DFCU Financial Review: Banking With Top-Tier Rewards and Benefits for Members

GOBankingRates Score

4.9
Quick Take: Best for residents of Michigan's Lower Peninsula who are focused on saving money and improving their financial standing, DFCU Financial has a wealth of financial education and preparedness programs, from webinars to the Money Management tool that allows you to set budgets and track spending in the DFCU online portal.
  • Cash-back rewards
    5.0
  • Member Benefits
    4.8
  • Financial Education Services
    5.0
  • Digital Services
    4.8
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • Cash-back rewards 
  • Checking account perks like credit cards 
  • No minimum monthly balance for checking 
  • Network of 30,000+ ATMs 

Cons

  • Membership limited to Michigan's Lower Peninsula 
  • $20 minimum deposit to open a checking account 

About DFCU Financial

DFCU Financial is Michigan’s second-largest credit union and serves the Lower Peninsula, including Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids and Landing. With generous cash-back programs, the credit union put $36 million into members’ accounts for 2021. DFCU Financial ranks among GOBankingRates’ Top 100 Banks for 2022, in part for its cash back program and the tremendous perks offered to members with a checking account. The DFCUPerks Plus checking offers money-saving discounts and conveniences often available only on credit cards.

Checking Accounts

DFCU Financial offers three tiers of checking accounts designed for the way you spend money. The basic checking account, which pays $50 per year with a minimum average balance of $5,000 for the calendar year, is available free to members. A $20 minimum deposit is required to open the account.

If you’re interested in money-saving benefits, you can opt for a DFCUPerks or DFCUPerks Plus account. You can upgrade to DFCUPerks for $6 per month, with no minimum monthly balance required. Or you can receive the whole gamut of member benefits with a DFCUPerks Plus account for $10 per month, which is waived if you maintain a minimum balance of $10,000 across DFCU deposit accounts. You also can earn interest of up to 0.02% with a DFCUPerks Plus account.

Savings Accounts

DFCU Financial offers two savings accounts, both very similar in their offerings but different in their intentions. Both the regular savings account and the holiday and special savings account offer an APY of 0.02% in dividends, and they also pay cash back based on your age and your balance.

When you use your Mastercard debit linked to your DFCU checking account, you can round up the purchase price and transfer the difference to your savings account, which can add up quickly. DFCU Financial reports that members have deposited more than $1.7 million using the program.

Share Certificate

DFCU Financial’s share certificate offerings are not as wide ranging as some other credit unions, but they offer the most popular terms. The minimum balance to open a share certificate is $1,000 and, with that balance, you can choose terms from three months up to five years.

Yields vary from 0.05% APY for a 3-month certificate with a balance of less than $25,000 up to a 0.55% yield for a five-year certificate with $100,000 or more in the account.

Money Market

DFCU Financial says its Money Market account is its most popular deposit product, delivering dividends up to 0.15% on a tiered basis. You’ll need a minimum deposit of $2,500 to open an MMA.

Other Features

Cash Back Rewards

While some other credit unions offer debit card rewards, DFCU Financial takes it a step further, delivering cash back for any kind of account, including custodial accounts for children or young adults under 17.

A handy cash-back calculator on the website shows exactly how much cash back you can earn annually for various types of accounts, including checking, savings, share certificates and loans. The cash back you earn depends on the balance you maintain across your deposit accounts, as well as your age.

Total cash back is limited to $25,000 annually. As an example, kids under 17 earn $50 per year for each year they maintain an average balance of $100 in their savings account. Young adults ages 18 to 25 must maintain an average deposit or loan balance of at least $1,000, and other members must have an average deposit or loan balance of $5,000 to earn $50 cash back a year. If you have $10,000 in any deposit account, you’d get back $100. Every $100,000 in any loan or deposit account earns $500 cash back. So, if you have a $300,000 mortgage with DFCU Financial, their cash back calculator indicates you would get back $1,500 per year. These rewards are paid annually and do not include dividends distributed by the credit union.

Member Benefits

DFCU Financial’s top-tier checking account, DFCUPerks Plus, offers benefits normally associated with mid-level and top-tier rewards credit cards, such as Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Using your checking account to pay your cell phone bill gives you protection of up to $400 if your phone is lost, broken or stolen. You’ll receive identity theft protection of up to $2,500 to cover the costs to restore your identity and credit.

