Getting Acquainted with the Credit Union Scene in Chicago

Credit unions in Chicago and around the world are only growing in popularity, especially as the trustworthiness of banks begins to erode. Despite this fact, there are still a lot of misconceptions about what they are and how they operate.  

Before selection a specific credit union in Chicago, it’s good to acquire a braod understanding of credit unions in general. 

The first thing to understand is that credit unions are owned by its members. Instead of becoming a customer of a credit union, you are technically a “member.” It’s a membership to a co-op institutions where profits are shared as benefits to the member and decisions are guided by those who are a part of the credit union. 

Best Credit Unions in Chicago Red Award Emblem

Award Emblem: Top 12 Best Credit Unions in Chicago

Banks, on the other hand, answer to their shareholders. They are always looking for way to cut costs and sneakily raise fees in order to realize more returns for shareholders. When it comes to credit unions in Chicago and elsewhere, profits are shared in the form of lower fees and higher interest rates and the credit union answers to you, the member. 

Some people may greet credit unions in Chicago and elsewhere with hesitation because they are concerned about the safety of their deposits. There’s no need to feel that way. Banks have FDIC insurance and credit unions are federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). If the NCUA insures a credit union, this means the members’ deposits are protected as they would be at a standard bank.

Finally, while there are often eligibility requirements to join a credit union in Chicago or elsewhere, they are not as stringent as people may believe. Many credit unions have expanded membership eligibility requirements extensively throughout the years, and you may be eligible to join solely based on the geographic location in which you live or work or by simply making a small donation to a specific organization.

AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top 12 Best Credit Unions in Chicago

List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the below names to go directly to the detailed review for that credit union)

Top Credit Unions in Chicago | Brief Comparison

Chicago Credit Unions

Highlighted Features

American Airlines Credit UnionVisa Checkout
Chicago Firefighters Credit Union Variety of loan options
Chicago Municipal Employees Credit UnionSkip-a-Pay Program
Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit UnionFinancial Planning
Chicago Post Office Employees Credit UnionCoutesy Pay
First Financial Credit UnionHigh 5 Checking
First Northern Credit UnionAuto Loan Payment Protection
Maroon Financial Credit UnionTotally Free Checking
Planites Credit UnionEmpowerment Program
Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit UnionDirectConnect
U. S. Employees Credit UnionEducation Accounts
United Credit UnionCredit Union Partners Program

Table: Top 12 Best Credit Unions in Chicago | Above list is sorted alphabetically

AdvisoryHQ’s Selection Methodology

What methodology does AdvisoryHQ use in selecting and finalizing the credit cards, financial products, firms, services, and products that are ranked on its various top-rated lists?

Please click here “AdvisoryHQ’s Ranking Methodologies” for a detailed review of AdvisoryHQ’s selection methodologies for ranking top-rated credit cards, financial accounts, firms, products, and services.

Detailed Review—Top-Ranking Credit Unions in Chicago

Below, please find the detailed review of each firm on our list of the best credit unions in Chicago. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these Chicago credit unions to score so high in our selection ranking.

See Also: Best Credit Unions in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia | Ranking | Review of the Best Credit Unions in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia

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Chicago Firefighters Credit Union Review

Chicago Firefighters Credit Union (CFFCU) was first founded as the 2nd Division Credit Union to serve fire department employees in 1937. It was a time when the Great Depression still had an impact on the financial system as well as consumers. While a staff of professionals operates CFFCU, there is still a volunteer board of member-elected directors.

There are currently around 5000 members of CFFCU, and the NCUA insures all member accounts up to at least $250,000. This credit union in Chicago offers a variety of savings and loan products as well as checking accounts and valuable conveniences.

Chicago Firefighters Credit Union - credit unions in chicago, illinois

Source: Wikipedia

Key Factors That Led Us to Rank This as a Best Credit Union in Chicago

Detailed in the list below are highlights of why Chicago Firefighters Credit Union was selected for inclusion in this ranking.

