Citizens Equity First Credit Union Review: Low Fees and a Variety of Account Offerings

GOBankingRates Score

4.3
Our take: Citizens Equity First Credit Union is a full-service credit union offering banking and lending products. Qualified CEFCU members benefit from the institution's low monthly fees and wide range of checking and savings accounts
  • Rates
    4.5
  • Products
    4.5
  • Customer Service
    4.0
  • Digital Experience
    4.0
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • Wide range of banking products 
  • Free access to nearly 30,000 ATMs 
  • Limited monthly fees
  • Low initial deposits to open accounts

Cons

  • APY on savings isn't as high as what you'd receive from some online banks and credit unions
  • Membership isn't available to everyone 

About Citizens Equity First Credit Union

Citizens Equity First Credit Union was founded in 1937 and is based in Peoria, Illinois. CEFCU is a full-service credit union offering a range of banking products, including checking, savings, certificates and money market accounts.

CEFCU has more than 330,000 members in counties across Illinois and California. To qualify as a member, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Live or work in certain Illinois counties 
  • Live, work or worship in certain California counties
  • Current or retired employee of Caterpillar Inc. or one of its subsidiaries
  • Current or retired employee of a CEFCU partner company
  • Immediate family member of an eligible CEFCU member
  • Part of the household of an eligible CEFCU member
  • A spouse of a CEFCU member who has passed away
  • Current or retired CEFCU employee

Banking Products

Here is an overview of some of the best features Citizens Equity First Credit Union offers in its banking products.

Type  Best for
Checking Standard no-fee checking account 
Savings Low minimum deposit and no monthly fees 
Money Market Debit card and ATM access 
Certificates Competitive tiered APYs 

CEFCU Checking Accounts

You only need a minimum deposit of $25 to open a standard CEFCU checking account. It doesn’t have many bells or whistles, but it meets the basic requirements most people have for a checking account.

Customers who want their account to earn money can sign up for a Dividend Checking account, which offers a 0.05% APY. The Dividend Checking option requires a $2,500 opening deposit and at least that much in the account to avoid fees and earn dividends.

Features

  • Minimum opening deposit of $25 for standard checking
  • No monthly maintenance fees for standard checking
  • No in-network ATM fees; $1 out-of-network ATM fee 

Pros

  • Access to nearly 30,000 ATMs
  • Overdraft protection options 

Cons

  • $6 monthly fee for Dividend Checking if average daily balance falls below $2,500
  • Overdraft fees of $30, though they can be avoided with overdraft protection from linked accounts

CEFCU Savings Accounts

Citizens Equity First Credit Union has a basic savings account, and from that one account, customers can add up to 35 separate My Use accounts to save for specific goals. CEFCU also has a Holiday Saver account. 

Features

  • Minimum $5 opening deposit for all three account types
  • $1 membership fee required to establish basic savings account
  • No fees for in-network ATM use
  • 0.08% APY for all savings products

Pros

  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • Ability to save for a variety of priorities 

Cons

  • Better interest rates available at other financial institutions

CEFCU Money Market Account

You’ll need at least $2,500 to open a money market account at CEFCU. The account pays tiered interest rates that range from 0.10% APY to 0.20% APY.

Features

  • $2,500 minimum opening deposit
  • Comes with debit card
  • Access money at nearly 30,000 ATMs

Pros

  • No ATM fees when using a network ATM
  • Insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration 
  • Can be used for overdraft protection for checking account

Cons

  • High minimum opening deposit
  • $200 minimum on withdrawals to avoid a fee
  • Monthly maintenance fee for average daily balances below $2,500

CEFCU Certificate Accounts

You’ll need at least $1,000 to open a certificate — the credit union equivalent of a CD account — at CEFCU. The credit union offers a standard certificate, a jumbo certificate and the My Save Certificate.

Features

  • Minimum opening deposit of $1,000 for standard certificate, $100,000 for jumbo certificate and just $5 for My Save Certificate
  • Terms of three months to five years for standard and jumbo certificates
  • APYs from 0.15%-0.90%, depending on account balance 

Pros

  • Low $5 opening deposit for My Save Certificate, which earns 0.25% APY
  • Variety of terms
  • Easy to open online 

Cons

  • $1,000 minimum deposit to open a standard certificate
  • My Save Certificate deposit can’t exceed $1,000

Banking Experience

CEFCU offers in-person banking options for customers who live in limited areas of Illinois and California. If a branch location isn’t convenient to you, you can take advantage of the credit union’s online banking experience and access to one of its nearly 30,000 ATMs.  

