Founded in 1934 by a group of California school employees, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union is a credit union for educators and their families. SchoolsFirst FCU is the fifth largest credit union in the United States and the largest in the state of California, controlling more than $25 billion in assets and serving over one million members. On average, members save more than $482 annually by choosing this credit union.
Membership is restricted by employment and geography. If you want to join this credit union, find out here how to become a member and if the CDs are worth it in this article.
Certificates of Deposit
Certificates of deposit, CDs, or share certificates (for credit unions) with SchoolsFirst FCU can be opened with a deposit of just $500. These accounts are federally insured by the NCUA up to $250,000 per account, per depositor.
The interest rate for this product is dependent on both the balance of your account and the length of your term. Longer terms and higher balances will earn a higher interest rate than shorter terms and lower balances.
Take a look at the current rates available in the table below or on their website.
|$500 – $19,999
|$20k – $49,999
|$50k – $99,999
Right now, the national average rate for a 6 month CD is 0.81%, for a 12 month CD is 1.28%, for a 24 month CD is 1.21%, and for a 60 month CD is 1.21%, according to recent FDIC data.
Jumbo certificates, classified as those with balances greater than $100,000 earn the highest rates albeit not by much. As interest rates continue to rise, this may become more pronounced.
You can fund this account via payroll direct deposit, ACH bank transfer, internal transfer from a savings or checking account, or check payment mailed to:
P.O. Box 11547
Santa Ana, CA 92711-1547
Interest is compounded daily and can be credited back into the certificate monthly for maximum earnings or paid out regularly to a separate account. You can link a Regular Share Savings or Share Draft Checking account to receive dividend payments or opt to receive this via check in the mail.
Grace Period and Early Withdrawal Penalties
When your account reaches maturity, it will automatically renew at the same term you applied for. The grace period is ten calendar days. During this time, you can withdraw funds from your account or make changes to your certificate without incurring the following early withdrawal penalties:
- Early withdrawal from any account within six days of opening it will cost you seven days’ interest
- Early withdrawal from a term of 30 days or less will incur a penalty equal to 30 days’ interest
- Early withdrawal from a term of between 30 days and 18 months will incur a penalty equal to 90 days’ interest
- Early withdrawal from a term of greater than 18 months will incur a penalty equal to 180 days’ interest
This fee can be waived one time for exceptional circumstances such as the death of the account holder.
You may use the balance in your Share CD as collateral for a Certificate-Secured loan. The certificate will continue earning interest while you have the loan unless the funds are needed for repayment. These loans have lower interest rates and are easier to qualify for than other personal loans. The interest rate is equal to 2.5% above the rate on your Share Certificate, which is significantly lower than even the lowest rate you can qualify for with the standard personal loan.
College Saver Share certificate
SchoolsFirst also offers a 12-Month College Saver Share certificate. This account requires a minimum opening deposit and balance to earn interest of $200. The interest rate for this account is equal to the interest rate for a standard 12 month Share Certificate, which is currently 3.55% APY, regardless of the balance.
These CDs are available to members under the age of 18 who are part of the Junior Varsity or Varsity Clubs. One per person. When the account holder turns 18, the certificate will automatically convert to a standard CD when it matures or to a Share Savings account if the balance is less than $500.
Unlike a standard CD, members are permitted to make deposits of at least $25 into this account at any time. The same early withdrawal penalties apply for 12-Month College Saver Share certificates. There must be at least one parent or legal guardian as a joint owner for this account, who is required to sign off on any withdrawals or changes.
Besides the College Saver certificate, SchoolsFirst FCU only offers standard CD accounts at this time. If you’re looking for a flexible, bump-rate, or no-penalty certificate, you’re going to have to go elsewhere.
SchoolsFirst FCU does really well in customer review platforms, especially for a credit union. Many customers praise the low fees and appreciate the variety of specialized options for teachers from loans to Summer Saver and Paycheck Planner savings accounts. SchoolsFirst is also known for having prompt and helpful customer service representatives and welcoming staff members.
Especially if you live near a branch location and plan to do some of your banking in person, you can expect excellent, personal support and an overall positive experience with this credit union. There are very few reviews that state otherwise.
The online platform is user-friendly and easy to navigate, so you can do as much of your banking digitally as you want. The mobile app could be better. It currently has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars on Google Play but only 3.2 out of 5 stars in the App Store. For Android users, the app is fine if nothing particularly special, and it’s pretty reliable and convenient to use. For Apple users, the app is not always responsive and different functionalities are difficult to use or prone to glitches.
There are 69 SchoolsFirst FCU branch locations across California including in major cities like Santa Ana, Anaheim, Long Beach, and more. This credit union has more than 28,000 in-network ATMs (including co-op ATMs) across the country that members can use without paying a surcharge. Use this ATM/Branch Locator to find a location near you.
To get in touch with customer support if you don’t want to visit a branch, you have a lot of options. You can call the member contact center at 800-462-8328 between 7 am and 7 pm Monday through Friday and 9 am and 3 pm on Saturday or the TellerPhone for your everyday banking needs at 800-540-4546 or 714-258-4100. TellerPhone is available 24/7 and it is an automated phone service.
Alternatively, you can log into your account and send a secure message if your question or concern is not urgent. This may take a few business days. For faster responses, use the chat function on the SchoolsFirst FCU website. This is available between 7 am and 7 pm Monday through Friday and 9 am and 3 pm on Saturday.
How to Become a Member
You are eligible to join this credit union if you are a current or retired school employee, including teaching staff and administrative staff. You are also eligible to join if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You are related or married to someone who is a member of SchoolsFirst FCU
- You work at a company that serves schools or districts of California
- You are a college student who is going to school for a teaching degree and required to student teach
As a specialty credit union for educators, a lot of people aren’t going to qualify for membership and there is no workaround for this (like becoming a member of a nonprofit).
If you qualify to become a member, you can complete the application in person or online. You will need to provide proof of employment or enrollment (if you’re in college) and open a Share Savings account with a deposit of at least $5.
This savings account will establish your membership with SchoolsFirst. It earns an interest rate of 0.10% on balances over $5 and there is no monthly fee. Unlimited withdrawals are permitted.
If you are under the age of 18 and applying for membership, you will complete a Junior Varsity and Varsity membership application. You will need to make a deposit of at least $5 to establish membership and $25 if you’re opening a checking account. Youth membership is required to qualify for SchoolsFirst 12-Month College Savers share certificates.
Once you successfully join, you’re a member for life even if you retire, change professions, or move to a different state or area.
SchoolsFirst FCU is a credit union for people who are tired of working with big banks and looking for a more personal experience. If you qualify for membership, you will receive great customer service whether you are banking in person or online. There are CD accounts for both short- and long-term savings goals and even an option for college students.
Overall, we recommend SchoolsFirst FCU to people who value working with credit unions and are looking for CDs with above-average rates and many terms to choose from. But if finding the best rates is your bottom line, check out the other CDs we’ve reviewed to find one that’s a better fit.