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Best Credit Unions of 2021

Dawn Allcot
·5 min read
ljubaphoto / Getty Images
ljubaphoto / Getty Images

Credit unions are a bit of a different breed when it comes to financial services companies. Unlike major banks, which you can seemingly find on any street corner, credit unions are localized, generally serving particular communities or employers. In the past, they offered special rates or terms for customers who meet certain qualifications – such as being members in a specific union, employed in a certain industry, or even being military members.

See: The Best Regional Banks of 2021 – Localized Focus With Broad Product Lines
Find: The Best Checking Accounts of 2021 – High APYs & Low Fees

However, today, many credit unions have broadened their membership requirements to allow more customers to join. GOBankingRates analyzed thousands of data points to discover the best credit unions of 2021 to help customers find the best options. Evaluation criteria included the following:

  • Minimum deposits required

  • Monthly maintenance fees

  • Minimum balances required to avoid fees

  • Annual percentage yield (APY)

  • Availability and diversity of banking services

  • Customer service, including 24/7 and live chat availability

See: These Are the Best Banks of 2021 – Did Yours Make the Cut?
Find:
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We’ve narrowed our picks to 20 finalists, all of which are excellent in their own ways – and might serve your area or member community in a way others don’t. It literally pays to take a look at them all to make sure you’re getting the right mix for you. But below are our top 5 contenders to get you started.

5. Eastman

Why we like it: Checking with no monthly fees and no minimum balance, plus competitive interest rates, makes Eastman Credit Union a top choice for many consumers in Tennessee, Virginia, and Texas.

Benefits

  • Free checking

  • No minimum balance requirements for checking or savings

  • Dividend program

  • Network of 55,000 no-fee ATMs

  • No ECU surcharge at foreign ATMs

  • Free checks for every box you order

  • High APYs on checking, savings, and CDs

Drawbacks

  • Only available in Tennessee, Virginia, and Texas

4. State Employees’

Why we like it: The State Employees Credit Union has super-low maintenance fees for checking and NSFs, free online bill pay, and also provides services like tax prep to members.

Benefits

  • Low- or no-minimum accounts

  • No-fee accounts

  • High savings and CD APYs

  • Online bill pay

  • 273 branches across North Carolina

Drawbacks

  • Only available in North Carolina

Find out more about State Employees’ Credit Union in our full review.

3. Delta Community

Why we like it: The standout product at Delta Community Credit Union is the 12-month CD, with a rate of 1.99% and no fees. The credit union also shines when it comes to its mobile app and customer service.

Benefits

  • High 12-month CD rate

  • No-fee accounts

  • Low minimums

Drawbacks

  • High overdraft fee of $35 per instance, plus a $5/month inactivity fee if your account is dormant for at least six months and your combined balance is below $60

This is a terrific credit union, according to a review from our experts.

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2. Alliant

Why we like it: Alliant Credit Union impresses with over 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs, no-fee accounts and high APYs, particularly on its savings and CDs.

Benefits

  • Low- or no-minimum accounts

  • No-fee accounts

  • High savings and CD APYs

  • 80,000-plus surcharge-free ATMs

  • $20 in out-of-network ATM fee rebates

Drawbacks

  • High minimum for CD accounts

See more about what makes Alliant a powerful choice in our full review.

1. Navy Federal: Best Credit Union

Why we like it: Navy Federal is a great choice for members of the armed forces, who enjoy no-fee accounts and a generous 12-month CD rate.

  • Benefits

  • No-fee checking and savings accounts

  • High-APY 12-month CD

Drawbacks

  • High CD minimum

Navy Federal comes up in our rankings agains nearly every year – it’s an impressive choice for a number of reasons, which you can discover in our full review. But remember – if you’re looking for something in your region or community or custom features, every one of our finalists is a great choice and might give you exactly what you’re looking for. Be sure to check out the list of top contenders.

More From GOBankingRates:

Methodology: To discover the Best Credit Unions, GOBankingRates looked at the top Credit Unions in terms of total assets size that had available published data. (1) total assets as sourced from the NCUA; (2) number of branch locations as sourced from the NCUA; (3) minimum deposit to open a checking account; (4) checking account fee; (5) minimum balance needed in checking account to avoid fee; (6) minimum deposit to open a savings account; (7) minimum balance needed to achieve savings APY; (8) savings APY; (9) minimum to open a 12-month CD account; (10) 12-month CD APY; (11) 60-month CD APY; (12) customer service products offered (24/7 customer service and live chat with a human); (13) Bauer rating (out of 5 stars); (14) products/services offered (auto loans, mortgage loans, credit cards, investment services, and insurance); and (15) the average mobile app rating between the android and apple stores. All factors were then scored and combined, with the lowest score being best. Factor (1) was weighted 1.5 times, factor (2) and (14) were weighted 2 times, and factor (12) was weighted 0.5 times. For all Savings and Checking Account data only the basic accounts/products offered at each institution was analyzed. All data is up to date as of November 4, 2020, rates and fees subject to change.

John Csiszar contributed to the reporting for this article.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Best Credit Unions of 2021