Should You Bank with State Employees’ Credit Union?

FT Contributor  | 

If you live in North Carolina and work for a government organization, you may qualify to open an account with State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU). The credit union is a member-only non-profit financial institution established in 1937. As of March 2020, it holds $42.8 billion in assets and serves 2.4 million members.

SECU is known for offering a range of financial products and accounts. Customers in North Carolina benefit from its extensive network of 260 branches and 1,100 network ATMs.

The credit union offers some automated services but doesn’t specifically cater to consumers who prefer mobile banking. Learn more about SECU before choosing the right bank for you.

Who Can Join State Employees’ Credit Union?

Most credit unions allow residents to become members as long as they contribute a specific amount to an approved charity. However, SECU has stricter guidelines on who’s eligible to become a member. Only North Carolina state workers can join SECU, including employees who work for:

  • Public school boards.
  • The North Carolina National Guard.
  • Associations that benefit North Carolina employees.
  • Departments and agencies that are subject to the State Personnel Act.

Family members who live in the same housing unit with eligible members may also open accounts with SECU. Residents who receive a pension and have retired from a career with the state also qualify to become SECU members. Additionally, immediate family members and spouses of eligible members who have passed away may also qualify to become SECU members.

State Employees’ Credit Union Services

SECU offers a range of financial products and services to its members.

Checking Accounts

The credit union only offers one type of checking account. There’s no minimum balance for the account but a $1 per month maintenance fee applies. Checking account holders have access to:

Savings Accounts

To become a SECU member, you must open a “Share account” with a minimum $25 deposit. The Share account acts as a type of savings account and you can continue contributing money to it. You must keep at least a $25 balance to maintain membership and there are no monthly fees. Dividends are compounded daily and paid monthly and the amount you receive depends on your balance.

Money Market Accounts

SECU offers a Money Market Share account with a minimum $250 opening deposit. When you open this money market account, you must keep at least a $250 balance to be eligible for dividends and to avoid service fees. You’re allowed six withdrawals or transfers per month but don’t have access to checks, bill pay services, or automated clearing house debits.

Certificates of Deposit

SECU offers a certificate of deposit (CD) through its Share Term Certificate (STC) account with a minimum $250 deposit. With an STC, members can earn more interest by investing their money into an account and committing to a six to 60-month term. To earn even more interest, STC account holders can open five different accounts with separate maturity dates, referred to as “laddering” their accounts.

Credit Cards

SECU offers a Visa credit card with a 7.75% variable annual percentage rate (APR). The credit card features loan balance transfers and provides overdraft protection and rental car coverage. It offers no annual fee but is only available to North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee residents.

Mobile and Online Banking Services

As a SECU member, you can download the credit union’s mobile app to access your accounts, send and receive customer service messages, set up automatic bill pay, and transfer money between accounts. You can also sign up to receive text message alerts about your accounts.

When you set up an online account, you can use the credit union’s online banking features. These online services are limited and you can’t open a new account online. SECU offers ASK SECU, a voice response service accessed by phone. To use the voice response service, you must set up a password and verify your identity first during the call.

State Employees’ Credit Union Financial Products

In addition to bank accounts, SECU offers other financial products and services, including the following:

  • A car buying service and car loans.
  • Specialty accounts, such as a health savings account (HSA).
  • Mortgages, lines of credit, and personal loans.
  • Retirement and financial planning assistance.
  • Auto, health, life, and homeowner’s insurance.
  • Investment accounts and annuities.

SECU also offers assistance with estate planning and trusts.

State Employees’ Credit Union Customer Service

To contact SECU’s customer service department, you can call your local branch Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. You can also contact member services 24 hours a day, seven days a week or use the ASK SECU Voice Response line to obtain account information.

When you sign in to your online account or use the SECU mobile app, you’ll also gain access to your account information. You can send a secure message to the customer service department if you have questions regarding your account.

SECU Contact Information

You can reach the 24-hour member service hotline by calling 888-732-8562. Call 800-ASK-SECU or 919-839-5400 to use the ASK SECU Voice Response line.

Send a non-secure message to the customer service department by emailing info@ncsecu.org or send a secure message by logging into your online account and sending a message to the service department.

Pros and Cons of State Employees’ Credit Union

SECU customers have reported both benefits and drawbacks to being a credit union member.

Benefits

SECU has lenient overdraft policies for members, so you aren’t susceptible to high fees if you accidentally overdraft your account. There are many branches and ATMs in North Carolina, making service easily accessible to residents. If you become an SECU member, you have access to numerous accounts, wealth management services, and other financial products.

If you qualify to join the SECU, you can benefit from the various accounts and services the credit union offers. Before opening an account, review its branch locations and online services to decide if it’s right for you.

Drawbacks

While SECU does offer a mobile app, it doesn’t allow for mobile check deposits like many other major banks. You also can’t open an account online using the website. Since the credit union isn’t part of a national bank network, you may have trouble finding a branch near you, especially if you’re traveling.


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