SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union Review 2020

Published May 2020 by Amanda Dixon

AT A GLANCE
3.2

Bankrate Score

bank-logo

Highly Rated App

Low Fees

Low Minimum Deposit

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union could be a good option for any educator or school administrator based in California, particularly those who are looking for a low-fee banking experience that’s tailored to meet their needs. If you work in a different profession or have no relation to a California school employee, you’ll have to open an account elsewhere.

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    3.9
  • Savings
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    3.3
  • Checking
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    3.1
  • MMAs
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    2.7
  • MORE HIGH-YIELD OPTIONS
    MORE HIGH-YIELD OPTIONS
    Goldman Sachs Bank USA

    Member FDIC

    CD

    0.85 % APY

    1 yr

    Term

    $ 500

    Min. deposit

    Goldman Sachs Bank USA

    Member FDIC

    CD

    0.85 % APY

    1 yr

    Term

    $ 500

    Min. deposit

    Simple

    Member FDIC

    Checking account

    0.80 % APY

    $ 0

    To open

    $ 0

    To avoid fees

    Overall

    3.2

    Bankrate Score

    SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union is California’s largest credit union, serving educators and their families throughout the state.

    What we like

    • With most accounts, there are no monthly service charges.

    • Balance requirements are on the lower end of the spectrum or are nonexistent.

    • Members have access to more than 28,000 fee-free ATMs.

    • Checking account holders will earn some interest.

    • The credit union offers a highly-rated app, Zelle and other digital features, including the ability to search transactions.

    What we don't

    • Membership is primarily limited to California school employees and their family members.

    • Savings and money market yields aren’t as high as those offered by some other financial institutions.

    • Branches are only in California.

    CD rates

    3.9

    Bankrate Score

    OTHER CD OFFERS YOU MAY LIKE
    Goldman Sachs Bank USA

    Member FDIC

    CD

    0.85 % APY

    1 yr

    Term

    $ 500

    Min. deposit

    SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union offers share certificates with terms ranging from 30 days to 60 months. There’s a tiered interest rate structure in place. Members will earn a higher yield if they deposit more money. Also, the longer the share certificate term, the higher the interest rate.

    The minimum deposit for opening a share certificate is just $500. Jumbo share certificates are also available for savers with at least $100,000 to put into savings. IRA certificates are also available.

    What we like

    • Interest is compounded on a daily basis, so savings grow faster.

    • Low minimum balance required to open a certificate.

    • All standard certificate terms are available.

    What we don't

    • Other banks and credit unions offer slightly higher yields on 12-month CDs.

    • Savers with larger deposits earn higher yields, but the difference is minimal.

    Savings accounts

    3.3

    Bankrate Score

    The share savings account is the starter account for all SchoolsFirst FCU members. The minimum deposit is just $5.

    In addition to the standard savings account, the credit union offers a couple of custom savings account options, including a My Club Account that lets savers set aside money for special occasions for a limited term and a 12-month College Saver account for members under age 18. Coverdell education savings accounts are also available.

    What we like

    • Low minimum opening deposit required for the standard share account.

    • No monthly service fees tied to the share savings account.

    • No maximum deposit amount or withdrawal limits for the share savings account.

    What we don't

    • You can find higher yields elsewhere.

    • Few savings account options for members beyond the custom savings accounts.

    Checking accounts

    3.1

    Bankrate Score

    OTHER CHECKING OFFERS YOU MAY LIKE
    Simple

    Member FDIC

    Checking account

    0.80 % APY

    $ 0

    To open

    $ 0

    To avoid fees

    SchoolsFirst FCU offers a couple of different checking accounts: a free checking account and an investment checking account. The former is an account that charges zero monthly fees and has no monthly balance requirements. The latter allows members to earn rewards and interest, but a small monthly service fee is charged if certain conditions aren’t met.

    The minimum opening balance for both accounts is just $25, although for school employees, this requirement is waived.

    What we like

    • Low minimum deposit required.

    • Low fee charged for non-network ATM transactions. Fees are waived for school employees.

    • Overdraft fee is below average.

    What we don't

    • Free checking account holders won’t earn interest.

    • Investment checking account holders could get hit with a monthly fee if requirements aren’t met.

    • No ATM fee refunds.

    Money market accounts

    2.7

    Bankrate Score

    Members who want a higher yield than the one tied to the savings account can opt for the Liquid Advantage Money Market account. The minimum deposit to open the account is currently $2,000.

    The interest rate structure for the money market account at SchoolsFirst FCU is tiered. Savers with larger deposits qualify for a higher yield. Account holders must maintain a daily balance of at least $2,000 at all times, or the member will earn the lower rate associated with the Investment Checking account.

    What we like

    • No monthly service fees.

    • No maximum deposit limit.

    • Savers with bigger balances earn a higher yield.

    • Account holders have check-writing privileges.

    What we don't

    • Savers who don’t maintain the minimum daily balance earn less interest.

    • Other banks and credit unions pay higher yields.

    Bank experience

    SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union has more than 45 locations and more than 28,000 fee-free ATMs available through SchoolsFirst and the CO-OP networks. Members who want to get in touch with a representative can send a message through the live online chat, contact the credit union by phone, mail or visit a branch. A link on the website shows estimated wait times at the various SchoolsFirst branches.

    Digitally savvy members will like the fact that they can send and receive money via Zelle. The credit union also offers a highly rated mobile app, online bill pay services, account alerts and mobile check deposit.

    SchoolsFirst Credit union also typically provides access to financial workshops and offers online tools and calculators to help members pay off credit card debt, reach savings goals and determine how much they need to save for retirement.

    About SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union

    The credit union known as SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union was originally founded as Orange County Teachers Credit Union in 1934. At the time, 126 school employees came together to help support each other during the Great Depression.

    In 2008, Orange County Teachers Credit Union became SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union. More recently, a merger between SchoolsFirst and Schools Financial Credit Union was approved Jan. 1, 2020. The full integration is expected to be completed in late 2020.

    SchoolsFirst currently has more than 860,000 members. Though it’s headquartered in Southern California, the credit union serves members throughout the state. Membership is open to educators throughout California and their immediate family members.

    Amanda Dixon Twitter Created with Sketch. @AMANDAADIXON

    Amanda Dixon Twitter Created with Sketch. @AMANDAADIXON

    Amanda Dixon is a senior banking reporter for Bankrate. Prior to joining Bankrate, she served as a writer and editor for SmartAsset, a New York-based fintech startup. Originally from the metro Atlanta area, she's a University of Georgia alum. She enjoys providing an inside look into what banks and credit unions are up to and offering tips and tricks to help consumers save money and build wealth at every stage of their financial lives. Follow her on Twitter: @amandaadixon.