Is BECU a Good Credit Union?

FT Contributor  | 

The Boeing Employees’ Credit Union, also known as BECU, was originally established in 1935 by Boeing employees at the time. Originally organized as a credit union for Boeing employees only, today BECU allows residents of Washington state, as well as those that live in certain counties of Oregon and Idaho, to join. BECU members feel like they’re a part of a growing family — the credit union’s charter was changed in 1977 to allow all members to retain lifetime memberships with BECU.

You may be wondering why you need to become a member of a credit union just to open a bank account. Banking with a credit union is different from a regular bank and comes with perks, such as lower fees and costs on items such as checks or overdraft charges. Members also typically have access to special member discounts at partner businesses.

When you become a member of a credit union, you’re considered an owner. Most members have something in common with you, such as the place you live, your profession, or the university you attended.

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions — any profits a credit union generates are passed back to its members as low-cost products and services, as well as monthly dividend payments on certain accounts. If you or a family member work for Boeing or you live in the areas of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon that BECU serves, the bank may be ideal for you.

BECU Account Options

BECU has the typical range of bank account types you’d expect from a full-service bank. They include:

Checking Accounts

You can open two types of checking accounts with BECU. Both have no minimum balance requirements, no monthly maintenance fees, and free access to a network of over 30,000 ATMs nationwide. The two accounts available are:

  • Member Share Checking: BECU’s basic checking account with an annual percentage yield (APY) of 0.01%, designed for customers who don’t need a lot of features from a bank.
  • Member Advantage Checking: The credit union’s premier checking account with an APY of 1.0%, offering higher, relationship-based interest rates on linked certificates of deposit (CDs), individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and money market accounts. BECU will also refund up to $6 in out-of-network ATM fees.

Savings Accounts

Similar to BECU’s checking accounts, there are no monthly fees or minimum balances for the savings accounts. All savings accounts come with a free ATM card for withdrawals. Federal regulations limit you to six withdrawals per month, but the rule is temporarily suspended during the coronavirus pandemic. There are three types of savings accounts:

  • Youth Savings: For young adults ages 13 to 18. The account can’t be opened online — the young person must visit a local branch, accompanied by an adult. Once the account is open, they’ll receive a premium rate of 4.07% APY on the first $500 and a 0.02% dividend.
  • Member Share Savings: BECU’s standard savings account. You’ll earn an interest rate of 0.02% and a dividend of 0.02%.
  • Member Advantage Savings: Customers with a Member Advantage Checking account qualify for the matching Member Advantage Savings account. The account earns higher interest at a rate of 2.00% and a 0.02% dividend for balances over $500.

Money Market

A money market account from BECU may be the best combination of a checking and savings account. You’ll earn a higher interest rate and have the ability to write checks from the higher-interest account.

Money market accounts are considered a savings account and are therefore limited by federal law to six withdrawals per month. The limit is temporarily suspended, but it’s something to think about when deciding between a checking or money market account.

Besides the 0.02% dividend for members, the amount of interest you’ll earn is based on your balance:

  • $0 to $9,999.99: 0.05%; 0.10% for Member Advantage;
  • $10,000 and up: 0.10%; 0.30% for Member Advantage.

CDs

To guarantee the amount of interest your savings earn for a set period of time, a BECU CD may be the best option. You’ll need at least $500 to open one and are subject to the following:

  • $500 to $49,999: Terms of 12 to 47 months, 0.15% APY for a standard CD and 0.40% for a Member Advantage CD;
  • $50,000 and up: Terms of 12 to 47 months, 0.20% APY for a standard CD and 0.45% for a Member Advantage CD.

Pros and Cons of BECU Bank

When weighing whether banking with a credit union is right for you, consider the following pros and cons of BECU.

Benefits

  • No monthly maintenance fees;
  • No minimum balance requirements;
  • Checking accounts are interest-bearing;
  • Full-service financial institution offering a variety of accounts, loans, investment products, and retirement planning;
  • Nationwide access to a network of 30,000 ATMs;
  • BECU mobile banking app;
  • Lifetime membership;
  • Deposits insured up to $250,000;
  • Besides a competitive interest rate, earn a 0.02% dividend on your savings balances.

Drawbacks

  • Membership is limited to Boeing employees or individuals living in Washington and select areas of Idaho and Oregon;
  • Comparatively lower CD rates;
  • Limited regional branch locations.

Who Does BECU Work Best For?

BECU is best for individuals living in the Pacific Northwest area who can qualify for the Member Advantage accounts by making at least one electronic transaction per month. This includes transactions such as receiving a direct deposit, scheduling at least one online bill pay, or purchasing items with a linked debit card. If you can handle this requirement, you’ll be able to earn higher interest rates on all your accounts, including checking accounts.

How to Open an Account at BECU

To open an account, you’ll need to sign up for membership first. Once you’re a member, you can open an account online or by visiting a local branch. You’ll need:

  • A government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license, passport, or state-issued ID;
  • A Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN);
  • Contact information, including home address, email address, and phone number.

If you know someone who already banks with BECU, they can provide you with a referral code. Both of you will earn a $100 referral bonus when you successfully open an account.


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