced in SEO keyword research and writing.

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