7 best credit unions to consider (March 2024)
Despite their many benefits, credit unions are often overlooked. But don't make that mistake yourself because credit unions offer similar financial services and products as banks, but very often at a lower cost to customers.
That's why there are over 5,000 federally insured credit unions and 132.6 million members across the U.S. market. And the interest is only growing, with the value of insured shares and deposits in credit unions rising by 3.1% in Q4 2022 to $1.68 trillion.
But are credit unions really the better choice for you? Although both banks and credit unions provide similar financial products, including savings accounts, certificates of deposits (CDs), and loans, there are key differences between the two.
In this article, we'll explore their differences along with seven of the top credit unions, both local and national.
What credit unions are and how they are different from banks
Credit unions and banks fulfill similar functions, but their profit status is what sets them apart in products and services. Unlike banks, credit unions are owned by members, creating a cooperative business model.
Banks, on the other hand, may be either privately held or publicly traded as stocks, often making them beholden to their shareholders first, and their customers second.
It’s not uncommon for a credit union to cater to a specific group, such as by occupation, community, or some other common theme that ties members together.
As non-profit entities, credit unions generally are exempt from paying federal taxes, so they can pass savings along to members and offer better annual percentage rates (APRs) on loans and credit cards as well as more attractive annual percentage yields (APYs) on savings accounts compared with banks.
Finding the right credit union is like any relationship—you want to be sure it's the right fit.
This means being aware of the potential benefits as well as some of the disadvantages. But overall, credit unions have a great deal to offer, including the local and national credit unions listed below.
The following is not an exhaustive list but is representative of top unions that have been around for decades and that have planted their flags in their respective regions of operation.
These credit unions have built a strong reputation, as reflected in the outsized number of positive ratings from customers on various platforms.
Local credit unions
Georgia United Credit Union
Georgia United Credit Union: If you live in the Atlanta area and are looking for a GA credit union, you might consider this one. It is one of the best credit unions for cash-back credit cards.
Georgia United offers customers 1.5% cash back on all purchases for spending with the Cash Back Visa Signature Card. In addition to the credit card, they offer banking services like checking and savings accounts, as well as lending services including auto loans, personal loans, and mortgages.
Customers have access to online and mobile banking. And although Georgia United is a local credit union, it supports over 100,000 surcharge-free ATMs around the world.
This credit union has been serving the state of Georgia since 1958 and has gained ratings of 4.7 and 4.8 out of a possible 5 stars on the App Store and Google Play, respectively.
Affinity Federal Credit Union
Affinity Federal Credit Union: For those living in New Jersey, the Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Affinity Federal Credit Union, established in 1935, is one of the best local credit unions for savers because it offers a generous APY of 4%, surpassing the rate that most banks offer.
As they like to point out, on the first $10,000, that's $400 in interest per year.
Affinity Federal also offers banking services including certificates with an APY of 5%, checking, credit cards with a variable APR of 13.85%, and retirement savings.
This credit union is also a lender, providing loans for debt consolidation, auto financing, business financing, and more.
It just might be one of the best credit unions in New Jersey with its ratings of 4.8 and 4.6 out of a possible 5 stars on the App Store and Google Play, respectively, across thousands of reviews.
Philadelphia Credit Union
Philadelphia Credit Union: Founded in 1951, The Philadelphia Federal Credit Union, or PFCU, offers a cash-back checking account that rewards members for shopping.
Features include 2% cash back on debit card purchases and refunds on ATM fees. Members have access to personal and business banking, insurance, mobile banking, and more.
Additionally, PFCU is one of the best credit unions for credit cards, including an everyday rewards card that offers a $150 bonus and 4x rewards points. The card has a 0% introductory APR for six billing cycles before it increases to between 19.74% and 29.74%, depending on a member's credit profile.
PFCU offers multiple credit cards, including a platinum card and one specializing in travel rewards.
PFCU has earned ratings of 4.8 and 4.7 out of a possible 5 stars on the App Store and Google Play, respectively, across thousands of reviews.
Florida Credit Union
Florida Credit Union: The Florida Credit Union has been serving members since 1954. At a time when mortgage rates have reached 8%, this credit union is offering rates below 7% on ARM mortgages.
Florida Credit Union offers credit cards with a 0% intro APR for 12 months on new purchases, and home equity lines of credit at an APR of 5.99% for six months. And similar to other local credit unions, Florida Credit Union offers a generous rate on CDs of 5% APY on a seven-month or IRA CD.
In addition to mortgages, this credit union participates in other lending including auto loans as well as vehicle and equipment loans. It also supports checking and business accounts.
Florida Credit Union gives members a high-tech experience with its integrated artificial intelligence and virtual employee robot, Flora.
They have earned ratings of 4.9 and 4.8 out of a possible 5 stars on the App store and Google Play, respectively, across thousands of combined ratings.
