Redwood Credit Union Review: Broad Product Lineup and Competitive Rates for San Francisco Bay Area Residents

GOBankingRates Score

Redwood Credit Union
4.4
SCORE
GOBankingRates Best Banks 2023 scores and rankings are objectively determined by our research/editorial team. Our scoring formula weighs several factors that differ from category to category depending on what consumers want from varying products and banks.
Quick Take: Redwood Credit Union offers a full lineup of banking products and services, including a wide range of checking accounts designed for different financial needs and age groups. You won't find ultra-high annual percentage yields like you might elsewhere, but Redwood's APYs are decent, and its product variety and community-oriented service make it a good choice for those who live in its service area. 
  • Fees
    4.5
  • Digital Banking
    3.5
  • Breadth of Products
    5.0
  • APYs
    4.5
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • Low overall fees
  • Large variety of account types
  • High APY on some certificate accounts 

Cons

  • Limited service area with just 19 branches
  • No standout high-yield accounts
  • Mobile app doesn't rate high with users

About Redwood Credit Union

Redwood Credit Union, also known as RCU, serves anyone living or working in the greater San Francisco and North Bay area. It was founded in 1950 as Sonoma County Employees Credit Union (SCECU). Since then, it has undergone a name change and grown into the biggest credit union in the North Bay, with $7 billion in assets and more than 385,000 members throughout Sonoma, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, Mendocino, Lake, Contra Costa and Solano counties.

Redwood offers a diverse range of accounts, from standard deposit accounts such as checking and savings to Share Certificates, money market accounts, loans, insurance, credit cards, investments, wealth management and business services. Members have access to 19 branch locations as well as 30,000+ free network ATMs. Redwood Credit Union made the GOBankingRates 2022 list of Top 100 Banks.

Checking Accounts

If you’re looking for variety in checking accounts, Redwood delivers. It has three primary checking account options — Free Checking, Dividend Checking and High Balance Dividend Checking — as well as Senior Checking for members 55 and older, Young Adult Checking for members 18 to 24 and youth accounts.

The only checking accounts that charge monthly service fees are Dividend Checking and High Balance Dividend Checking. Dividend Checking has a $3 fee that can be waived by maintaining a minimum daily balance of $500. High Balance Dividend Checking has a $6 fee that can be waived with a minimum daily balance of $2,500. The Free, Senior and Young Adult accounts have no minimum balance requirements.

Dividend and High Balance Dividend are both interest-bearing accounts. Dividend Checking pays an APY of 0.10% on all balances of $500 and higher. The High Balance Dividend account requires a balance of at least $2,500 and pays an APY of 0.15%.

Savings Accounts

RCU offers four types of savings accounts: Regular Savings, Build Your Own Savings, Holiday Club Savings and Youth Savings. It also offers a Health Savings Account. A $3 monthly minimum balance fee is charged to any primary savings account with less than $75, and you must maintain a $100 balance to earn dividends.

Regular Savings and Build Your Own Savings both have a $5 minimum balance to open. The APY on savings accounts at RCU is 0.10% on all balances.

Money Market Accounts

Whereas some financial institutions don’t offer a single money market account, Redwood offers three: Money Market Growth, Balance Money Market and Advantage Plus Money Market. All are designed to serve different customers.  

Money Market Growth is best for beginning savers because of its low opening deposit of $5. The minimum opening deposit for Balance Money Market is $2,500. Advantage Plus Money Market is for members who have at least $10,000 to open the account.

The minimum balance to earn interest is $100 for Money Market Growth, $2,500 for Balance Money Market and $10,000 for Advantage Plus. All accounts pay tiered interest rates, with higher balances getting higher yields.  

Money Market Growth pays an APY of 0.10% to 0.20%; Balance Money Market pays an APY of 0.25% to 0.40%; Advantage Plus pays an APY of 0.15% to 0.20%.

Share Certificates

As a credit union, Redwood offers Share Certificates instead of CDs, but both work the same. There are four standard certificate options to choose from: Short Term Certificates with Active Checking, Short Term Certificates without Active Checking, Long Term Certificates with Active Checking, and Long Term Certificates without Active Checking. RCU also offers a variety of IRA certificates.  

Standard certificates all have a $1,000 minimum to open and offer tiered interest rates, with longer terms paying higher yields. Long Term Certificates with Active Checking carry the best yields.  

Short Term certificates come in maturities of three to 17 months. The APY range is 0.20% to 0.45% for those that come with Active Checking. Without Active Checking, the APY ranges from 0.10% to 0.25%.  

