American First Credit Union CD Account Review 2024

If you're seeking a high-yield CD account, you should know about American First Credit Union. This account offers higher-than-average interest and several other perks.
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Written by Shannon Lee
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When you begin looking for places to invest your money, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices.

While banks, online banks, and credit unions all offer a wide variety of accounts, some stand out as having stood the test of time.

The certificate of deposit has been a mainstay in banking since 1961, when First National City Bank of New York created the new opportunity to save for a set period of time in exchange for a set amount of interest.

Today, many banks and credit unions offer the certificate of deposit. Here’s what you can expect from the impressive CD offered by American First Credit Union.

American First Credit Union CD Account At-a-Glance

  • Open your CD account in as little as five minutes
  • Though the credit union is open to only those in certain counties or workplaces, there are other ways to establish an account, such as becoming a member of the Children’s Museum of La Habra
  • The minimum deposit is $1,000 for this account with no maximum deposit
  • There are more than 5,000 co-op branch locations across the United States
  • The CD account has many term lengths to choose from

Compare CD accounts from several different banks and find the best APY.

Compare to Other CD Accounts

When seeking the CD account that’s right for you, it’s a good idea to compare the financial institutions and what they offer.

American First Credit Union offers a strong CD account that requires a minimum deposit of $1,000, which is more than required by many other institutions.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs requires only $500 to start, and Ally Bank requires no minimum.

American First is comparable to Bread Savings, which requires a $1,500 minimum and offers many CD terms, from one to five years.

American First has terms of three months to five years, providing a bit more flexibility.

Some banks might offer interesting perks that make them stand out, such as Marcus by Goldman Sacs providing a no-penalty CD option.

But American First stands out as well with their ease of obtaining membership, the higher than average interest rates, the wide variety of options for terms, and the quick opening of an account (once membership is established), which is a boon for busy customers.

Who is American First Credit Union CD Account For?

Any credit union is great for those who want a more personal touch with their money.

Most credit unions are dedicated to one particular area of the country or certain counties in that area, and most of them have branches where those who live and work in the area can come to speak directly to a banker.

American First Credit Union is great for those who are looking for a safe place to invest their money, a personal touch, and:

  • Those who want to earn a high rate of interest
  • Those who have a larger amount of money to invest
  • Those who want a wide variety of options for investment
  • Those who want no-hassle investing with clear terms

Top Features of American First Credit Union CD Account

Choosing an American First Credit Union CD account gives you a wide variety of features that make this a fantastic option for saving money over a long period of time.

Here are some of the reasons why you’ll want to put your money into this CD.

Easy to Open the Account

Opening an account with American First Credit Union takes only five minutes to open.

The procedure for opening the account is very straightforward and requires only minimal information to get started. There are many ways to become a member.

Low Minimum Deposit

Unlike other banks that require a higher minimum to obtain the best interest rates, this credit union allows you to open up a CD account with a deposit of as low as $1,000.

This allows you to make a strong investment to earn interest but doesn’t tie up more significant amounts of cash for the term of the CD.

As an added bonus, there is no maximum deposit, so you can earn interest even if you don’t have a large deposit.

Interest Rate is Compounded Daily

The higher-than-average interest rate is compounded daily rather than monthly as many other financial institutions do.

This daily compounding of interest can earn you more money over the life of the CD. Keep in mind that you must keep a minimum of $1,000 in the account to earn the stated interest.

Flexible Terms

The terms of the CD range from three months to five years, allowing you to plan your future finances and save money for a longer period of time.

You must keep the money in that account for that period of time to learn the stated interest, so you can prepare for that by ensuring you are investing money you won’t have to touch.

The longer term you agree to, the more interest you can earn.

Borrow Against Your Secured Funds

With a certificate-secured loan, you can borrow against any secured funds.

This allows you much more financial flexibility and helps ensure your money is working for you as best it can.

These loans can help you avoid penalties for early withdrawal and allow you to build your credit while your money continues to work for you.

How to Get Started

To get started with American First Credit Union, you must live, worship, or attend school in Riverside, San Bernardino, or Orange counties in California.

There are also 14 qualified cities in the state where residency, worship, or education can open the door to an account at American First.

You can also become a member if you are an employee of a partnering business or have a family member or roommate who is a current member of American First.

In addition, you can obtain an account at this credit union by accepting a complimentary membership to the Children’s Museum of La Habra. American First will pay for your membership for the first year and donate to them on your behalf.

