ESL Federal Credit Union Review: A Community Credit Union Providing High-Level Service

GOBankingRates Score

4.7
Our Take: ESL stands for Eastman Savings and Loan, which was the predecessor to ESL Federal Credit Union. If you live or work in Rochester, New York, consider becoming an ESL member to take advantage of its banking options and member perks. This ESL Federal Credit Union review will fill you in on all the details.
  • Community Presence
    4.5
  • CD Accounts
    5.0
  • Customer Service
    5.0
  • Fees
    4.2
How did we calculate this?

Banking with a credit union instead of a traditional bank comes with its perks. Here’s a quick overview of ESL Federal’s strengths and weaknesses.

Pros

  • Wide range of accounts and services
  • Highly rated mobile app
  • Accounts come with no or low fees
  • 23 branch offices in service area
  • Certificate terms of 31 days to five years

Cons

  • Limited to the Rochester area
  • Low annual percentage yields compared to many other banks

About ESL Federal Credit Union

ESL Federal Credit Union was founded in 1920 as Eastman Savings and Loan Association by George Eastman, best known as the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company. The credit union now has about 374,000 members and $8 billion in total assets. Membership is available to those who live, work, worship or attend school in the Rochester area, as well as relatives of account holders, employees of partner companies, and members of select groups and organizations.

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ESL Federal Credit Union Products

ESL provides a range of personal and business banking services, as well as wealth management. Here’s a quick rundown:

Product Details
Checking Accounts
  • Free checking available
  • Opening deposit as low as $1
  • Earn dividends with Premier Checking
Savings Accounts
  • Four account options designed for different balances
  • Open an account with as little as $1
  • APY from 0.05% to 0.35%, depending on account and balance
  • Health Savings and Coverdell Education Savings accounts available
Certificates of Deposit
  • Terms between 31 days and five years
  • Earn up to 0.40% APY
  • Fixed rate and jumbo
Credit Cards
  • Three credit cards available
  • Secured and non-secured
Personal Loans
  • Personal and short-term loans
  • Auto loans
Home Loans
  • Mortgages
  • Refinancing
  • Home equity
Individual Retirement Accounts
  • Traditional or Roth

ESL Federal Credit Union’s accounts are designed for different types of customers. Take a closer look at each type.

ESL Federal Credit Union Checking Accounts

ESL offers three primary checking accounts, so the best one for you depends on your balance and how much you’re willing to pay in monthly maintenance fees. Free Checking has no monthly maintenance fee and requires only $1 to open. Simple Spending has no overdraft fees and comes with a $3 monthly service fee. Premier Checking has a $6 monthly fee if your average monthly balance falls below $1,000, but comes with perks such as a 0.05% APY and 100 free checks.

Sponsors of

Features

  • $1 opening deposit
  • Linked checking and savings for automatic overdraft coverage

Pros

  • Low fees compared to traditional banks
  • Several options to choose from
  • Interest-earning account available

Cons

  • Must maintain a $1,000 average monthly balance to avoid Premier Checking fee

ESL Federal Credit Union Savings Accounts

ESL Federal Credit Union encourages members to save and offers five accounts to choose from: Daily Dividend, Holiday Club, Money Maker, Premier Money Maker and Tiered Savings. Earn the highest APY of 0.35% for balances of $1 million or more with a Tiered Savings account.

Features

  • Earn interest for as little as a $1
  • Depending on balance and account, earn 0.05% to 0.350% APY

Pros

  • Some accounts don’t have monthly maintenance fees
  • Options for savers with low and high balances
  • Tiered Savings account lets you earn more as the balance increases

Cons

  • Monthly maintenance fees of $10 to $20 if your balance falls below account minimum, depending on the account
  • Low APY compared to other banks
  • At least a $1 million balance needed to get the highest rates

ESL Federal Credit Union CD Accounts

As a credit union, ESL refers to CDs as “certificates,” though both work the same way. Members have access to a wide range of short- and long-term certificates. To access the highest CD rates, you’ll need to commit to a longer term. Make sure you don’t need the funds during the term or you’ll face an early withdrawal penalty.

Sponsors of

Features

  • Terms of 31 days to five months
  • Fixed-rate and jumbo options
  • APY of 0.05% to 0.40%

Pros

  • Variety of terms
  • Add more money to your certificate at the time of renewal

Cons

  • The highest APY requires a longer-term commitment

Banking Experience

Members of ESL Federal Credit Union have the typical range of banking options available at most financial institutions. To make transactions or seek help, you can visit a branch or use the credit union’s website or mobile app. Keep reading to learn more about how to bank at ESL and contact customer service.

