Credit unions are the financial backbone of many communities. Their localized nature means they understand the needs of customers and, because members are part owners too, they can offer benefits that large national banks can’t. Low fees, higher interest rates on deposit accounts, low rates on loans and member perks are all reasons why a credit union could be a good option when you’re looking for a financial partner.
Note that all the credit unions on our list have eligibility requirements, and those who can join are typically required to open a savings account with a minimum $5 deposit to become a member.
We evaluated all these features to come up with our top picks for 2023-2024:
- PenFed Credit Union – Best overall
- Lake Michigan Credit Union – Best high-yield checking account
- Digital Federal Credit Union – Best high-yield savings account
- Mountain America Credit Union – Best high-yield money market account
- GreenState Credit Union – Best for rewards checking
- Security Service Federal Credit Union – Best Perks
- Alliant Credit Union – Best for membership fees
- Bethpage Federal Credit Union – Best for mobile banking
- First Technology Federal Credit Union – Best checking/savings combo
PenFed is once again our top overall pick for best credit union because of its combination of low fees, large ATM network, easy opening balances and high interest rates paid on deposit accounts. Although PenFed has very few branches, it is part of the Co-op shared branch network.
When you join you’ll also be able to earn up to 3% APY on a Premium Online Savings Account and up to 0.35% on an Access America Checking account. The credit union charges few fees, and the ones it does charge tend to be lower than other credit unions we considered. Anyone can become a member by opening a savings account with a $5 deposit, making it the easiest credit union to join.
- Anyone can join
- Low opening balances
- 85,000-ATM network
- High APYs
- Limited number of PenFed branches
- No ATM access on savings account
Lake Michigan Credit Union’s Max Checking Account pays 3% interest on balances up to $15,000, the highest standard APY paid by the credit unions we considered, making LMCU our pick for the best high-yield checking account.
There are other benefits to banking with LMCU: Access to over 55,000 fee-free ATMs, low account fees and convenient online and mobile banking. Open a Max Savings Account, and you can earn between 0.10% and 2.25% APY, depending on the account balance.
- High APY on checking account
- Low fees
- Large ATM network
- No APY paid on balances above $15,000
- No ATM card on savings account
Our pick for the credit union offering the best high-yield savings account is Digital Federal Credit Union. You can earn 3.56% on all balances with DFCU’s Advantage Savings Account, the highest of all the credit unions we looked at.
There’s no minimum balance to open the account once you’ve become a member. There are very few account fees and some nice perks. When you open DCFU’s Free Checking Account, you can get up to $300 in out-of-network ATM fees reimbursed per year.
- High APY on savings
- 80,000+ ATMs in network
- Low fees
- No ATM card with savings account
We picked Mountain America’s Money Market Account as the best for high yields. It’s a tiered account with no minimum opening balance, no monthly service fee and pays an APY ranging from 0.5% up to 4.25%, depending on the balance.
The credit union also pays a high APY of 5.5% on its Standard Certificate, one of the highest rates of all the financial institutions we evaluated. Best of all, there is no early withdrawal penalty if you need to use cash for an emergency.
- High APY
- Low opening balance
- No service fees
- No ATM access
- No checks
GreenState’s Rewards Plus Checking account is our pick for the best rewards checking account. You can earn between 1% and 5% cash back on Platinum Rewards or World Mastercard purchases.
The account can be opened with as little as $50 and has no monthly service fee. It also pays 2% APY on balances up to $20,000 and 0.15% on higher balances as long as required account activity is met. GreenState is currently offering a promotional rate of 5% APY on the account for the first six months after opening.
- High APY
- Earns cash back
- If requirements to earn higher APY aren't met, APY drops to 0.01%
Security Service Federal Credit Union is our choice for best perks because of the large number of benefits offered by its Power Protected Checking Account.
There’s no minimum opening balance requirement and you can between 0.05% and 1% APY, depending on the account balance. In addition to earning interest, the account includes free mobile phone protection service, zero co-pay telehealth, discounts at stores and airlines, and up to $1 million in identity theft expense reimbursement.
- Pays APY
- Member discounts
- Free services
- Monthly $9 service fee can't be waived
Alliant Credit Union is our pick for the best membership fees. Anyone who doesn’t meet the residency requirements to become a member can join by making a $5 donation to Foster Care 2 Success — and Alliant will cover that fee for you.
You won’t pay a ton of account fees at Alliant, either. There is no monthly service fee, free overdraft protection and no insufficient funds fee. Open a High Rate Checking Account and get your first box of checks at no charge while earning 0.25% APY. Plus, you get up to $20 in ATM fee rebates per month.
- Few account fees
- 80,000-ATM network
- Easy to join
- ATM only available on checking account
Bethpage’s mobile app received the highest customer ranking on both Google Play and Apple, making it our top pick for the best mobile banking app. Plus, just about anyone can join the credit union by opening a savings account with $5.
Customers mentioned how easy it is to use the app and the large number of account management tools available as the main factors in the app high marks. A standout account is Bethpage’s Free Checking account, which pays 0.4% APY when account activity requirements are met. You’ll also have access to 30,000+ ATMs nationwide.
- Easy-to-use app
- Anyone can join
- Opportunity to earn high APY on checking
- Limited number of Bethpage branches
We chose First Technology for best checking/savings combo because of the high interest rates paid on its Rewards accounts and the included perks when account activity requirements are met.
You can earn 4% on balances up to $15,000 with the First Tech Rewards checking account and another 4% on balances up to $24,999.99 on the First Tech Rewards Savings Account. The APY drops to 0.10% on both accounts on higher balances. Both require a minimal opening balance and have no monthly service fees. Additional perks include up to 0.5% cash back on credit card purchases (up to $15 per month on spending and $10 a month on streaming services), 0.25% cash back on loans and home equity line of credit (HELOC) payments (up to $15 per month).
- High APYs
- Easy to open
- APY on higher balances is low
How we chose the Best Banks of 2023-2024
To determine our list of Best Banks for 2023-2024, Money staff evaluated 273 of the largest retail banks, credit unions, regional and state banks, ranked by assets, and 20 of the most popular online banks. We then compared opening balance requirements, interest paid, fees and features to determine our top picks. You can read our full methodology here.