Golden 1 Credit Union Review: A Wide Variety of Fee-Free Accounts

4.5
Our Take: Golden 1 Credit Union may only have branches in California, but access to fee-free nationwide ATMs and a broad array of no-fee accounts make it a powerhouse.
  • Fees
    4.5
  • APYs
    4.3
  • Product breadth
    4.8
  • ATMs
    4.5
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • Largest credit union in California
  • 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 fees
  • High outbound wire transfer fees

About Golden 1 Credit Union

Golden 1 Credit Union is a California-based institution formed in 1933 in the state’s capital, Sacramento. Today, it has grown to be the largest credit union in California — and one of the largest in the United States, with over 1 million members and over $15 billion in assets. Even GOBankingRates has ranked it as one of the Best Credit Unions of 2021.

Golden 1 offers a wide range of banking products, from checking and savings accounts to CDs, IRAs, credit cards, insurance, investment services, and home, auto and personal loans.

Golden 1 Credit Union Banking Products

As befitting the largest credit union in California, Golden 1 offers an impressive array of banking products. Here’s more.

Sponsors of
Product Key Details
Checking Accounts
  • Five types of checking available
  • Higher account levels offer additional perks, such as APY boosts on other products.
  • Fees waivable based on daily balance
Savings Account
  • $50 minimum
  • No monthly maintenance fee
Money Market Account  
  • $100 minimum to open
  • Check writing
  • No minimum balance required for earning dividends and APY
CDs
  • $500 minimum opening deposit
  • Wide range of maturity dates
  • Longer terms offer higher dividend rate
Investment Options
  • Full range of investment products in conjunction with LPL Investments
Loans
  • Home, auto, personal and specialty vehicle loans, in addition to credit cards

Golden 1 Credit Union Checking Accounts

Golden 1 Credit Union offers two primary checking accounts — Free Checking and Premium Checking — and three additional checking accounts: New Generation Checking, Freedom Checking and Student Checking.

Features

  • Free Checking has no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements.
  • Premium Checking has an $8 monthly fee that is waivable with a monthly direct deposit, $500 daily balance, aggregate $5,000 balance or enrollment in Golden Prestige.
  • $25 minimum for Premium Checking
  • New Generation and Freedom Checking are designed for teenage account holders under age 18.
  • To qualify for Student Checking, you must be at least 17.
  • No monthly fees or minimum balances are required for all three youth accounts.
  • All checking accounts have access to 30,000 free ATMs through the CO-OP network.
Sponsors of

Pros

  • Options to cover most customers
  • Three youth checking accounts

Cons

  • Only one Golden 1 Credit Union checking account pays interest.
  • Top APY is 0.15% APY and requires at least $100,000 on deposit.

Golden 1 Credit Union Savings Accounts

Golden 1 Credit Union has one primary savings account and a host of secondary savings accounts, including a Flex Savings account, a Youth Savings account, a Santa Saver account and a Coverdell Education Savings account. Here’s what you need to know about Golden 1’s regular savings account.

Features

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • $1 minimum to open
  • $0.01 minimum balance to earn APY
  • No minimum balance fee
  • Tiered interest rates of 0.05% for balances up to $10,000 and 0.08% for higher balances

Pros

  • Low minimum opening deposit establishes you as a member.
  • Regular Savings Account offers a decent APY for a no-fee account.

Cons

  • APYs are below those available from online banks.

Golden 1 Credit Union Money Market Account

Golden 1 Credit Union offers a single money market account. Here are the details.

Features

  • $100 minimum opening deposit
  • No monthly fee
  • No minimum balance to earn APY
  • Tiered interest rates ranging from 0.10% APY to 0.45% APY
Sponsors of

Pros

  • No minimum balance requirements
  • No fees
  • High APY of up to 0.45%

Cons

  • $250,000 deposit required to earn the top APY of 0.45%

Golden 1 Credit Union CD Accounts

Golden 1 Credit Union calls its line of CDs, Term Savings Certificates. Here’s more.

Features

  • Terms from three months to 60 months
  • $500 minimum
  • Dividends paid and compounded monthly
  • Automatic renewal at maturity, with a seven-day grace period
  • APYs range from 0.20% to 1.10%
  • Higher yields available with longer terms and higher balances

Pros

  • Wide range of CDs, with maturities from three months to 60 months
  • Longer-term rates for balances of $100,000 or more are well above average.

Cons

  • Maturities are limited to five years.
  • APYs for lower dollar amounts are far below the top rates offered for deposits of at least $100,000.

Banking Experience

Golden 1 Credit Union is only located in a single state, in California. However, it’s still the sixth-largest credit union in America, and it has a broad range of capabilities commensurate with that title.

