GOLD: Alliant Credit Union
Why it won: Alliant offers a straightforward, strong set of accounts.
Standout accounts: High-Rate Checking yields 0.25% if you meet two simple requirements. High-Rate Savings boasts a 0.75% yield.
Where it is: Alliant operates fully online.
How to join: Become a member of the Foster Care to Success charity (Alliant pays the $5 membership fee on your behalf). You must also open a savings account; Alliant makes a complimentary $5 deposit for you.
Alliant’s free High-Rate Checking account provides a 0.25% yield if you receive electronic statements and have one monthly electronic deposit (including direct deposits, ATM deposits, mobile deposits and transfers from other institutions) into the account. You’re reimbursed up to $20 per month in out-of-network ATM fees, and the first box of checks is free. Teens ages 13 to 17 can use a similar checking account.
The High-Rate Savings account offers a 0.75% rate if you keep a balance of at least $100, and it’s free if you get electronic statements ($1 monthly for paper statements). Children 12 and younger can use a version of the account called the Kids Savings Account. CDs require a $1,000 minimum, and yields recently ranged from 1.5% on a CD with a maturity of 12 to 17 months to 2.8% for a five-year CD.
SILVER: Connexus Credit Union
Why it won: Connexus has an appealing grouping of free checking accounts, and its certificate of deposit yields were recently among the best in the country.
Standout accounts: Xtraordinary Checking yields 1.75% if you meet monthly activity requirements. Rates on CDs ($5,000 minimum) recently ranged from 2.26% for a one-year maturity to 3.21% for a five-year term.
Where it is: Several branches in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
How to join: Make a one-time, $5 donation to charity Connexus Association and deposit $5 or more into a savings account.
Connexus offers a free basic checking account as well as Xtraordinary Checking, which yields 1.75% on up to $25,000 and reimburses up to $25 monthly in out-of-network ATM fees if each month you receive electronic statements and either spend $400 on your debit card or make 15 purchases with it. Teen Checking yields 2% on balances of up to $1,000.
Connexus’s savings account yields 0.25% if you have a balance of at least $100. Rates for the money market account depend on the balance and recently went as high as 1.1%.
BRONZE: Bellco Credit Union
Why it won: Most anyone can find an agreeable option among Bellco’s checking accounts.
Standout accounts: Boost Interest Checking yields 2.25% on up to $25,000 if you meet activity requirements. The Premier Money Market Account has a 0.5% rate on balances of $50,000 or more.
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.
Bellco’s Boost Interest Checking account yields an enticing 2.25% on up to $25,000 for those who meet monthly requirements of making 15 debit card purchases, having at least one direct deposit, and logging in to online or mobile banking. Platinum Checking comes with several perks—including free personal checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, wire transfers and overdraft transfers—and waives the $12 monthly fee if you have a combined balance of at least $15,000 in deposits and loans with Bellco.
Among savings options, the Youth Savings Account has a 2% rate on balances of up to $500. The Premier Money Market Account has a rate as high as 0.5%, but you have to keep a balance of at least $10,000 to avoid a $10 monthly fee.