Alliant Credit Union Review - Everything You Need to Know
Alliant Credit Union is an online credit union with a wide range of services, low fees, and competitive interest rates. Keeping with credit union tradition, this institution also makes it easy to open accounts for children and teach them about money. It’s easy to satisfy the eligibility requirements by donating to a charity partnered with Alliant, and your deposits are insured up to federal limits.
Who Is Alliant Credit Union Best For?
Alliant Credit Union offers account types to meet most of your financial needs. If you’re a fan of credit unions and online banking, it may be the best of both worlds for you. Alliant should be particularly attractive to those who want:
- High-interest rates on fee-free savings accounts
- A checking account with rebates on fees that ATM owners charge
- Savings accounts for children
- Free checking with online bill payment
- CDs that don’t charge hefty penalties if you cash out early
- Over 80,000 ATMs in the Allpoint and CO-OP networks
- Cash deposits at selected ATMs
Although Alliant is a credit union, it does not participate in a national shared branching network, which may be a different experience for some credit union devotees. That said, Alliant’s surcharge-free ATMs include machines in the CO-OP ATM network, so you can use ATMs at most credit unions.
Easy to join online with a small donation
Free checking and savings accounts with a vast ATM network (over 80,000)
Checking and savings accounts for kids
No money market account for high interest rates and easy spending
Not part of a national shared branching network for in-person business at credit union branches
Overdraft fees can get expensive—if you opt-in
Types of Accounts
- High-Rate Savings
- Free Checking
- High-Rate Checking
- Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
- Kids Savings Accounts
- Teen Checking
The High-Rate Savings account is a competitive online bank account—at a credit union. Alliant’s account is also unique because you get an ATM card with your savings account, while some online banks require you to transfer money out of savings to get cash. Some perks/things to consider:
- No monthly fees if you select electronic statements
- No minimum deposit required
- Earn 2.10 percent APY when your average daily balance is $100 or more
- Deposit and withdraw cash at ATMs
- Mobile check deposit
- Open up to 19 subaccounts to manage your savings
The Alliant Free Checking account can help you manage payments at no cost. Some things to think about:
- No monthly maintenance fees
- Alliant may rebate up to $20 of ATM fees (excluding international transaction fees)
- Free order of checks
- Visa debit card for payments
- Free online bill payment for one-time and recurring payments
Overdraft options: If you overdraw your account, you have two optional services that you can add to your account:
- Overdraft Protection: Pull funds from a savings account at Alliant instead of having your card declined. There is no fee for that option, which is a nice perk. Some banks charge $10 or more for that service.
- Courtesy Pay: Alliant can also “lend” you money to help payments go through. The charge for each Courtesy Pay is $28.
P2P payments: Alliant does not provide a built-in platform for personal payments, but you can link your account to services like PayPal, Zelle, and Venmo, which provide a front-end for P2P payments.
Alliant’s interest checking account has the same basic features as the standard checking account above, but it pays dividends on your account balance. The rate is not as high as some of the highest-paying money market accounts, but money market accounts limit certain payments and transfers out of your account to six or fewer per month. Some requirements and things to consider:
- Make at least one electronic deposit per month to the account
- Sign up for electronic statements
- Earn 0.65 percent APY
For comparison, Ally Bank’s interest checking account pays 0.10 percent on balances below $15,000 (with $15,000 or more, you can earn 0.60 percent at Ally). Both banks have a competitive option that provides interest earnings and the ability to make numerous payments every month.
Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
Alliant Credit Union offers standard CDs with a variety of terms. Although you pay early withdrawal penalties for cashing out early, Alliant does not charge penalties that eat into your principal as long as you keep your CD for more than seven days.
Alliant’s CDs have two tiers:
- Standard CDs with a minimum of $1,000
- Jumbo CDs with a minimum of $25,000
Rates are as follows:
|Standard CD Rates|
|12 to 17 months||2.65%|
|18 to 23 months||2.55%|
|24 to 35 months||2.6%|
|36 to 47 months||2.65%|
Those rates are competitive with most other online banks. However, several banks, including Capital One 360 and Ally, don’t require a $1,000 deposit to open a CD.
Rates for jumbo CDs are slightly higher:
|Jumbo CD Rates|
|12 to 17 months||2.7%|
|18 to 23 months||2.6%|
|24 to 35 months||2.65%|
|36 to 47 months||2.7%|
Early withdrawal penalty amounts depend on the term you choose. As long as you hold your CD for more than seven days, you can limit the penalty to the interest you’ve earned.
|Early Withdrawal Penalty|
|12 to 17-month CDs||90 days of interest or the interest you've earned, whichever is less|
|18 to 23-month CDs||120 days of interest or the interest you've earned, whichever is less|
|24 to 60-month CDs||180 days of interest or the interest you've earned, whichever is less|
Kids Savings Accounts
You can also open savings accounts for children under the age of 13, helping them develop healthy financial habits. To do so, Alliant requires a parent, grandparent, or guardian to jointly own the account with the child. The account features are otherwise the same as the High-Rate Savings account. If you’d like to open an account for a child, but you don’t meet those criteria, other banks may allow it. For example, Capital One 360 does not require a direct or legal relationship between the adult and minor.
