Reminder of the Great Reward Checking Deal at Consumers Credit Union


Update 3/25/15: The guarantee period has been extended to the start of 2016.

Last November Consumers Credit Union (CCU) made a very nice change to its Free Reward Checking Account. It increased the balance that qualifies for the top rates from $10K to $20K. Also, the credit union is guaranteeing the top rates until August 2015. Thanks to DA members for highlighting these changes in the DA forum. I just wanted to remind everyone of this great deal.

CCU’s Free Reward Checking Account is a great deal, but it has become a little complicated. Those changes that complicated the account took effect early last year. Instead of just one reward rate, there are now three reward rates that depend on how many monthly requirements have been met. Below is a summary of the rates, balance caps and the monthly requirements that took effect in November: This summary is based on the credit union’s Free Rewards Checking page as of 1/7/2015:

Qualifying for 5.09% APY for up to $20,000 (rate guaranteed until August 2015):

  • Meet the requirements to earn 3.09% APY
  • Spend $1,000 or more in CCU VISA purchase transactions, regardless number of purchases

Qualifying for 4.09% APY for up to $20,000 (rate guaranteed until August 2015):

  • Meet the requirements to earn 3.09% APY

  • Complete 12 CCU VISA Credit Card purchase transactions, No minimum purchase requirement.

Qualifying for 3.09% APY for up to $10,000 (rate guaranteed until August 2015):

  • 12 signature-based debit card purchases
  • One direct deposit OR one ACH debit OR online bill pay
  • Access online banking
  • Receive electronic statements

When you meet all of the basic service requirements for the calendar month, ATM fees incurred during the month will be refunded to you.

$50/$50 Rewards Checking Referral

Consumers Credit Union is offering a nice referral bonus. Both the existing member and the new member can each earn $50. Below is a summary of the referral program. Please refer to this CCU page for the full details:

  • Refer a new Member to CCU
  • When your referral opens a CCU Rewards Checking account, you're both eligible for the referral bonus
  • If the new Member meets their Rewards Checking requirements (at any level) for the first two full calendar months of Membership, CCU will deposit $50 in your account and $50 in theirs, too.
  • No limit on the number of referrals

Deal Review

In my opinion, the 4.09% level is the best deal. You still get the $20K balance cap but you don’t have to spend $1,000 per month with your CCU credit card. You will just have to make 12 credit card purchases in addition to 12 debit card purchases each month. That’s a lot of card purchases, but you’re rewarded with 1% extra APY and a balance cap that’s $20K instead of $10K. The 4.09% APY for balances up to $20K is much better than any other nationally available reward checking account. The second best is 3.00% APY for balances up to $20K at INOVA FCU, and the third best is 3.00% APY for balances up to $15K at Lake Michigan Credit Union.

Is the 5.09% level worth it? If you spend $1,000 per month to qualify for an extra 1% on a $20K balance, you’ll receive an extra $16.67 per month in interest. Now let’s compare that to using a 2% cashback credit card. If you made $1,000 in purchases using a 2% cashback credit card, you would earn $20 per month. Credit card cashback rebates are typically better than earning higher interest due to taxes. Nevertheless, the advantage of the 5.09% level is comparable to a cashback credit card. So for simplicity, you may want to consider meeting the 5.09% requirements if you can easily spend $1,000 per month.

I was a little concerned about the rate guarantee. CCU’s webpage makes it look like they’re only guaranteeing the 5.09% APY. However, I did an online chat with a CSR, and the CSR said that "all three tiers are guaranteed until August."

CCU’s Free Rewards Checking History

Consumers Credit Union's reward checking account has a long history. I first reported on this account over six years ago on August 2007. At that time it was paying 6.01% APY for balances up to $25K. Both the rate and balance cap went down. First the balance fell to $10K, and then from 2012 until March 2013, the balance cap was only $5K. That low $5K balance cap was a deal killer for most savers. I’m glad to see the higher balance caps, and I hope the $20K cap will remain.

Easy Credit Union Membership

The credit union continues to make it easy for anyone to join. According to its membership page:

Membership follows a simple, two-step process: Pay a one-time, non-refundable $5 fee to our sponsor, the Consumers Cooperative Association, and then deposit and maintain a minimum $5 in your Membership Share/Savings Account.

There's an online application. It appears to allow you to apply for both the association membership and the credit union membership at the same time. When you select the option "I am a new Consumers Credit Union Member" in the first page of the application, it will display the following:

All credit unions have a common bond and their members need to be associated with it in order to join the credit union. At Consumers Credit Union (CCU), our common bond is the Consumers Cooperative Association (CCA). You join CCA by paying a one-time fee of $5.00.

Credit Union Overview

Consumers Credit Union branches are located in the Illinois cities of Gurnee, Mundelein, Round Lake Beach, Gurnee, Volo and Waukegan. Consumers Credit Union is part of the CU Service Centers network which allows you to perform many banking transactions at any credit union in the nation that’s part of the network.

The credit union has an overall health grade at of an "A" with a Texas Ratio of 4.38% (excellent) based on September, 30 2014 data. Please refer to our financial overview of Consumers Credit Union for more details. The credit union is federally insured by the NCUA (Charter # 68588).

Other Reward Checking Accounts

To find reward checking accounts in your area or that are available nationwide, please refer to our reward checking account table. Be sure to select the deposit amount above the table to sort the checking accounts based on your desired size of the balance cap.

