America First Credit Union Review: Is it Legit or a Scam?

America First Credit Union

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America First Credit Union stands as a beacon for residents in select Western states, offering a blend of modern banking services tailored to meet the needs of its members. Established in 1939, this institution has grown from humble beginnings to become a major player in the regional banking landscape, boasting nearly $16 billion in assets and serving over 1.1 million members across 128 full-service branches. With a commitment to providing competitive rates on certificates and low-cost bank accounts, America First caters to a diverse clientele seeking financial stability and growth. This review embarks on a detailed exploration of America First Credit Union, uncovering the pros and cons, and diving deep into its products and services, to give you a comprehensive understanding of what it has to offer.

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America First Credit Union Review: Is it Legit or a Scam? 1

America First Credit Union Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • No Monthly Fees: One of the most appealing aspects of America First Credit Union is the absence of monthly maintenance fees for its checking and savings accounts. This feature is especially beneficial for members looking to maximize their savings without worrying about recurring charges.
  • Competitive Rate on Share Certificates: For those interested in higher yields on their savings, America First offers competitive rates on share certificates. These rates are comparable to those offered by online banks, making them an attractive option for savers seeking to grow their funds.
  • Large, Free, Nationwide ATM Network: Members benefit from free access to a vast Co-op network of 30,000 ATMs across the country. This extensive network ensures that members can easily access their funds without incurring additional fees, regardless of their location.

Cons:

  • Limited Branch Access: Although America First has a strong presence in the Western states, its branch network is limited to a few counties in Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, New Mexico, and Nevada. This can be a drawback for those who prefer in-person banking and reside outside these areas.
  • Restricted Membership: Membership is mostly limited to individuals who live, work, volunteer, worship, or attend school in specific counties within the credit union’s service area. This limitation narrows the pool of potential members who can take advantage of America First’s offerings.

In summary, America First Credit Union offers a range of benefits, including no monthly fees, competitive rates on share certificates, and a vast ATM network. However, its limited branch access and membership restrictions may not suit everyone. Weighing these pros and cons is crucial for individuals considering America First as their banking partner.

America First Credit Union Products and Services

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Checking Accounts:

America First Credit Union offers a range of checking accounts tailored to meet the diverse needs of its members.

  • Classic Checking Account: This account stands out for being interest-bearing with no minimum opening deposit and free of monthly or low-balance fees for added financial ease. It offers a 0.05% dividend on balances of $500 or more, catering to those seeking to earn on their everyday funds.
  • Premium Checking Account: Also interest-bearing, the Premium Checking account has no minimum opening deposit and no low-balance fees. A $6 monthly fee is applicable, but it can be waived if certain criteria are met, such as a direct deposit of at least $500, 20 or more transactions with a Visa credit or debit card, and an average daily checking balance of at least $1,500. This account also provides dividends of 0.05% on balances over $500, along with additional perks like ATM fee offsets, mobile phone protection, and identity protection.

Savings Accounts:

America First Credit Union’s savings accounts are designed to support members at various stages of their financial journey.

  • Share Savings Account: As the foundational account of membership, it requires a minimum balance of $1 and pays a 0.05% dividend, making it a simple yet effective way to start saving.
  • Specialty Savings Accounts: These include the Wedding Savings Account, aimed at couples planning for their future, and Youth and Student Savings accounts, which offer tailored benefits for younger members. Notably, the Student Savings account provides tiered dividend rates based on balance, encouraging savings growth.

Money Market Accounts:

  • Money Market Checking Account: This account requires a $10,000 minimum opening balance and maintains a minimum earning balance of $2,000. It offers a dividend rate of 0.05% across all balance tiers, combining the benefits of a savings account with the flexibility of checking.

America First Credit Union’s product suite reflects a deep understanding of its members’ needs, offering a mix of checking and savings accounts with competitive rates and beneficial features. Its focus on accessibility and member benefits makes it a solid choice for residents within its service area, looking to maximize their financial well-being.

America First Credit Union Reviews

Member experiences with America First Credit Union reflect a mixed but generally positive sentiment, emphasizing the institution’s competitive rates, broad selection of accounts, and customer service quality. Reviews tend to highlight the following aspects:

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  • Customer Service Excellence: Many members have praised the credit union for its exceptional customer service. The staff’s willingness to go above and beyond in addressing member concerns and providing personalized banking advice is frequently mentioned. This level of service is indicative of America First’s commitment to putting its members’ needs first, fostering a sense of trust and loyalty.
  • Banking Experience: The overall banking experience with America First is noted for its convenience, particularly regarding the accessibility of the Co-op network of ATMs. Members appreciate the ability to access their funds without fees across a wide network. However, some reviews point out the limitations due to the credit union’s geographic service area, which can be a drawback for those who travel frequently or live outside the designated regions.
  • Product Satisfaction: The satisfaction with the variety and quality of products offered is another highlight. Members find value in the competitive rates on share certificates and appreciate the lack of monthly fees for checking and savings accounts. The diverse range of products caters to different financial needs, from everyday banking to long-term savings and investments.

Despite the overall positive reviews, some members have expressed concerns over limited branch access and the specific membership requirements, which can restrict the availability of America First’s services to a broader audience. These cons are consistent with the limitations mentioned in the pros and cons section, underscoring the importance of considering personal banking needs and location when choosing America First as a financial institution.

In summary, America First Credit Union is well-regarded by its members for its customer service, product offerings, and competitive rates. While its limited geographic footprint and membership criteria may not suit everyone, those within its service area can benefit significantly from its services.

