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Banking

These 4 credit unions offer outstanding APYs on savings — and anyone can join

We compared interest rates and fees, as well as account and membership requirements, to find the best options.

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Banking with a credit union can come with perks. Credit unions often offer lower rates on credit and loan products, reduced fees and higher interest rates on deposits — including savings accounts.

CNBC Select compiled a list of the best savings accounts offered by credit unions. We picked the accounts that offer high interest rates, charge no monthly fees and require low or no minimum balance. We also made sure to only include credit unions that are easy to join and insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). (Read more about our methodology below.)

Best credit union savings accounts

Best overall

Quorum Federal Credit Union HighQ Savings Account

  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    4.00% APY

  • Minimum balance

    $0

  • Monthly fee

    None (or $10 if you opt to receive paper statements)

  • Maximum transactions

    Up to 6 free withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle

  • Excessive transactions fee

    None

  • Overdraft fee

    None

  • Offer checking account?

    Yes

  • Offer ATM card?

    Yes

Terms apply.

Pros

  • Strong APY with no cap
  • No minimum deposit
  • No monthly fees if you sign up for e-statements
  • Offers checking account and ATM access

Cons

  • $10 monthly fee if you sign up for paper statements
  • Membership required

Who's this for? Whether you're looking for a savings account for a small rainy day fund or to hold larger sums of money, the Quorum Federal Credit Union HighQ Savings Account can be an excellent choice.

HighQ Savings consistently offers generous APY on any balance and makes it easy to maintain your account. As long as you opt-in to receive electronic statements, you won't incur any monthly fees (there is a $10 monthly fee if you choose to receive paper statements). There are also no minimum deposit or balance requirements to worry about.

If you also get a checking account with Quorum, you'll have access to more than 90,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide.

To open an account with Quorum, you'll first need to join the credit union. You can join if you or someone in your household work for or retired from an eligible SEG company. Alternatively, you qualify for a membership if you join American Consumer Council (ACC) or Select Savers Club (SSC). Joining ACC is free and signing up for SSC costs $5 — which Quorum will pay for you.

Best for a high APY on all balances

KeyPoint Credit Union Ultra Savings

  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    4.85% APY

  • Minimum balance

    None, but requires a $1,000 deposit to open

  • Monthly fee

    None

  • Maximum transactions

    Up to 6 free withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle

  • Excessive transactions fee

    None

  • Overdraft fee

    None

  • Offer checking account?

    Yes

  • Offer ATM card?

    Yes

Terms apply.

Pros

  • High APY on all balances
  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum balance to maintain the account

Cons

  • $1,000 minimum deposit to open the account
  • Membership required

Who's this for? If the idea of putting down a sizeable deposit (namely, $1,000) doesn't put you off, Ultra Savings from KeyPoint Credit Union can offer you an outstanding interest rate.

As of writing, Ultra Savings earns 4.85% APY, regardless of your account balance. You need a $1,000 minimum deposit to open an account but after that, you don't have to maintain any balance to keep it. Plus, KeyPoint doesn't charge any monthly fees.

You can get an ATM card for your savings account and use KeyPoint's locator to find your closest ATM.

You can join the credit union seamlessly while signing up for Ultra Savings. As one of the options, you'll be prompted to enroll with The Financial Fitness Association (FFA) — and KeyPoint will pay the $8 membership fee for the first year. You're also qualified to join if you live or work in one of the eligible counties in California, work for a member company or are an immediate family of an existing member.

Best for deposits under $10,000

Affinity Federal Credit Union SmartStart Savings

  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    4.00% APY on the first $10,000 (a dividend rate of 1.00% thereafter)

  • Minimum balance

    None

  • Monthly fee

    None ($2 if you opt for paper statements)

  • Maximum transactions

    Up to 6 free withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle

  • Excessive transactions fee

    None

  • Overdraft fee

    None

  • Offer checking account?

    Yes

  • Offer ATM card?

    Yes, with a checking account

Terms apply.

Pros

  • Solid APY
  • No balance minimum

Cons

  • High APY capped at $10,000
  • $2 monthly fee if you don't sign up for e-statements
  • No ATM card without a checking account

Who's this for? If you'd rather not fork out a large deposit to take advantage of a high interest rate on your savings, SmartStart Savings from Affinity Federal Credit Union can be another great option.

SmartStart offers 4% APY as of writing on the first $10,000 in your account and 1% thereafter. The cap is not ideal but shouldn't deter an average saver. According to the most recent Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), Americans have a median transaction account balance of $5,300 — well below Affinity's limit.

Affinity charges no account fees on SmartSavings and requires no minimum balance. However, if you choose to receive paper statements, you'll have to pay a $2 monthly fee.

If you automate your savings and set up direct deposits from your paycheck, you can receive the funds up to two days early in your SmartSavings account.

