The 8 Best Credit Unions of 2019

You'll receive greater returns than with traditional banks

Credit unions offer a great alternative to banks. They offer the same types of accounts, but often with much lower fees and higher interest rates. No matter where you live, you may be able to join a nationwide credit union. If you don’t qualify from your job or location, you often do qualify with a small fee or donation to a nonprofit. So if you want to join a credit union, these are some of the best credit unions to choose from.

01
Best Credit Union for Fees: Alliant Credit Union

Alliant Credit Union
Courtesy of Alliant Credit Union

Alliant Credit Union is a consistent highly rated credit union and the 5th largest in the United States by assets. Founded as United Airlines Employees’ Credit Union in 1935, the Chicago headquartered credit union now operates is in California, Colorado, Texas and Virginia in addition to its native Illinois with 11 branch locations. Members can access 80,000 ATMs surcharge-free, though you can use an out-of-network ATM worry-free with up to $20 in monthly reimbursements for checking account holders.

The easiest route to membership is an association with its 150+ member companies or living in the local area. You can also join with a simple one-time, $5 donation to Foster Care to Success.

With great online, mobile and phone banking options, don’t worry if you don’t live near a branch. The only thing that would inhibit is cash deposits. You can do everything else remotely without spending a cent.

02
Best Credit Union for Big Network of Branches: First Tech Credit Union

First Tech Credit Union
Courtesy of First Tech Credit Union

First Tech Credit Union has one of the largest footprints of branch locations, with 40 branches in nine states and Puerto Rico. With its origins targeting technology workers at Tektronix, the company’s locations are focused on high tech centers in the United States.

Its participation in the Co-op network gives members access to 30,000+ ATMs fee-free and over 5,000 branches to take care of banking business. Even if you don’t live near a First Tech branch, you can do pretty much everything at those partner branches. With so many, odds are one is nearby.

The credit union offers multiple checkings options, some of which offer competitive interest rates and rewards. And anyone can join!

03
Best Credit Union for Military: Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union
Courtesy of Navy Federal Credit Union

Unlike most others on this list, everyone can’t join Navy Federal Credit Union. However, any active military, retired military and their families can join. Employees of the Department of Defense (DoD), government employees assigned to a DoD location and contractors at DoD installations and their families are all eligible to join as well.

If you qualify, this credit union has top ratings for customer service and offers great options for checking, savings, credit cards and loans. Like all credit unions, Navy Federal is a nonprofit, so members get better interest rates than you can typically find with a bank.

The big downsides are a high balance to avoid a monthly fee on the most popular checking account and lower interest rates than some competitors on this list. But if you live on or near a base, Navy Federal Credit Union might be right for you.

04
Best Credit Union for Mortgages: Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed)

PenFed
Courtesy of PenFed

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, better known as PenFed, is a Washington area-based credit union with a military focus, but you don’t need to be in Washington or a part of the military to join. Like many other credit unions, a small donation to a partner charity qualifies you to open a new account. Once you do, you have some great options for mortgages and other loans, including highly competitive rates and a somewhat unique mortgage option.

One unique option is the 15/15 ARM. This adjustable rate mortgage locks in your low-interest rate for 15 years before adjusting to market rates. As a huge number of people tend to move within 15 years, it is a great way to lock in the low cost of an ARM without the risk of a short 3, 5 or seven-year ARM term.

PenFed offers competitive checking and savings, and some credit card options with far better rewards than most credit unions. This combination of factors makes it worth looking into.

05
Best Credit Union for Checking Accounts: Langley Federal Credit Union

Langley Federal Credit Union
Courtesy of Langley Federal Credit Union

Langley, Virginia is famous as the headquarters of the CIA, but the Langley Federal Credit Union is not cloaked in secrecy. Langley Federal Credit Union is well known, as a matter of fact, for its four checking accounts. Its LangleyPays Checking gives account holders 0.25 percent APY on the first $1,000 deposited and 0.05% on the amount greater than $1,000; plus, earn 10 cents each time you use your debit card.

Langley Federal Credit Union also offers high-interest rates on CDs and savings, which put it in the running with some of the best high-interest savings accounts at popular online banks.

Membership is open to employees at many nationwide businesses, including 7-Eleven, Olive Garden and Panera Bread. Or, you can join the local Virginia Association of Museums for $15 or Friends of the Carrollton Library for $5 to qualify.

06
Best Credit Union for Kids' Savings: GTE Financial Credit Union

GTE Financial Credit Union
Courtesy of GTE Financial Credit Union

According to GoBankingRates, GTE Financial Credit Union offers one of the best savings rates of credit unions that anyone can join. While customer service reviews are not stellar, the current APY on its Early Saver savings account is an impressive 1.99 percent APY.

GTE Financial Credit Union’s Regular Share Savings Account and Early Saver Account both offer less impressive rates, with only 0.10 percent APY for a balance over $500. GTE is a PopMoney member, which means transferring funds from this bank to an account at another bank can be very quick, which is another perk.

There are lots of ways to join, including a one-time donation to CUSavers no matter where you live and where you work. It isn’t the best credit union for everyone, but there are some cases where it makes sense.

07
Best Credit Union for Customer Service: Wings Financial Credit Union

Wings Financial Credit Union
Courtesy of Wings Financial Credit Union

Minnesota based Wings Financial Credit Union earns generally high marks in customer service across the board. Anyone in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area, Seattle-Tacoma metro area, or works or has worked in aviation is eligible to join. You can also join the Wings Financial Foundation for $5 to become eligible to join this highly rated credit union.

This credit union offers generally great accounts, including a no monthly fee checking account. This credit union has branches in Minnesota, Michigan, Florida, Georgia and Washington, and offers 60,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide through the Co-Op and Allpoint networks. The Signature Rewards program offers cashback on debit purchases as well.

Like most credit unions, Wings Financial offers a range of banking products such as loans and credit cards. Unlike some, it also offers investment and insurance products that allow you to keep your entire financial life with one institution, which is another benefit for those who want to keep things simple.

08
Best Credit Union for Using any ATM: Connexus Credit Union

Connexus
Courtesy of Connexus

Most big banks charge you a fee to use another bank’s ATM, plus you may have to pay a fee to that bank. At Connexus, not only are you able to use 54,000 ATMs fee-free in the Co-Op and MoneyPass networks, Connexus will reimburse up to $25 per month in other bank’s ATM fees if you hold the Xtraordinary Checking account. For those who love to travel or just want to use whatever ATM is most convenient at the moment, that is a huge benefit.

In addition to the ATM benefits, Connexus offers competitive interest rates and accounts. Auto loan rates start at 2.99 percent and mortgage loans are in line with national average rates. If you love the checking account, you may want to bring your other banking here as well to keep things simple and under one roof.

Xtraordinary checking offers 1.75 percent APY in addition to the ATM fee rebates, so it is a top-level checking account no matter how you look at it. 

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More: Best Savings Account Interest Rates

The Balance offers a comprehensive comparison of the best savings account interest rates. We teamed up with Bankrate to survey approximately 4,800 banks and credit unions nationwide. Depending on how much money you’re looking to deposit, this list will show you some of the best options available today. All of the banks and credit unions listed are insured by the FDIC or NCUA.