banking

Best Credit Unions

Credit unions are not-for-profit institutions owned by their members. These three credit unions provide open membership to anyone in the U.S.

Gold: Hanscom Federal Credit Union

www.hfcu.org

Why it won: Hanscom offers three free checking accounts with perks to suit a variety of preferences, and savers earn solid rates.

Standout accounts: The Kasasa Cash Back Checking account provides 2% cash back on debit card purchases, and Kasasa Cash Checking yields 1% on balances of up to $15,000. With the CU Thrive savings account, get 2% interest for one year if you set up monthly transfers of $5 to $500 into it from a Hanscom checking account.

Where it is: 21 branches in Massachusetts and one in Virginia.

How to join: Become a member of a partner organization (Hanscom covers the membership fee for you), such as theater group Burlington Players, and deposit $25 into a savings account.

Headquartered at Hanscom Air Force Base, near Boston, Hanscom FCU serves military members and civilians alike. With the free Kasasa Cash Back Checking account, if you meet monthly requirements (make at least 12 Hanscom debit card or credit card purchases, have one direct deposit or transfer into the account, and receive online statements), you get 2% cash back on debit card purchases (up to $7 back per month). Or meet those requirements with Kasasa Cash Checking and get 1% interest on balances of up to $15,000. Both accounts reimburse up to $20 monthly in out-of-network ATM fees for those who meet the monthly requirements. With the Free Checking account, you can make up to 10 monthly transactions at out-of-network ATMs with no fee from Hanscom (the ATM operator may charge you). With any checking or savings account, you can access a direct-deposited paycheck up to two days earlier than your payday. All checking accounts come with at least 80 free checks per year and free overdraft transfers from savings.

Savers can choose the CU Thrive account mentioned above (but early withdrawals result in a penalty of 90 days’ interest). The Kasasa Saver account, which must be linked to a Kasasa checking account, yields 1% on balances of up to $50,000. Higher Yield Savings offers a 0.5% rate on balances of $25,000 or more, and rates on the money market account range from 0.1% on balances of $2,000 to $10,000 to 0.35% on balances of $75,000 or more. CDs, which require a $1,000 minimum, recently included a 12- to 17-month CD yielding 0.5% and a five-year CD yielding 1%.

Silver: Bellco Credit Union

www.bellco.org

Why it won: Whether you’re looking for a checking account with basic features, high interest or premium perks, Bellco offers it.

Standout accounts: The free Boost Interest Checking yields 2.25% on balances of up to $25,000. For kids, the Youth Savings account offers a 2% rate on balances of up to $500.

Where it is: More than two dozen Colorado branches, mostly in the Denver area.

How to join: If you live outside of Colorado, join the Bellco Foundation with a donation of at least $10. You must also pay a one-time, $5 membership fee and deposit $25 into a savings account.

With Boost Interest Checking you can earn 2.25% on up to $25,000 if each month you make 15 debit card purchases, have a direct deposit, and log in to online or mobile banking. The Platinum Checking account, which requires $15,000 in combined deposits and loans to waive a $12 monthly fee, comes with free overdraft protection transfers, standard checks, wire transfers, money orders and cashier’s checks. It yields from 0.03% to 0.15%, depending on the balance. Free Checking is a good no-frills account, and the free Student Checking account is available for members age 13 to 24.

The Premier Money Market account (minimum $10,000 balance to avoid a $10 monthly fee) yields 0.4% on balances of at least $50,000, 0.25% on amounts between $10,000 and $50,000, and 0.1% on smaller balances. The Member Money Market account yields from 0.01% on balances of up to $1,000 to 0.15% on $10,000 or more, and the basic Savings Account yields 0.1%. Traditional CD rates recently ranged from 0.35% for a one-year term to 0.65% for a five-year term ($500 minimum).

Bronze: Hiway Credit Union

www.hiway.org

Why it won: A free checking account offers an appealing interest rate, and CD rates are pretty good.

Standout accounts: Hi Yield Checking offers 2.02% on balances of up to $25,000. A five-year CD yields 0.95% on balances of $500 to $9,999, 1.05% on $10,000 to $24,999, or 1.15% on $25,000 or more.

Where it is: Four branches in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., region.

How to join: Become a member of a partner organization, such as the Hiway Credit Union Foundation (make a $10 donation), and deposit $5 in a savings account.

With the free Hi Yield Checking account, earn 2.02% on balances of up to $25,000 if you meet the monthly requirements of maintaining a $1,000 balance, making at least 15 Hiway debit or credit card purchases, and receiving electronic statements. The basic Free Checking account yields 0.01%, as does Minnesota Wild Free Checking, which includes among its perks a debit card branded with the logo of Minnesota’s professional hockey team and entries into drawings for signed jerseys and other prizes related to the team. Overdraft transfers and the first box of standard checks are free with Hiway’s checking accounts.

The CDs are worth a look. A CD of 12 to 23 months yields 0.65% with a balance of $25,000 or more. The Money Market Account yields from 0.01% on balances of up to $1,999 to 0.4% on $100,000 or more.

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