State Employees’ Credit Union Review: Low Fees and Competitive Rates

GOBankingRates Score

4.5
Quick Take: State Employees' Credit Union of North Carolina (SECU) has a comprehensive selection of banking, loan, credit card, insurance and investing products and services, all under one roof. One of the reasons it's #34 on GOBankingRates Top 100 Banks is its offerings, ranging from accounts for children to estate planningHowever, you'll need to qualify for membership as a state or public-service employee (or be related to one). This State Employees' Credit Union review will detail everything you need to know.
  • Breadth of Products
    4.5
  • Ease of Use
    4.3
  • Customer Service
    4.5
  • Fees
    4.8
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • One-stop shopping for financial services
  • Several tax-advantaged accounts to choose from
  • Low account fees
  • Customer service available at 272 branches or by calling the 24/7 hotline

Cons

  • $25 membership fee ($5 for children age 12 and under)
  • No way to avoid monthly maintenance fees

About State Employees’ Credit Union

State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) was founded in 1937 in North Carolina with $437 in assets, operating part-time to serve its handful of members. Today, with over 270 branch locations and more than 1,100 ATMs, the credit union serves more than 2.6 million members statewide.

Like all credit unions, SECU is nonprofit and member owned. To be eligible for membership, you must be an employee of either the State of North Carolina, a public board of education or an association that serves state employees. Immediate family members of these individuals are also eligible.

SECU stands apart from other financial institutions for its variety of products and stellar customer service, ranking #4 in the annual GOBankingRates list of Best Credit Unions

SECU Products

The credit union provides a variety of account types, retirement planning, investment services, insurance and financial management for high-net-worth clients. 

Checking Accounts

SECU comes in strong among checking account options. There’s no minimum deposit to open SECU’s standard checking account and just a $1 minimum balance required to maintain the account. In addition, you’ll get up to 50 free checks per statement period, then 20 cents each. Dividends currently pay out 0.05%. SECU also offers a Z-Checking account in its Zard program for teens ages 13 to 19, earning the same amount of interest. 

If a standard checking account doesn’t quite fit your needs, consider a CashPoints Global account and debit card. The check-free account allows you to pay bills online and saves you from overdraft fees, making it a low-cost option. There’s a $1 monthly maintenance fee but no minimum balance requirement.

Savings Accounts

Members automatically receive a standard “share savings” account when they join SECU. A minimum amount of $25 is required to open it but your balance will earn 0.10% APY. However, SECU offers plenty of other savings account options.

You can also open a Holiday Cash Club account for holiday spending or a Summer Cash account meant especially for teachers and other employees who only get paid during part of the calendar year. Neither account has an opening deposit minimum.

There are also Zard and FAT CAT Share accounts for kids, plus tax-advantaged options for education, retirement and health savings. Expect to earn the standard dividend of 0.10% APY for most of SECU’s savings account options, except for the Summer Cash account, which earns 0.35% APY.

Money Market Accounts

If you have $250 to open a savings account and can maintain that amount as a minimum balance to save yourself a $2 monthly fee , consider opening an SECU Money Market Share account. You’ll earn higher interest with a money market account than the share savings account (0.15% APY vs. 0.10%), and there are no maturity restrictions like you have with a certificate of deposit.

Money market accounts allow you to write checks and make some monthly bill payments and withdrawals for convenience. However, SECU’s Money Market Share account does not allow for bill pay, ACH transfers or check writing, limiting withdrawal options.

CD Rates

A share term certificate is the credit union equivalent of a certificate of deposit and SECU offers just one. Terms range from six to 60 months with rates of 0.30% to 0.55% APY.

You can start with as little as $250. Members with more money to invest can “ladder” certificates so that eventually, you have all 60-month certificates earning the highest rates, with one maturing each year so that you can access the funds if you wish.

Best Features

GOBankingRates uses specific criteria to score and identify the best financial institutions in the country. Among SECU’s strongest features were four particular categories:

Breadth of Products

Not everyone has the time to shop around for the best bank options and maintain multiple accounts across several institutions. So it’s convenient when credit unions are large enough to offer a variety of services including accounts, financial advisory and planning, as well as insurance and loans. Receiving special relationship rates for your loyalty is an added bonus. SECU ranks well in providing nearly everything you need in your financial journey.

Ease of Use

SECU makes it simple to open an account online or at the 200+ branches throughout North Carolina. The credit union requires individuals to qualify for membership first. Fortunately, the process of qualifying for an account — and opening one — can be handled at the same time. For members comfortable with digital banking, the website and mobile app are robust enough to handle everyday financial needs such as balance tracking, bill payments and mobile check deposits.

Customer Service

Besides the local service available at SECU branches, the credit union is available 24/7 by phone. The Ask SECU knowledge base can answer frequently asked questions.

Fees

Credit unions typically have lower fees than traditional banks. SECU is no exception. Overdraft fees, which are typically the most expensive fee a bank charges, are free at SECU or just $12 if the account’s overdrawn grace period is exhausted.

Editor’s Favorite

One of SECU’s greatest strengths is in creating products that address the specific needs of its members. Salary Advance Loans and Summer Cash savings accounts are especially useful for educators.

Banking Experience

Branch locations and ATMs located throughout North Carolina mean SECU is always within reach. However, you can avoid in-person banking for most transactions by using SECU’s online and mobile banking services. Either option makes for a positive banking experience.

Customer Service

Local branches accept calls during normal business hours, which are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Or you can call Member Services 24/7 for assistance. Self-service for account activity and information is available via Member Access, Mobile Access and the ASK SECU 800-number.

Branch Availability

SECU operates 273 branches located throughout North Carolina. Visit the SECU Locate Us page to search for your nearest branch or browse a full list of locations.

