Intro – Dispelling Credit Union Myths

It’s difficult to become a member of a credit union because the requirements are so rigid. My employer doesn’t offer a credit union, so I can’t become a member. Credit unions only have a few branches around town, so they’re hard to access.

No credit union has online and mobile banking. I need to bank where there are plenty of products and services to choose from, which isn’t the case at a credit union.

Do any or all of these sound familiar?

These are some of the most common myths consumers may believe about credit unions, and it’s these untrue beliefs that lead them to miss out on the advantages of working with Cincinnati credit unions and Columbus credit unions.

In reality, most credit unions have completely moved past the above myths, and many offer very inclusive membership policies, shared networking that makes them accessible all over the country, and even advanced technology such as mobile apps.

Credit unions also tend to offer many advantages to consumers, ranging from dividends paid on deposit products to low interest rates on products such as mortgages and auto loans.

Best Credit Unions in Cincinnati & Columbus Red Award Emblem

Award Emblem: Top 15 Best Credit Unions in Cincinnati & Columbus

The following list represents the very best credit unions in Cincinnati, Ohio, as well as the best credit unions in Columbus, Ohio. Each of the names on this list excels in terms of customer perception, the availability of a diverse selection of products and services, and many other factors that are relevant to the average consumer when selecting a financial institution.

These Cincinnati credit unions and Columbus credit unions offer excellent alternatives to the conventional bank, and operate as member-owned cooperatives, putting the power back into the hands of the people who manage their money there.

AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top 15 Best Credit Unions in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio

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

Related (Please Review):

Top Credit Unions in Cincinnati & Columbus

Credit Union


Anheuser-Busch Employees Credit Union (ABECU)


AurGroup Credit Union


BMI Federal Credit Union


Cinfed Credit Union


CME Federal Credit Union


Columbus Metro Federal Credit Union


Emery Federal Credit Union


Farmers Insurance Group Federal Credit Union


First Service Federal Credit Union


General Electric Credit Union


Kemba Credit Union


KEMBA Financial Credit Union


Pathways Financial Credit Union


Sharefax Credit Union


Telhio Credit Union


Table: Top 15 Best Credit Unions in Cincinnati & Columbus | Above list is sorted alphabetically

Methodology for Selecting Top Banks and Credit Unions

The entire methodology used when selecting the best credit unions in Columbus, Ohio, and the top credit unions in Cincinnati was based on the consumer. This means that AdvisoryHQ began the ranking and review process by researching all of the credit unions in the area. We then compared them to a list of member-centric criteria, such as fees, availability of products, reputation, and convenience and accessibility.

We were then able to create the final list of the Top 15 Credit Unions in Cincinnati and Columbus, based on a signature ranking methodology.

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 Cincinnati and Columbus

After carefully considering the top Cincinnati credit unions and Columbus credit unions, we created the following list of the best 15. As you continue reading, you’ll find detailed reviews for each of our selections, as well as highlights of why these particular credit unions were selected.  

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Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union Review

Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union has a history of providing a valuable alternative to big name banks for more than 80 years. Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Unions are located not just in Columbus, but also throughout the country.

Membership at this best credit union in Columbus, Ohio, is open to people affiliated with Farmers Insurance. This includes employees, agents, and agents’ employees. It also includes employees and agents of Farmers New World Life, immediate family members of current members and eligible non-members, retirees, and employees of Farmers Financial Services.

Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union - Top Credit Unions in Cincinnati & Columbus

Image Source: Top Credit Union Firms in Cincinnati & Columbus

Key Factors Leading Us to Rank This Firm as One of This Year’s Top Credit Union Firms

Upon completing our detailed review, Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union was included in AdvisoryHQ’s ranking of this year’s best credit unions based on the following factors. 

Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union Review: High Yield Checking

Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union is a favorite among Columbus credit unions for many reasons, including the availability of convenient, simple checking accounts that also offer big rewards.

