Identifying and Ranking the Best Credit Unions in California, U.S.

Credit unions in Northern and Southern California offer a great deal of value to the people who own them, including personalized customer service, low rates, high dividends, transparency and convenient account access.

And who owns credit unions? The members do.

It’s for these reasons and much more that consumers are increasingly relying on credit unions as opposed to banks and other financial institutions. They are putting their faith in these credit unions, not just to safeguard their money, but also to help them identify value-creating strategies and solutions so they can reach their financial goals sooner.

Best Credit Unions in California

Award Emblem: Top 11 Best Credit Unions in California

Northern and Southern California have many excellent credit unions, but how do you know which best suits your needs? It’s with this question in mind that we created a list of not just the largest credit unions in California, but also the best credit unions in Southern and Northern California.

This statewide ranking includes credit unions in Southern California as well as Northern California.

Each name represented on this list of credit unions in California goes above and beyond to make sure accessing money and accounts is easy for clients. They also do much more than that. They have reputations spanning many decades, and since they operate as not-for-profits, they’re able to pass on enormous savings to members on the cost of their products.

AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Best Credit Unions in California

This list is sorted alphabetically (click any of the above names to go directly to the detailed review for that credit union).

Top 11 Credit Unions in California

Credit Union Location
First Tech FCU Mountain View
Kinecta FCU Manhattan Beach
Navy FCU All of CA
Patelco Credit Union All of Northern CA
Provident Credit Union San Francisco Bay Area
Redwood Credit Union North Bay/San Francisco
San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU) San Diego Area
SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union All of Southern CA
Star One Credit Union Silicon Valley
The Golden 1 Credit Union Most of CA
Wescom Credit Union All of Southern CA

(List is sorted alphabetically)

Don't Miss: High Yield Bank Accounts

Methodology for Selecting Top Credit Unions in California

You may be asking how we selected from the many excellent financial institutions in California to create this top ranking list of credit unions in California.

To begin, we conducted extensive and comprehensive research, all with the end-user — you, the consumer — in mind.

We then considered criteria including factors like fees, convenience, branches, online banking, education materials, and the selection of available services. We used this criteria to develop a set of filters, all of which indicate the quality of service and overall value.

Then, we conducted a deep assessment of each credit union, which led to this compilation of the top ranked names throughout the state of California.

Click here for a detailed explanation of our methodology:  AdvisoryHQ’s Methodology for Selecting Top Banks and Credit Unions.

Detailed Review—Top Ranking Credit Unions in California

After carefully considering California credit unions, we created the following list of the top firms. As you continue reading,  you’ll find detailed reviews for each of our picks, as well as specifics of some of the factors we used in our decision-making process.

First Tech Federal Credit Union Review

Based in Oregon and founded in 1952 to serve the needs of local tech companies, First Tech has long been a leader in not just Oregon but also among credit unions in Northern California, and even developed and implemented the first online banking system.

First Tech was founded by a few people from Hewlett-Packard and Tektronix, and since then, this leader among the California credit unions has served the needs of companies like HP, Microsoft, Amazon, and Cisco.

First Tech is a not-for-profit, member-owned credit union, governed by a 100% volunteer Board of Directors, all of whom are First Tech members.

Key Factors That Allowed This Firm to Rank as One of the Top Credit Unions in California

Listed below are factors that led to the inclusion of First Tech on this list of credit unions in California.

Member Savings

In 2015, members of First Tech saved almost $77 million based on market research. The research went on to show that members who were utilizing 4 to 10 First Tech accounts saved on average nearly $507 in a year.

The reasons members save so much is because First Tech returns their profits to their members, in ways such as lower loan rates, higher savings rates, and charging fewer fees. When looking at individual products, those members who used the Dividends Rewards Checking account saved $86 on average, while members who had a mortgage from this leading California credit union saw an average savings of $447 annually.

Member Experience

As one of the most respected credit unions in Northern California, First Tech makes a commitment to its members, which allows it to stand apart from other financial institutions.

This pledge to members includes advocacy on behalf of all members, a dedication to helping members save money wherever possible, the availability of no-cost financial reviews to help members build a better financial future, and a commitment to the community.