Dedication to Privacy

CFFCU is extremely dedicated to protecting the privacy and personal information of all members. It never shares personal information, and while it collects non-personal public information from transactions, applications, and consumer reporting agencies, it restricts access to only those employees who require the information in order to deliver products or services.

CFFCU is committed to maintaining stringent protections that are in line with federal regulations to keep all non-public member information completely safe.

This Chicago credit union also provides information to members as to how they can protect themselves against identity theft and fraud.

Variety of Loan Options

Credit unions in Chicago and elsewhere are particularly popular for their loan options. The biggest reason is that the interest rates tend to be lower than traditional banks. 

Another reason is that credit unions see their members as people as opposed to just money makers. Your credit union in Chicago will not try to sell you on additional credit products if they see that it is not a smart choice. Banks tend to encourage customers to take out more credit products so that they can make a bigger profit through interest rates. 

Chicago Firefighters Credit Union is a Chicago credit union that offers a variety of loan products. Members can apply for:

  • Auto loans
  • Boat loans
  • Motorcycle loans
  • Home equity loans
  • Signature loans

Share Draft Accounts

Share Draft Checking Accounts from CFFCU require only a $25 minimum deposit to open, and there is no minimum balance requirement. These flexible and versatile accounts are ideal for members because a dividend is paid on balances over $500, allowing them to earn money.

There is no monthly fee to use these free accounts, and there are automatic transfer options when members link their savings account to their share draft checking account to cover overdrafts.

A debit card is available to qualified members, and online banking and free bill pay are also options members can take advantage of when they hold these accounts.

Convenient Services

This credit union in Chicago provides a number of convenient banking services so that members are never pining for a traditional bank. Members of this Chicago credit union can:

  • Write certified checks
  • Initiate wire transfers
  • Set up direct deposit
  • Set up a payroll deduction
  • Have access to a free notary public service
  • Access free new and used auto pricing

This Chicago credit union also offers Christmas Club accounts that require no minimum balance that pay dividends quarterly.

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Chicago Post Office Employees Credit Union Review

For over 86 years, Chicago Post Office Employees Credit Union has been serving the financial and banking needs of members. During this long history, this credit union in Chicago has grown to include more than 4,400 members and holds assets in excess of $18 million.

This state-chartered credit union has services that include loans, notary service, money orders, and other conveniences. Products include savings and checking accounts as well as savings certificates and money markets.

Key Factors That Enabled Us to Rank This as a Top Credit Union in Chicago

Cited below are primary reasons the Chicago Post Office Employees Credit Union was placed in this ranking and review.

Checking and Savings

When members open a checking account with this credit union in Chicago, they enjoy free direct deposit and earn a competitive interest rate without needing to maintain a monthly minimum balance. In addition to checking accounts, this credit union in Chicago features the following savings accounts and products:

  • Regular Savings: This account boasts simplicity and a competitive interest rate. It’s ideal for someone who wants an effortless way to save money and reach their goals.
  • Savings Certificates: These are designed to also offer competitive interest rates, and they’re good if you’re working to build a habit of saving money.
  • Club Accounts: These savings accounts are specifically for individuals who want to save for a certain event.
  • Money Markets: Money markets have competitive yields and no penalties for early withdrawals. Interest compounds daily and is credited monthly.

Unsecured Loans

Along with many other lending products, Chicago Post Office Employees Credit Union features unsecured loans, which can be used for anything unlike an auto loan. The minimum amount that can be borrowed for an unsecured loan is $500 while the max is $24,000.

These unsecured loans from this Chicago credit union have a maximum term length of up to 72 months. Members who obtain a loan for under $10,000 have a maximum term of 60 months. Members of this credit union in Chicago can enjoy rates as low as 9.9% APR. 

Visa Debit Card

One big factor that makes people reconsider switching over to a credit union is the belief that they will have to give up convenience. Most credit uninos in Chicago and elsewhere are eager to provide the same convenient options that traditional banks do. 

