The Best Credit Union for Everyone

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Credit unions tend to offer lower fees and higher yields than big banks, with stronger national customer service ratings. Another plus: Many of the largest are now easy to join and access, no matter where you live or work. —Megan Leonhardt and Alicia Adamczyk

First Tech Federal Credit Union

WHY IT WINS: First Tech has the physical reach of a national bank, yet its sweetest account, Dividend Rewards Checking, pays a 1.57% yield—roughly 20 times higher than the average interest paid by traditional banks, according to MONEY’s analysis. In addition to First Tech’s 40 outposts, you get a massive set of 30,000 fee-free ATMs, plus access to the Co-Op network’s 5,000 partner credit union branches, where you can make withdrawals and deposits, buy money orders, and even submit loan payments.

CAVEAT: If you don’t live near a First Tech or partner branch, you’ll need to use it like an online bank. And the Dividend Rewards account has several restrictions. If you’re not a debit card user or want paper statements, for instance, use the no-fee Checking Plus account.

BRANCHES: 40 in 8 states and Puerto Rico (Calif., Colo., Ga., Idaho, Mass., Ore., Texas, Wash.).

KEY FACTORS:
• Even if you don’t meet the employer or geographic requirements, anyone can join with a one-time $8 donation to the Financial Fitness Association, or a $15 gift to the Computer History Museum.
• First Tech does not charge maintenance fees on any personal accounts. Its Dividend Rewards Checking waives ATM fees and reimburses other surcharges.
• A big network of credit union partners gives First Tech the breadth of a big, national bank.

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