Desert Financial Credit Union Review: Credit Union Access for Arizona Residents, Employees, Worshippers and Family

GOBankingRates Score

4.8
Quick Take: Banking with a credit union has its perks, such as lower fees and better interest rates. But not everyone may qualify to bank with one. Desert Financial Credit Union is more accessible since the financial institution accepts most residents of Arizona it has over 360,000 members to date. Read this in-depth Desert Financial Credit Union review to decide if it's worth switching to DFCU.
  • Accessibility
    4.8
  • Breadth of Products
    5.0
  • Opening Deposit Requirements
    4.8
  • Physical Brances
    4.5
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • No monthly services fees with checking
  • Cash back and member discounts through the Relationship Rewards program
  • Courtesy overdraft coverage available
  • Minimum opening deposit of $25 with savings account
  • Full-featured mobile banking app

Cons

  • Not available in Apache, Graham, Greenlee and Santa Cruz counties
  • Fees aren't any cheaper than traditional bank fees
  • Non-sufficient funds fee of $35 with no daily caps

Overview of Desert Financial Credit Union

Desert Financial Credit Union is a statewide credit union with 52 branches in Arizona. It was founded almost 80 years back and focuses on servicing the local communities with a members-first philosophy. Desert Financial Credit Union ranks as no. 12 in the latest GOBankingRates study of the Best Credit Unions of 2022, as well as making the Top 100 Banks of 2022 list.

To bank with DFCU, you’ll need to live, work or worship in Arizona, be related to someone who banks at the credit union or be an employee of the bank.

Desert Financial Credit Union Banking Products

Desert Financial Credit Union provides a full-service experience similar to most major banks. Accounts, savings, loans and wealth planning are all available under one umbrella.

Checking Account

There’s only one type of checking account available, but the good news is, it’s free — that is, no monthly service fees. There are no monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements. But before you open one, you’ll need to sign up for membership and open a savings account with at least $25.

Being a DFCU Rewards member has its perks. You’re automatically enrolled once you become a member of the credit union. You can earn points for different activities, such as receiving at least $500 in direct deposits, having 25 or more checking account transactions per month, having a DFCU loan and maintaining a $10,000 balance in savings and investments.

You’ll need at least two points to be a Rewards Member, or three points for Rewards+. The points will earn you special perks such as cash back on several transactions and direct deposits, a 0.25%-0.50% discount on future loans, free checks and more. Another pro is that you can have access to over 30,000 Co-Op ATMs nationwide free of surcharges.

Managing your checking account is simple. Drop into a local branch or handle most banking tasks by using the mobile app or the website. There’s even a free budgeting tool for account holders to help you control your spending and set goals. Use the tool wisely — the credit union’s overdraft fee is high at $35 and you could be charged multiple times in a single day if more than one check is returned. Also note that the checking account isn’t interest-earning.

Savings Account

Desert Financial Credit Union’s savings account is the foundation of banking with the financial institution. You’ll need a savings account to become a member and before you open other types of accounts. Fortunately, you only need $25 to get started.

Interest rates for the Membership Savings account is 0.10% and there are no monthly maintenance fees, though other fees may be incurred, such as for non-sufficient funds. The interest rate isn’t nearly as competitive as other banks, but you can enjoy unlimited transactions at Desert Financial ATMs and unlimited at-the-counter transactions.

Money Market Account

DFCU doesn’t offer interest-bearing checking accounts. A good workaround is a money market account — you can write checks and pay bills while earning interest on your balance. You’ll need at least $2,000 to open a Desert Financial Credit Union money market account, but there are many perks when you do. Interest rates range from 0.15% up to 0.50% APY, depending on your balance.

You can enjoy unlimited at-the-counter transactions, write checks or use the linked Money Market Visa card for payments. There are no monthly maintenance fees either, though there is a $15 monthly fee for having a low balance, which can be waived if you keep at least a $2,000 minimum balance.

If you’re trying to decide between the credit union’s savings vs. money market account, remember that a savings account is required to bank with DFCU. However, if you have at least $2,000 to deposit, this account earns 0.15% — more than parking your money in the savings account, which earns a modest 0.10% APY.

Savings Certificate

Desert Financial Credit Union’s certificate of deposit is known as a Savings Certificate. Funding one will guarantee you an interest rate for a set period. The best CD rates are typically available when you lock in your money for several years, but make sure you won’t need the funds or you’ll be subject to an early withdrawal penalty.

Terms ranging between six months to five years are available, with rates up to 1.16% APY. You’ll need at least $1,000 minimum to open an account, but luckily, here again, there are no monthly or annual service fees, and you can choose to automatically renew your certificate.

Note, however, that if you do choose the automatic renewal option, it will adjust to the current rate at the time, which could be lower than the previous APY rate.

Best Features of Desert Financial Credit Union

All banks and credit unions have strengths and weaknesses that make them unique. Four features of banking with DFCU deserve special mention.

Accessibility

Credit unions are often restrictive when it comes to membership, requiring specific criteria such as employment in a particular company or field. Desert Financial Credit Union accepts interested individuals who live, worship or work in Arizona or are related to a member.