A health savings card offers discounts on prescription medications, eye exams, lenses and hearing aids. The Roadside Assistance program is free to use and even covers $80 worth of service charges. The account also offers $10,000 in accidental death coverage while traveling, which can help your family pay for funeral costs. Using your DFCUPerks Plus app, you also can save money at local and national retailers.

Financial Education Services

Unlike many banks and even other credit unions, DFCU Financial focuses on education to help its members improve their finances. Since 1999, the credit union has offered a series of seminars — now webinars — dedicated to important money topics such as Medicare, Social Security, retirement savings and credit and debt management. The organization also offers many podcasts devoted to money topics. On the DFCU Financial website, members and non-members alike can access budget worksheets and other money management tools. Finally, the DFCU Financial app gives members access to a Money Management portal to help with spending, saving, and budgeting.

Digital Services

DFCU’s online portal, digital banking app and other digital banking services set it apart from many credit unions. Its robust offerings are second only to Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union, which is known as a digital-first financial services organization.

The Anywhere Banking program available through DFCU provides mobile deposit, online bill payments and even the ability to bank through SMS or text messenger, as well as through the DFCU Online app.

DFCU Financial’s debit Mastercard and Platinum Mastercard credit card support Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay. The cards provide contactless payment options.

Members also can use DFCU Financial’s person-to-person (P2P) digital payment service DFCUPay to transfer money to and from friends and family for free. P2P payment services aren’t normally offered through banks or credit unions, making this an unusual and handy offering for those who often find themselves using third-party P2P platforms such as PayPal or Venmo.

The mobile apps get good ratings: 4.6 on the Apple Store and 4.5 on Google Play.

Editor’s Favorite

DFCU Financial’s checking account perks stand out, but another feature you don’t find in other places is the CardCTRL app. This app allows you to control your credit and debit card usage by setting limits dependent on the location of the purchase, spending limits and even merchant or transaction types. If you are working on your financial discipline, the app can be a great tool. It is also perfect for fraud protection, as it alerts you to unauthorized use and locks a card directly through the app as soon as you realize it has been lost or stolen.

DFCU vs. Competitors

DFCU vs. Chase Bank

DFCU is open only to certain Michigan residents. But how does the credit union stack up against one of the biggest banks on GOBankingRates’ 2022 list of Best Banks? First of all, you’ll need just $20 to open a free checking account at DFCU, while Chase requires a $1,500 minimum balance for fee-free checking. DFCU’s free checking account even offers dividend bonuses starting at $50 per year and rising based on your account balance. Combined with the personalized service you get with a local credit union, DFCU’s rewards checking and savings with 0.02% interest, compared to Chase’s 0.01%, make it a solid choice.

DFCU vs. Lake Michigan Credit Union

Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Lake Michigan Credit Union is open to members in the same region as DFCU, but it also has branches and members across Michigan and parts of Florida. LMCU offers a checking product that is hard to beat. Its Max Checking account offers 3.0% dividends. But you have to jump through hoops to receive that yield. You’ll need to sign up for direct deposit, make at least 10 debit or credit card purchases per month, log in to online banking at least four times per month and sign up for eStatements. If all that seems like too much to keep track of, DFCU’s straightforward offerings with generous dividends and free checking could be more your style.  

Final Take

If you’re just starting your financial life, building credit or interested in earning rewards and benefits with a checking account, DFCUPerks Plus could be the right choice for you. Of course, you’ll need to live or work in one of the areas the credit union serves.

FAQ

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding DFCU Financial.
  • Where can I find DFCU Financial's routing number?
    • If you look closely, you'll find the routing number for the bank on the top bar of every page of the DFCU website. The routing number is 072486791. 
  • How does DFCU's Mobile Deposit feature work? 
    • If you've been a member of DFCU for at least 30 days and have a deposit balance of $500 or more across your accounts, you can access the mobile deposit feature on the DFCU Online app. You can deposit up to $10,000 in checks per day. You'll need to use your smartphone to take a photo of both sides of your check, so you'll want to be in a well-lit area. Then, click Transactions on the app, select Mobile Deposit and follow the prompts.
  • Where are DFCU Financial branches located? 
    • DFCU has more than 25 branches across Michigan's Lower Peninsula, including Grand Rapids, Lansing, Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor. 

Rates are subject to change. Information on accounts is accurate as of Jan. 17, 2022.

This article was updated on Feb. 15, 2022 to clarify the scoring evaluation.

This content is not provided by DFCU Financial. 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 DFCU Financial.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.

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