Golden 1 Credit Union Review: Large California Credit Union Offers Wide Selection of Fee-Free Accounts and Good APYs

GOBankingRates Score

4.6
Quick Take: Golden 1 Credit Union combines a full lineup of products and services with low fees and competitive interest rates to make it an excellent choice for California residents.  
  • Fees
    4.5
  • APYs
    4.5
  • Product Breadth
    5.0
  • Access
    4.5
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • Broad range of accounts
  • Nearly all accounts are fee-free
  • Fee-free access to more than 30,000 ATMs in the CO-OP network

Cons

  • Branches in California only
  • High overdraft and wire transfer fees

About Golden 1 Credit Union

Golden 1 Credit Union formed in 1933 in Sacramento, California, and is still headquartered there. Today it is among the largest credit unions in the United States — with more than 1 million members, over $18 billion in assets and 70-plus branches. GOBankingRates ranked it as one of the Top 100 Banks for 2022.  

Golden 1 offers a wide range of banking products, from checking and savings accounts to CDs, IRAs, credit cards, insurance, investment services and loans. Membership is available to all Californians. 

Checking Accounts

Golden 1 Credit Union offers two primary checking accounts: Free Checking and Premium Checking. It also has three checking accounts aimed at younger members: New Generation Checking, Freedom Checking and Student Checking.

The Free Checking and youth accounts have no minimum balance requirements or monthly maintenance fees. All accounts offer free access to more than 30,000 Golden 1 and CO-OP ATMs.  

Premium Checking is an interest-bearing account with a $25 minimum opening deposit. To earn interest, you need a minimum balance of $1,000. The $8 monthly maintenance fee can be waived three ways: a monthly direct deposit of a recurring paycheck or retirement check; a $500 minimum daily balance; or an aggregate savings balance of $5,000 or more. The annual percentage yield is 0.05% for balances between $1,000 and $49,999; 0.10% for balances of $50,000 to $99,999; and 0.12% for balances of $100,000 and above.  

Savings Accounts

Golden 1 Credit Union has one primary savings account and a host of secondary savings accounts, including a FlexSavings account, Youth Savings account, Santa Saver account and Coverdell Education Savings account.  All pay interest, and none have monthly service fees.

The Regular Savings account has a $1 minimum to open and requires a rock-bottom $0.01 balance to earn dividends. This account can be linked to another Golden 1 account and used as overdraft protection. The APY is 0.05% across all balances.  

The other savings accounts also pay a 0.05% APY — except for the Coverdell account, which pays 0.45% on balances up to $500 and 0.15% on balances of $500 and up. 

Money Market Account

Golden 1 Credit Union offers a single money market account. It features a $100 minimum opening deposit, no monthly service charge and no minimum balance to earn interest, which sets it apart from other money market accounts that might require $2,000 or more to start earning interest. Rates are tiered and range from 0.05% to 0.20%, with balances of $100,000 and above earning the highest rates. Dividends are compounded monthly.

CD Accounts

Golden 1 Credit Union offers Term Savings Certificates rather than CDs, but both products work the same. Terms are from three months to five years. Dividends are paid and compounded monthly. Any dividends you earn each month can be added to the certificate balance or transferred to a different account without penalty. There is a $500 minimum opening deposit but no minimum balance fee.

APYs range from 0.15% to 1.00%, with longer terms getting the best rates. The highest rate of 1.00% is for a 60-month certificate with a balance of $100,000 or higher. But even balances of less than $10,000 can earn an excellent APY of 0.90% on a 60-month certificate.

How Golden 1 Credit Union Earned Its Scores

Fees

Golden 1 Credit Union doesn’t charge the high monthly maintenance fees that many banks do. The only deposit account with a monthly fee is the Premium Checking account, and that $8 fee can be waived pretty easily. But certain services or actions do trigger high fees, including an overdraft fee of $30 per transaction, $25 for an outgoing domestic wire and $40 for an outbound international wire. Golden 1 also charges $2 for out-of-network ATM withdrawals or transfers.