Customer Service

If you need to speak to someone at ESL, here are the options:

  • Call 585-336-1000 or 800-848-2265 weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET.
  • Visit a local branch
  • Use live chat, which is available weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET.
  • Send a secure message on the website

Accessibility and Branch Availability

ESL Federal Credit Union has 23 locations throughout Rochester and neighboring towns such as Webster, Pittsford and Brockport.

Sponsors of

Mobile and Digital Experience

ESL offers both online and mobile banking. Its mobile app lets you manage accounts, review transactions and balances, pay bills, make mobile deposits, find branches or ATMs and receive account alerts. It comes with standard encryption and integration with your smart device’s security protocols.

The app gets positive reviews from users because of its simple interface and functionality:

Convenience and Ease of Use

Members who live in the Rochester area have plenty of options to visit an ESL branch, but if you live further away you’ll need to rely on digital banking to conduct business. Fortunately, the highly rated app makes that a simple and convenient option.

How To Open an Account

You can open an ESL Federal Credit Union account at a branch or online. You’ll first have to meet ESL’s eligibility requirements and become a member. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and U.S. citizens. Here’s what you’ll need to provide:

Sponsors of
  • Social Security number
  • Phone number and email address
  • Government-issued photo ID
  • Bank and routing number for the first deposit

Key Information

Customer Service Number: 585-336-1000 or 800-848-2265

Routing Number: 222371863

ESL Federal Credit Union Fees

ESL charges fees for certain services and activities. Here’s a quick look:

Type Amount
Monthly maintenance $3 to $20, but can be waived when you maintain a minimum monthly balance
Returned item $10
Cashier’s check $5
Wire transfer (incoming) $12
Wire transfer (outgoing) $20 domestic, $35 international
NSF/overdraft $25

ESL Federal Credit Union vs. Competitors

Before picking a financial institution, it’s important to compare different options. Here’s how ESL stacks up against some of its rivals:

Bank or Credit Union Best For
ESL Federal Credit Union Rochester-area customers who prefer a credit union
Visions Federal Credit Union Three-state service area in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania
M&T Bank Traditional bank with a wide range of accounts and services
Advantage Federal Credit Union Smaller community credit union experience

ESL vs. Visions FCU

Visions is a better option for customers who want a wider geographic reach because it has more than 50 locations in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. But if you live in Rochester, ESL is the obvious choice because it has 23 branches in the area vs. only one for Visions.

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ESL vs. M&T Bank

M&T provides a traditional banking experience with a wider East Coast presence that extends from Connecticut to Florida. You’ll get a bigger lineup of products and services at M&T, but ESL has the edge when it comes to certain fees. For example, M&T’s outgoing wire transfer fees range from $32 to $75, vs. ESL’s $20 to $35 charge for outgoing wire transfers.

ESL vs. Advantage

Advantage is another Rochester-based credit union but isn’t as large as ESL with only seven branches. Advantage does offer a Youth Savings account with a 0.50% APY, which is something ESL doesn’t offer. But if you want more branch locations and banking options, ESL is the better choice.

Final Take

ESL Federal Credit Union has plenty of upside for those who live and work in the Rochester area and prefer a credit union to a traditional bank. There’s an account option for every stage in your financial journey, starting with a basic checking or savings account all the way up to a million-dollar tiered savings account.

Editor’s Favorite

Customers in search of a wide range of CD options will find plenty to choose from at ESL, which offers 15 certificates at an APY that goes as high as 0.40%. Short- and long-term options are available.

ESL Federal Credit Union FAQ

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about ESL Federal Credit Union.
  • Does ESL Federal Credit Union offer free money for signing up for an account?
    • ESL doesn't currently offer free money for opening a new account, but if you sign up for an ESL Rewards Visa card, you can earn a $100 cashback bonus when you spend $1,000 during the first 90 days.
  • What does ESL Federal Credit Union stand for?
    • ESL stands for Eastman Savings and Loan. It was named after its founder, George Eastman, better known as the man behind the Kodak Corporation. It changed its name to ESL Federal Credit Union in 1996.
  • How much money can you take out of an ESL ATM?
    • You may withdraw up to $600 per day from an ESL ATM.
  • What is the ESL debit card credit limit?
    • There is a daily limit of $2,500 in purchases when you use your ESL Visa Debit Card as credit.

Rates are subject to change. Information on accounts is accurate as of Jan. 28, 2021.

This content is not provided by ESL Federal 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 ESL Federal Credit Union.

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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.

ESL Federal Credit Union Review: A Community Credit Union Providing High-Level Service
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