In the last month I've come across a couple of more credit unions that make it easy for anyone to qualify for membership. These credit unions have added associations to their fields of membership which allow anyone to join. Once you join the association, you are then eligible to join the credit union. I call these all-access credit unions, and I have a big list of these all-access credit unions which currently totals 74.
New all-access credit unions give savers more options for higher CD, checking and savings account rates. That's the case with the following two credit unions which I just added to the big list:
- Air Force Federal Credit Union - San Antonio, TX (online application)
- Communitywide Federal Credit Union - South Bend, IN
As you might expect, banks consider this as unfair competition since credit unions receive tax breaks. This 2010 New York Times article reported on this issue and the history of how large credit unions like PenFed evolved into an open membership. In my opinion, this supposed unfairness pales in comparison with the unfairness of today's suppression of interest rates.
Free Checking Accounts
Even if you're not looking for CDs, you may still want to consider an all-access credit union for a free checking account. Many of these all-access credit unions offer free checking accounts with no monthly service fees.
One common concern for those who are thinking about leaving their megabank is branch and ATM convenience. Will there be nearby branches and ATMs?
Many credit unions have partnerships with ATM networks such as the CO-OP Network and Credit Union Service Centers Network. These give you surcharge-free access to thousands of ATMs throughout the nation.
Similar to ATM networks, there's a credit union shared branch network called the CU Service Centers. In this network, credit unions from all over the country share facilities to give members thousands of locations to perform several transactions just as if they were in their home credit union.
If you're looking for a free checking account, a good option can be an all-access credit union which offers free checking and is part of the shared branch network and ATM networks.
Air Force Federal Credit Union is one example. As I mentioned above, this is a new addition to the all-access credit union list. Another plus with this credit union is that it offers an online application. I described the application when I reviewed its CDs.
The credit union offers a free checking account with no monthly service fees. It's also part of the ATM CO-OP Network and the CU Service Centers.
Free Reward Checking Accounts
If you want a free checking account with a high interest rate, there are some good all-access credit unions which offer reward checking accounts. These are typically free checking accounts with no monthly service fees. The reward feature gives the member the option of a high interest rate (high relative to today's rates) if certain monthly requirements are met. The requirements always include debit card usage such as 12 debit card purchases per month. Another downside is that there's a limit to the balance that qualifies for the high rate. If you're new to reward checking, please refer to my post 10 Common Traits of High-Yield Reward Checking.
One all-access credit union with a free reward checking account is Provident Credit Union. In addition, it offers an online application, and it's part of the CU Service Centers for shared branches and part of several ATM networks including the CO-OP Network, MoneyPass and Alliance One. My last review of Provident Credit Union and its reward checking account was in April.
Another all-access credit union with a free reward checking account is Consumers Credit Union. The main downside with this account is a balance cap of only $5,000. However, the credit union offers an online application, and it's part of the CU Service Centers and the ATM CO-OP Network. My last review of this reward checking account was last October when they had a rate promotion.
Free Interest Checking Accounts
Most of the time an institution offers an interest checking account, it's a bad choice compared to a free checking account. The reason is that the interest rate is so low that it gives essentially no benefit over no-interest free checking account. Also, interest checking accounts often have monthly service fees, and this is especially the case for large banks.
Many credit unions offer free interest checking accounts. One of the best ones is Alliant Credit Union. Its High Rate Checking is a free checking account that only requires e-statements and at least one monthly electronic deposit. If these requirements are not met, the account just becomes a free checking account with no interest.
Alliant Credit Union is an all-access credit union which offers an online application. It's part of several ATM networks, and it offers several perks such as remote deposit and free credit scores. The only downside is that it's not part of the CU Service Centers. I have more details about Alliant Credit Union and its checking account in this Alliant Credit Union review.
Finding the Best Checking Accounts
We have rate tables for both interest checking accounts and reward checking accounts. You can use the filter option of these tables to find the best checking accounts from all-access credit unions and from credit unions in your state.