Customers of Chicago Post Office Employees Credit Union can receive a Visa Debit Card that allows them to conveniently access the funds in their checking account and make purchases in person and online. Members of this Chicago credit union can withdraw up to $800 daily while their point of sale daily limit is $1000, giving them a combined daily limit of $1,800. 

This credit union in Chicago defines daily as every 24 hours. 

Courtesy Pay

Courtesy Pay is a convenience service offered to members of Chicago Post Office Employees Credit Union, which can protect against having a check bounce or an ACH transaction being declined as the result of insufficient funds.

This service is automatically available for both types of transactions unless a member opts out. This can be done by contacting the credit union’s member services department.

When Courtesy Pay is used, items are paid even if the account balance doesn’t have enough funds to cover it at the time. Rather than having the items returned as NSF, it’s paid by the credit union.

There is no fee for this protective service unless it’s used. If it is used there is a $30 fee per item.

Related: Best Credit Unions in Pennsylvania | Review of the Best Pennsylvania Credit Unions

Maroon Financial Credit Union Review

In 1957, administration and faculty from the University of Chicago came together with a shared goal of creating a financial institution that would serve the needs of the university community while delivering reasonable rates and thriftiness. That concept led to the creation of Maroon Financial Credit Union.

Currently, eligibility has expanded to include anyone who’s part of the University of Chicago community. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff of both the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Medical Center can join. This includes affiliated organizations and family members of current members.

Key Factors That Led Us to Rank This as One of the Top Chicago Credit Unions

Elements that went into the decision to include Maroon Financial on this list are below.

Totally Free Checking

High fees are one of the primary reasons many consumers opt to become members of a credit union as opposed to sticking with a traditional bank. It’s important to highlight free and low-cost options from the names that were included in this ranking.

Maroon Financial offers its members Totally Free Checking Accounts, which are convenient and designed for short-term money storage and usage. This checking account allows users to pay for purchases, get cash, use checks, and pay bills.

The checking account can be accessed in any number of ways, including by debit or ATM card, phone banking or through the Maroon online banking portal.

Student Services

Since Maroon Financial serves the needs of the university community, it has many products, programs, and benefits aimed specifically at students. Any student of the university is eligible to join and benefit from their student services. Some of the products and services available to this population include:

  • Private student loans with no origination fees and low variable rates
  • Student Checking with a Visa Debit card
  • Preloaded Visa Gift Cards
  • Financial calculators
  • Free online banking
  • Free financial resources to help students build a foundation for financial success in the future

Online Banking

Online Banking from Maroon Financial provides the tools and accessibility members need from this type of platform. Users can view all of their Maroon accounts in a central location and also have a real-time view of their recent transactions.

BillPay e-Plus is a convenient component of online banking that lets users pay all of their bills without mailing checks, and it takes just a matter of minutes. Users can send payments on the date they choose, unlimited payments can be sent, and users can see their pending and completed transactions.

There is a large list of payees that are already set up in the BillPay system, and you can also customize it with your own payees if they’re not there.

Membership Switch Kit

When someone decides they’d like to join Maroon Financial, this Chicago credit union strives to make that transition as simple and seamless as possible. It has created a custom Switch Kit, which includes all the necessary forms and documents to make the move to this new credit union.

There are just three steps required to complete the process:

  1. Open a membership account online or in-person at a branch. 
  2. Download all the necessary forms online and mail them in. 
  3. Close your account at your previous bank and verify that all checks, card transactions, and scheduled bill payments have cleared your previous checking account 

The Switch Kit documents include a Direct Deposit Change Request, Authorization Agreement for Direct Deposit, Authorization for Canceling Automatic Payments, Authorization for Transferring Automatic Payments, Authorization for Automatic Payment, and Account Closing Request.

Popular Article: Best Credit Unions in NYC | Best NYC Credit Unions

Planites Credit Union Review

Planites Credit Union (PCU) has a history spanning back more than 61 years, and in 2015, PCU had more than $3.3 million in new loans and nearly $31 million in assets. PCU is considered well-capitalized by the National Credit Union Administration.