Providing convenience for members is also of the utmost importance. First Tech operates more than 10 California credit union locations and provides access to more than 5,000 nationwide network branches, which means members are never too far from their accounts.


Along with traditional banking services including checking and savings accounts, First Tech also offers a variety of loan products with competitive rates.

These loan services and products include:

  • Home loans
  • Home equity
  • Auto loans
  • Personal loans
  • Recreational vehicle loans (RV, boat, and motorcycle)
  • Commercial lending (broker and member)

Mobile Banking

For the utmost in convenience and accessibility, First Tech Federal Credit Union offers an innovative smartphone mobile app that lets users do the following:

  • Deposit checks
  • Pay bills
  • View account balances
  • Check transaction history
  • Transfer funds
  • Pay First Tech loans
  • Find a First Tech branch
  • Locate an ATM throughout the country
  • Contact First Tech at the touch of a button

The smartphone app works with the iOS, Android, and Windows platforms, and if you don’t have access  to a smartphone, the website will also allow members to access the mobile version of online banking.

Kinecta Federal Credit Union Review

Kinecta Federal Credit Union operates many California credit union locations, and it is also one of the top credit unions in the country, with $3.6 billion in assets and more than 270,000 member-owners. It was founded in 1940 as the Hughes Aircraft Employees Federal Credit Union, and it has been providing superior services for more than 60 years.

Kinecta states that its excellence is dependent on its employees, communications, products, services, and overall high quality standards.

Key Factors Considered When Ranking This Firm as a Top 2016 Southern California Credit Union

Below are some of the many reasons Kinecta was selected for this list of credit unions in Southern California and throughout the state.

VIP Membership

Kinecta offers members a unique opportunity to participate in their VIP program, which includes the Gold Club and the Hughes Gold Elite Club. You’re automatically enrolled when you qualify, and benefits include the following:

  • Rate increases on new and renewing share certificates
  • Monthly choice of free services (cashier’s check, notary service, or wire transfer)
  • Free safe deposit box
  • NSF or overdraft fee reversal
  • CheckCard daily limit increase to $5,500
  • Two boxes of free checks per year
  • Free bill pay and online banking
  • A complimentary financial review/plan with a Kinecta Financial & Insurance Services Consultant
  • Reduced closing costs on a first mortgage
  • Credit cards rewards program annual fee is waived
  • Priority phone service

Member Benefits

Members of Kinecta gain access to many valuable, exclusive discounts on a range of products and services.

Some of the businesses participating in the member rewards program include TurboTax, SeaWorld, Raging Waters, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags, DirecTV, Legoland, Aquarium of the Pacific, Shop America, Skechers, and On Que Style.


Another signature program available from Kinecta is called CU@Work, which creates the opportunity for a valuable partnership between Kinecta Federal Credit Union and California companies.

The program makes it convenient to offer banking and financial resources to employees in the workplace. It also lets companies discover ways to improve their benefits packages, which lets them better attract and retain talented employees. Employees are offered onsite access to financial tools, and it doesn’t cost anything for employers.

Benefits for employees include free checking and direct deposit, free online banking and bill pay, additional rate bonuses on share certificates as well as Money Market Accounts, and discounts on auto loan rates.

Home Buying and Selling Services

Kinecta offers the HomeAdvantage program, which is ideal for members who want to either buy or sell a home. This program allows credit union members to connect with respected real estate agents and a variety of resources to assist them on their journey to selling and/or buying a new home.

It also includes an average cash rebate of $1,545.

Benefits of using this free service include a connection with a network of hand-selected local real estate agents, updated online home listings, listing alerts, easy research tools, and access to a dedicated  Member Service Team seven days a week. Kinecta also helps participants find the mortgage option that’s right for them.

Navy Federal Credit Union Review

Navy Federal Credit Union was founded in 1933, and since that time has grown to include more than five million members, making it one of the largest credit unions in California. Navy Federal Credit Union has more than $75 billion in assets, and when someone becomes a member, they’re a member for life, even if they leave the military, change employers, move, or go through any significant life transition.