One of the signature accounts is the High Yield Checking, which lets members earn 2.02% on balances up to $5,000. For balances above $5,000, the rate is 0.3%. Other benefits of this checking account include loan discounts of up to 0.5% and a 0.25% rate increase on certificates.

There is also an available ATM surcharge rebate of up to $10 per month. This account has no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees and includes a free Visa Debit Card.

Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union Review: Shared Branches 

If you’re considering membership in a credit union, but one thing holding you back is the fear that there won’t be many branches, or that convenience and accessibility will be an issue, Farmers Insurance is a great option. This Columbus credit union is part of a shared network of more than 5,000 branch locations. This allows members to bank almost anywhere.

When visiting a shared branch, members can make deposits, withdraw cash, make payments on their loans, transfer money, and more.

Farmers Insurance FCU is also part of the CO-OP ATM network so that members can access their money at more than 30,000 nationwide ATMs for free.

Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union Review: ClickSWITCH

ClickSWITCH is an advantageous member service that is based online and is secure. It lets members move existing Direct Deposits and Automatic Payments to the credit union in a matter of minutes.

When you make this move, you receive discounts on certain loan products, as well as even more competitive rates on savings products.

Additionally, if you’re a Farmers employee, you get paid a day early.

When you use this member service, the credit union manages all of the paperwork, phone calls, and follow-up, so the switch is as easy as possible.

Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union Review: Personal Loans

Along with a full selection of traditional loans, including vehicle financing and mortgages, Farmers Insurance FCU also features personal loans, so you can borrow money for the reasons that matter to you. Loans feature flexible terms and a simple application process.

For example, the Signature Loan is ideal for making a large purchase, paying for educational costs, consolidating debt, or anything you need it for, and it has no prepayment penalty. There are terms up to 60 months, and members can borrow up to $40,000.

Also available is the Signature Line of Credit, which lets users access funds when they need them, and it can be used as overdraft protection for a checking account.

First Service Federal Credit Union Review

First Service Federal Credit Union is one of the best credit unions in Columbus, Ohio, and is open to anyone who lives, works, or worships in Franklin, Delaware, Fairfield, Licking, Madison, Morrow, Pickaway, or Union Counties.  

First Service FCU offers products with no or low fees, as well as competitive loan rates and a full line-up of options to suit a range of consumer needs. For example, First Service offers free checking, certificates and money market accounts, retirement accounts, and more. Members can also finance homes and vehicles, as well as obtaining personal loans and personal lines of credit through First Service.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as a Top Credit Union in Columbus, Ohio

Essential reasons First Service Federal Credit Union is part of this ranking are detailed below.

Prestige Checking

There are many versatile and flexible checking account options available to members of First Service, and one of those is the free Prestige Checking account. This account has no monthly service fee and unlimited transactions, but members also receive the added advantage of Cash Back discounts when they use their First Service CheckCard for transactions.

Prestige Checking also includes the following:

  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Free BillPay
  • Free online account access
  • Free First Service FCU mobile app
  • Overdraft Protection is available
  • Bonus dividends on Certificate Rates
  • Discounts on auto loan interest rates

STS Loan

Available from First Service are a full selection of loans and financing options, and one of the most distinctive is called the STS, which stands for “Short Term Solution.” The STS Loan is a personal loan that can be used to cover emergency and unexpected expenses. The loan is available in amounts up to $1,000, and members can apply for it online or in a branch. They can also call for information.

Other personal loans available from First Service include a Computer Loan, which is ideal if you need to purchase a computer for home, school, work, or personal use.

The First Reserve is a Personal Credit Line that lets users transfer funds from the credit line to a Prestige or FirstChoice Checking account.


MobiMoney is a free app available to members of First Service FCU that protects their debit card from fraud. This app provides complete control of debit cards from anywhere.

With the MobiMoney app, members receive alerts if there is potential fraud happening, and they can also decide when, where, and how their card is used from their mobile phone.