Anonymous   |     |   Comment #1
Yep, sticking with LMCU...
kiwi   |     |   Comment #2
I am so glad I kept my CCU accounts alive when they dropped the cap to $5,000.  I just moved my money from FFB1 the same day I read the e-mail from about the rate reduction. I have 2 CCU and 2 LMCU totaling 68 charges / month. I will have to verify if the $1,000 CCU credit card charges will substitute for the extra 12 charges / month while earning the 5% interest rate. It would be about the same as my 2% cash back card for the $1,000. I would only do it if it would allow me drop the extra 12 charges / month requirement because I hate to change credit cards for my health insurance and monthly bills. There is no room for error with them. I had met FFB1's 24 charges before I moved my money on 1/2/15. I have already made 55 charges for CCU and LMCU. 13 to go.  I got lucky and 2 liter soda went on sale for $0.50.  I don't know if I can pull it off every month but I'm going to try. It is very hard to find an account with a $20,000 cap. I wish I could have another one. When FFB1 dropped rates, I left enough money to keep it alive. I still have Heartland on the back burner too. I was happy that one went up if one had to go down. Hopefully, timing will be in my favor next time too. Nothing lasts forever. I had just moved money into INNOVA when they changed their requirements. I only dropped them because they were going to charge me a service fee to keep it going. I am still looking for more accounts. The only reasonable accounts I can find are 3%, $10,000, 12 charges. If anyone has ideas about how to meet monthly charge requirements, please share.  
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #3
Seems like a lot of work and for what?   I charge "everything" to a couple of reward type credit cards and write checks for those few that I can't charge.  I do not use ebanking or ATMs in this "day and age," i.e. think Target, Home Depot, Sony, etc.
whitedeion   |     |   Comment #6
That's an awful lot of work.  I opened a Prime Rate Certificate with Tobyhanna.  Guaranteed 3.05% for the next six years.  I prefer only one rewards account, although I will do two sometimes.  Anything over that goes to Tobyhanna.  More than 22 transactions a month is too burdensome for me.  Once the CCU drops in September, I will probably go back to LMCU.  The 5% tier is easily the best for me with CCU.  You also get rewards on the credit card of around 1%.
kiwi   |     |   Comment #10
Citi bank double rewards car pays 2% cash back. INOVA pays 3% for up to $20,000 for direct deposit and just 5 charges over $50. They have had this rate for a long time. It doesn't tie up your money (in case of emergencies) and CD rates may go up before a CD matures. The Prime Rate sounds good to me. Where is it? I want to check it out. Thanks
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #11
I just noticed that the Prime Rate CD has been removed from Tobyhanna FCU (which just changed its name to Valor).  They say they may offer it again.  I have the Citi double cash back card, and use it on categories not 5% on Chase and Discover.  I'm going to make a large purchase on the Citi card, then transfer the balance to the CCU credit card for the 1.49% interest for a year.  I hope it counts for the payment for the second half of the cash back.
SurvivingInCA (anonymous)   |     |   Comment #7
I am about to open an account there. Does anyone want to provide a referral so we can get the $50/50?
kiwi   |     |   Comment #8
I will. I don't know how to send a private email to you. Thank you
kiwi   |     |   Comment #9
I think since you are anonymous you will have to click on KIWI, view profile, private message to send me your contact information. Thank youAdd your comment
kiwi   |     |   Comment #4
The $1,000 per month on the credit card will substitute for the extra 12 charges / month on the credit card. I just called CCU to verify. I can easily make the requirments for 5%. (when considering this money is taxable and the credit card rebate isn't)  It turns out about the same as the 2%  back on my current credit card. I can charge my health insurance, etc to CCU. Thanks to Obama Care my rate is twice what it use to be with half the benefits. This will make my life much easier. I hope if they drop their rate to 3%, they will keep the $20,000 cap. I have to find more accounts now. I don't want to go through the drama again in August. I would add Inova but I don't feel comfortable using a debit card to pay monthly bills online. I don't make $50 charges in person. I would have to drive around to make my payments in person. I am very happy. I'm so glad I kept my CCU account on the back burner for an easy transition.  If anyone has ideas about how to meet monthly charge requirements, please share.
kiwi   |     |   Comment #5
I just double checked with CCU to verify that if I qualify for the 4 or 5% level that it applies to the whole $20,000. The terms and conditions were confusing to me.  I didn't want any surprises.
zieg9479   |     |   Comment #12
Seriously considering opening an account here. Anyone want to refer me?
Also a quesiton on pin-less debit transactions. I haven't used a debit card in an awful long time. Is it as simple as running your card as credit at the corner store?
blueskies   |     |   Comment #14
It's almost as easy as using a credit card. Just run it through as a credit (after you swipe the card it will ask for your pin. Ignore that prompt and instead, press the credit button). Easy as that.
zieg9479   |     |   Comment #15
Thank you. I thought that was the case but when I googled pin-less transactions I got information on how it works for online stores but not brick-and-mortar. Expect an email in a week.
kiwi   |     |   Comment #21
PayPal sent instructions to me about how to use the debit card as a credit card. Afterwards, I read an article linked on this website saying it is not a good idea. When your credit card is linked to the PayPal account, it offers an extra layer of fraud protection and warranty benefits may apply.  With the debit card, if PayPal gets hacked, you lose allllll your money. I never give out my debit card information, even for automatic payments. If I can't swipe it, I don't use it. I keep full control of my card. If you are going for the 4% or 5%, you will have a real CCU credit card for online purchases. Hope things worked out for you.
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