One condition of being a member of Navy Federal is an affiliation with the Armed Forces, DoD, Coast Guard, or National Guard. This includes the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard Active Duty and Reservists. It also includes Army and Air National Guard personnel.

Key Factors Leading Us to Rank This Firm as a Top 2016 California Credit Union

The list below is representative of some key reasons Navy Federal was selected as one of the best California credit unions.

Checking Protection

Something unique to Navy Federal is their checking protection options, which can help members make sure they’re always covered, even in the event of an emergency expense.

These checking protection options include:

  • Savings transfer: This allows members to move money automatically from their savings to checking to pay for overdrafts when funds are available. It’s free of charge as well.
  • Checking Line of Credit: This protects members from overdrafts and from having transactions declined for insufficient funds. It delivers automatic protection, flexible repayment options, and a low interest rate.
  • Optional Overdraft Protection Services (OOPS): This covers overdrafts of all types, and it doesn’t require credit approval.

Military Exclusives

Regardless of where a member is at in their military career, the services, products, and specials are designed specifically for service member and veteran needs. There is a worldwide network of ATMs and branches, many of which are located near military bases. Once a servicemember joins the Federal Reserve Credit Union, their spouse and family members can also become members.

Some of the military exclusive services and offerings from Navy Federal include:

  • Active Duty Checking with Direct Deposit
  • Exclusive offers for cadets and midshipmen
  • VA mortgages
  • Loan discounts with direct deposits
  • Exclusive discounts on MetLife
  • Navy Federal Military Choice Mortgage
  • Thrift Savings Plan for military members

Navy Federal Credit Union Military Exclusives-min

Money Management Tools

The goal of this top credit union in California is to make banking easy, which is why they offer an array of money management tools and resources that are incredibly accessible.

Some of these include the ability to bank anywhere using the free, secure, 24-hour Account Access Service. With Account Access, members can transfer funds, order checks, pay bills, view up to the last three years of statements, and make payments on loans. Account Access also lets members open new accounts and enroll in Direct Deposit.

Other features include Mobile Banking, the ability to scan deposits from a mobile device, and Bill Pay services that are free and fast and let users schedule one-time or recurring payments.

Track Spending

For members of Navy Federal who want to budget more wisely, this California credit union features a Spending Tracker tool. This innovative new tool provides detailed breakdowns of member spending, based on either category or time period.

It automatically categorizes debit and credit expenses, lets users see their transaction history through  easy-to-read graphs, and delivers automatic email alerts when certain budget limits are exceeded.

Patelco Credit Union Review

Serving most of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay, Patelco Credit Union was founded in 1936, which makes it one of the oldest and largest credit unions in the U.S. Based on assets, Patelco is the 26th largest credit union in the country, and among California credit unions, it’s the sixth largest.

Patelco was initially founded to serve the needs of employees of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company, but now has assets totaling more than $5 billion and more than 300,000 nationwide members.

Key Factors That Enabled This Firm to Rank as a Top 2016 Credit Union

Cited below are some of the factors weighing heavily in the decision to rank Patelco as one of the 2016 best California credit unions.


Along with being one of the largest credit unions in California, Patelco is a standout financial institution because they strive to be as accessible and convenient as possible for customers. This leader among credit unions in Northern California maintains 40 branches, as well as more than 30,000 ATMs.

Its network of locations also includes more than 6,000 Credit Union Shared Service Center branches. When using one of these locations for banking needs, you won’t be charged a fee for the management of your accounts or accessing your money.

Patelco continues to offer even more accessibility options through their extensive online, mobile, and telephone banking options.

The Vision

A unique element of Patelco that led to its inclusion on this list of top credit unions in California is their vision. Patelco is member-owned, and their goal is to be a trusted, relevant financial services provider for every member.

As part of this role as value-creating advisors, the Patelco vision includes the following:

  • Members are always offered accessible, relevant, and high-value products and services
  • Customer service is superior and member-centric
  • Patelco strives to create profitable, sustainable growth

Personalized Service and Advice

While working to be members’ trusted advisors, Patelco also delivers personalized service and guidance that helps them uncover the most valuable financial solutions for their individual needs. Some of their educational offerings include no-obligation consultations with financial advisors, as well as home loan consulting.