Other mobile apps from First Service FCU include Mobile Check Deposit that lets users take a picture of a check and remotely deposit it to their account. Apple Pay is available for debit card users, and it delivers enhanced security features to make payment more secure.

The 1st CU Visa spp is available for Visa credit cards, and it lets members get balance and transaction information, activate new cards, make payments, and more.

First Time Auto Buyer

First Service offers quite a few youth account options, and they also have the First Time Auto Buyer Program. With this program, first-time car and auto buyers can receive an Auto Loan Pre-Approval before visiting a dealer. It’s during this time a First Service representative will discuss affordable rates and payment schedules.

There are fixed-rate options, no application fees, and no bump up rates. The fixed payments are easy to plan for and budget for, and there are no early payoff penalties. Additionally, there is a discounted processing fee when you make payments with a FirstChoice Checking account.

Pathways Financial Credit Union Review

Pathways Financial Credit Union is a Columbus-area credit union network that includes the integration of four Central Ohio Credit Unions. These credit unions include Members First, Powerco, and Western, all of which became part of Pathways in 2012. In 2013, WECU Credit Union also became part of this network. While each branch is part of Pathways, they also bring to the table independence and distinctive advantages.

Through this coming together of these premier credit unions, members of these Central Ohio financial institutions enjoy innovative new products, competitive prices on products and services, and more efficiency and profitability, which is passed on to the members. 

Pathways Financial Credit Union - Top Ranked Credit Unions in Cincinnati & Columbus

Image Source: Leading Credit Unions in Cincinnati & Columbus

Key Factors That Enabled This to Rank as One of the Top Credit Unions in Columbus, Ohio

As part of the review and ranking process to create this list of leading Columbus credit unions and the best credit unions in Cincinnati, the following criteria were considered with regard to Pathways.

Shared Branch Network

All of the credit union locations that are part of Pathways are also part of the larger and more extensive Shared Branching Network. This means that in addition to many locations throughout central Ohio, members of Pathways can also visit more than 5,000 branches across not just the U.S., but even in foreign countries. This is part of Pathways’s participation in the Credit Union Service Center’s Shared Branching network.

At Shared Branching locations, members can cash checks, make deposits and withdrawals, make payments on loans, obtain cash advances, and transfer funds between accounts.

Pathways is also part of the Alliance One ATM Network, which is a nationwide collection of surcharge-free ATMs in most states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Overdraft Protection

For the convenience and peace of mind of members, Pathways offers a variety of overdraft protection programs, designed to provide coverage if you have an emergency or make a mistake in your account.

With a Pathways Premier Checking account, for example, members can link to their Share Savings Account, which then provides coverage for purchases up to the amount held between the two accounts.

Overdraft Privilege is optional, and it ensures that overdrafts are covered and payments are made, and you can then pay the credit union back later. With this, the account isn’t charged for every day that it’s late, which is the case with many other banks. Instead, the charge is only per occurrence, and members have 30 days to bring their account back to good standing.

With $10 Grace, the program covers overdrafts made from Pathways Premier Checking Accounts. If the account is negative $10 or less, there is no overdraft fee charged or a daily charge.

Swipe2Save Checking

Swipe2Save is a checking account option from Pathways that provides rewards for members making everyday purchases. Each time you use your debit card, the purchase is automatically rounded to the next dollar. For the first six months, this checking account is open, the credit union matches the rounded-up amounts, up to $50 per month. Then, the corresponding savings account that earns rounded-up amounts also earns a 5% APY.

Other perks of this account include unlimited transactions, dividends paid on average daily balances of $250 or more, and overdraft protection options.

Online Bill Pay

Pathways offers many conveniences for members, including the It’sMe247 Bill Pay program. With this, members don’t have to buy stamps or sign checks, and they can pay their bills anytime and from anywhere that’s convenient for them.

This bill pay program includes automatic enrollment for members who are signed up for online banking, and it’s fully integrated with online banking. There is full mobile functionality, and users can even set up convenient email alerts and reminders.