For a more comprehensive list of leading credit unions in each state, including those that similarly have been serving members for decades and have earned positive member reviews, see the table below (excluding the states mentioned above):
|All In Credit Union
|Free checking & rewards checking accounts
|Global Credit Union
|Arizona Financial Credit Union
|Savings rate 9x the national average
|Arkansas Federal Credit Union
|Largest credit union in the state of Arkansas and open to all residents
|Golden 1 Credit Union
|Easier for members to join vs. Calif.-based SchoolsFirst
|Credit Union of Denver
|Simple to use, open to many residents.
|Largest credit union in the state
|Del-One Federal Credit Union
|Second-biggest credit union in the state, open to all residents through Del-One Foundation membership
|Aloha Pacific Federal Credit Union
|No monthly service fee or minimum balance
|Idaho Central Credit Union
|Biggest credit union in the state. Early direct deposit, rewards credit card.
|Corporate America Family Credit Union
|Wide-breadth of banking services
|Purdue Federal Credit Union
|5.92% APY for savers
|Ascentra Credit Union
|Low fixed mortgage rate, attractive credit card rate
|Azura Credit Union
|Broad membership acceptance
|5.0% APY for savers
|Barksdale Federal Credit Union
|No-fee, low interest loans
|cPort Credit Union
|One of the state’s fastest growing credit unions; 4.07% APY on high-yield savings account
|Savings certificate APY as high as 5.50%
|City of Boston Credit Union
|Low minimum deposit of $5
|ELGA Credit Union
|Membership is open to all state residents
|Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union
|5.25% APY on CDs
|Magnolia Federal Credit Union
|Continually voted best credit union, as illustrated on the website
|CommunityAmerica Credit Union
|Wide eligibility criteria, high APY of 5.0%
|Clearwater Federal Credit Union
|Second largest credit union in the state. Wide range of banking services including loans
|Cobalt Credit Union
|Largest credit union in the state, access to wide range of digital banking tools
|Clark County Credit Union
|Depository accounts secured up to $500,000
|Service Credit Union
|Rates as high as 5.25% APY on share certificate
|Del Norte Credit Union
|5.13% APY on share certificate
|ESL Federal Credit Union
|Wide availability at 23 locations; Visa Signature offers points on all purchases
|Coastal Credit Union
|Special dividends paid out every February
|First Community Credit Union
|Free digital services
|Visa Signature card with cash back
|WEOKIE Credit Union
|5.0% APY Certificate; attractive rates and discounts
|Selco Community Credit Union
|4.75% APY on Certificate; Attractive car loan and credit card APRs
|Coastal1 Credit Union
|Credit card w/4x points
|Family Trust Federal Credit Union
|Certificate rates up to 5.50%
|Black Hills Federal Credit Union
|BHFCU Signature Rewards credit card - earn up to quadruple points
|Eastman Credit Union
|Certificate APY of 5.50%; Over $177 million paid to members since 1998
|American Airlines Federal Credit Union
|Available to the transportation industry; APYs as high as 5.3% on share certificates; annual bonus dividends and loyalty discounts
|Cyprus Credit Union
|Visa Platinum Rewards credit card; no fees
|802 Credit Union
|4.50% APY on CD; no minimum balance requirement and free online banking
|Chartway Credit Union
|No minimum balance requirement; membership is open to those living near branches
|Horizon Credit Union
|Visa Platinum Points Card
|First Choice America Community
|Monthly compounded dividends; no monthly service charges
|Fox Communities Credit Union
|High dividends, no minimum balance required
|Low minimum deposit
National credit unions
Navy Federal: As the name suggests, the Navy Federal Credit Union is designed for veterans and active members of the armed services, including the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard.
Navy Federal extends attractive loan options to members, including mortgages with rates as low as 6.3% at a time when the broader economy is grappling with mortgage rates as high as 8%.
This credit union is also known for offering auto loans (4.5% APR), CDs (5.30% APY), and credit cards (11.24% APR), all with extremely competitive rates.
Dividends are compounded daily and credited monthly. Members may have to maintain a minimum account balance to be eligible for dividend distributions.
As a national credit union, Navy Federal has 350 branches globally, including overseas and at military branches adding to its standing as one of the best credit unions for members of the armed services.
SchoolsFirst: The SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union is another national credit union offering similar banking services as other top credit unions, including checking and savings accounts, auto loans (6.39% APR), mortgages (6.78% APR), credit cards (13.75% APR), and CDS (4.75% APY).
This credit union is focused on educating its members about changes in the economy, including interest rates, and what they mean for personal and business finances.
SchoolsFirst caters to retired school employees, relatives, and eligible college students majoring in education. It is a national credit union with 30,000 ATM locations available.
Mountain America: As a semi-national credit union, Mountain America has been around since the 1930s and is dedicated to the state of Utah and the Western United States with a mission to help its members financially.
Members must reside in the state of Utah or be related to an existing Mountain America member to join. There are branches in Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and New Mexico.
Mountain America offers attractive terms on products like six-month CDs (5.50% APY), new and used car loans (7.39% APR), and fixed-rate mortgages (6.375%-6.875% APR). Dividends accrue daily and are posted monthly.
Credit unions may look a lot like banks, but they have their own unique charm.
Many credit unions focus on having personal relationships with their members and take pride in being able to make dividend distributions. Credit union members also enjoy certain advantages, such as higher APYs (savings, CDs, etc.) and lower APRs (credit cards, mortgages, auto loans) compared with those offered by banks.
Although credit unions may have some drawbacks, such as limited branches or stubborn qualification criteria, it is not hard to find one that shines in at least one area of banking making it a good fit for you.
The best credit unions are those that specialize in a member's area of need.