Patelco regularly hosts educational seminars and webinars on a range of topics pertinent to the lives of members.  Its call center support is available when you need it most, for whatever questions you may have.

Free Checking  

Operating as a non-profit, Patelco is able to deliver free and low-cost options to members that aren’t available at many banks and other financial institutions. One of the premier free options is their Free Checking Account.

The Free Checking Account includes no hidden fees, along with no monthly service fees. Other perks of this  account include no minimum balance requirement, no unnecessary conditions or restrictions, and no fees for debit card usage.

Provident Credit Union Review

Based in the San Francisco-Bay Area, Provident Credit Union is ranked as the 16th largest credit union in California and the 81st largest in the country. It’s headquartered in the Bay Area but services more than 100,000 customers with branches throughout California, as well as many nationwide service options.

Regarding stability and reputability, Provident has more than 1.9 billion dollars in assets, and more than 11% of assets are in reserve, which is significantly more than many financial institutions.

Key Factors That Led Us to Rank This as a Top 2016 California Credit Union

Below are essential reasons Provident was selected for this ranking of the best credit unions in California.

Zero Liability Fraud Protection Guarantee

Provident accounts are appointed with the signature Zero Liability Fraud Protection Guarantee, which reimburses customers 100% for any unauthorized electronic transactions. These transactions can be made at retailers or through ATMs, online banking, or telephone and mobile banking.

As long as you report the unauthorized incident within 60 days and meet a set of responsibilities as a user of Provident services, you are covered.

To further protect customers, Provident created a list of best practices for online banking and the use of Visa Debit Cards. This was created to help members protect themselves against potential fraud and unauthorized transactions.

Savings and Investment Programs

This selection for one of the best credit unions in California includes extensive savings and investment products and services, which are designed to meet a variety of situations and goals. All of the savings products have great rates when compared to banks and other financial institutions.

Some of the savings and investment program options available from Provident include:

  • Term share certificates
  • Accumulator Account
  • Money market accounts
  • Dividends on checking
  • Regular and youth membership savings
  • Business savings account

Round Up Savings Program

Along with the savings options listed above, Provident Credit Union also has the signature Round Up Savings program, which is an automated, simple way to round up debit card purchases to the next dollar. Then, that difference is transferred to a Round Up Savings account, directly from your checking account.

This is a free program that also lets you add your own specified dollar amount to each transaction, as well as amounts up to $100 at month’s end.

The Provident Credit Union matches 100% of all eligible round up transactions for the first three months on the first enrolled account. After that three-month period, Provident Credit Union will match 5% on this original account, and all subsequent accounts, up to $250 per year.

You can then choose each month whether you want to transfer your balance to a Provident savings account, loan, or credit line, or you can just keep it in your Round Up Savings account.

Investment Services

Along with standard checking and savings services, Provident was among our selections of the best credit unions in California because of their comprehensive investment services.

The Provident team provides education, counseling, support, and strategies for members to help them achieve their goals and financial security.

All of Provident’s Financial Consultants are registered with Foothills Securities, and they will discuss, in an in-depth way, all investment strategies and recommendations so that members can be an active part of their financial decisions.

Additionally,  the Provident Financial Consultants aren’t controlled by a product provider, so they’re always acting in the best interest of the client.

Redwood Credit Union Review

The Redwood Credit Union serves the needs of the Bay Area and is one of the most reputable credit unions in Northern California. Redwood Credit Union was founded in 1950, and they offer a full slate of services for both personal and business banking needs, all with the goal of providing the best conceivable value to members.

Services at RCU include checking, savings, investments, auto, RV, personal, home and business loans, credit cards, insurance, auto center and brokerage services, and free online services. RCU is ranked as the 64th largest of the 6,300 credit unions in the United States.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This Firm as a Top 2016 Credit Union

Below are details of some of the reasons the Redwood Credit Union is included on our list of credit unions in California.

Service Standards

All services provided for members are based on Redwood’s defined vision, mission, values, and standards.

