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The Best Credit Unions for February 2024

Credit unions provide many of the same services as banks along with perks like better savings rates.

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A credit union provides similar products and services -- such as home loans and deposit accounts to store and manage your cash -- to what you’ll find at a local bank. However, because credit unions pool their resources for members’ benefit, they often offer better savings rates and perks than big banks. For instance, Credit Union 1 recently raised its high-yield checking account’s annual percentage yield to 5.25%, an unheard of rate at most banks.

While you may find more competitive APYs on CNET’s best savings and best certificates of deposit lists, a credit union may provide additional perks, such as free financial counseling or more flexible loan terms. Plus, locating a credit union is easier than ever with online or mobile banking tools and flexible membership requirements, giving you more options regardless of where you live.

CNET’s picks for the top credit unions

The following table provides an overview of the best credit unions available, organized by the highest APYs for savings accounts.

Top credit unions

Credit unionsAccounts offeredSavings APYChecking APY1-year share certificate APYMembership requirements
CommunityWide Federal Credit UnionSavings, checking, share certificates5.00%1.00%5.25%Employed by partners or membership in partner groups
Quorum Federal Credit UnionSavings, checking, money management, share certificates4.25%0.01% – 0.05%2.60%Membership in partner groups or relative of existing Quorum member
Credit Union 1Savings, checking, money market, share certificates3.30%0.01% – 5.25%4.00%One-time $5 donation
Alliant Credit UnionSavings, checking, share certificates3.10%0.25%5.40% Specific group membership
PenFed Credit UnionSavings, checking, money market, share certificates3.00%0.15% – 0.35%4.65%Specific group membership
BCUSavings, checking, share certificatesUp to 2.50%Up to 4.00%2.90% – 3.00%Specific group membership
Connexus Credit UnionSavings, checking, money market, share certificates0.25%Up to 1.75%4.76%One-time $5 donation
Navy Federal Credit UnionSavings, checking, money market, share certificates0.25%0.05%Up to 5.30%Ties to armed forces, DOD or National Guard
Bethpage Federal Credit UnionSavings, checking, money market, share certificates0.10%0.40%4.00%Open with $5 savings account
Note: Annual percentage yields, or APYs, shown are as of Feb. 12, 2024. CNET’s editorial team updates this information regularly. APYs may have changed since they were last updated and may vary by region for some products.
CommunityWide Federal Credit Union

CommunityWide Federal Credit Union

Competitive rates on all deposit accounts
  • Savings APY: 5.00%
  • Checking APY: 1.00%
  • One-year certificate APY: 5.25%
  • CO-OP Shared network: 5,500 shared branches nationwide

 

With high competitive rates on savings, checking accounts and share certificate accounts, CommunityWide Federal Credit Union lands at the top of our list. Membership is broadly available nationwide through employer affiliation or by joining a partner organization before you open an account. Eligibility can be confirmed by visiting CommunityWide’s website

You can access your money through one of the 5,500 CO-OP shared branches nationwide or through the credit union’s mobile and online banking features. In addition to offering high-yield accounts, you can also take advantage of financial counseling at no additional charge. One drawback, however, is that penalty-free withdrawals from your savings account are limited to the first through the fifth day of each month. After that, you could forfeit a portion of your dividends earned with each withdrawal.

Quorum Federal Credit Union

Quorum Federal Credit Union

Competitive high-yield savings and share certificates
  • Savings APY: 4.25%
  • Checking APY: 0.01% – 0.05%
  • One-year certificate APY: 2.60%
  • ATM network: 90,000 free ATMs

 

With high savings rates and even a small amount of interest on checking accounts, Quorum Federal Credit Union is worth considering if you’re eligible. Membership is free, but eligibility is based on affiliation with specific partner groups, which can be confirmed by visiting Quorum‘s website. 

Quorum’s savings account rates are competitive compared with some of the best online banks and it offers a free checking account, QClassic, with digital banking. The QChoice checking account offers more benefits than the QClassic account, including up to $15 per month in non-network ATM reimbursements and the ability to earn interest. However, there is a $10 monthly fee unless you maintain a monthly $1,000 direct deposit or minimum average daily balance of $5,000.

Quorum also features competitive APYs on select CD terms. For instance, a seven-month CD earns a 5.25% APY. The minimum deposit required is $1,000. If you have $100,000 or more to deposit, the APY will increase by 0.10%. Keep in mind that a seven-month CD that automatically renews will convert to a 12-month CD once the grace period ends.

