Alliant Credit Union Review 2021
Alliant Credit Union is a not-for-profit, member-owned financial institution that has been around for more than 80 years.
Though technically located in Illinois, Alliant Credit Union is open to members nationwide. And with more than $12 billion in assets and 500,000 members across the country, Alliant is not just the largest credit union in the Prairie State but also one of the largest credit unions in the entire country.
Before we dive into our Alliant Credit Union review, check out this quick refresher on what differentiates a credit union from a traditional bank — and why you should consider going this alternate route for your banking needs.
What Is Alliant Credit Union?
Alliant Credit Union is an NCUA-insured (National Credit Union Administration-insured) banking institution with online access for members nationwide. In addition, Alliant Credit Union offers a network of 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs across the country.
While most credit unions require you to meet at least one of their strict eligibility requirements (often location-based), Alliant makes it easy to join. Although it does have the typical eligibility requirements (member of a partner organization, relative of a member or located in a specific community), the online financial institution also allows you to become a member if you join Foster Care to Success (FC2S); joining costs $5, but Alliant will gladly pay the fee for you.
Alliant has won a number of recent awards, such as MONEY’s Best Credit Union of 2019, My BankTracker’s Best Credit Union of 2020 and Nerdwallet’s Best Bank for Online Experience of 2020.
- Easier to meet eligibility requirements than it is at other credit unions
- No monthly maintenance fees
- No minimum balance fee for checking accounts
- High APYs for checking and savings accounts
- Access to 80,000 ATMs and a $20/month refund for out-of-network ATMs
- Supplemental savings accounts for easy money organization
- A highly rated mobile app and easy-to-use website
- High fees for overdrafts with no daily limit
- Minimum balance requirement for savings account to earn high APY
- No shared branching with other credit unions and only two physical locations (both in Chicago)
Banking with Alliant: How We Rate It
Though Alliant offers a full suite of products, this Alliant Credit Union review primarily tackles the checking and savings accounts in all their flavors. However, we do include some information regarding other banking products, such as custodial accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), personal loans, auto loans, mortgages, IRAs and life, auto and homeowners insurance.
Alliant Credit Union Review: Overall Account Summary
|APY||Fees/Requirements||What We Like|
|High-Rate Checking Account||0.25%||No monthly maintenance fees; no minimum balance; does have overdraft and foreign transaction fees||$20 ATM reimbursement; lack of fees|
|Teen Checking Account||0.25%||No monthly maintenance fees; no minimum balance; does have overdraft and foreign transaction fees||Personal finance management app; gives joint ownership to parent/guardian|
|High-Rate Savings Account||0.55%||No monthly fee with eStatements||Supplemental savings account for easy organization; 80,000+ ATMs in-network|
|Kids Savings Account||0.55%||No monthly fees with eStatements||Gives joint ownership to parent/guardian; teaches kids about money management|
Checking: High-Rate Checking Account
Alliant Credit Union’s High-Rate Checking account is miles ahead of its competitors in terms of APY. When you open a high-interest checking account, you’ll get a 0.25% APY — that’s 8.3 times the national average. It also pays out a 0.25% monthly dividend when you receive eStatements and receive one electronic deposit per month.
There is no minimum balance to open a High-Rate Checking account with Alliant, and you won’t have to worry about monthly maintenance fees either. At sign-up, Alliant will provide you with a Visa debit card and a free first box of checks.
Unfortunately, not everything comes free with Alliant’s checking option. There is a 1% foreign transaction fee when using the Visa abroad, and Alliant charges a $25 non-sufficient fund fee every time you overdraft. (Many other financial institutions cap the fee at once per day.)
You can get free Overdraft Protection to prevent the associated fee, but you’ve got to opt in for it, and you must have enough in your connected Alliant savings account to cover the purchase. Alliant also offers Courtesy Pay to cover your expenses when your card would otherwise be declined (or, if you’re old-school, when your check would otherwise bounce), but there is a $28 fee associated with this. Thus, we do not encourage you to rely on this option.
Though Alliant only has two physical locations (both in Chicago) and doesn’t participate in shared branching, it makes depositing and withdrawing money very easy with a network of 80,000 ATMs across the US. And if for some reason you can’t find an in-network ATM, Alliant will spot you the surcharge — up to $20 per month.
In addition, Alliant Credit Union’s High-Rate Checking account offers fraud protection and mobile check deposit through the Alliant Mobile Banking app (more on this below).
