Dedicated to Deposits: Deals, Data, and Discussion
Great Lakes Credit Union3.00%-$10kUltimate Checking
Accounts mentioned in this post. Rates as of August 28, 2014

Update on Great Lakes Credit Union's Reward Checking Account


Great Lakes Credit Union

I first reviewed Great Lakes Credit Union (GLCU) and its reward checking account (called Ultimate Checking) in 2011. The rate has remained the same, but the balance cap has gone down. Nevertheless, it remains a competitive reward checking account. When I first reported on this credit union, it appeared to be mostly a local deal for those in parts of Illinois and Wisconsin. There now appears to be a way for anyone to qualify for membership. Before I review the membership eligibility, below is a summary of the rates and features as of 3/8/2013:

  • 4.00% APY up to $10,000
  • 0.05% for over $10,000 (standard savings dividend rate)
  • Up to $5 ATM rebate per month
  • No monthly fee or minimum balance requirement

The monthly requirements include:

  • $500 Direct Deposit or ACH transfer
  • 10 signature-based debit card purchases totaling $100 or more
  • eStatements
  • Pay one bill through Bill Pay or logging into mobile banking

To avoid a $5 monthly fee, members will have to make a minimum of 5 signature-based debit card purchases a month OR maintain $500 direct deposit. Maximum of 3 Ultimate Checking accounts is allowed per person. More details are described in the credit union's Ultimate Checking page. The potential monthly fee and the requirements to avoid it make this reward checking account unique.


The only place I found information on membership qualifications was in the online application. The membership and new-account application requires that you select how you qualify for membership. It lists the following options:

  • Active Military and Relative
  • Country Club Hills, IL Surrounding Area
  • Federal Gov't Employee and Relative
  • Kenosha County, WI (Live or Work In) and Relative
  • Lake County, IL (Live or Work In) and Relative
  • McHenry County, IL (Live or Work In) and Relative
  • NIBA
  • Tinley Forest School Districts 113, 142, 145, 146 & 160
  • OTHER - It's Okay!

I wasn't sure what the last option, "OTHER - It's Okay!", meant, so I called the credit union. According to the credit union CSR, anyone can choose this option if they can't select the other options. The Ultimate Checking can be selected in the application, and the application can all be done online with nothing that needs to be mailed in. So I'm considering this nationally available. If you have applied for membership, please leave a comment about how it went.

Membership requires a minimum $5 balance in the share savings account.

Credit Union Overview

Great Lakes Credit Union branches are located in the Illinois cities of North Chicago, Country Club Hills, Gurnee, Libertyville, Round Lake Beach, Waukegan and Zion.

The credit union has an overall health score at of 4 stars (out of 5) with a Texas Ratio of 12.44% (above average) based on September 2012 data. Please refer to our financial overview of Great Lakes Credit Union for more details. The credit union is federally insured by the NCUA (Charter # 60238).

How This Reward Checking Compares

GLCU's 4% reward checking yield is much higher than other nationally available reward checking account rates. The highest rate is at Belvoir FCU which has a 3.25% APY for balances up to $15K. The downside with GLCU is the $10K balance cap. If you keep the maximum balances in these accounts, the total interest that can be earned in one year is $487 at Belvoir and $400 at GLCU. The highest reward checking rate at a bank is 3.00% APY for up to $15K at First Financial Bank. These rates are accurate as of 3/8/2013.

To find reward checking accounts in other areas of the nation, please refer to the reward checking section of To learn more about reward checking, please refer to this reward checking overview.

Update 9/14/13: Added the new requirement of "totaling $100 or more" for debit card purchases.

Update: Added ACH as an alternative to direct deposit.

  Tags: Great Lakes Credit Union, Illinois, checking account

Related Posts

Comment #1 by Anonymous posted on
The catch is that this account must be used every month, or there are fees.  I read about someone qualifying on fatwallet site, so it looks like anyone can join. Ken,  I would like to know whether the direct deposit requirement can be fulfilled by an ACH deposit?  This issue of $500 disrect deposit came up with another CU, Belvoir FCU, and their reward checking account.  Nothing in Belvoir's verbage says that the $500 has to be payroll or SS security check, but, the bank called me and told me that their program would not pay the higher interest with a simple ACH deposit.  Are you aware of the discrepanccy of  Bank info for Belvoir's reward checking account and what their own CRs are saying to customers??? You might want to verify with Belvoir and then update your website information about direct deposit requirementsand whether and ACH will meet the requirement of direct deposit.   Thanks.

Comment #2 by moneysaver posted on
That's a good question... What exactly does the CU consider a qualifying "direct deposit"???

Comment #3 by pearlbrown posted on
I noticed on their website that GLCU has a nice feature which allows you to track your progress each month towards meeting the requirements for the Ultimate Checking account.  A couple of other institutions (Lake Michigan Credit Union comes to mind immediately) offer the same capability, and it can be a help in making sure you don't miss an opportunity to earn the high rate. 