Its vision is to be a leader among financial service providers in the community and to help members achieve their goals. Their mission is to serve the best interests of members, employers, and the local community with passion — which can be seen in their values: service, trust, people, and cooperation.

Finally, service standards at RCU include building relationships, trust and respect, showing commitment, always doing the right thing, being ambassadors, and partnering for security.

Solar Loans

One of the very distinctive and compelling product offerings available from Redwood Credit Union are their Solar Loans. This loan product was created to help members finance sustainable solutions and develop a greener lifestyle. These loans have low interest rates and flexible term options, and they can help borrowers develop a more ecofriendly lifestyle while also saving money in the long-term.

These Solar Loans are available in amounts up to $50,000, and they have both fixed rates and flexible terms ranging from 60 to 240 months. Decisions are made quickly and locally, and rates are very competitive.

Home Solutions Center

Redwood Credit Union, a standout among credit unions in Northern California, features a comprehensive Home Solutions Center. The Home Solutions Center is designed to provide assistance, guidance, and financial products targeted toward home buyers and sellers.

This program features extensive real estate services, and participants can save money on closing costs or receive a cash rebate. The program also helps buyers find the best mortgage for their individual circumstances.

Life Planning and Education

Redwood Credit Union doesn’t just strive to provide financial products, but also to provide in-depth guidance and educational tools and resources. As part of this goal, members can take advantage of many planning and education guides and tools.

Some of the topic areas covered include:

  • Savings essentials
  • Insurance essentials
  • Managing job changes
  • Managing credit and debt
  • Managing your budget
  • Becoming a parent
  • Kids and money
  • Combining finances
  • Getting divorced
  • Car essentials
  • Home essentials
  • Insurance essentials
  • Retirement essentials 
  • Managing financial challenges

San Diego County Credit Union Review

San Diego County Credit Union is the largest locally-owned financial union in San Diego, with more than seven billion dollars in assets. Members completely own SDCCU, and it doesn’t issue stocks or dividends to outside stockholders. Rather, these earnings are returned to members in the form of low loan rates and higher dividends on deposits, as well as lower general fees.

SDCCU was originally chartered in 1938, and it currently serves more than 300,000 members, making it one of the premier credit unions in Southern California.

Key Factors That Enabled This Firm to Rank as One of the Top 2016 Credit Unions

When comparing Southern California credit unions, as well as those throughout the state, the following are some key reasons San Diego Country Credit Union was included in this ranking.


SDCCU is not only a pivotal part of the local community, supporting more than 75 non-profit organizations, but it’s also an award winner in the area. SDCCU has been voted the “Best Credit Union” for 16 consecutive years by readers of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

It’s also been voted Best Mortgage Home Lender, Best Financial Planner, Best Auto Loan Provider, and Best Place to Work several times.

SDCCU Discounts

Customers of SDCCU enjoy many member benefits, including discount and savings at certain retailers and experiences. Some of these perks include:

  • SDCCU Dining Deals: Receive cash back when using SDCCU credit and debit cards without the need for coupons or loyalty cards. When people use their registered card, they automatically receive up to 25% cash back at participating restaurants.
  • San Diego Padres Discount Tickets: Members of this top credit union in California receive up to 25% off single game tickets.
  • Broadway/San Diego: Members of SDCCU may have access to discounted tickets.
  • Real Estate Services: SDCCU offers free, personalized real estate services and a 20% cash reward on participating agents commissions.

Checking Account Features

Checking accounts are an essential product offered by most financial institutions, but San Diego County Credit Union strives to make these products more rewarding and beneficial for members. Checking account options include free accounts, as well as high-yield accounts.

Regardless, some of the features included with SDCCU checking accounts include:

  • 30,000 available ATMs with no surcharge
  • Text and email alerts
  • Cash back rewards
  • Free online banking
  • Bill Payer Plus online bill pay
  • Overdraft protection options
  • Free eStatements
  • Free direct deposit

Home Loan Mortgages

SDCCU offers home loan mortgage options with loan rates in San Diego as well as throughout all of California. Mortgages from SDCCU include options for low fixed-rate or adjustable rate loans, with low monthly payments, and in some instances, down payments are as low as 5%. Some customers can also take advantage of benefits such as No Closing Costs 5/5 Adjustable Rate mortgages.