Credit Union 1

Credit Union 1

Wide network of co-op branches
  • Savings APY: 3.30%
  • Checking APY: 0.01% – 5.25%
  • One-year certificate APY: 4.00%
  • ATM network: 30,000 free ATMs

 

Credit Union 1 offers high-yield savings, checking and share certificate accounts that pay competitive APYs rivaling some of the top-yielding online banks. There’s no monthly maintenance fee for its free or high-yield checking account. We like that the highest APY for the high-yield checking account applies to balances up to $10,000. However, beyond that limit, a paltry 0.01% APY kicks in.

This credit union offers a variety of share certificate terms ranging from six months to five years. The minimum deposit required to open a share certificate is $1,000.

Membership is widely available with a one-time $5 donation.

Alliant Credit Union

Alliant Credit Union

Competitive high-yield rates on deposit accounts
  • Savings APY: 3.10%
  • Checking APY: 0.25%
  • One-year certificate APY: 5.40% – 5.40%
  • ATM network: 80,000 free ATMs/$20 monthly rebates

 

Alliant Credit Union is an online credit union with competitive rates, a full suite of financial products and broad membership eligibility. There are several ways to become a member, from having a family member with membership, to living in the communities near the credit union’s corporate headquarters, to working for one of Alliant’s partner organizations. The easiest path to membership that’s open to almost everyone is to join Foster Care to Success, or FC2S, Alliant’s partner charity. Visit Alliant for a complete list of membership requirements. 

Alliant’s high-rate savings account earns a competitive APY. While the Ultimate Opportunity Saving Account bonus is still active, you’ll receive a $100 bonus after depositing at least $100 for 12 consecutive months. (The previous deadline of Dec. 31, 2023, hasn’t been updated on Alliant’s website.)

You’ll want to avoid the $1 monthly fee by signing up to receive monthly statements electronically. With the high-rate checking account, you can also access more than 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs and up to $20 a month in ATM fee reimbursements. One-year share certificates earn an APY that rivals the most competitive online banks.

PenFed Credit Union

PenFed Credit Union

Full suite of services
  • Savings APY: 3.00%
  • Checking APY: 0.15% (on balances up to $20,000) to 0.35% (on balances between $20,000 and $50,000)
  • One-year certificate APY: 4.65%
  • ATM network: 85,000 fee-free ATMs

 

PenFed Credit Union membership is open to everyone. There is no cost, and you can join by completing the application on its website. The premium online savings and money market certificate accounts earn competitive APYs. The free and Access America checking accounts offer 85,000 fee-free ATMs, more than many of the largest banks in the US. The Access America Checking account charges a $10 monthly fee, which can be waived by maintaining a $500 daily balance or establishing a $500 monthly direct deposit. A mobile app facilitates digital banking transactions.

BCU

BCU

Competitive, high-yield checking rates
  • Savings APY: Up to 2.50%
  • Checking APY: Up to 4.00%
  • One-year certificate APY: 2.90% to 3.00%
  • ATM network: Unlimited ATM rebates

 

BCU serves more than 300,000 members in the US and Puerto Rico. Membership is open to employees of partner organizations, residents of select Northern Illinois or Southern Wisconsin counties and relatives of current members. Visit the BCU website for more details on membership eligibility.

BCU offers several savings, checking, share certificates and money market accounts. There are options for free savings and checking accounts. 

The highest APY for checking accounts applies when you have $3,000 or more in monthly direct deposits on balances up to $15,000. Any amount above that will earn only a 0.01% APY. You must also have at least 30 qualifying transactions per month to earn the highest APY. These transactions include debit card purchases and online bill payments. 

Savings accounts earn the highest APY on balances from $25,001 to $50,000. You can earn a higher rate -- Reward Rate -- on share certificate accounts by meeting two of the following three criteria: a monthly direct deposit of at least $500, a balance of $25,000 in accounts with the credit union or a qualifying loan.

Connexus Credit Union

Connexus Credit Union

Broad membership and great rates on share certificates
  • Savings APY: 0.25%
  • Checking APY: Up to 1.75%
  • One-year certificate APY: 4.76%
  • ATM network: 67,000 free ATMs/$25 monthly rebates

 

Connexus is part of the Co-op Shared Branch network, which offers members a network of more than 5,000 shared branches. Connexus makes it easy to become a member in just three steps (visit Connexus Membership to learn more about eligibility). Checking and share certificate accounts earn competitive rates. There are no fees for checking or savings accounts, and membership is available with a $5 one-time donation.

Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union

Free, interest-bearing checking account
  • Savings APY: 0.25%
  • Checking APY: 0.05%
  • One-year certificate APY: Up to 5.30%
  • ATM network: 30,000 free ATMs/$10 monthly rebates


Navy Federal Credit Union offers membership to those in the armed services or who work for the Department of Defense or the National Guard. Our choice for the best credit union for military families, it offers five types of checking accounts that feature no monthly maintenance fees and relatively high APYs. NFCU has a strong reputation among its customers for its low minimum balance requirements, low fees and high interest yields on some savings accounts.

Its money market account has a tiered APY structure. It earns the highest APY with a balance of $50,000 or more and requires a $2,500 minimum initial deposit. The Special EasyStart certificate requires only a $50 initial deposit to open and earns up to 5.30% APY on balances up to $3,000 for members who have direct deposit and a checking account at the credit union.

Bethpage Federal Credit Union

Bethpage Federal Credit Union

Great rates for share certificates
  • Savings APY: 0.10%
  • Checking APY: 0.40%
  • One-year certificate APY: 4.00%
  • ATM network: 30,000 ATMs


Bethpage Federal Credit Union offers a full suite of financial services and products, including digital banking and home loans. It has several options for free checking and savings accounts, and membership is broadly available by opening a $5 savings account. Share certificates are available in terms of three months to five years, including a 39-month bump-up certificate.

Rates as of Feb. 12, 2024.

How is a credit union different from a bank?

A credit union is a not-for-profit organization run by a community that pools profits for the benefit of its members, not shareholders. A commercial bank, on the other hand, is a for-profit institution owned by investors that provides profits to its shareholders. 

“Credit unions are typically smaller than traditional banks, either because they only serve specific groups such as veterans or they are limited to a certain geographic area,” said financial coach Katherine Pomerantz. “They need to be creative to compete with the big banks and might offer more generous loan qualifications, better interest rates or fewer banking fees.”

Though product availability varies by institution, a credit union offers many of the same financial products as commercial banks, including deposit accounts and loans. While banks offer certificates of deposit, credit unions offer a time-bound savings account similar to CDs called a share certificate -- the main difference being only the name.

Like CDs, share certificates offer a fixed-rate APY. You buy them for a specific term, which generally ranges from as short as three months to as long as five years. Share certificates, like CDs, impose an early withdrawal penalty if you access the money before the term expires.

Most credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Administration, or NCUA, while the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, insures banks.

How to open a credit union deposit account

After you’ve decided which account type you want to open at a specific credit union, complete the application process. While this may vary based on the credit union, here’s what to expect.

  • Choose a credit union: Review different credit unions to find the best option for your needs. Many financial institutions let you complete the application process online, but you can also open one in person if the credit union has a physical branch.
  • Provide your information: Provide a government-issued ID to verify your identity. You’ll also be asked to include other personal information, such as your physical address, contact information and Social Security number. If you don’t have an SSN, some banks may allow you to open an account with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN.
  • Fund your account: Follow the prompts to complete the application and make the minimum deposit if required. It’s best to follow security practices and enable security features when completing the application to protect your information.
  • Set up mobile access: Follow the instructions provided to establish your mobile or online account.

What are the advantages of being a member of a credit union?

Since credit unions are run by and for their members, these financial institutions may offer more personalized services and rates on financial products that compete with larger banking institutions. Profits made by credit unions are given back to their community through their financial products. Some of these benefits include:

  • Lower rates on loan products, particularly auto loans
  • Lower fees
  • Personalized customer service
  • Engaged community membership
  • Financial literacy programs and education

What are the disadvantages of being a member of a credit union?

As with any banking institution, credit unions vary widely in terms of resources, services and fees charged. Before joining a credit union, understand how any limitation will impact your experience and eligibility. Credit unions may also have:

  • Limited locations and accessibility, particularly while traveling outside of its geographic region
  • Membership requirements
  • Fewer deposit account options compared with banks
  • Less advanced technology services compared with banks, particularly with mobile banking and online banking
  • Requirement to keep certain accounts open, even if you don’t need them in order to remain a member

Credit unions vs. traditional banks vs. online banks

Credit unionsTraditional banksOnline banks
Who they serveEmployees, members of specific industry, community groups or geographic regionsPeople in the vicinity of a local branchNo geographic restrictions, people comfortable banking in online environment
APY on deposit accountsGenerally higher rates than big banksGenerally lower than national average or nonexistentOften high-yield deposit accounts, APYs offered multiple times higher than national average rates
Physical locationsLimited, may participate in a network of credit unionsGenerally, branches are available across many regions, making in-person access convenientNone
Online and mobile banking accessVaries, but most credit unions will have some form of digital access or mobile appGenerally yesYes
Customer service hoursGenerally limited to business hours, Monday through Friday with limited availability on SaturdayExpanded hoursExpanded hours, in some cases 24/7 live support available
FeesGenerally lower fees than larger banksFees vary, but many impose monthly fees unless balance minimums or direct deposit amounts are maintainedMany offer free checking and don’t impose monthly fees on other deposit accounts