Your application to the credit union takes about five minutes to complete. You can establish membership through the Regular Savings or Big Prize Savings accounts. To do this, you’ll need to provide:

  • Formal identification, which might be a government-issued ID, passport, state ID, or driver’s license
  • A complete physical mailing address
  • Your social security number and date of birth
  • A one-time membership fee, if applicable to you

The membership application is usually approved within a matter of days, and then you can begin your journey through investing with a CD and other accounts at the institution.

Rating the Features

Diving into the features of the American First Credit Union CD account can help you determine if the bank and its products are right for you. Let’s take a look.

User Experience

The bank’s website offers clear information on what to expect from each of its offerings, including the CD account.

Signing up takes only minutes. The bank has a long reach for membership, including those who are extended family and roommates of established members.

Customer service seems to be robust and the website moves seamlessly.

There are occasionally offers that are better than the typical rates for CDs and other products; users should be prepared to jump on those limited-time opportunities.

Fees

There are no fees for opening up and maintaining a CD account at American First.

However, there is a penalty for early withdrawal, so choose your term wisely.

You can have more than one CD at a time, so consider creating a “ladder” of CDs with different terms to lower the chances you will have to face a withdrawal penalty and to improve your chances of hitting a higher interest rate as the market changes.

Rates

This credit union offers higher-than-average rates for their CD account, and that rate goes up when you choose a longer term.

The rate becomes quite robust when you hit the 60-month term for the CD.

Keep in mind, however, that rates can change quickly.

The rate you get on the day you open the account might not be the same rate offered the next day.

Variety

If you decide to try something different with your money, American First Credit Union offers many ways to branch out.

You can obtain a checking, savings, or credit card here, as well as loans for your vehicle or home. Business services are also available.

Customer Support

Customer service is available around the clock via phone and email.

Bank branches, including co-op branches throughout the nation, are available during regular banking hours.

Though there is an app available, it helps customers with bank accounts and credit cards, not their CD accounts.

Access

American First serves customers in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, as well as their 14 qualified cities in Southern California.

There are five branches available in the Southern California communities of Eastvale, Orange, Brea, Buena Park, and Fullerton.

There are also over 30,000 co-op ATMs and over 5,000 branch locations across the country.

Pros and Cons of American First Credit Union CD Account

So what makes this account great, and what might make you want to pass on it? Let's break it down to the pros and cons.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the difference between a CD and a share certificate?

There is actually no difference beyond the name. A certificate of deposit is issued by a bank, while a share certificate is issued by a credit union.

Is my money safe with American First Credit Union?

American First is a member of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), which insures deposits of up to $250,000. This guarantees that if the credit union becomes insolvent, you can get your investments back, up to that amount.

I want to join American First but I don’t live in the area. Can I still join?

Though there are ways you can still join American First as a member, banking with them will be difficult if you can’t get to local branches. Keep in mind that there are robust credit unions across the United States that would be happy to serve you.

What is a “ladder” in terms of CDs and why would I want one?

This is a savings strategy that ensures you can earn interest on your money but not have it locked up for too long. It works like this: You take the amount of money you have to invest and put it into several CDs, all with different terms. So while the money you put into a three-year CD is unavailable to you, your six-month CD is reaching maturity. You can then withdraw the money from the six-month CD and reinvest it in a longer term. By doing this, you create a “ladder” where a CD matures every six months or so. This allows you regular access to your money if you need it, plus allows you to take advantage of the current interest rates.

Why are credit union investments better than bank investments?

There are pros and cons to each, but many people love investing with credit unions because the interest rates are often somewhat higher than you get at a traditional bank. On the other hand, banks tend to have more branches, while credit unions are smaller. The small reach of a credit union can often provide more personal service, however.

Bottom Line

If you have at least $1,000 to spare and like getting high interest rates on your money, this is a great option for you.

If you qualify for membership at American First Credit Union, you can not only enjoy the benefits of more personal service but can also take advantage of other membership perks, such as insurance and prescription discounts.

American First Credit Union looks at your financial life from a holistic point of view, helping ensure your financial fitness.

About Author
Shannon Lee
Shannon Lee, a versatile contributor to MoneyRates, is a freelance writer with a passion that spans over two decades. Her extensive writing portfolio encompasses a myriad of topics, ranging from personal finance and home improvement to education, relationships, and medical and health subjects. In addition to her prolific freelance career, Shannon is also a novelist. Shannon’s dedication to providing insightful and informative content makes her a valued voice in the world of personal finance.