Checking: Teen Checking Account
Alliant is also a frontrunner for best online savings account thanks to its high APY and dividend rates (0.55%), which is roughly 7 times higher than the industry average. You’d be hard-pressed to find an APY that high at an Alliant Credit Union also offers a teen account to help teens learn smart money management. Only members between ages 13 and 17 are eligible, and the parent (who must be a member) acts as a joint owner of the account.
The account offers the same APY and has the same perks and drawbacks as the regular High-Rate Checking account. The account makes it easy to transfer money to your teen, and it also includes a personal financial management app so your teen can review their spending patterns and improve their financial acumen.
Savings: High-Rate Savings
brick-and-mortar credit union or bank.
To open an account, you’ll need to deposit $5, but Alliant will pay it for you — so really, it’s like the credit union pays you to open an account. However, if you want to collect that 0.55% APY, you’ll need more than that $5. In fact, you must maintain an average daily balance of $100 or more in the High-Rate Savings account to qualify for the high APY.
There’s also fine print when it comes to monthly maintenance fees. In theory, you can get Allian’ts high-yield savings account with no monthly fees, but that’s only if you opt for eStatements. If you want paper-based statements, you’ll pay a monthly $1 fee.
Like with the associated checking account, you’ll have access to 80,000 fee-free ATMs with the high-yield savings account, and you’ll also qualify for up to $20 in ATM fee reimbursements, should you need to bank at an out-of-network location. Also like the checking, the savings account includes mobile check deposit and easy 24/7 access.
A bright spot for the high-yield savings account is its supplemental savings account option. You can open up to 19 supplemental savings accounts to organize your savings into various buckets. This can be helpful when you have multiple savings goals, like emergency savings, travel, a house down payment or a wedding.
Savings: Kids Savings Account
Much like the Teen Checking account, Alliant’s Kids Savings Account is designed to teach your children about money management. This account is ideal for children who are 12 or younger. As a parent, grandparent or guardian, you will be the joint owner on the account and thus must be a member of the institution.
The Kids Savings Account has the same 0.55% APY as the High-Rate Savings and boasts no monthly fees (again, assuming you select eStatements).
Convenience: Mobile-Friendly, Plenty of ATMs, But No Shared Branching
With a network of 80,000 ATMs nationwide, you are never far from your money — and even when you are, Alliant will pay up to $20 in out-of-network ATM fees each month.
App-based banking and the online website make managing your money from your couch or on the go easy and intuitive. In the next section, you can find out more about the mobile app.
If you enjoy the customer service afforded in physical locations, however, you will find this option isn’t for you since it is 100% online.
Mobile Banking: Alliant Mobile Banking App Review
Alliant Credit Union operates as a mostly online institution. That means its website is wicked fast and easy to navigate, and, more importantly in 2020, its app is responsive, free and easy to learn. You can download the app for Android and Apple devices. (Right now, there is no support for Windows devices; Windows users who want a mobile app for their bank of choice should instead consider the highly rated Ally Bank.)
That said, the app is top-notch when run on iOS and Android operating systems. The app allows you to view your balance (before you even log in!), log in with your fingerprint or face ID, deposit checks, reorder accounts, transfer money, set up external accounts, pay monthly bills (and establish new payees), set travel notifications, find surcharge-free ATMs and track your finances using the personal financial management tool.
At the time of writing, the Alliant Mobile Banking app had a 4.7-star rating on the App Store and a 4.5-star rating on Google Play.
Alliant Credit Union Account Fees
While Alliant Credit Union positions itself as mostly fee-free, there are a few fees to keep in mind when opening an account:
- The High-Rate Savings option carries a $1 paper statement fee each month if you don’t opt for eStatements.
- The Visa debit card that accompanies the High-Rate Checking account has a 1% foreign transaction fee. If you travel often, consider an account with a foreign transaction fee-free card or get a separate credit card with free foreign transactions.
- If you don’t have Overdraft Protection (or even if you do have Overdraft Protection but don’t have the sufficient funds in the High-Rate Savings account to cover the charge), you will pay a $25 fee every time you overdraft with no daily limit. If you use Courtesy Pay, it’s $28 per item.
Other Alliant Credit Union Products
While this review focuses on savings and checking options at Alliant, you can find information on additional products from the online credit union below. Check out the Alliant website for more details.