Comment #4 by perrym posted on
According to a CSR, any ACH would qualify as direct deposit.

Comment #5 by Anonymous posted on
Does opening this RCA account online result in a hard credit pull on your credit file ?? Please post your experience

Comment #6 by Washingtonian posted on
GLCU allows 3 accounts per person and requirements must be met per account.  The direct deposit does not stipulate where it is from.  Direct deposit of $500 can not be from 1 GLCU to another GLCU acount. You may transfer funds from 1 of your GLCU's to another instantly.  I really like this CU! Recommend highly.

Comment #7 by Jody Santelli - AVP Branch Operations GLCU (anonymous) posted on
Jody Santelli - AVP Branch Operations GLCU
Great Lakes Credit Union accepts direct deposits set up through ACH to assist members in meeting the requirements to earn the high interest rate on Ultimate Checking.  As for membership qualifications, GLCU can qualify just about anyone.


Comment #8 by moneysaver posted on
Thanks for the clear, helpful response!

Comment #10 by Bacardi posted on
There will be a Hard Pull Credit Inquiry from TU, therefore, strongly consider obtaining a loan or credit card...If that sounds appealing, be sure your credit is clean and consider waiting until it's clean prior to opening any accounts

Comment #11 by Anonymous posted on
I have done RCAs with other banks that allow more than one RCAs.  GLCU turns out to be FUN to deal with.  Inconsistency in what CRS tells you, need 3 differnt email accounts to open 3 accounts...  I opened one, no instant info on approval.  2 days later,  checking online, it was just apporved. Then comes other questions...


Here are the SM snips btw me and rep:



 I called Mar 15 to inquire info on the Ultimate Checking, … I was informed “the 3 accounts can be opened at once, when you apply, there is an option as for how many you’d like to open… I applied April 1st, however, there was not an option for me to choose how many accounts to open. I called in today… I was told the info I was given on the 15th was incorrect. I need to apply on line two more times to open the other two Ultimate Checking acct, and no more credit pull as long as it is within 60 days from the 1st account.
The answers from the two different reps are so contradictive, I wanted to verify again, - is there a simpler way to open the 3 account instead of going thru online app 3 times?

 Unfortunately you will need to apply for each account seperately and this does require you to use a different email address for each application. .. if all application are submitted within 30 days, the credit will only be pulled 1 time…


 Thanks for verification. For the 2nd and 3rd app, does it require opening another, and then another savings account as well? If all 3 are opened, can they be all under one login ID for account access?

 Each account will be seperate account. Each will have its own savings and checking, and each will have its own log in ID and password for webconnect. …



Comment #13 by Anonymous posted on
how long have they had this? any expectations of ending it soon?

Comment #17 by Anonymous posted on
greate lakes credit union is not good choise,check with pelican state credit union at

Kasasa Cash Kasasa Cash™ sounds funny. But, this isn't monopoly money. Earn cold, hard cash on 4.01% APY*

Comment #18 by moneysaver posted on
Pelican State CU has a VERY limited field of membership.

Great Lakes has a very broad field of membership.

Hardly the same or comparable.


Comment #20 by Anonymous posted on
What if I used my debit card 9 times (assuming I fulfilled other 3 requirements)? Do I only lose the interest for the month? Any other punishment?

Comment #21 by Anonymous posted on
no punishment received for not meeting all requirements. you just dont get dividends.

Comment #22 by Anonymous posted on
What is the interest rate if you are in the bracket where you have to pay the $5 monthly fee? Their page is so confusing. You only get the 4% APY if you meet all there conditions.

Is the rate 0% if you pay the $5 monthly fee?

Comment #23 by Anonymous posted on
There is nothing confusing about the GLCU website for Ultimate Checking... Engage your brain and read the plain ways to meet the requirements for the 4% interest. They even give you a (updated daily) CHECKLIST showing you the number of deibt card transactions you have made so far in a Month and whether you have met the billpay, and Deposit requirements... Do yourself a favor and read their clear instructions and go from there.

Comment #24 by Anonymous posted on
Is there any way to avoid hard credit pull?

Comment #25 by Anonymous posted on
I do not think so - GLCU pinged my credit for a hard pull at application time.

For $400 a year in interest, it was worth it to me - for others who need to obtain loans soon etc... perhaps not - YMMV

Comment #26 by Anonymous posted on
@23 You couldn't even answer the question yourself. What is the interest rate if you pay the $5 monthly fee?


The CHECKLIST is worthless unless you sign-up for an account. In other words, the CHECKLIST does not answer the question.


Engage your brain @23 and answer the question.

Comment #27 by Anonymous posted on
Why would you have this account if you were not going to meet the requirements to get the 4% interest? Call them and find out what the awful interest rate will be if you don't meet the requirements - it's probably in line with all of the other sub 1% rates out there that you get if you don't meet the requirements.


