You probably won't be surprised to hear there are over 6,000 different banks in the United States. In fact, you could probably name about 20 banks off the top of your head.
When you're shopping around for a place to put your money, it can be an overwhelming search trying to find the best fit for you and your cash. Every bank and credit union has different rates, perks, and products you need to compare when you're searching.
To help you on your search for the perfect financial institute, I've reviewed some of the most popular banks and credit unions out there. We are going to look at Alliant Credit Union, who you may not have heard of, but should be one your list of contenders.
A Quick Background of Alliant Credit Union
They are not the oldest credit union, having been founded in 1935, but they have made a huge impact and seen significant growth in the past 80 years. They currently have over 335,000 members across the United States and have over $9.3 billion in assets.
They have quickly become one of the largest credit unions in the U.S.
Just by looking at the “About” page, you can tell a lot about the credit union and their business model.
Alliant's “Service Mission” is to provide members with an opportunity to take control of their economic future, promote financial well-being among members and our community, and create a source of credit at a fair and reasonable rate of interest. All of those sound like excellent goals if you ask me.
Banking with Alliant
If you want options for your checking and savings account, Alliant has you covered. They have several different options for banking, I won't be detailing all of them, but I'll outline some of their most popular.
The most notable account they have is their High-Rate Checking account. With this account, you won't pay any monthly maintenance fees, no minimum balance requirements, and no maximum balance limit. As an Alliant member, you'll have access to over 80,000 ATMs without having to pay a surcharge.
What makes this account so special?
Currently, it's their 0.65% APY. According to their website, this is 9.3x the national average (as of 1/18/2018).
If you want a checking account which will make you a little extra money while it sits there, this is going to be one of your best options.
One of the other popular options is Alliant's High-Rate Savings.
Their savings account allows you to enjoy a 1.30% APY, as long as you have an average balance of $100 or more in the account. To open the account, you have to have a tiny $5 initial deposit, but Alliant will even pay it for you.
Just like with their checking account, if you have a savings account, you'll be able to use their Alliant Mobile and Online banking. This allows you to deposit checks, transfer money, and much more.
Free Teen Checking
If you're a parent of a teenager, you know they are not the best when it comes to money.
It's never too soon to start teaching them the importance of managing their money. Alliant can help.
If your child is between the ages of 13 – 17, you can open them a Free Teen Checking account, and you'll have joint ownership of the account. There are no minimum balance or monthly fees for the account, and your child will get a free Visa debit card for the account (you'll get one with your name on it as well).
Borrowing with Alliant
One reason credit unions stand apart from a traditional bank is their loan rates, and Alliant is no different.
If you're looking for a financial institution where you can not only stash your money but borrow some as well, Alliant should be close to the top of your list.
For car loans, they have some excellent options (depending on your credit score). If you're buying a new car, you can snag a 2.49% APR. For a used car (10 – 15 years old), you can get a rate as low as 2.74%.
Aside from car loans, they also do mortgages and personal loans.
Some of the notable benefits of getting a mortgage with Alliant is you can get 0% for qualified first-time home buyers and 3% down for everyone else.
There is no application fee or escrow waiver fee, and their origination fee can be as low as $995.
Now, on to their loans. You can get a loan anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000 with rates as low as 12.15%. All of their personal loans are unsecured, meaning you don't have to put up any collateral.
I can't review a bank or credit union without including an investing section. Investing is not their main focus, but they do have a couple of products to be aware of.
They have a low minimum deposit certifications, starting at $1,000 and larger certificates starting at $25,000. Their rates go as high as 2.30%, and dividends are compounded every month.
They also have traditional, and Roth IRA accounts you can open. Their IRA accounts seem to be pretty comparable to other credit unions.
You can transfer money in or out of the Alliant IRA without paying any fees, and your dividends can automatically be reinvested.
If you're looking for some help with your investing, Alliant offers retirement and investment services at no cost or obligation. They can customize an investment plan for you and help you reach your retirement dreams.
Joining Alliant Credit Union
Every credit union has different requirements you have to meet in order to become a member.
For most credit unions, the requirements are “live, work, or worship,” meaning you reside, work, or are apart of a group in the same town as the credit union.
Luckily, Alliant has much more flexible requirements to become a member. In fact, their requirements are lenient enough for anyone to join.
There are five different wants you can qualify to be a member:
- You are an employee or retired employee of one of their partner businesses (which you can find on their website)
- You are a family member of someone who is an Alliant member
- You live in a community near Alliant's Chicago headquarters
- You are apart of one of their qualifying organizations
- Or, you can join the Foster Care to Success non-profit (for as little as $10).
Joining the credit union is quick and simple. You have to provide some basic information, and the whole process can be completed online.
Areas where Alliant Falls Behind
So far, I've looked at the places where Alliant shines, and there are several of them, but on the other side, there are a few places where Alliant doesn't make the grade.
The obvious area is their branch location.
Like most credit unions you won't have access to thousands of branches like you would with a big bank. In fact, unless you live in the Chicago area, you probably will never step foot in one of their 11 branches.
They make it easy to handle all of your transactions online, but if you value face-to-face transactions, you should look somewhere else.
Another one of those areas is their overdraft fees (kind of).
For every transaction you make, and you don't have the money in the account, you'll be charged $25. There is no limit on how many times you can be charged overdraft fees.
Alliant does offer overdraft protection, meaning they will transfer money from your savings account to pay for those transactions, but you will still pay a $3 fee.
I can't personally speak to the quality of the customer service, but after reading dozens of reviews, a lot of their customers were not happy with the service they received. Every person is different and should expect to get different experiences from customer service, but you should be aware of the dozens of complaints in regards to their customer service.
My Final Verdict
Overall, Alliant Credit Union is an excellent option for anyone looking to open a checking account or savings account. They have excellent rates, no hidden fees, and they make it incredibly simple to open the account. If you're also looking for a place to secure a loan, they have some of the best rates out there.
I can't tell you if they are the perfect option for you, because everyone is different, and each person has different preferences on their banking.
If you want a bank which has excellent rates, check out Alliant, if you want plenty of branches you can walk into while you're traveling, don't even bother going to their website.