Alliant Credit Union offers three credit card options:
- Visa Platinum Rewards
- Visa Platinum
- Visa Signature
Certificates of Deposit
Alliant Credit Union makes investing in certificates of deposit (or CDs) easy. Beginner investors can learn more about CDs (and the CD ladder investing strategy) in this intro to CDs.
Alliant offers multiple CD options: Certificate, Traditional IRA Certificate, Roth IRA Certificate and SEP IRA Certificate, each with varying rates (from 0.80% to 0.90%) and terms (from 12 months to 60 months).
You can also open a Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA) account at Alliant; these are colloquially known as custodial accounts. These accounts are a great way to jump-start your child’s savings; you’ll manage the account in its entirety until your child reaches adulthood.
What are the benefits? The earnings are taxed at the child’s rate, rather than your own, and the account earns the same 0.90% APY that the High-Rate Savings option does.
Auto Loans, Personal Loans and Mortgages
Looking for a lender? Getting a loan from the institution with which you do your standard checking and savings banking can be convenient. Alliant offers competitive rates for its vehicle (auto and RV) loans, mortgages (and home equity line of credit) and personal loans.
- Auto loans qualify for a 0.50% rate discount when you use the Alliant Car Buying Service.
- Mortgages are available with low and now down payment programs.
- No collateral required for personal loans with current rates ranging from 6.24% (12-month terms) to 10.24% (60-month terms).
You can save for retirement with Alliant Credit Union by opening a Traditional IRA, Roth IRA or SEP IRA. If you want to create a nest egg for your loved ones after you pass, you can also open a trust account.
While Alliant Credit Union is most widely known for its checking and savings accounts, the financial institution also offers life insurance (term life insurance, accidental death insurance and whole life insurance), homeowners insurance and auto insurance.
Alliant Credit Union Customer Service
Alliant Credit Union offers around-the-clock support. Here are a few key ways to contact Alliant:
- By phone: Call 800-328-1935. (International number is 773-462-2000.)
- By contact form: Try this form for general questions.
- On Twitter: @AlliantCU
Alliant’s website also has a “Send Us an Email” option, but when you click it, it reloads the same page.
Find more contact info here.
Is Alliant Credit Union Right for You?
Year after year, Alliant Credit Union lands on personal finance sites’ lists for top checking and savings accounts (including ours!), and it’s clear why. Both its checking and savings accounts offer competitive APYs and dividends, it has a leading number of in-network ATMs, its smartphone app is top-notch and it has a broad collection of other banking products.
Trying to decide if Alliant is a good fit for you?
You’ll probably love Alliant Credit Union if:
- You want a high-interest checking and savings account with one institution.
- You’re tech-savvy and appreciate a good mobile offering.
- You have multiple savings goals you’d like to organize within your account.
- You live in Chicago.
- You’re comfortable with mobile check deposits.
Think twice before signing up with Alliant Credit Union if:
- You like in-person banking.
- You need small business banking.
- You deposit cash regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
When researching Alliant as a potential credit union, customers commonly ask these questions:
Is Alliant Credit Union Good for Loans?
Alliant Credit Union is a top financial institution for loans thanks to its low fees and borrowing rates, as well as its flexible terms. Alliant has three credit card options, mortgage loans, car loans and personal loans.
Is Alliant Credit Union Real?
Alliant Credit Union is a legitimate online credit union insured by the NCUA. That means accounts are federally insured up to $250,000.
Does Alliant Credit Union Work with Bad Credit?
While Alliant Credit Union works with members who have low credit scores, these borrowers are likely to face much higher interest rates.
How Do You Qualify for Alliant Credit Union?
Becoming a member of Alliant Credit Union is quite simple. Like other credit unions, it has general eligibility requirements, like relative of a member, member of a partner organization or resident of a specific community), but you can also join simply by becoming a member of Foster Care to Success. Doing so costs $5, but Alliant will pay this fee for you.
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Our Bank Review Methodology
n our credit union and bank account reviews, we analyze each institution’s APYs, customer service, mobile apps, fees (overdraft, monthly service, foreign transaction, etc.), minimum balance requirements, ease of ATM access, physical locations and more. In assessing how strong each financial institution is in these areas, we are able to assign letter grades for each type of checking and savings account available. In addition, we award a grade for convenience and digital banking.
Timothy Moore is a market research editing and graphic design manager and a freelance writer covering topics on personal finance, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 and has been featured on sites like The Penny Hoarder, Debt.com, Ladders, Glassdoor and The News Wheel.