Comment #28 by Anonymous posted on
The debit card purcjhse is at leat 100 now. I am so regreted to aply it and it is under review now. I do not know where to spend 100 purchase. I lost at least 1200*0.02=24 dollars a year.


Comment #29 by Anonymous posted on
I checked their website today and found a new requirement.  "10 Debit Card Purchases, totaling $100 or more*".  *Signature purchases only totaling $100 or more, no Returns, PIN or ATM.

Comment #30 by KenBDG posted on
Thanks for the comments about the new $100 requirement. I've updated the post with this info.

Comment #31 by Anonymous posted on
from 10/1/2013 the rate is 3%.


Comment #32 by Anonymous posted on
Did something change? I don't see the $100 debit requirement anymore on their website for the debit purchases.

Comment #33 by Nicole (anonymous) posted on
@31 where did you find the info on the percentage change?  And does the information you found state whether or not this change will apply to all accounts, including those opened before 10/1/13, or only those accounts opened after that date?

Also @32, I do not see the $100 debit requirement either.

Comment #34 by Anonymous posted on
The totalling amount of $100 minthly will be required on/after 10/1/2013 along with the reduced rate of 3%, bro, we are toasted.


Comment #35 by Interest Hungry (anonymous) posted on
Interest Hungry
I placed a call today to a trusted call center representative that I deal with regularly and she has explained to me that starting Oct 1st, in addition to making 10 signature based purchases (that must post to your statement before the last day of the month mind you) these purchases will be calculated together and MUST total $100 or more by the last day of the month to earn the interest in your account. They will also be lowering the interest to 3% starting on October 1st. This was a decision made by GLCU in it's best efforts to offer competitive products and will remain still one of the better high yielding interest rate checking accounts. Just some clarification...since no one is taking the time to call and become better educated.

I have been a member for a little over a year, and have nothing but good things to say about their sevice and products.

Comment #36 by jeffreydrucker posted on
Beware of Great Lakes Credit Union!  Recent program changes effective on October 1, 2013 make it nearly impossible for even the most devoted customer to meet the requirements and earn the higher interest rate.

The interest rate has dropped to 3%.  this rate is offered by several other banks.  You must make $100 worth of purchases on your debit card per month.  I have 3 accounts open with GLCU which means that I would have to make $300 worth of purchases per month.  Very few people can do that !

My accounts have been open with GLCU for less than 90 days.  The process to open the account was difficult.  The signature documents are not well designed and there is no room to write in your information.  You can't get all the necessary documents at one time and I couldn't get the documents online or by email.

The bank recently transitioned to a new website which caused many problems.  The website does not allow my 3 accounts to be consolidated, so I have 3 separate logins and I have to download 3 separate statements.   

This bank does not pay interest on the initial month as a grace period.  If you don't receive your debit card in time, you don't get any interest.  This bank does not pay a lower rate of interest, such as .01% if you fail to meet the qualifications.  I did not receive any interest for October because I was unaware of the program changes.  This bank does not send an email to its depositors about program changes.

I wanted to bring all this to the attention of the president of the bank, but she refused to take my phone call.  Another employee did call me to tell me that the bank did not want customers to use the account as an investment tool.  They really want customers who will use the account as their primary operating account.  They have a nationwide customer base, but distant customers will be made to feel unwelcome.  Even if I could meet the new program requirements, I anticipate that the terms will only become more severe.

I will be closing my accounts.


Comment #37 by Anonymous posted on
in regards to the last comment, this is a great program and it is very easy for me as a longtime member to meet this new requirement even if i did have 3 accounts it is easy for me to meet this requirement by making normal everyday purchases such as gas, groceries and bill payments which very easily add up to over $300. I will remain with GLCU!

Comment #38 by gli (anonymous) posted on
Per conversation with GLCU today - I was told that in the coming months, they may (read WILL) be changing from allowing 3 rewards checking 2.97% interest accounts per SSN down to only 1 - anyone who has more than 1 account will not earn any interest on the additional checking accounts. So they are basically retro-actively changing their minds (thanks a lot since I got a hard credit pull per account opening). 

Likely... just like their sneaky (without any notification to current customers) previous change to require $100+ in spending each statement period to get the interest, they will also just  change the terms and one day you will not have any interest in any extra checking accounts.

I was also informed that I had to fill out 'safety net forms' to 'opt out' of overdraft (even though I said that I did not want overdraft on my original applications..)

So that's disappointing.

Comment #39 by Anonymous posted on
wow but 3% is still great even with 1 account. I also do read my statements and they notified us a month in advance of the change regarding the $100 minimum debit card requirement. I haven't got any notification of changing from 3 to 1 checking account per person but im sure they will send some type of notification like they usually do. =)

Comment #40 by ae (anonymous) posted on
It is official GLCU as of July 1st 2014: Will only allow one account per SSN that can earn interest.

As I understand it, each SSN can still have up to three accounts however - only 1 will earn interest.

There goes $20,000 from their company on my end.../