Multiple locations; 800-462-8328; schoolsfirstfcu.org
Established in Santa Ana in 1934 by 126 school employees who pooled together $1,200, what was originally called the Orange County Teachers Credit Union became the largest teachers’ credit union in the nation by the early 1980s and had 600,000 members by 2014, according to the financial institution’s timeline.
Run by and for educators, SchoolsFirst FCU offers a no-interest Classroom Supplies Loan for those who need materials and tools beyond what their classroom budgets allow. Member benefits do not end there.
Drawing on information from the Credit Union National Association, the National Credit Union Administration and the interest rate website Datatrac, SchoolsFirst FCU says members who use the credit union’s service save an average of $1,923 per year when compared to banks in California. The consummate pedagogical institution, SchoolsFirst FCU also offers appointments with financial advisers as a free benefit for all members.
Current and retired school employees are eligible for membership, as are the immediate family of SchoolsFirst FCU members. A once-a-member, always-a-member policy applies, provided you maintain a $5 minimum balance in your Share Savings account.
2. Wescom Credit Union
Multiple locations; 1-888-493-7266; wescom.org
A member-owner base of almost 200,000 and about $3.5 billion in assets does not keep one of the self-identified largest credit unions in the country from stressing the importance of individual attention to those who join.
Throughout its 26 branch locations in Southern California, Wescom Credit Union offers savings, checking and money markets accounts, as well as IRAs and a variety of professional-if-personalized financial services, such as customized retirement planning and products to build an investment portfolio.
The credit union can help a family foster fiscal responsibility and financial security from a young age with several youth account options. The PiggyBankers Account for those up to age 10 offers rewards to encourage healthy spending habits among kids, according to the Wescom site, while Fortune Finders for adolescents between 11 and 14 gives young persons the chance to open their first checking account.
Teenagers between 15 and 17 who become Gen Edge Account holders can get a debit card and — with a qualifying parent or guardian acting as co-borrower — they can obtain a Wescom Visa credit card as well.
3. Orange County’s Credit Union
Multiple locations; 1-888-354-6228; orangecountyscu.org
Orange County’s Credit Union reports having more than $1.6 billion in assets. Given that it is owned by members — not shareholders — the money the credit union earns goes back to its 106,000-plus member-owners “in the form of fewer fees, lower loan rates, and enhanced products and services,” a press release says.
The credit union offers an Adjustable-Rate-Mortgage that, according to cardrates.com, is on average as much as 0.207% lower than APRs available through several big banks.
In addition to ensuring ongoing customer satisfaction, in 2019, the credit union received the Peter Barron Stark Companies’ Award for Workplace Excellence for its commitment to outstanding company culture as determined by employee feedback. Based on a 96 percent rate from its 316 associates, Orange County’s Credit Union announced an overall satisfaction score almost eight-percentage points higher than the Best-of-the-Bench benchmark.
Best of Orange County 2019: Best auto repair
Best of Orange County 2019: Best bank
Best of Orange County 2019: Best car dealership
Best of Orange County 2019: Best dental group