Digital Experience

SECU’s online and mobile platforms have all the usual features, such as funds transfers, bill pay, peer-to-peer payments, account alerts and account activity. Online banking also integrates with Quicken, allowing you to download information from most SECU deposit, credit card and loan accounts. You can even take an advance on the available balance of some loan types in real time.

The mobile app is available for iOS and Android. App Store ratings give it just 3.1 out of five stars, but it has four out of five stars on Google Play.

Convenience

With over 270 branches and ATMs with no surcharges or access fees located in every county in North Carolina, SECU gets high marks for convenience.

How To Open an Account

Visit a branch or call Member Services at 888-732-8562 to request membership. Once your eligibility has been verified, you’ll establish your membership by opening a share savings account with a $25 initial deposit. Then you can enroll in Member Access, which gives you access to online and mobile banking, to open additional accounts.

Fees

Although SECU has monthly fees you can’t avoid, you’ll pay just $1 and can have it donated to the SECU Foundation if you prefer. SECU does charge a non-sufficient funds fee, but your share savings account — the one that establishes your membership — automatically provides overdraft protection, and you can designate other accounts and lines of credit for this purpose as well.

  • Credit union membership fee: $25
  • Monthly maintenance fee: $1, can be designated as SECU Foundation donation
  • Overdrafts/non-sufficient funds: $12
  • Overdraft transfers: 50 cents after the first two days of the calendar year in which you’d typically incur the fees
  • Returned checks: $5
  • ATM fee: 75 cents per completed transaction or inquiry at a VISA/Plus ATM; 35 cents per incomplete transaction or inquiry
  • Wire transfers: $10 to send domestically, $25 to send internationally

State Employees’ Credit Union vs. Competitors

Before you make a final decision about which financial institution to bank with, consider several options. Here are some details about SECU’s competitors to help you determine how SECU stacks up.

Bank Best For
State Employees’ Credit Union Innovative savings products that help members stay on top of their finances
Navy Federal Credit Union Membership benefits geared especially to members of the military
Coastal Federal Credit Union Wide membership eligibility within North Carolina
Wells Fargo Sheer volume of products and services available

State Employees’ Credit Union vs. Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union members are current or past members of the military or their family members, so the credit union provides them with special services, such as an overseas customer service number they can call collect while deployed. SECU also caters specifically to its membership, which includes North Carolina educators, with products such as the Summer Cash account that makes managing irregular paychecks easier.

State Employees’ Credit Union vs. Coastal Federal Credit Union

Coastal Federal Credit Union is easier to join because eligible members include individuals who live, work, worship, attend school or do business in a number of North Carolina counties, whereas SECU membership is more specific and restricted. But if you’re eligible, SECU gives you more account options for your children, especially teenagers.

State Employees’ Credit Union vs. Wells Fargo

As one of the nation’s largest banks, Wells Fargo offers a dizzying array of financial products and services, and lots of options within each category, such as checking. Unlike banks, credit unions are non-profit, member-owned financial institutions. As such, SECU maintains a more local focus and a strong commitment to its members and its community.

Final Take

With a comprehensive array of banking options — plus credit cards, loans, insurance and investing — SECU can help members manage their money from their teen years through their golden years. If you’re eligible for membership or think you might be, it’s worth your while to call or stop by your local branch to talk to a credit union representative about joining.

State Employees' Credit Union FAQ

Some other points you may be interested in include:
  • Who can become a member of State Employees' Credit Union?
    • To be eligible for membership, you must be an employee of the state of North Carolina, a public board of education or an association that serves state employees. Immediate family members of these individuals are also eligible.
  • Are SECU employees state employees?
    • SECU is licensed -- or chartered -- by the state of North Carolina, but it is not a state agency. Like other credit unions, it's owned by its members.
  • Is SECU only in North Carolina?
    • Although other states have credit unions named State Employees' Credit Union, the North Carolina credit unit of that name is specific to North Carolina. Its 270+ branches and 1,100+ ATMs are all located within the state.
  • What's the difference between SECU and LGFCU?
    • Local Government Federal Credit Union membership is open to employees and volunteers of North Carolina state departments and agencies or local jurisdictions, whereas SECU also includes individuals who work for associations that serve state employees.
  • Does SECU offer free money for signing up for an account?
    • SECU isn't running any free-money promotions right now, but it does offer some freebies. All branches have FAT CAT coin sorters you can use free of charge, and SECU also provides free notary services and free shred days when you can securely dispose of paper documents.

Cynthia Bowman contributed to the reporting for this article.

Rates are subject to change. Information on accounts is accurate as of Jan. 12, 2022.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by SECU. 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 SECU.

Is this your bank?

Stay Up to Date on the Latest From Your Bank

Keep a good thing going with top financial tips and advice from GOBankingRates.

Please enter an email.
Please enter a valid email address.
There was an unknown error. Please try again later.

Thank You For Signing Up!

Get ready to receive top financial tips from the experts at GOBankingRates.

Take Advantage of our Best Offer(s)

Share this article:

About the Author

Daria Uhlig is a personal finance, real estate and travel writer and editor with over 25 years of editorial experience. Her work has been featured on The Motley Fool, MSN, AOL, Yahoo! Finance, CNBC and USA Today. Daria studied journalism at the County College of Morris and earned a degree in communications at Centenary University, both in New Jersey.
Learn More

Best Bank Accounts for September 2022

Untitled design (1)
Close popup The GBR Closer icon

Sending you timely financial stories that you can bank on.

Sign up for our daily newsletter for the latest financial news and trending topics.

Loading...
Please enter an email.
Please enter a valid email address.
There was an unknown error. Please try again later.

For our full Privacy Policy, click here.