Physical Branch Locations

Golden 1 Credit Union has over 70 branch locations sprinkled throughout California.

Mobile & Digital Experience

Golden 1 Credit Union has a comprehensive suite of digital and mobile banking services. Available features include:

Sponsors of
  • Free email or text account alerts
  • Text banking, including access to account balances, transactions and ATM locations
  • Mobile deposit via the Golden 1 app on Android or iOS
  • Face or fingerprint sign-in
  • Online bill payment and PopMoney transfers
  • Mobile wallet
  • Money transfers
  • Free credit score check via Credit Sense

The Golden 1 Credit Union mobile apps receive high praise from customers, with ratings of 4.6 stars from Google Play users and 4.8 stars from App Store reviewers.

How To Open an Account

You can open an account at any Golden 1 Credit Union branch or online via the credit union’s website. You’ll need to provide the following information to get started:

  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • State-issued identification, such as a driver’s license or California ID showing your current address

To open an account at Golden 1 Credit Union, you must first become a member. Membership is open to all Californians.

Customer Service

You can reach Golden 1 Credit Union customer service at 877-GOLDEN1 or 877-465-3361. Hours are Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sponsors of

Key Information:

Customer Service: 877-GOLDEN1 or 877-465-3361

Routing Number: 321175261

Locations: Golden 1 Credit Union Location Near You

Golden 1 Credit Union Fees

Golden 1 Credit Union doesn’t charge the high monthly maintenance fees that many banks do. The credit union’s Premium Checking account does have an $8 monthly fee, but that’s easily waived with a monthly direct deposit, average $500 daily balance or other qualifying activities. Beyond that, the credit union’s checking, savings, money market and CD accounts have no monthly fees.

Certain services or actions trigger relatively high fees at Golden 1, however. An overdraft, for example, costs $29.50 per transaction. And while that fee is not as high as at some institutions, it’s still quite a hit.

If you intend to send outbound wires, Golden 1 might not be the solution for you, as it charges $25 for an outgoing domestic wire and $40 for an outbound international wire. Rather than waiving or rebating out-of-network ATM withdrawals or transfers, Golden 1 charges a $2 per transaction fee instead.

Golden 1 Credit Union vs. Competitors

You may wonder what the difference is when it comes to credit unions vs. banks. Here’s a look at how Golden 1 Credit Union stacks up against three major banking institutions.

Sponsors of
Bank Best For
Golden 1 Credit Union No-fee accounts and decent APYs for Californians
Bank of America Investment arm, Merrill Lynch
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 Wells Fargo when it comes to CD APYs.

Golden 1 Credit Union vs. Chase Bank

Golden 1 is no match when it comes to branch access versus Chase, which offers 4,700 branches across the United States. Overall, 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 greatest strength over Golden 1 Credit Union, besides its accessibility in 50 states, is its investment arm, Merrill Lynch. Investors can make commission-free trades using the Merrill Edge program or work with a full-service financial advisor. But Golden 1 takes the crown over Bank of America when it comes to APYs on its accounts.

Final Take

Golden 1 Credit Union is the largest in California for good reason — it provides accounts and services that customers need and want. With membership open to all California residents, those living on the West Coast have easy access to a one-stop shop when it comes to their financial accounts. Savings, money market and CD accounts are all fee-free, and there’s even a free checking account for those so inclined.

The drawbacks of Golden 1 Credit Union are its service-related fees. The credit union charges a $29.50 overdraft fee, and transactions at out-of-network ATMs cost $2 each. Outgoing domestic wires are expensive at $25 each, as are international outbound wires at $40 each.

Editor’s Favorite

You can get nearly any type of banking account you’d like at Golden 1 Credit Union, and most of those can be had with no monthly fee.

Golden 1 Credit Union is an easy way for Californians to get access to extensive bank accounts and services without paying exorbitant account-related fees. The bank’s CD rates are quite good, and while not as high as the rates available at online banks, the APYs on the bank’s checking and savings accounts are better than what’s found at some major national banks like Chase.

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.
  • How many branches does Golden 1 Credit Union have?
    • Golden 1 Credit Union has over 70 California-based branches.
  • Does Golden 1 have mobile deposit?
    • Yes, you can make remote deposits via the Golden 1 mobile app.
  • What ATMs can I use with Golden 1?
    • You can use more than 240 Golden 1 ATMs or more than 30,000 CO-OP ATMs nationwide, free of charge.
  • Does Golden 1 offer free money for signing up for an account?
    • Golden 1 doesn't currently have any new account promotions, however, has been known to offer specials in the past on their banking products. Check the official website for more details and information on the latest.

Rates are subject to change. Information on accounts is accurate as of Dec. 12, 2020.

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

After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.

Golden 1 Credit Union Review: A Wide Variety of Fee-Free Accounts
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