What to look for in a credit union

  • NCUA insurance: The National Credit Union Administration, a government agency, provides insurance against loss or credit union failure on deposit accounts for up to $250,000 per person, per credit union, per account type. Any reputable credit union should be NCUA-insured, just like any reputable bank should be insured by the FDIC. To keep your deposits safe, only open accounts with NCUA-insured credit unions. 
  • Product offerings: Credit unions generally offer savings, checking, money market and share certificates (similar to CDs). Compare yields and fees against banking competitors. Many credit unions offer loan products that can provide more competitive rates than larger banks, but it’s always best to compare rates before making a decision.
  • Fees and other costs: Monthly fees are one way that banks or credit unions can slow your financial growth potential. Look for credit unions that either waive monthly fees altogether or provide reasonable options to waive fees such as maintaining a low monthly balance. Overdraft fees are also an additional cost to confirm. Many banks have eliminated the overdraft fee or provide an overdraft protection program. Look for this with any credit union you are reviewing.
  • APY on deposits and APR on loans: Interest rates, on both deposits and loans, are constantly changing based on current market conditions. If the credit union’s rates are competitive, then you’re likely looking at an organization that adjusts the rate to attract new customers.
  • Membership requirements: Credit unions have various membership requirements. You’ll need to qualify for membership before you can initiate a financial relationship with the credit union. Look for credit unions that have a connection to entities that you’re a part of such as your employer or civic organization. Or find credit unions that offer paths through membership by making a charitable donation or joining an organization that’s open to the public.
  • Customer reviews: Look at customer reviews on the Better Business Bureau or other credible review sources to learn what issues you might come across, such as long wait times or fees.

FAQs

Credit unions have membership eligibility requirements that vary by institution. In some cases, a one-time donation is required in lieu of membership to an organization or group the credit union is affiliated with. Look for a link on the credit union’s website that directs you to join and read the eligibility requirements.

Yes, you can open an account at a credit union while having an account with a commercial bank. Savvy savers maintain multiple accounts as a strategy to take advantage of high-yield savings accounts and to build wealth.

Credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Administration, which is responsible for regulating credit unions, insuring deposits for up to $250,000 per individual and protecting members from loss due to credit union failure.

Credit unions tend to offer lower rates on loan products compared with banks. However, rates vary and it’s worth researching both banks and credit unions when searching for the best loan.

Methodology

CNET reviews deposit account rates based on the latest APY information from issuer websites. We evaluated rates from more than 50 banks, credit unions and financial companies. We selected the credit unions with competitive rates for checking, savings or CDs. Credit unions selected also had flexible membership requirements making them accessible nationwide.

Banks surveyed include: Alliant Credit Union, Ally Bank, America First Credit Union, American Express National Bank, Axos Bank, Bank of America, Bank of the West, Bank5 Connect, Barclays, BMO, Bread Savings, BrioDirect, Capital One, CFG Community Bank, Citizens Access, Colorado Federal Savings Bank, Connexus Credit Union, Consumers Credit Union, Credit One Bank, Discover Bank, EverBank, First Internet Bank of Indiana, First Tech Federal Credit Union, FNBO Direct, GO2bank, Golden 1 Credit Union, HSBC Bank, Huntington Bank, Lake Michigan Credit Union, LendingClub Bank, Live Oak Bank, M&T Bank, Marcus by Goldman Sachs, Merrick Bank, Nationwide (by Axos), Navy Federal Credit Union, NBKC, OneUnited Bank, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC, Popular Direct, PurePoint Financial, Quontic Bank, Rising Bank, Salem Five Direct, Sallie Mae Bank, Santander Bank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Synchrony Bank, TAB Bank, TD Bank, Truist Bank, U.S. Bank, UFB Direct, Union Bank, USAA Bank, Vio Bank and Wells Fargo.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Toni Husbands is a staff writer with CNET Money who enjoys exploring topics that promote financial wellness. She began writing about personal finance to document her experience paying off $107,000 of debt, which is detailed in her book, The Great Debt Dump. Previously, she contributed as a freelance writer for websites, including CreditCards.com, Centsai and Wisebread. She was also a regular contributor to Business AM TV, and her work has been featured on Yahoo News. Being a part-time real estate investor and amateur gardener also brings her joy.
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