APYs

Golden 1 doesn’t pay the best interest rates in the industry, but it still offers very competitive rates that top plenty of other banks and credit unions. The fact that it offers an interest-bearing checking account with a top APY of 0.12% puts it ahead of much of the field. The 0.05% APY for savings accounts is pretty pedestrian, as is the top money market rate of 0.20%. But the top APY of 1.00% for its certificates is very strong.

Product Breadth

As befitting its status as one of the largest credit unions in the country, Golden 1 offers an impressive array of banking products. In addition to a variety of checking and savings accounts, members have access to home, auto and personal loans; credit cards; insurance products; and a full range of investment options through LPL Financial.

Access

Golden 1 Credit Union members get access to more than 70 California-based branches as well as more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs in the Global 1 and CO-OP network. They can also access accounts with online and mobile banking through Golden 1’s website and app. The app gets mixed reviews from users – a poor 3.2 out of 5 stars on Google Play and a much better 4.7 stars on the Apple Store. Functions you can perform on the app include checking balances, transferring money and depositing checks. 

Editor’s Favorite

Golden 1 Credit Union offers an easy way for Californians to get access to extensive bank accounts and services without paying exorbitant account fees. The bank’s certificate rates are quite good, and its APYs on checking and savings accounts are better than what’s found at many national banks.

Golden 1 Credit Union vs. Competitors

In case you wonder about the differences between credit unions and banks, here’s a look at how Golden 1 Credit Union stacks up against three major banking powers.

BANK BEST FOR
Golden 1 Credit Union No-fee accounts and decent APYs for Californians
Bank of America Merrill Lynch investment arm
Chase Bank Credit card lineup, national branch access
Wells Fargo Rewards program

Golden 1 Credit Union vs. Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo has a fairly robust rewards program — something Golden 1 has yet to add to its arsenal. However, Golden 1 Credit Union dominates when it comes to CD rates, with Wells Fargo listing a top CD rate of only 0.02%.

Golden 1 Credit Union vs. Chase Bank

Chase has more than 4,700 branches across the United States, so it’s a much better choice for customers who prefer a national reach. But Golden 1 Credit Union tops Chase when it comes to fee-free accounts and APYs, particularly on checking and CD accounts.

Golden 1 Credit Union vs. Bank of America

Bank of America’s investment arm, Merrill Lynch, lets investors make commission-free trades using the Merrill Edge program or by working with a full-service financial advisor. Golden 1 takes the crown over Bank of America when it comes to APYs on its accounts.

Final Take

Golden 1 is one of the biggest credit unions  for a reason — it provides accounts and services that customers need and want. With membership open to all California residents, it allows easy access to a full lineup of banking products, most of which don’t charge fees. If you live outside the service area, however, you might be better off finding an online bank that offers higher APYs.

Golden 1 Credit Union FAQ

Here are answers to some of Golden 1 Credit Union's more commonly asked questions.
  • Who can join Golden 1?
    • Golden 1 Credit Union membership is open to all Californians.
  • Is Golden 1 FDIC insured?
    • As a credit union, Golden 1 is covered by the National Credit Union Association, not the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. However, the insurance is essentially identical, covering the same $250,000 per depositor.
  • Does Golden 1 have Zelle?
    • Golden 1 doesn't currently offer Zelle. However, customers can transfer money to their own external accounts using online banking,  and they can pay and receive money from third parties with PopMoney.
  • Does Golden 1 have mobile deposit?
    • Yes, you can make remote deposits via the Golden 1 mobile app.
  • Which free ATMs can I use with Golden 1?
    • You can use more than 240 Golden 1 ATMs as well as more than 30,000 CO-OP ATMs nationwide, free of charge. 

John Csiszar contributed to the reporting for this article.

Rates are subject to change. Information on accounts is accurate as of Jan. 7, 2022.

Editorial note: This content is not provided by Golden 1 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 Golden 1 Credit Union.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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