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 credit 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.

Rank Chart
Total Assets
Number of Locations
Our Score
#1
$8.32 Billion
13
7.7
#2
$17.84 Billion
20+
7.3
#3
$66.82 Billion
260+
7.2
#15
desert_schools
$3,746,226,000
50
5.0

 

The Good

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, including:
    • Lines of Credit
  • 6 different visa cards
    • Consumer and Business Platinum
    • Bonus, and Bonus Rewards Plus
    • College Student Cards
  • Vehicle and Watercraft Loans
  • Home Equity Products
  • First Mortgages
  • Direct Deposit
  • Internet and Mobile Banking

Currently, Desert Schools Federal Credit Union offers 2 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.

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, Competitive rates as high as 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.

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, Competitive fixed rate as high as 1.31% APY, Desert Schools Federal Credit Union offers terms available from six months to five years, free Online Banking, eStatements, and Phone Banking.

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

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. Not only that but they do not seem like a credit union that is really looking out for their members. Their 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 .10% on checking and up to .20% on savings accounts.  Desert Schools Federal Credit Union has very low dividend rates all across the board with their checking accounts, savings, and CD’s.

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.

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

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. (Waived for active military). There is also an additional $5 fee if you are in excess of 6 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 member’s 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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