Update 6:00PM ET 9/30/2011: I'm afraid the CD rates have gone down effective October 1, 2011.
We had started listing United States Senate Federal Credit Union CD rates in our rate tables a few weeks ago. From the credit union's website, it appeared that membership was limited to select employee groups in Washington DC. However, a reader noted in the comments last week of an easy way anyone can qualify to join. That is good news for those looking for CDs since US Senate FCU is currently offering some very competitive CD rates. The highest rate is 3.33% APY for a 5-year CD with a minimum $60K deposit. It's 3.23% APY for a $20K minimum and 3.13% APY for a $1K minimum. Also competitive are the 4-year and 3-year CDs which have top yields of 2.79% APY and 2.24% APY. Rates apply to both regular CDs and IRA CDs. These rates are listed in the credit union's rates page as of 9/26/2011.
I haven't been able to find an account disclosure online. Readers have reported some discrepancies in what the CSRs have reported on the early withdrawal penalties. I just called this morning, and the CSR seemed to be pretty certain on the penalties. She said it's 360 days of interest for terms over 3 years. It's 180 days of interest for terms of 2 to 3 years. Another thing I was told is that interest rates are typically updated at the start of each month. So the rates may go down on October 1st.
As I mentioned above, there's an easy way in which everyone can qualify to join. One of the organizations listed in the credit union's Select Employee Groups is the United States Capitol Historical Society. In parenthesis, it states "Employees and Members of the Society". So by becoming a member of this society, you can qualify for credit union membership. According to the society's membership page, you can become a charter membership for $35. A reader described his experience with this society and credit union:
All I did is go to the US Historical Society's homepage and I paid the $35 via their website. I did not have to go anywhere! Once you pay, you are a member. And then all you do, is print the email receipt that they send you thanking them for the donation and include it with the paperwork the credit union wants. I first called and spoke with the credit union rep to ensure that they would accept this since I was about to join the same day and they said they would.
The credit union doesn't appear to make it easy if you don't live near their branch. The reader also described what the credit union requires if you want to join without a branch visit:
I had to fax them a copy of my ID but they also wanted me to be personally identified by another financial institution. So I had to go to my bank which is only a block away present my ID and call them to tell them I am there. They got the bank's information and 5 minutes later they called and confirmed my identity. They said that they do this if you don't go to a branch.
Please refer to the credit union's how-to-join page for details about the membership process. The CSR didn't mention the requirement of being personally identified by another financial institution, but she did say they would require you to mail or fax a copy of your ID. A minimum $6 is required to become a member ($5 for the primary savings account and a $1 fee). She did confirm that membership in the US Capitol Historical Society would qualify a person to join. She said to include the society's membership receipt with the application.
In addition to mailing a check, I was told that you can fund the CD from the primary savings account. Once the money is in the savings account, you can call to have them fund the CD. They are part of the shared branch network so you can make a deposit into your US Senate FCU primary savings account from a local credit union that's a member of the shared branch network.
They also accept wire transfers, but there's a $10 incoming fee.
When the CD matures, you can receive the funds via a wire transfer ($25 outging fee) or you can have them mail you a check for free. Another free way to receive the funds is have them transfer the money into your US Senate FCU primary savings account. Once it's in the savings account, you should be able to use Ally Bank (or another internet bank) to withdraw the money via an ACH transfer. Just make sure they allow ACH debits from the savings account. Some credit unions (like Navy Federal) don't allow this.
US Senate FCU Overview
US Senate Federal Credit Union branches are located in Washington DC and Alexandria, Virginia. The credit union is part of the shared branch network.
The credit union is a moderate sized credit union with $455 million in deposits and 91 employees. That should hopefully be large enough that it won't be immediately overwhelmed by dozens of new membership applications and CD deposits.
The credit union does appear to be financially solid. It has an overall health score at DepositAccounts.com of 5 stars (out of 5) with a Texas Ratio of 3.48% (excellent) based on June 2011 data. Bankrate only gives it 3 stars, but Bankrate's ratings are still based on March 2011 data. Please refer to our financial overview of United States Senate Federal Credit Union for more details. The credit union is federally insured by the NCUA (Charter # 624).
Thanks to the reader who reported on the society membership eligibility and shared his experience in joining the credit union.
How These CD Rates Compare
US Senate FCU's CD rates are currently far above the best rates at other all-access credit unions. The highest 5-year CD rate is 2.85% APY at Firstmark Credit Union, the highest 4-year CD rate is 2.45% APY at Alliant Credit Union and the highest 3-year CD rate is 1.91% APY at Velocity Credit Union. The best bank rates available nationwide are even lower. These rates are accurate as of 9/26/2011.
Searching for the Best CD Rates
To search for the best nationwide CD rates and the best CD rates in your state, please refer to the CD rates section of DepositAccounts.com.