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LAST UPDATED: June 27th, 2019

Desert Schools Federal Credit Union is a federally insured and chartered credit union that was started in 1939. Today Desert Schools Federal Credit Union has over 300,000 members. They are based in Phoenix, Arizona, and currently operate about 50 branches and service centers throughout Gila, Maricopa, and Pinal counties in Arizona. Desert Schools is the largest credit union in Arizona, managing 3.2 billion dollars in assets as of July 2013. Membership for Desert Schools Federal Credit Union is available to any individuals who live, work, worship, or attend school in Gila, Maricopa, and Pinal counties. Additionally, family members of current or eligible members may join.

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The Good

  • Checking accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Savings certificates
  • Credit cards
Desert Schools Federal Credit Union is a fully functioning credit union and currently offers a variety of financial products including savings and checking accounts, certificates of deposit, IRAs, consumer loans, six different Visa cards, vehicle and watercraft loans, home equity products, first mortgages, direct deposit, online and mobile banking.

Checking Accounts

Desert Schools Federal Credit Union offers two standard kinds of checking accounts the Membership Checking and the Desert Connect Checking. Both types of accounts come with your standard tools for accessing your accounts but vary with different perks and requirements to set up the accounts, for instance, minimum balance requirements for opening the account initially, or a free debit card with rewards.

Savings Accounts

Desert Schools Federal Credit Union offers one type of personal savings account. Their savings account will provide you with the basic necessities to help you save for a rainy day or emergency. The account includes dividends paid monthly, unlimited transactions at Desert Schools ATMs, rates at 0.05% APY, unlimited over-the-counter transactions, two free ATM withdrawals per month at select networks (Desert Schools ATMs are always free), and access to products and services made just for the local community.

Savings Certificates

A Desert Schools Savings Certificate lets you decide how much and how long you want to invest, beginning at just $1,000 for a short six-month term. To continue building your savings, simply take no action at certificate maturity, and it will renew automatically for the same term at our current rate and has the following benefits for their members: no monthly or annual service fees, $1,000 minimum deposit, and competitive fixed rates. Desert Schools Federal Credit Union offers terms available from six months to five years, free online banking, eStatements, and phone banking.

Credit Cards

Probably the best thing that Desert Schools Federal Credit Union offers its members is the multiple credit cards options available to choose from. Every member has different needs, from lower interest rates to rewards, to even better rewards, business credit cards, and even a college student credit card for those who are trying to learn how to build credit.

The Bad

  • Non-competitive rates
  • Service fees
  • Limitations on ATM withdrawals
  • Hidden fees
There is not much information available about Desert Schools Federal Credit Union. There is no back story to relate to as many other credit unions like to be personable and relate to their members. There is nothing that describes how they were started, or what their history is only the facts about assets and membership numbers are made available.

Non-Competitive Rates

Desert Schools Federal Credit Union's rates are minimal, they say their rates are competitive, but they are not at all compared to other credit unions out there that will offer more than .10% on checking and at least .20% on savings accounts.  Desert Schools Federal Credit Union has very low dividend rates all across the board with their checking accounts, savings, and CDs.

Service Fees

In addition to the most minimal rates, they charge a monthly service fee on their checking accounts. The current fee is $7 per month! There is, however, a way to avoid the monthly service fee by meeting certain criteria or use of products such as:
  • Direct deposit of $750 per cycle
  • 25+ transactions per cycle this can include branch visits or ATM use
  • Daily Minimum of $2,500

Limitations on ATM Withdrawals

Desert Schools Federal Credit Union also will tack on an additional charge of $2 for ATM withdrawals if you exceed the two free monthly withdrawals with their co-op ATMs while other credit unions have the co-op ATMs benefit that won't charge a single penny. They are mostly surcharged free out of 30,000 ATMs, but somehow not for Desert Schools Federal Credit Union.

Hidden Fees

Lastly, digging a little deeper they have fees hidden everywhere! Not just with the checking account or with the ATMs, but for savings as well. There is a fee of $5 when you have a Limited Membership. This is if a person only sets up a savings account without the checking account (that you might pay $7 a month for). The fee is assessed per statement period after the first 90 calendar days and will be waived with any additional non-savings account or $200 combined average savings balances. This is waived for active military. There is also an additional $5 fee if you are in excess of six withdrawals per statement period.

The Bottom Line

Even though they are accredited with the Better Business Bureau, Desert Schools Federal Credit Union does not seem to be a credit union with their members' financial needs and goals at the heart of their establishment. The credit union way is "people helping people." The way they have their fee schedule set up is contrary to that mantra. Some credit unions might have a few fees here and there for other types of things, but never for ATMs or for exceeding a certain number of transactions per month.  Desert Schools Federal Credit Union seems more interested in collecting their members' money and then really not giving anything back to them based on their incredibly low dividend rates. Desert Schools Federal Credit Union is not a great option for those seeking a financial institution in Arizona.
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Ron Peoria, AZ

I have been a member for about 20 years and have found that getting things like an auto or home equity loan to be easier than dealing with traditional banks. Free notary also is nice if you need it. Over all though the customer service is what keeps me loyal to Desert Financial. They have some of the best customer service I have found anywhere. Very good business.

5 years ago

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Melanie Alarcio

I have been a client for over 10 years and I just had the worst experience with this bank that prides itself for taking care of their clients. I deposited a check on 7/25/17, at a branch I don't normally go to, and we were told that there would be a 3-day hold on the check. It's been 4 days, and no funds - so I called the bank - and got the unfortunate experience of speaking with a pompous, disrespectful know-it-all named Mark (he refused to give his last name - but the call was on Saturday, July 29, at around 10-10:30 AM, Arizona time). Funny thing was, he did try to help but his supervisor told him to tell me that next time to just do business with the bank the check came from - in essence, I believe he just told me to bring my business elsewhere. Really? And the attitude - WTF? - he truly made me feel that I was begging for the money that I had worked for, he made me feel like I was stealing my own money, and the reason they gave for holding the check (the bank was not going to release it till August 3 - first time this has ever happened with any of my deposits to their bank, by the way) - was illogical - I don't know if this is now the NEW credit union - I like the people and service in my regular branch, but this phone call - they were basically saying they didn't want my business. SO, MAYBE, YOU THE READER WHO READS THIS REVIEW - THEY DON'T NEED YOUR BUSINESS TOO!!!!

6 years ago

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Tanner Cook Gilbert, AZ

Desert schools is not the bank to go to if you’re looking to help establish credit. They only offer you high interest rate, and you can probably find a better deal at a regular bank. It’s probably a different story if you have more established credit

5 years ago