Long Term certificates have maturities from 18 months to five years. The APY ranges from 0.30% to 0.65% without Active Checking, and 0.50% to 1.00% with Active Checking.

How Redwood Credit Union Earned Its Scores

Fees

You don’t have to fork over too much in fees with RCU’s basic deposit accounts. Just two checking accounts — Dividend Checking and High Balance Dividend Checking — charge monthly maintenance fees, and both can be waived by meeting balance requirements.

Savings accounts carry a $3 monthly fee that can be waived with a $75 minimum balance. As a credit union, most of Redwood’s other fees are lower than you’ll find at big national banks. For example, it charges only $22 for a stop payment and $23 per item for non-sufficient funds.

Digital Banking

Redwood Credit Union offers both online and mobile banking options. Its website is fairly easy to navigate, making it simple to find accounts and rates. However, the mobile app gets pedestrian reviews from users, with 4.2 out of 5 stars on Google Play and 3.6 stars on the App Store. You can still handle a lot of functions on the app, including making deposits, transferring money, checking balances, ordering new checks and paying bills

Breadth of Products

Redwood Credit Union offers a large and comprehensive lineup of products and services that can rival that of nearly any financial institution. It provides numerous choices for all of its basic deposit accounts, including five checking options, four savings options, three money market options and four certificate options.

Beyond that, RCU offers Traditional, Roth, Beneficiary, SEP and Conduit IRAs; investment services and products, including mutual funds, annuities, stocks, exchange-traded funds, bonds and trusts; home, auto, solar and personal loans; credit cards; and a full suite of business products and services.

APYs

RCU doesn’t stand out for its yields, but it does offer very competitive rates across all of its accounts. The top paying certificate has an excellent APY of 1.00%, while you can get an APY as high as 0.40% with its Balance Money Market account.

Editor’s Favorite

Redwood Credit Union’s best feature is undoubtedly its wide array of accounts. With multiple checking, savings and money market options, the credit union has accounts to meet most customers’ financial needs.

Redwood Credit Union vs. Competitors

Redwood Credit Union has several rivals in its own backyard of California. Here’s a look at how they compare:

CREDIT UNION BEST FOR
Redwood Credit Union Strong product lineup and comparatively low fees
Golden 1 Credit Union Large branch network
Patelco Credit Union High money market rates, low CD minimums
First Technology Federal Credit Union High checking and savings rates

Redwood Credit Union vs. Golden 1 Credit Union

Golden 1 Credit Union is one of the largest credit unions in the U.S., let alone in California. With more than 1 million members, over $18 billion in assets and 70-plus branches and home loan centers across California, it has a considerable edge over Redwood, which has 19 branches. But, if you want to see your savings grow at a faster clip, go with Redwood. It offers a 0.10% APY on its savings accounts vs. 0.05% at Golden 1. 

Redwood Credit Union vs. Patelco Credit Union

Patelco Credit Union, which also serves the San Francisco Bay Area, tops Redwood when it comes to money market account rates, with a 1.0% APY on the first $2,000 deposited in its Money Market account and a 0.50% APY on the next $3,000 deposited. Redwood gets the nod for the 0.10% to 0.15% APY on its interest-bearing checking accounts, topping the 0.05% APY at Patelco.

Redwood Credit Union vs. First Technology Federal Credit Union

First Technology Credit Union offers higher yields than RCU on its checking and savings accounts, with APYs up to 0.50% on the former and 2.00% on the latter. But it doesn’t offer a money market account and lags behind Redwood in terms of the sheer number of account options. 

Final Take

Redwood Credit Union is great for North Bay customers who seek a wide range of accounts. Account fees are low, and you can find some very good APYs on some of its accounts, making RCU a solid all-in-one choice.

Redwood Credit Union FAQ

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about Redwood Credit Union.
  • Is Redwood Credit Union federally insured?
    • Yes, Redwood Credit Union deposits are federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration for up to $250,000 per depositor. 
  • Does Redwood Credit Union offer Zelle?
    • Redwood doesn't use Zelle. Instead, it offers RCUPay, which is a proprietary payment service on the app that functions similarly to Zelle.
  • Does Redwood Credit Union have free checking?
    • Redwood Credit Union offers several free checking choices, including the aptly named "Free Checking." 

John Csiszar contributed to the reporting for this article.

Rates are subject to change. Information on accounts is accurate as of Jan. 6, 2022.

This content is not provided by Redwood 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 Redwood 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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