There are plenty of different banks and credit unions for you to use all across the country. Each of them has different products, perks, and disadvantages you'll need to consider when you're shopping around for the perfect bank.
What separates one from another?
Today we're going to look at First Tech Federal Credit Union. We'll be looking into their account types, products, advantages and disadvantages, and more.
A Brief History of First Tech Federal Credit Union
As a company, they were established in 1952 as the Tektronix Federal Credit Union. They have only been around for 60 years, but they have made a lot of progress in those 60 years.
As their name implies, being on the verge of technological innovations is their goal. They were using computers for their data process in 1976, using ATMs in 1979, and had a 24-hour helpline by 1985.
Additionally, they were one of the first institutions to offer mobile banking, which they started in 2000.
Currently, they have over 465,000 members and over $10 billion in assets, which makes them one of the largest credit unions in the United States.
Through the years, they have received several awards and recognition, in the past two years, they have been selected as one of the Best Banks in both Oregon and California.
Their headquarters is in California, but you don't have to live in-state to join the credit union. We will discuss the memberships requirements later in a moment.
Banking with First Tech
Like most financial institutions out there, they have a handful of different accounts they offer.
Each of them is slightly different in how they operate and the benefits you receive from them. I'm not going to cover all of them, but I'll outline their most popular options.
Membership Savings Account
Before you can open any other account at First Tech, they will require you to open a Membership Savings Account.
This is the account which solidifies you as a full member of First Tech and allows you to open up one of their other accounts. The Membership Savings Account is an extremely basic plan. There are no maintenance fees, and you will earn a 0.05% APY in monthly dividends.
Dividend Rewards Checking
This is the most popular option at First Tech.
It has no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirement. As you can probably guess from the name, the allure of this account is the dividend rate, which is a 1.58% APY currently.
The main difference with the Carefree Checking account is you won't earn any dividends with this account. This checking account is designed for anyone who wants a straightforward account without all of the bells, whistles, and fees.
Instant Access Savings
Unlike the basic Membership savings account, the Instant Access Savings earns much better dividends and they are tiered depending on how much money you have in the account.
Unlike some other savings accounts out there, you can take out your money at any time. There are no withdrawal fees or monthly fees. If you want a savings account with a decent interest rate which won't be bogged down with fees, this is an excellent option.
Much like the carefree checking, the carefree savings is a watered down version of their Instant Access savings, and it's the perfect choice for anyone who wants a simple place to put their money.
You'll still earn dividends on your savings, but it's only 0.10% APY, compared to the higher returns you would earn with an Instant Access account.
Investing with First Tech Credit Union
You can't discuss a bank or credit union without looking at their investment options. More and more banks are becoming the premier place for investing. They have both IRA Certificates and IRA Savings accounts you can open. Their certificates range in maturity length, anywhere from 6 months to 60 months.
One reason a lot of customers choose a credit union over banks is for their rates. If you plan on taking out a loan, credit unions are an excellent way to secure lower rates, but how does First Tech stack up against the competition?
If you're looking to buy a home, First Tech has four different types of mortgage loans. We are going to focus on their traditional fixed-rate home loan.
They have rates as low as 4.125% APR right now. One additional claim they make regarding their mortgage is “most purchases close within 28 days.”
They also offer several kinds of auto loans, a new car loan, a used auto loan, and auto loan refinancing. With a new car loan, which is for current models or the previous car models.
With this loan, you can get rates as low as 3.59% APR for up to 84 months at the moment. Compared to some other lenders and banks, this is very competitive.
For their used car loans, which is defined as cars within 2 – 10 model years, you can be looking at rates as low as 3.74% for up to 84 months. Just like with their new car loans, this is better than the national average for auto loans.
Joining First Tech Federal Credit Union
Like most credit unions, there are several ways you can qualify to be a member. Thankfully, First Tech makes it incredibly easy to qualify to join their credit union. There are 7 different ways you can become a member:
- Work for one of the tech or telecom companies which sponsor First Tech
- Work for the state of Oregon
- Work in Lane County, Oregon
- Live in Lane County, Oregon
- Be a family member of someone who is a First Tech member
- Be a member of the Computer History Museum (which is quick and easy to join)
- Be a Member of the Financial Fitness Association (which is also quick and easy to join)
Because of the last two qualifications, anyone can become a member of First Tech Credit Union.
The obvious draw of First Tech is their Dividend Rewards Checking account.
Their 1.57% is drastically higher interest than you'll find at a traditional bank, and it's higher than what most credit unions offer. There are a few requirements you have to meet to get the interest rate, but it's worth it.
Another benefit of choosing First Tech is the access to their fee-free ATMs.
They have over 30,000 ATMs you can use across the U.S., without having to pay any fees. Not only can you use those ATMs, but you can also walk into one of their 5,000 partner credit union branches. These credit unions are a part of their Co-Op network.
With these branches, you can walk in, make a deposit, withdrawal, or buy a money order.
Pitfalls of using First Tech Credit Union
I've discussed the benefits of being a First Tech member, but there are a few reasons they may not be the best choice for you. One of those is the lack of branches.
Unless you live in Oregon or around California, you probably won't have access to one of their branches. They have their co-op network, but even still, there is a good chance you won't live near one of those. If you want the face-to-face interaction, you should choose a larger bank.
Another drawback of First Tech is their customer service. I can't say I personally haven't had any experience with their customer service representatives, but while I was reviewing the credit union, I saw dozens and dozens of complaints about their customer service and the lack of personal relationship.
I'm hesitant to include this in the review, because every person is different, and some people give poor ratings as an overreaction, but their customer service quality kept popping up. Hopefully, you will never have any complaints about their customer service, but it's something to be aware of when you're shopping around for a bank or credit union.
My Final Verdict for FTFCU
Every person is different, and everyone has different preferences for their money and how they save and spend it. It's impossible to say which credit union is “best,” because they all have different advantages.
If you're looking for a place that is always on the leading edge of technology and can give you good rates for a checking account, then give First Tech a chance. Joining and opening an account is simple and easy, which means you won't lose much if you don't like it.
Hopefully, this review has helped you wade through the thousands of options out there. Get your money out from under your mattress and find a bank or credit union or trust.