Schools First Federal Credit Union opened up during the middle of the Great Depression. Many banks had closed at this time, but for an organization formed to help people, it was the perfect time. SchoolsFirst FCU was founded in 1934 as Orange County Teachers Credit Union, when 126 school employees pooled $1,200 and established a financial institution to help improve each other’s lives. The idea of the credit union caught on quickly with school employees. By the end of its second year of existence, the credit union’s membership nearly doubled, and the assets were more than five times that of the first year. Schools First FCU celebrated adding their 500,000th member in 2011 and continues to expand. Today they have over 40 local California Branches, and access to 28,000 no fee ATM’s.

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
#24
schools_first
$11.18 Billion
44 Branches
5.0

 

The Good

What makes Schools First Federal Credit Union special compared to other Credit Unions in their area? They have been serving school employees for more than 75 years, they understand the financial challenges that teachers face both in the classroom and at home.  Their products and services are designed with their members in mind. They strive in creating an ever-growing number of lower cost, higher quality offerings in an environment where your character counts more than your credit score. Compassion and a commitment to excellence are the promises and the mission of Schools First FCU to each other, to the educational system, and to every Member.

Unlike a bank, they don’t work for profit. Being a Credit Union, they work for their Members, and return earnings in the form of lower loan rates and low or no fees. Many bank credit cards charge 29.90% APR or more, but with a Schools First FCU credit card, even the most credit-challenged Member approved for credit won’t pay over 18% APR. Their credit card rates are some of the lowest we have seen, with some of them starting at only 8.5%. This is a huge plus! They also offer free checking to their members, as well as other account with return dividends, and competitive interest rates for savings.

It is easy to join Schools First FCU, you just have to be a current teacher, or retired and live around town where there is a branch close to you. They have extended their member enrollment to family members of Schools First FCU members as well. Once you join, you are a member for life. No matter where you live, even out of state, as long as your account has a minimum of $5.00. You can deposit and withdraw from over 28,000 no fee ATMs across the US.  They also have an abundance of online tools available for members and apps available to any of your Apple or Android devices.

They also have great options available to teachers to help them live on a budget, and save for the months when school is not in session like the summer saver program or a paycheck planner to help distribute your checks evenly over 12 months instead of 10 or 11.

The Bad

Schools First FCU is only located and available to people who are teachers, current or retired, and live in California.

Their interest rates on Share Certificates (CD’s) is competitive, but not at first. While they are comparable to the national average, they are still a little on the lower side when starting out. You don’t get the higher interest unless you have more money or more time to lock your money up. Also, they only offer a dividend return on Share Savings Accounts, and Investment Checking. They do have free checking but the interest on that is minimal, if you want any type of dividend return on a checking account on a monthly basis you will have to sign up for an Investment Checking Account, while no minimum balance is required to open this type of account you must carry a daily minimum balance of $1000.00, and the interest is tiered. So the more money you put in the higher interest return. Most banks operate in this fashion, but again, their interest rates are a little on the lower side, compared to other banks who offer at least .10% for just a regular checking account.

For instance:

  • $0-$24,999.00 = .05%
  • $25,000-$99,999 = .08%
  • $100,000+ = .10%

Those interest rates don’t motivate us to open an investment account and the lack of interest  for a regular checking account doesn’t either. A Share Certificate would do much better.

The Bottom Line

Schools First Federal Credit Union is designed with teachers in mind. They have many options available for their educators and want the best available for them. If you are a teacher and looking for pretty decent interest rates on Share Certificates and savings this would be a great Credit Union to join. Their interest rates for savings, certificates, and credit cards are competitive and they offer a ton of great options for their members. If you are looking for a basic checking account and don’t care too much of what the interest is they offer free checking accounts with all of the added bonuses that an investment account has, other than a dividend return. A couple of the nicest things they offer is the abundance of ATM’s  available across the nation and are no fee ATM’s and their online Apps for mobile devices are extremely comprehensive.

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