Other perks of obtaining a home loan through this leader among credit unions in Southern California include:

  • Pre-approval with no obligation
  • Up to 95% financing
  • Loans up to $1.5 million
  • Free 60-day rate lock
  • Free Internet Branch online banking
  • Free eStatements 
  • Automatic payments from an eligible SDCCU account are available

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union Review

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union was founded in 1934, originally as the Orange County Teachers Credit Union. Since that time, in the middle of the Great Depression, SchoolsFirst FCU has grown and weathered other financial crises, including the Great Recession. In 2015, SchoolsFirst FCU was named by OC Weekly as a “Best of OC”selection.

Consumer Reports also ranked SchoolsFirst FCU as the number one credit union in 2015, and this California credit union maintains assets in excess of $10 billion.

Key Factors That Led Us to Rank This Firm as a Top 11 2016 Credit Union in California

Listed below are some factors that were pertinent in the decision to rank SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union as one of the top credit unions in California.

Rates and Fees

Unlike most other banks and financial institutions, SchoolsFirst FCU doesn’t operate for a profit. As a member-owned, non-profit credit union, they’re able to charge either low fees or no fees at all for many of their services. This is because they can take their earnings and reinvest them into the services they provide to members.

For example, members can participate in the free checking program, which includes no monthly fee, no minimum monthly balance requirement, and the ability to write unlimited checks.


For added convenience and accessibility, which are two factors important when determining the best credit unions in California, SchoolsFirst FCU offers robust and easy-to-use eServices.

These include:

  • Mobile Banking: Using the SchoolsFirst FCU mobile app lets members access their accounts, check their balances, and view their account history anytime. This feature also lets members deposit checks using the camera on their smartphone, transfer funds, pay bills, and find a nearby branch or ATM.
  • eAlerts: You can always maintain a sense of control and transparency when you bank with SchoolsFirst FCU, one of the largest credit unions in California. This is due to their eAlerts offering, which can be set up to let you know if your balance is low, when payments are due, when funds are deposited into your account, and also when you have certificates or IRAs that are about to mature.
  • Fraud Alerts: Another option of mobile alerts available from SchoolsFirst FCU is their Fraud Alerts. You’ll be notified when a suspicious debit card transaction is noticed, and you’ll also get an alert if your debit card is blocked after the decline of a suspicious transaction.

Investment Services

Along with the traditional offerings of a credit union, SchoolsFirst FCU offers extensive investment, retirement, and similar services. They can provide not just investment products with excellent rates, but also guidance and expertise to help members create carefully tailored investment strategies.

SchoolsFirst FCU offers tax-deferred investments, savings accounts specifically for education expenses, mutual funds, annuities, stocks and bonds, and life insurance. Additionally, financial advisors are available through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc.

BalanceTrack Checking Account Management

As one of the largest credit unions in California, SchoolsFirst FCU offers many distinctive and original programs and services. One of these services is its BalanceTrack Checking Account Management program.

This program is designed to give members the tools and educational resources needed to open a checking account at this California credit union.

Users take an online self-study course to learn about wise checking account management. The ultimate goal is to help members avoid returned check fees and accounting errors while also reducing their susceptibility to fraud.

Star One Credit Union Review

Star One Credit Union is one of the largest credit unions in Northern California, owned by members and providing services to more than 95,000 worldwide members. Based on assets, Star One ranks tenth in assets among all credit unions throughout the country.

The Board managing Star One is made up of volunteers, all of whom are dedicated to contributing to the communities served by this credit union, and also to maintaining strength as corporate citizens. Star One was originally chartered in 1956 to serve employees of Lockheed Missiles and Space Division.

Key Factors That Enabled Us to Rank This Firm as a Top 2016 California Credit Union

When considering the many credit unions in California, the following are some of the benefits of Star One that landed it on this ranking of the best California credit unions.

CUNA Recognition

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) recognized Star One not only as one of the best credit unions in California, but also the entire country. Star One was recognized in 2015 for the third consecutive year for the financial benefits it provides directly to its members.