America First Credit Union BBB and Trustpilot Ratings

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America First Credit Union, like any large financial institution, has its fair share of reviews and ratings across various platforms, including the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot. While specific ratings can fluctuate over time and might not be directly mentioned in the sources referenced, here’s a general overview based on common practices for evaluating financial institutions on these platforms:

Better Business Bureau (BBB):

  • The BBB rating system evaluates businesses based on factors such as complaint history, business practices, and transparency. A high BBB rating suggests a company is diligent in addressing consumer complaints and adheres to ethical business practices. While the exact BBB rating for America First Credit Union was not directly cited in the reviewed sources, typically, credit unions with active engagement in resolving member issues and transparent operations tend to score well on this platform.

Trustpilot:

  • Trustpilot ratings are generated based on user reviews and provide insight into customer satisfaction levels. These ratings can offer a window into the everyday experiences of members, including the quality of customer service, ease of use of online banking platforms, and overall satisfaction with products and services offered. Financial institutions with positive reviews on Trustpilot often excel in customer service and product offerings, reflecting a positive member experience.

When considering these ratings, it’s important to note that individual reviews can vary widely based on personal experiences. Positive reviews often highlight efficient customer service, competitive rates, and user-friendly banking solutions. Conversely, negative reviews might focus on specific instances of service dissatisfaction or product issues. It’s advisable for potential members to consider both the quantitative ratings and the qualitative feedback provided by existing members to get a comprehensive view of America First Credit Union’s performance.

In summary, while the specific BBB and Trustpilot ratings for America First Credit Union were not detailed, these platforms can be valuable resources for gauging customer satisfaction and the institution’s responsiveness to member needs. As with any financial institution, it’s beneficial to look beyond the ratings and consider the full spectrum of member reviews and experiences.

America First Credit Union Cost

When evaluating a financial institution like America First Credit Union, understanding the cost structure associated with its banking products is crucial. The credit union prides itself on offering competitive and cost-effective banking services to its members. Here’s an overview of the costs involved:

Checking and Savings Accounts:

  • America First distinguishes itself with no monthly maintenance fees for its Classic Checking and Share Savings accounts, making them highly accessible options for members aiming to minimize banking costs.
  • The Premium Checking account does impose a $6 monthly fee, which can be waived under specific conditions, such as maintaining a minimum balance or meeting certain activity requirements. This approach allows members to potentially avoid fees while enjoying additional perks.

Money Market Accounts:

  • The Money Market Checking Account requires a significant minimum opening balance of $10,000, with a minimum earning balance of $2,000 to avoid fees and to earn dividends. This account is designed for members with higher balances seeking to maximize their interest earnings, though it comes with a higher barrier to entry compared to standard checking or savings accounts.

Share Certificates (CDs):

  • Share Certificates at America First Credit Union offer competitive rates, similar to those found at online banks. The costs associated with these certificates—primarily the opportunity cost of locking in funds for a fixed term—are balanced by the potential for higher returns compared to regular savings accounts.

In summary, America First Credit Union’s cost structure is designed to benefit its members, with low to no monthly fees on basic banking products and competitive rates on savings instruments. However, certain products like the Money Market Checking Account and Share Certificates do have minimum balance requirements that members should consider. Overall, the credit union’s approach aligns with its mission to provide affordable and accessible financial services to its members.

FAQs

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What is a Share Certificate and how does it work?

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A Share Certificate is a type of savings account offered by credit unions that holds a fixed amount of money for a fixed period of time, known as the term. In return, the credit union pays interest at a higher rate than standard savings accounts. Upon maturity, the initial deposit plus accrued interest can be withdrawn or rolled over into a new term.

How can I become a member of America First Credit Union?

Membership at America First Credit Union is primarily available to individuals who live, work, volunteer, worship, or attend school in certain areas of Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, New Mexico, and Nevada. Membership requires opening and maintaining a Share Savings Account with a minimum balance, which signifies your share in the credit union.

What are the benefits of using a Money Market Account?

A Money Market Account (MMA) offers a higher interest rate than traditional savings accounts, providing the opportunity for your money to grow faster. It typically comes with check-writing privileges and a debit card, offering a blend of the benefits found in both checking and savings accounts. However, MMAs often require higher minimum balances to maintain and earn the advertised interest rates.

Can I use ATMs outside of America First Credit Union’s network without fees?

America First Credit Union members have access to the Co-op network of 30,000 ATMs nationwide, allowing for fee-free transactions at these locations. For ATMs outside of this network, there may be fees imposed by the ATM operator, although some account types offer fee reimbursements or offsets as part of their benefits package.

What types of checking accounts does America First Credit Union offer and what are their benefits?

America First Credit Union offers several types of checking accounts, including Classic Checking and Premium Checking. The Classic Checking account is interest-bearing with no minimum opening deposit or monthly fees, suitable for everyday banking needs. The Premium Checking account also earns interest and has no minimum opening deposit, but it includes additional benefits like ATM fee reimbursements, mobile phone protection, and identity theft protection, subject to meeting certain criteria such as maintaining a minimum balance or completing a set number of debit card transactions monthly.

Is America First Credit Union accredited by the BBB?

America First Credit Union has been accredited by the BBB since October 1, 1985, and currently holds an A+ rating. Over its long history of 85 years, it has addressed customer complaints and reviews through the BBB platform, with 130 complaints closed in the last 3 years and 49 in the last 12 months. This information indicates America First Credit Union’s commitment to customer service and resolving issues​​.

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