Joining Affinity is easy — you can do it in-branch, over the phone or online. All it takes is a $5 membership deposit which will be held in a separate Membership Eligibility Account.

Best for low deposits

Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) Primary Savings

Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) is a Member NCUA.
  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    6.17% APY on up to $1,000 (after, 6.17% to 0.15% APY for balances over $1,000)

  • Minimum balance

    $5 minimum deposit

  • Monthly fee

    None

  • Maximum transactions

    Up to 6 free withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle

  • Excessive transactions fee

    None

  • Overdraft fee

    $15

  • Offer checking account?

    Yes

  • Offer ATM card?

    Yes, with a DCU checking account

Terms apply.

Pros

  • Strong APY
  • Low minimum deposit
  • No monthly fees
  • Offers checking account and ATM access

Cons

  • Cap on earning high APY
  • Low APY for balances over $1,000
  • Membership required

Who's this for? If you're only planning to hold a small amount in your savings account, Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) Primary Savings can yield generous returns.

Primary Savings currently offers a 6.17% APY on up to $1,000 and 0.16% to 6.17% thereafter. If you reach the cap, it might be wise to open another savings account to continue earning high returns.

You only need $5 to open and retain an account. There are no monthly fees. You can also get an ATM card and use it at any DCU or CO-OP ATM across the U.S.

You're eligible to join the credit union and open this account if you're a relative of a current DCU member, work for or are retired from one of DCU's participating employers or live, work, study or worship in one of DCU's communities. Alternatively, you can join one of the participating organizations DCU works with. The most affordable option here is the non-profit organization Reach Out for Schools, which offers memberships starting at $10.

Credit union savings account FAQs

What is a credit union?

A credit union is a type of financial institution similar to a bank and offers the same or similar financial products. What makes it different from a traditional bank is the fact that credit unions are owned by their members. An elected board of directors to manages the credit union representing members' interests.

Since a credit union's goal is to best serve its members, you can often find better rates and fees on loans and deposit accounts than you see at for-profit banks. At the same time, credit unions are often local, so they might offer limited branch access and customer experience — for instance, you may encounter less advanced app features or have trouble reaching your credit union outside of business hours.

What type of savings accounts do credit unions offer?

You can find all types of savings accounts at credit unions — from high-yield savings accounts to certificates of deposit (CDs) to IRAs. They work the same way savings accounts at traditional banks do. That said, you might run into certain terminology associated with credit unions. For example, savings and checking accounts at credit unions may be referred to as "share accounts", while the interest you earn from such accounts can be called "variable dividends".

Are credit unions FDIC-insured?

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) only insures deposits in banks. However, that doesn't mean your money isn't protected when you're keeping it at a credit union.

Credit unions have their own insurance fund, the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), managed by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). The NCUSIF provides up to $250,000 in coverage per account for all federal and most state-chartered credit unions. For jointly-owned accounts, the NCUSIF adds $250,000 in coverage for each account holder.

All accounts on our list are NCUA-insured.

Are credit unions better than banks for savings?

Credit unions can offer higher interest rates and lower fees on their savings accounts, compared to traditional banks. They also provide the same amount of deposit insurance, so you can rest assured your funds are safe. At the same time, credit unions' websites and apps might not be as technologically advanced as those offered by for-profit banks, meaning you probably won't have the same high level of user experience.

When deciding between a bank and a credit union, it helps to think about what matters to you most. Is it personalized customer service or a better online experience? A higher interest rate or having a branch nearby wherever you are? Consider that some bank savings accounts can come with just as competitive rates, so compare your options carefully before you decide.

Bottom line

Savings accounts at credit unions can offer excellent interest rates and low account fees (or none at all). Make sure to consider several accounts to find one that works best for you. And remember: You don't have to keep your savings in a single account. You can always open additional accounts, whether to avoid a cap when chasing a high APY or to compartmentalize your savings goals.

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Our methodology

To determine which credit union savings accounts offer the best return on your money, CNBC Select analyzed dozens of U.S. savings accounts offered by credit unions. We narrowed down our ranking by only considering those savings accounts that offer an above-average APY, no monthly maintenance fees and low (or no) minimum balance requirements. We also only included credit unions that anyone can join.

While the accounts we chose in this article consistently rank as having some of the highest APY rates, we also compared each saving account on a range of features, including ease of use and account accessibility, as well as factors such as insurance policies and customer reviews when available. We also considered users' deposit options and each account's compound frequency.

All of the accounts included on this list are NCUA-insured up to $250,000. Note that the rates and fee structures for savings accounts are not guaranteed forever; they are subject to change without notice and they often fluctuate in accordance with the Fed rate. Your earnings depend on any associated fees and the balance you have in your high-yield savings account. To open an account, most institutions require a deposit of new money, meaning you can't transfer the money you already had in an account at that bank.

Catch up on CNBC Select's in-depth coverage of credit cardsbanking and money, and follow us on TikTokFacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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