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
- 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
- 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 DepositAccounts.com 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 DepositAccounts.com. 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.