CUNA recognizes national credit unions based on a calculation that includes the overall average savings each union provides, looking at their individual rates and fees as compared to those of national and local financial and banking institutions.

Star One was recognized because of their high return on deposits, low rates on loans, and low fees. This all totaled a benefit of $1,226 per member household, which was $600 more than the next closest credit union in the same asset class.

EverFi Online Education Program

As a contender for the best credit union in California, Star One puts a significant emphasis on providing educational resources to its members. One way they do this is through the free, award-winning EverFi Educational Program.

This is designed for high school students, and it’s a web-based way to gain extensive knowledge of financial issues and topics.

The EverFi program is innovative and uses things like 3D gaming, avatars, and social networking to breathe life into relevant financial concepts. The course curriculum is designed in line with state and national literacy standards.

HomeAdvantage Program

Original to Star One is their HomeAdvantage program, which is free to credit union members and is provided through a partnership with CU Realty Services.

The HomeAdvantage program includes the following:

  • Star One offers a cash rebate when buying or selling a home
  • The program provides connections with local real estate agents who know the area where you’re planning to buy or sell a home
  • You can use the simplified website to search for a home based on your targeted neighborhood and budget

In addition to the above perks, using the HomeAdvantage program offered through this leader among credit unions in California also includes access to low, competitive adjustable and fixed-rate mortgages. These rates are typically much less than what you’ll find at other banks and lenders.

Educational Workshops

Star One members frequently have opportunities to participate in educational workshops that cover an extensive range of financial issues. For example, recent workshops include “Drive Away Happy” with a focus on learning on how to shop and finance a car.

Another upcoming topic offered by this credit union in Northern California is “Home Buying,” which features  a real estate agent, appraiser, home inspector, and title insurance company representative, all of whom answer questions and offer expert tips.

The Golden 1 Credit Union Review

The Golden 1 Credit Union is one of the largest credit unions in California, as well as the U.S. In fact, it’s the sixth largest credit union in the country, with more than $10 billion in assets, and over 750,000 members. Golden 1 also boasts abundant accessibility and convenient options for members including multiple branches and ATMs, and 30,000 surcharge-free network ATMs throughout the country.

The Golden 1 Credit Union was originally founded in Sacramento in 1933 and retains its original philosophy of people helping people, operating as a not-for-profit cooperative.

Key Factors That Enabled This Firm to Rank as a Top 2016 California Credit Union

Cited below are some of the factors that led to the inclusion of Golden 1 on this California credit unions list.


Throughout the years, both the credit union as a whole and individual employees and leaders have been recognized for their excellence and their significant role in the local community, as well as throughout California.

Recent awards include the recognition of Donna Bland, President and CEO of Golden 1, as “Businesswoman of the Year” by the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

Magnify Money cited Golden 1 as having the “Best Cash Back Card for Groceries” and the “Best Cash Back Card for Dining Out.”

In 2015, Golden 1 was given a Best in Class: Innovation award by VISA Debit Processing Service Client Achievement Award, and the Credit Union National Association gave Golden 1 a Diamond Award for Brand Awareness.


A significant part of what Golden 1 does, and a big reason they were selected for this list of the best credit unions in California, is their educational programs. They want members to be able to achieve their financial and life goals, and with that in mind, they offer many free educational workshops that start with the basics and become more advanced.

In addition to in-person financial seminars, they also hold many webinar and video-based workshops.

Some recent topics include:

  • Getting started with a mortgage
  • Estate planning
  • Credit cards with low rates and high rewards
  • Job seeker series: cover letters that get noticed
  • First-time homebuyers: costs, qualifications, and assistance programs
  • Credit series: repairing credit

Checking Account Options

As one of the top credit unions in California, Golden 1 offers many services and banking options to fit a range of needs. This includes their checking account options. Each checking account boasts features such as online banking access, mobile and text banking, online bill pay, mobile deposits, and the use of Visa debit cards.