The goal of PCU is to provide every member with knowledgeable, friendly, and personal service.

Membership at PCU is open to employees of HCSC, FDL, Hallmark, Dental Network, and other affiliates of HCSC. Family members of employees of these organizations are also eligible for membership at this Chicago credit union.

Key Factors Considered When Ranking This as One of the Top Chicago Credit Unions

Represented below are criteria used in the selection of Planites as one of the best credit unions in Chicago.

Empowerment Program

The Empowerment Program is an exclusive offering from Planites, which is designed to help members who either need to establish, improve, or entirely rebuild their credit.

This program is multi-faceted and takes on several different areas of approach in the quest of helping members cultivate and maintain a better financial record.

There is a set of tools that are integrated into these programs, which include the Share Savings Account, a checking account, a Share Secured Loan, and a Visa credit card.

Surcharge-Free ATM Network

To make sure it’s convenient, accessible, and inexpensive to bank with Planites Credit Union, it offers surcharge ATM access. Planites is partners with three of the world’s largest surcharge-free ATM networks, which are Co-Op, Star, and Allpoint.

Members can go online and find the closest surcharge-free ATM in their area. Many credit unions might be members of one of these networks, but it’s particularly appealing for members that PCU is part of three.

Co-Op ATMs are typically in convenience stores, gas stations, and credit unions. Allpoint ATMs can be found in many retailers, convenience stores, gas stations, and eateries. Star ATMs are at credit unions and banks.

Remote Deposit

Remote Deposit is a tool that lets members of this Chicago credit union deposit checks from anywhere using their smartphone or iPad. This is available through the PCU mobile app, and it’s automatically enabled.

When members are in good standing with PCU, they have a deposit limit of $3,000 and a daily limit of $3,000, with a rolling 30-day limit of $6,000. Users simply need to endorse their check, log into their mobile banking app, select the account where they want to make a deposit, enter the amount, and take pictures of the front and back.

This saves members time and energy because they can make deposits anytime, anywhere, without visiting a PCU branch.

Loans and Credit Cards

In an effort to ensure services meet the needs of a broad base of members, Planites features many different loan and credit products.

These include the following:

  • Personal loans available from PCU are short-term and can be used to make purchases or for debt consolidation, tuition or any number of other purposes. Terms up to 36 months are available.
  • New and used vehicle loans include 100% financing, fast pre-approval options, and Payroll Deduction for convenient payment.
  • Auto refinancing is a good way to transfer an existing auto loan to Planites.
  • Visa credit cards are offered with no annual fee and a fixed interest rate. This rate is the same whether the card is being used for purchases, balance transfers or cash advances.
  • Share Secured Visa Credit Card is a good way for PCU members to rebuild their credit or establish a credit history.

Planites Credit Union - banks chicago

Source: Pexels

To browse exclusive reviews of all top rated credit unions in Chicago, please click on any of the links below

Read More: Best Credit Unions in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia | Ranking | Review of the Best Credit Unions in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia

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Conclusion – Top Credit Unions in Chicago

Chicago is a vibrant city. It has a long history and it’s a veritable melting pot of different cultures. It’s also a city where labor unions have maintained a strong presence. These factors are still represented in many of the city’s top credit unions, most of which were originally founded and chartered to cater to the needs of particular employee groups and public servants.

Working with a credit union in Chicago allows consumers to stop being defined by their bank, whether that’s in terms of high-interest rates on loans, low rates on deposits or high monthly fees. Instead, banking with one of the best credit unions in Chicago lets consumers set the standard for what they want and need in a financial institution.

Each of the names on this list of Chicago credit unions excels at providing diversity in products and services, along with convenience. The names on this list of credit unions in Chicago are not just top financial institutions but are really part of the distinctive history and future of this city.

AdvisoryHQ (AHQ) Disclaimer:

Reasonable efforts have been made by AdvisoryHQ to present accurate information, however all info is presented without warranty. Review AdvisoryHQ’s Terms for details. Also review each firm’s site for the most updated data, rates and info.

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