Customer Service

CEFCU’s customer service representatives can be reached at 800-542-3328. They are available Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST; Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST. You also can send an email or a secure message via the online banking platform.

Digital Experience

CEFCU offers online banking, convenient electronic statements and online check ordering. And you can use the credit union’s mobile app to manage your accounts, transfer funds, deposit checks, make loan and credit card payments, and pay your bills. The app is available for both Android and iOS users. The app has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Google Play and 4.6 at the App Store.

How To Open a CEFCU Account

Assuming you meet the membership requirements, CEFCU makes it easy to open your account online. You’ll need to have the following information on hand:

  • A government-issued photo ID
  • Personal information, such as your current, and in some cases previous, home address
  • Social Security number
  • Routing and account numbers to fund your account

Key Information

Customer service number: 800-542-3328

Routing number: 271183701

CEFCU Fees

Citizens Equity First Credit Union is a good option for anyone looking for limited fees along with competitive rates. Here’s a look at some of the fees customers should be aware of:

Type Amount
Monthly maintenance fees $0 for most accounts
ATM fees $0 for in-network ATMs; $1 for out-of-network ATMs 
Overdraft fees $30 
Domestic wire transfer $25 
International wire transfer $50 

CEFCU vs. Competitors

When you’re trying to decide if a specific financial institution meets your needs, it’s a wise idea to compare it to others. Here’s how Citizens Equity First Credit Union measures up to some others you might consider.

Bank Best For
CEFCU Wide range of banking products 
Alliant Credit Union Generous 0.55% APY on savings account 
First Northern Credit Union Competitive rates on money market accounts and certificates 
Navy Federal Credit Union 24/7 customer service 

CEFCU vs. Alliant Credit Union

You could earn a generous 0.55% APY with Alliant’s High-Rate Savings Account. However, CEFCU offers a wider range of banking products than Alliant does.

CEFCU vs. First Northern Credit Union

First Northern Credit Union offers competitive rates on its money market accounts and share certificates. CEFCU charges fewer fees on its banking products. 

CEFCU vs. Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union is a great option for military families and has round-the-clock customer service. CEFCU has more options for credit cards that offer an array of travel benefits, such as trip cancellation insurance and access to airport concierge services, making it an option worth considering for frequent travelers.

Final Take

CEFCU is a good option for anyone looking for a credit union that offers a variety of products to choose from. The credit union charges low fees and offers access to nearly 30,000 ATMs across the country

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    Editor’s Favorite

    CEFCU’s well-regarded mobile banking options make it easy to manage your account without ever stepping inside a branch. 

    Citizens Equity First Credit Union FAQ

    Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about CEFCU.
    • Can anyone become a CEFCU member?
      • No, to become a member you must meet live or work in a limited number of counties in Illinois, or live, work and worship in specific California counties. You also can join if you're a current or retired employee of certain partner companies or a qualified family or household member of a CEFCU member.
    • Is the money in my account with CEFCU insured?
      • Yes, CEFCU accounts are insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration.
    • How do I reorder checks?
      • You can reorder checks through your online CEFCU account.
    • Does CEFCU offer free money for signing up for an account?
      • Yes, you can receive up to $125 in credit if you open a checking account by June 30. The account must be in good standing, and you must qualify to receive the credit. There are many ways to qualify for the full amount, including through direct deposits or using your CEFCU Debit Mastercard for purchases.

    Rates are subject to change; unless otherwise noted, rates are updated periodically. All other information on accounts is accurate as of Jan. 28, 2021.

    This content is not provided by Citizens Equity First Credit Union. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Citizens Equity First Credit Union.

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    About the Author

    Jamie Johnson is a freelance writer who covers a variety of personal finance topics, including investing, loans, and building credit. In addition to writing for GOBankingWrites, she currently writes for clients like Quicken Loans, Credit Karma, and the US Chamber of Commerce. 

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