The Best Banks and Credit Unions In California For 2023

best credit union in california

Banks and credit unions are financial institutions that receive deposits and offer loans, among other kinds of transactions. Customers are required to create accounts with respective institutions to carry out their daily transaction activities. Both credit unions and banks accept personal and joint accounts. In this article, we will focus on the best credit unions in California. We will also check the best banks within the same state.

As I have mentioned above, you require an account to receive services in either a bank or credit union. A credit union or bank account helps to distinguish various customers from one another. It could be messy if people just took money to banks without having unique entities (bank accounts) as the institutions would not be able to account for the various kinds of transactions.

Additionally, banks and credit unions offer loans to account holders. However, loans from banks attract high-interest rates compared to those from Credit Unions. There are various types of loans that you can get from either of the institutions. You can have personal loans, mortgage loans, car loans, and home equities, among others. You can also get payment cards such as debit and credit cards in either institution.

Difference Between Banks and Credit Unions

Even though banks and credit unions are financial institutions, some differences arise between the two. The following are the differences between banks and credit unions.

i) Banks are profit-oriented while credit unions are not

Banks usually operate to make money via various kinds of activities. There are many fees in several types of transactions that cumulatively earn a lot of money for banks. Credit unions, on the other hand, are not profit-oriented. The main aim of such institutions is to uplift the members financially. They have fewer fees, and their interest rates are low.

ii) Banks are privately owned or publicly traded, while the members own credit unions

Banks are either properties of individual businessmen or women. Therefore, the sense of ownership is directly shifted to an individual or a particular group of people. Members own credit unions. They are there to help members grow financially and achieve various goals in their lives. The members run the credit unions, and therefore they have a significant say on matters of administration and generation of revenue.

iii) Banks have insurance with FDIC while credit unions insure funds with NCUSIF

Both agencies ensure that money belonging to various account holders is safe even when the concerned institution collapses. You can insure funds for up to $250,000 per account.

Similarities Of Banks and Credit Unions

Despite the above differences, banks and credit unions have some similarities. First of all, both types of institutions require users to have accounts that hold their funds. You can get a checking account in a credit union as well as in a bank. Moreover, you can also have a savings account in any of the institutions.

Secondly, some banks and credit unions allow you to manage your account online. You can withdraw, pay for goods and services, and check your balance and the previous transactions. You can open your account online with most banks and credit unions.

Additionally, banks and credit unions offer loans to account holders. However, loans from banks attract high interest rates compared to those from Credit Unions. There are many categories of loans that you can get from either of the institutions. You can have personal loans, mortgage loans, car loans, and home equities, among others.

You can also get payment cards such as debit and credit cards in either institution.

best credit union in california

Best Banks In California For 2022

If you are searching for the best bank in California to open an account with, then any of the following will be of great importance.

1) Ally Bank

The bank is an online financial institution with one of the best online savings accounts with 0.50% APY that offers excellent growth potential. The minimum deposit for the account is $0. There are no fees or minimums for the account. If you love online banking, then this might be the best bank to go for.

Furthermore, Ally Bank is interested in checking accounts so long as you have a daily minimum of  $15,000. Interestingly, Ally Bank has an ATM locator, mobile check deposit, digital account statements, and automatic bill pay, which you can access right from the app using your smartphone.

It also works with Zelle so that you can send and receive money from friends and relatives. Additionally, Ally Bank offers $10 fee reimbursements per statement cycle when you use an out-of-network ATM.

2) Bank of the West

You can have a savings account with 0.01% APY and earn something out of your saved money. However, you need a minimum deposit of $25 to get started. You will also need to part with a $5 monthly fee for the account. You can operate your bank account online over the user-friendly website and mobile app. Furthermore, the bank offers in-person services, and thus you can speak one on one with customer care to get any necessary assistance.

The Bank of the West also offers mobile banking services that allow you to track your transactions, check balances, pay online, and send money to others. You can also get a money market account at the bank and start earning from your money.

3) Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo is among the best banks you can ever find in California. The bank offers a checking account with 0.01% APY. You require a minimum deposit of $25.  Even though the APYs are low, the bank has many branches across California where account holders can access services. It has around 1,000 branch locations in the whole state. You will also get a wide range of savings options. If you want a large and popular bank, Wells Fargo might be the best choice.

There are multiple checking and savings accounts that you can get at Wells Fargo. The bank also has credit cards and various kinds of loans that you can get for personal development. You can also run your account online using a mobile app.

4) CIT Bank Savings Builder Account

Open the Savings Builder Account and earn 0.40% APY. The bank is one of the high-paying banks on one’s savings. However, you will need a minimum of $100  to make interest on the account. You can also opt to maintain a minimum balance of $25,000 to earn the APY. Interestingly, the account has no monthly fees. You will therefore save a substantial amount of money for other transactions.

The CIT Bank has a mobile money app that you can use to carry out various kinds of transactions. You can get the app for both Apple and Android devices from the respective websites and get started. If you have a large amount of cash to save, this is the best account.

5) U.S. Bank

The U.S. Bank is best for customer service. It has a savings account that earns  0.01% APY.  You need a minimum of $25 to open an account with the bank. For customers who may wish to bank in person, then the bank is very suitable for them. It has hundreds of branches in California, and thus it is a very convenient bank to work with.

Furthermore, the US Bank has different products such as checking accounts and money market accounts. That can as well help you with various financial transactions. You can also get credit cards and various kinds of loans for your economic growth.

Best Credit Unions In California for 2022

There are various credit unions in California that you can join as we speak. They include the following:

1. Alliant Credit Union

Alliant is among the best credit unions for personal loans. It gives you checking and savings options. Its free High-Interest Checking account gives you a 0.25% APY that you can rely on to grow your money. However, you need to meet various qualifications to qualify for the APY.

The account has no monthly service fees, and you can be sure to preserve a lot of money when you open one and start saving. There are over 5,000 ATMS around the state that you can use to withdraw money. Interestingly, Alliant has a savings account that pays a 0.55% APY.

2. Golden 1 Credit Union

Golden 1 credit union has easy-to-meet membership requirements for people living in California. You can get low interest rates on basic accounts. The credit union charges overdraft fees up to six times a day. Again, the credit union requires $0 to open a primary checking accountant and  $1 for basic savings.

If you like the in-person assistance, then the Golden 1 Credit union suits you. You can also get a debit card to link to your account and access money in various ATMs around. The union is one of the best credit unions for small businesses.

3. First Tech Federal Credit Union

The credit union is best for user experience. Also, it is the 3rd largest in California. It is a member-owned credit union that provides financial services to its customers. It serves manufacturing employees and their close family members. The credit union has an app that offers easy access to banking services.

You can also get a credit card from the union and use it for various kinds of transactions. Customer care is always available, and you can call (855) 855-8805. You can also visit their website and get help.

4. SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union

It is the largest credit union in California, serving thousands of customers. The cooperative union is a member-owned credit union that allows members to get education services to members as a community. Immediate members of the family can join the credit union.

You will also benefit from debit cards to help you when making transactions either online or in-store. You can get services at the office any day of the week except on Sundays.

5. Star One Credit Union

Being the 4th largest credit union in California, Star One Credit Union serves the members diligently. The union has more than 113,000 members and assets of total $10.23 Billion. Furthermore, the credit union is member-owned, and the immediate family members can also join.

Various reviews rate this credit union, 4-5 stars, meaning that it is a financial institution you can rely on. As a member, you take loans such as Mortgage loans, car loans, and so on.

Final Verdict

Banks and credit unions provide financial services to people with accounts in such institutions. Credit unions have savings accounts that earn more APYs compared to banks. However, banks are good for checking accounts since they are uniformly distributed around the state and the country in particular. Like banks, credit unions allow you to have debit cards to use for your day-to-day transactions.

Spencer Tierney is a writer and expert on certificates of deposits at His work has been featured by USA Today, MSN, SF Gate, the Los Angeles Times, NerdWallet and more. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English at UC Berkeley.