The Teen Checking account is similar to the standard Free Checking account, but it’s designed for members between the ages of 13 and 17. Some key considerations/perks:
- No monthly fees or minimum balance requirements
- Pays 0.65 percent APY on your checking account balance (if you sign up for electronic statements and set up at least one electronic deposit per month)
- Requires a parent as a joint owner (must also be an Alliant Credit Union Member)
- Parents can set limits on debit card spending
When the child turns 18, the account converts to a standard Alliant checking account. But the joint account owners remain the same (unless you request changes), and the spending limits are removed from the account.
Other Account Types
Alliant can accommodate several different types of accounts.
Retirement accounts: Open Traditional, Roth, and SEP IRAs, and invest the funds in a standard share account or use CDs for longer-term holdings.
Custodial accounts: Members can open accounts for the benefit of minors with Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA) accounts. Children have no access to those accounts, but they typically become the child’s property when the child reaches the state’s age of majority.
Trust accounts: Trustees can open checking accounts, savings accounts, and CDs.
Loans: As a full-service credit union, Alliant offers a wide range of loans, including credit cards, personal loans, student loans, home purchase loans, vehicle loans, and commercial real estate funding.
How to Bank With Alliant
To open an account, visit AlliantCreditUnion.org or call 800-328-1935.
Eligibility: Because Alliant is a credit union, you need to qualify for membership by meeting certain criteria. Those who live near Chicago may be eligible through their employer or geographic location, but virtually anybody nationwide can become a member by supporting Alliant’s partner charity, Foster Care to Success (FC2S). By donating at least $5, you meet Alliant’s membership criteria.
As with most financial institutions in the U.S., you’ll need to provide personal information to open an account, including:
- Details on how you qualify for membership
- Names of all account owners
- Social Security Number (SSN) or Tax ID Number (TIN) of all account owners
- A physical address of account owners (mailing address optional)
- E-mail address and phone numbers of account owners
- Basic employment and income information
- Bank account information for any accounts you wish to link to Alliant
You can fund your account with direct deposit, ACH transfers (from an unlimited number of external banks), wire transfers, remote deposit, or deposits by mail.
Fees are straightforward at Alliant.
- Wire transfer out of Alliant: $25 domestic or $50 international
- Paper account statement fees (optional): $1 per statement
- International ATM/debit card charges: One percent of the transaction amount
Checking accounts have additional potential fees:
- Courtesy Pay: $28
- Insufficient funds: $25 per item (you may pay multiple fees per day)
When you deposit money into your account, Alliant may hold the funds temporarily to reduce (but not eliminate) the risk of bad checks. That’s true whether you add money by remote deposit, mail, or an ATM deposit. Alliant’s policies are competitive with other banks. They strive to make funds available on the same business day (if received by Alliant before 2 p.m. their time), and in many cases, funds are available faster than federal law requires. That said, always verify the timeline with a customer service representative if you’ll need the money anytime soon.
Low-risk items: Federal and local government checks, USPS money orders, cashier’s checks, and certain payroll checks should be available on the same business day that Alliant processes your deposit.
New customers: During your first 30 days as a customer, Alliant may impose longer hold times. Personal checks and certain business checks should be available on the ninth day after processing.
Standard hold times: Besides low-risk items, most deposits should have the first $2,500 available on the day Alliant counts your deposit. The remainder should be available on the second business day after you deposit, in many cases.
Exceptions: Alliant can make less money available or extend the hold time in numerous situations (some of them outside of your control). In those cases, the first $200 might be available on the day you deposit, with the rest subject to a longer hold time. Examples include (but are not limited to):
- Deposits greater than $5,000: If you deposit more than $5,000 with one or more checks, Alliant says to expect the funds on the seventh business day after deposit.
- Account history: If you’ve had returned deposits, overdrafts, or other issues in your account, Alliant may extend hold times.
ATM deposits: When you deposit funds from an ATM, Alliant expects to make the funds available on the same day of your deposit.
Because hold times may be beyond your control (including delays due to environmental or technology events), it’s critical to discuss funds availability policies with customer service whenever you make an important deposit. Even when the bank allows you to withdraw or spend money, you’re responsible if checks eventually bounce.
About Alliant Credit Union
Alliant Credit Union, headquartered in Chicago, Ill., is one of the largest credit unions in the U.S., with $9.8 billion in assets. The credit union started in 1935 for employees at United Airlines. As with all credit unions, Alliant is a customer-owned institution—when you open a share account, you own a portion of the credit union.
Alliant Credit Union uses industry-standard security measures to protect your account information. The credit union reports that the mobile app, website, and other digital interfaces use encrypted connections. In addition, Alliant notices which devices you use, and you can enable additional security measures to verify your identity when an unknown device attempts to access your account.
Travel notifications: To protect against fraud, Alliant requests that you set travel notifications when you intend to use your credit and debit cards in areas where you don’t normally spend. Some banks no longer use travel notifications, so the security-conscious should appreciate that feature.
Account suspensions: If you want to prevent transactions in your account temporarily, you can contact Alliant by phone to request a suspension.
The Bottom Line
Alliant makes an online credit union available to almost anyone. And in our review, we found that if you’re a fan of customer-owned institutions and you don’t have suitable options locally, Alliant may be an excellent choice. Plus, you earn interest rates on par with some of the most competitive online banks. Other banks may pay slightly more, but the difference is minimal unless you keep a significant amount in savings.
Alliant’s online help allows you to search for answers, but the functionality could be better. You need to know exactly what you’re looking for, and you may end up with blog posts and other pages that don’t directly answer your question. The solution is to contact customer service, which you can do 24/7. The lack of participation in shared branching may be disappointing to those who appreciate banking in a branch.