There are reminders if a member’s balance isn’t sufficient to cover bill payments, and there’s a permanent history register for up to 18 months.

If you use this to pay just one bill a month, the service is free.

Sharefax Credit Union Review

Often considered one of the best credit unions in Cincinnati, Sharefax Credit Union was started by employees of Ford Motor Company in 1960. It was named after the Sharonville Ford Plant and the Fairfax Ford Plant. Since that time, this Cincinnati credit union has grown to include 30,000 members from 12 counties and 400 companies and organizations from throughout the Cincinnati Metro.

All funds and insured by the National Credit Union Administration, and anyone who lives or works in counties including Adams, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Fayette, Greene, Hamilton, Highland, Montgomery, Preble, and Warren Counties can join, as well as employees and members of local companies and organizations.

Key Factors That Led Us to Rank This as One of the Best Credit Unions in Cincinnati

Notable reasons Sharefax is considered one of the best credit unions in Cincinnati are detailed in the following list.

Free Checking

If you’re searching for a simple, convenient checking account that’s also free, SCU has an excellent option. The Basic Checking account not only carries no monthly fees, but also no minimum balance requirements, and there are no minimum monthly debit transactions required.

You also receive the following with this account:

  • 100 basic free checks per year
  • No quarterly or annual maintenance fees
  • No per-check charges
  • Overdraft protection is available for qualified members
  • E-Services
  • Sweep Account options

Money Market Checking

If you want a checking account that earns dividends and also has many other benefits even beyond the Free Basic Checking account, SCU offers the Money Market Checking account. This account is a tiered dividend earning checking option, with a limit of three checks and six total overall electronic withdrawals per month.

You earn dividends when your daily balance exceeds the minimum, which is $1,500. The rate structure is based on your daily balance, and dividends are paid and compounded monthly.

Investment Services

Offered through Sharefax Financial Services are a range of investment and retirement-related services for members.

The SFS team can help members of this Cincinnati credit union determine the investment and retirement accounts that meet their needs in terms of income, security, and long-term care. Through the financial services division of this credit union in Cincinnati, members can also see where they minimize their taxes and plan for a thriving retirement.

Specific services and products available through SFS include:

  • Fixed and variable annuity options
  • Mutual funds
  • Private pensions
  • Estate taxes
  • Health insurance
  • Disability advisement
  • 401(k) and 403(b) plan review
  • IRA rollover consideration
  • Roth IRA

Electronic Services

To provide complete convenience and accessibility to members, this credit union in Cincinnati, Ohio, offers a range of electronic services.

Online banking is free and gives members account access 24 hours a day from anywhere. Through the online banking portal, members can see their account balance and history, view loan balances, see images of cleared checks, pay bills, make transfers, and change their PIN.

Also available are e-Statements, e-Alerts, and the option to sign up for text alerts.  

To browse exclusive reviews of all top rated credit unions in Cincinnati & Columbus, Ohio, please click on any of the links below

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Conclusion—Top 15 Credit Unions in Cincinnati and Columbus

What is it that sets one credit union apart from the others, and makes it a distinctive and value-creating financial services provider for members? While everyone’s definition of a good credit union might vary slightly, there are some things most every consumer is looking for. This includes the availability of free or low-cost deposit accounts, and the opportunity to earn competitive interest rates.

Many people are also searching for lending opportunities outside of a conventional bank loan, with flexible structures and terms and the opportunity to grow and move forward financially, without the burden of an unsustainable or ill-suited loan.

These are just a few of the many key considerations that went into the creation of this ranking of the best credit unions in Cincinnati, as well as the top credit unions in Columbus, Ohio. Each of the names on this ranking breaks through the myths consumers might hold onto regarding credit unions, and instead, they all excel in many areas and offer benefits that might not be available from a mainstream, big name bank.

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.

Note: Firms and products, including the one(s) reviewed above, may be AdvisoryHQ's affiliates. Click to view AdvisoryHQ's advertiser disclosures.