Breadth of Products

DFCU is a full-service institution, providing personal and business bank accounts, as well as wealth management, loans, mortgages, retirement planning, health savings accounts and four branded credit cards. Families, young adults and small business owners are just a few examples of who can bank with DFCU — and find the financial services they need.

Opening Deposit Requirements

Once you’re a member, you’ll be provided with a savings account. You’ll need to start with $25, which is a reasonable opening deposit requirement for the majority of people looking to open a new account. In addition, CDs require a minimum investment of $1,000. The largest opening deposit requirement is $2,000 for a money market account.

Physical Branches

There are 52 branches available throughout Arizona. They’ll come in handy — DFCU offers unlimited counter service that doesn’t go against a savings or money market account’s transaction limit of six per month.

Editor’s Favorite

The Relationship Rewards Program lets you earn points for savings and purchases which you can use for free services such as checks, member discounts, lower interest rates on loans and cash back.

Banking Experience

DFCU is best for Arizona residents who are located near a branch, since counter transactions are free and unlimited for the more restricted savings and money market accounts. However, the Desert Financial Credit Union mobile app and online banking platform are also great tools.

Customer Service

Customer service is available when you call 1-602-433-7000. You can also email, send a secure message through your account or chat live on the website. Chat hours are on weekdays 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST.

Accessibility and Branch Availability

There are 52 Desert Financial Credit Union branches throughout Arizona. Some are located in Walmart or Safeway stores.

Mobile and Digital Experience

The mobile banking app earns high marks from Android and iOS users. Bank encryption is standard and integrates with most smartphone security features such as password lock and Touch ID. Features include:

  • Account management
  • Pay people and bills
  • Set budget goals
  • Review transactions and balances
  • Secure messaging
  • Branch/ATM finder
  • Mobile deposits
  • Account alerts

Desert Financial Credit Union reviews from customers rank the app above average, especially among Apple users:

  • Google Play: 4.6 out of 5 stars
  • Apple Store: 4.8 out of 5 stars

Convenience and Ease of Use

The app ranks highly among users for its simple and easy-to-navigate interface. In addition, you have plenty of options when in doubt:

  • Visit a local branch
  • Access online banking
  • Call for support
  • Send an email

How To Open an Account

To open an account online, you’ll need to apply for membership using the same documents required for opening a bank account. They are:

  • A government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license or passport
  • Social Security number
  • Home address
  • Date of birth
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Bank and routing information if you wish to transfer funds from an existing bank account

Fees

Some of the most common fees associated with a DFCU account include:

  • Monthly Maintenance Fees: $15 for money market accounts, although the fee can be waived if you keep a $2,000 daily balance.
  • Returned Item Fee: $35
  • Cashier’s Check Fee: $5
  • Incoming Wire Transfer: $10 domestic
  • Outgoing Wire Transfer: $20 domestic, $60 international
  • NSF Fee: $35

Desert Financial Credit Union vs. Competitors

Bank Best For
Desert Financial Credit Union Customers who prefer working with a community credit union
Arizona Federal Credit Union Families
OneAZ Credit Union Smaller, more personalized banking
Navy Federal Credit Union Military

Desert Financial Credit Union vs. Arizona Federal Credit Union

Both credit unions are good choices in Arizona, but AFCU offers checking for young adults and teens, which may be a better option for families. Business and trust accounts are also available to expand on the options.

Desert Financial Credit Union vs. OneAZ Credit Union

OneAZ has far fewer branches available than DFCU. If you’d prefer to deal with a smaller credit union in Arizona, it may be a better option. However, if having access to branches across the state is important, Desert Financial is the best option of the two. 

Desert Financial Credit Union vs. Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union is exclusively for military, National Guard, Department of Defense employees and their family members. If you qualify for membership, you’ll have access to one of the largest and highest-rated credit unions in the country. It serves nine million members and has won awards from Fortune and Forrester’s for its company culture and customer service.

Final Take

Desert Financial Credit Union is a good alternative to traditional banking. If you’re a qualifying Arizona resident, membership means you’ll have access to banking services and rewards you may not find at the major banks.

Desert Financial Credit Union FAQ

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about Desert Financial Credit Union.
  • What are the best credit unions in Arizona?
    • If you're in search of a credit union in Arizona, Desert Financial Credit Union is available for Arizona residents, worshippers and workers. Arizona Federal Credit Union and Arizona Central Credit Union are other good alternatives.
  • Who qualifies for membership to Desert Financial Credit Union?
    • Residents of most of Arizona except Apache, Graham, Greenlee and Santa Cruz counties relatives of members or employees of Desert Financial can open an account.
  • How long does it take to open an account with Desert Financial Credit Union?
    • Opening an account online is fairly fast you should be good to go in 10 to 25 minutes.

Rates are subject to change. Information on accounts is accurate as of Aug. 23, 2022.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by any entity covered in this article. 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 any entity named in this article.

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About the Author

Cynthia Paez Bowman is a personal finance writer with degrees from American University in international business and journalism. Besides writing about personal finance, she writes about real estate, interior design and architecture. Her work has been featured in MSN, Brex, Freshome, MyMove, Emirates’ Open Skies magazine and more.
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