The best credit unions of 2021

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When you think of credit unions, you may think of rigid membership requirements that leave you on the outside looking in. While that may be the case with some credit unions, many on this list have flexible requirements that open the door to anyone.

Credit unions are known to offer a unique set of benefits such as free checking accounts, competitive yields on deposit products and a more personalized, customer-focused banking experience.

Bankrate analyzed and scored credit unions across the nation based on a variety of factors including product selection, APY offerings, account fees, mobile features and more. If you’re considering joining a credit union, start your search here.


Alliant Credit Union

For the third year in a row, Alliant Credit Union has been named Bankrate’s best credit union. The Chicago-based credit union is best known for its consistently high rates, extensive fee-free ATM network and easy membership eligibility requirements.

Top savings account: All of Alliant’s deposit products offer competitive APYs, but its savings account stands out from the rest.

Large ATM network and generous fee rebates: Customers have access to over 80,000 fee-free ATMs and up to $20 in monthly ATM fee rebates.

Free checking and savings accounts: Alliant doesn’t nickel and dime its customers with fees or minimum balance requirements.

Easy to join: You can become a member of Foster Care to Success (FC2S) to become eligible for Alliant membership. Alliant will pay a $5 membership fee to FC2S on your behalf.


Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union

Randolph-Brooks is a Texas-based credit union and one of the largest in the state with more than 800,000 members.

The credit union primarily caters to those looking to earn competitive yields on certificates or money market accounts. RBFCU offers a range of certificate terms, doesn’t charge monthly service fees and has an extensive free ATM network.

Competitive APYs: RBFCU offers a range of certificate terms and two money market accounts that pay strong yields.

No monthly service fees: Members can enjoy free checking, saving and money market accounts.

Large ATM network: Members have access to nearly 30,000 free ATMs through the CO-OP network.


Connexus Credit Union

Connexus Credit Union is based in Wisconsin and primarily serves customers in the Midwest, but its products and services are available nationwide.

Connexus doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees, and minimum deposit requirements to open accounts are either low or nonexistent. Additionally, the credit union makes it easy for customers outside of the Midwest to join.

No-fee banking: Connexus doesn’t charge monthly service fees on its deposit products.

Large ATM network and generous fee rebates: Customers have free access to more than 54,000 ATMs and may qualify for monthly rebates for fees incurred at out-of-network ATMs.

Easy to join: A one-time $5 donation to the Connexus Association is all it takes to be eligible for membership.


Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union is regularly praised for its high-quality customer service for millions of military members and their loved ones. It also offers a variety of products and services with competitive rates and noteworthy perks such as free ATM access, no monthly service fees and a highly rated mobile app.

24/7 customer service: U.S. customers can reach a customer service representative by phone 24/7 or use the live chat feature.

Competitive yields: Navy Federal offers a range of CD terms and a money market account that all offer strong APYs with manageable minimum deposit requirements.

Large ATM network and generous fee rebates: Customers have free access to more than 30,000 ATMs and are eligible for $10-$20 in ATM rebates per statement cycle.


American Airlines Federal Credit Union

If you or a family member is an active or retired member of the airline industry, then American Airlines Federal Credit Union may be a good choice for you.

The credit union offers a range of CD terms, checking accounts and savings accounts. Where AAFCU really shines is its competitive APYs, fee-free products and convenient branch footprint.

Competitive APYs: Members can earn a competitive APY on the credit union’s deposit products, particularly with the 12-month CD.

Fee-free products: None of the deposit products charge a monthly fee, and the minimum deposit requirements are manageable.

Convenient banking: AAFCU has branches in most major U.S. airports and is a part of the CO-OP network of ATMs and shared branches.


Bethpage Federal Credit Union

Bethpage Federal Credit Union is ideal for Long Island, New York residents, but its extensive fee-free ATM network makes it accessible to those outside of the region as well. Bethpage offers a high-rated free checking account that offers the ability to earn interest. Another area where the credit union shines is its highly rated mobile app that lets you do everything from create a budget to search for transactions.

Rewards checking: Customers can earn a competitive yield on their free checking account when meeting certain criteria.

No membership restrictions: Membership is open to all U.S. citizens, with no special restrictions.

Highly rated mobile app: Bethpage’s app has high ratings from users of both iOS and Android devices.


Lake Michigan Credit Union

Lake Michigan Credit Union is a full-service credit union headquartered in Grand Rapids. It has flexible membership requirements, making it easy for anyone to join. Members can earn a competitive APY on checking balances below $15,000. Lastly, the credit union’s accounts require modest deposits to open, making them accessible to a range of savers.

Easy to join: If you don’t meet the primary membership requirements, you can make a $5 donation to the ALS Foundation and become eligible.

Interest checking: Max Checking account holders can earn an eye-popping APY on balances below $15,000.

Low deposit requirements: The credit union’s CDs, checking accounts and savings account require a modest amount to open and earn interest.


Patelco Credit Union

Patelco Credit Union is a full-service credit union serving members in Northern California. Patelco offers competitive yields on its money market account and certificates. Additionally, the credit union also offers a highly rated mobile app and hosts webinars to help members learn more about managing their finances.

Competitive APYs: Members can earn a highly competitive yield on the money market account and certificates, and the minimum deposit requirements are very low.

Highly rated mobile app: Customers have access to a highly rated app on both iOS and Android devices.

Customer education resources: Patelco regularly hosts webinars to help members learn more about improving their financial situation.


Quorum Federal Credit Union

Quorum is a New York-based credit union that serves members nationwide. It’s easy for anyone to become a member. Quorum is a digital leader and offers members modern bank technologies like digital wallets. Additionally, members have access to more than 90,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide.

Easy to join: All it takes to join Quorum is becoming a member of the American Consumer Council or the Select Savers Club.

Digital leader: Members can enjoy mobile perks, like Apple Pay. Quorum offers customers access to plenty of digital features, like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay. Both iOS and Android apps also receive high marks from users.

Extensive ATM network: Customers have free access to more than 90,000 ATMs nationwide.


Pentagon Federal Credit Union

Pentagon Federal Credit Union was traditionally a banking option for members of the U.S. Armed Forces and employees of certain associations and government departments. However, after a merger with Progressive Credit Union in 2019, it now gives anyone the opportunity to join. The Washington, D.C.-based credit union stands out thanks to its competitive yields and low minimum deposit and balance requirements. Additionally, its flexible membership requirements make it accessible for anyone looking to join a credit union.

Competitive APYs: Members can earn yields that are well above average on the credit union’s savings account and certificate products.

Low minimum balance and deposit requirements: Low deposit requirements make PenFed’s accounts accessible to a range of savers.

Easy to join: If you don’t meet the primary membership requirements, you can gain eligibility by signing up for one of dozens of organizations, such as the Marine Corps League or the Air Force Association.

Written by
Liz Hund
Creative producer
Liz Hund is a social producer at Bankrate and occasionally writes special features on-site with a social-first angle. Her writing has been featured on MSN, Business Insider and in various local publications.