Additionally, the following are the available checking account options, designed to meet every need:

  • Free Checking: No monthly service fees, no minimum deposit required to open, and no minimum balance to maintain
  • Premium Checking: Users can earn competitive dividends when they keep their balance above $1,000
  • MarketRate Checking: This is designed to maximize earnings, so the higher the member’s balance, the higher their dividends will be
  • New Generation Checking: This account is for young people ages 13 through 17 who want to learn about money management
  • Freedom Checking: Designed for students aged 16 and 17, Freedom Checking helps young people learn to manage their money independently
  • Student Checking: For college students 17 and older, the Student Checking account automatically converts to Free Checking after five years

Simple Online Banking

Online banking at Golden 1 was recently upgraded and includes easier sign-on that can be done in one step, as well as streamlined navigation.

The Transfer Center makes it very fast and convenient to transfer money between Golden 1 accounts and accounts at other institutions, and using Popmoney allows members to send money electronically to  friends and family. You can customize your online banking through the Account Activity Page, as well.

Wescom Credit Union Review

Wescom Credit Union is a longstanding Southern California credit union, serving the needs of residents since 1934. Wescom has 20+ California credit union locations, and more than 200,000 members. This not-for-profit financial cooperative has a member-owner structure, and anyone located in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Venture, San Diego, or Santa Barbara counties can open an account.

Throughout the years, Wescom has maintained a dedication to member service and satisfaction. It now has more than two billion dollars in assets, which is one of the many reasons they are widely considered one of the best credit unions in Southern California.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This Firm as a Top 2016 California Credit Union

Below are some of the criteria used in the selection of Wescom as one of the best credit unions in California.

Tools to Avoid Overdrafts

Since Wescom has a deep sense of value for clients, they strive to make the management of their finances as straightforward and convenient as possible. Along with many check card overdraft protection options, they also have electronic tools designed to help members avoid overdrafts.

Account alerts can be set up and sent by email or text alert, and they’ll let members know when a deposit goes into their account, as well as when their account balance goes below a certain level.

ETex is an option that lets you receive account balance updates and information via text messages. These messages are sent directly to a mobile phone, and mobile banking can be accessed on a smartphone.

CO-OP Network

To make sure customers enjoy the ultimate in accessibility for their money and bank accounts, Wescom members have access to more than 30,000 fee-free, full-service ATMs throughout the country.

This includes not only the ATMs that are directly part of these California credit union locations but also members of the CO-OP network. The CO-OP network includes ATMs at 7-Eleven stores across the U.S. and Canada.

All Wescom ATMs also offer full-service banking options and convenient touch-screen technology to ensure transactions go quickly and smoothly.

Wescom Credit Union full-service banking options-min

BALANCE Financial Fitness

The BALANCE Financial Fitness program is an exclusive offering to Wescom customers. This program covers debt counseling, credit management, and budget advisement and assistance.

Wescom partnered with BALANCE to provide this service, and all advice is unbiased and objective.

Some of the elements of the BALANCE program include:

  • Money management counseling from a Certified Financial Counselor
  • Debt management planning to consolidate credit card payments, lower payment amounts, and reduce or eliminate interest and fees
  • Credit Report Review with a counselor to look at your rights and FICO score

Mobile Banking

Wescom Credit Union offers very robust and innovative mobile banking features and options that make everything convenient for users. The Wescom Android and iOS apps give total access to all Wescom accounts.

The Touch ID feature lets users sign in using their fingerprint, ensuring the maximum level of security. With Wescom Express View, users can quickly see their balances and recent history without even logging into the app.

SnapDeposit allows the member to use a mobile device camera to take a picture of checks in order to deposit them.

Other mobile features include BillPayer, Mobile Loan Transfer, eTex, and SendMoney, which allows for simplified money transfers.

Conclusion—Top 11 Best Credit Unions in California

The decision to work with a credit union often proves incredibly valuable. When compared to traditional banks or financial institutions, credit unions are ultimately owned by the members, which allows them to deliver excellent rates as well as a high level of quality and service.

When you become a member of a credit union, you’re a stakeholder, rather than just being a customer. These not-for-profit organizations continue to grow in size and scale as a result.

The list above represents some of the very best California credit unions. These credit unions in California have low fees, strong and longstanding reputations, a dedication to superior customer service paired with technology, and easy access through channels like mobile and online banking, as well as multiple branches and ATMs.


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