– State Employees’ Credit Union –
When you live in the state of North Carolina, then there is a great chance that you will have a branch of the State Employees Credit Union near you, and there is an even greater chance you will be a member of this credit union.
SECU, as it is commonly known, has over 260 branches and over 1100 network ATMs for its members, making it one of the largest credit unions in the United States. It has no presence outside of North Carolina however.
To become eligible for membership, you must be a public employee of the state of NC or be related to one. The Union offers a wide variety of services to its members, and it is one of the most tech-savvy credit unions you shall find.
Almost all of its services can be performed either on a smartphone or online using their website and various apps that they offer.
It is also a one-stop-shop for its members because you shall find anything you want at their branches, from accounts to loans and even scholarships for needy students.
In addition, this is a credit union that is extremely concerned about its members, and they are always ready to help out whenever possible.
Read on for more details about State Employees’ Credit Union’s checking and savings accounts, share certificates, customer experience and overdraft fees, and why SECU is considered one of the best in the industry.
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What Is the State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU)?
The State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) is a nonprofit financial institution that is owned by employees of the state of North Carolina.
The SECU was founded in 1937 and is the second-largest credit union in the United States, both in terms of assets and membership.
As of 2019, SECU had $41 billion in assets and served more than 2.2 million members, who represent about 20% of North Carolina’s residents. The SECU has almost 6,000 employees operating in 265 branches in all counties of North Carolina.
- The State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) is a credit union owned by State employees of North Carolina.
- SECU was founded in 1937 with 17 members and $437 in assets. It was initially operated on a part-time basis from the basement of the Agriculture Building in Raleigh, NC.
- SECU is the second-largest credit union in the U.S., with $41 billion in assets and more than 2 million customer-members and nearly 6,000 employees.
Pros and Cons
- Extensive branch network in North Carolina
- Text messaging for quick account information without logging in
- Forgiving policies for occasional overdrafts on your account
- No mobile check deposit
- Not part of a national network of branches
- No online account opening
Who Is SECU Best For?
SECU offers almost any banking service you can imagine and is well-established throughout North Carolina. Consider this credit union if you want:
- Low-cost checking accounts with brick-and-mortar access
- A wide variety of products and services from the same institution
- A vast network of branches throughout North Carolina
- Access to over 1,100 CashPoint and PLUS ATMs in North Carolina
- 24/7 customer service by phone
- Numerous free document-shredding days for members every month
- In-branch services like safe deposit boxes and free notary and signature guarantee services
- A customer-owned financial institution that’s involved with the community
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Types of Accounts
- Checking Account
- Share Savings Account
- Money Market Share Account
- Share Term Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
- Other types of accounts
The SECU Checking Account pays a modest interest rate on your balance. Although you don’t earn as much as you would with a money market account, you have easy access to your cash with a free debit card, check writing, and online bill payment.
SECU does not allow you to set up external bank account links for free ACH transfers, but you should be able to establish those transfers from other banks.
- The 0.25% annual percentage yield on SECU’s basic checking account is better than what many traditional banks and even some online banks offer.
- No minimum deposit required to open account. But once the account is open, you must keep enough in it to cover the $1 monthly maintenance fee and any other charges you incur.
- There are more than a thousand ATMs in North Carolina.
- The $1 monthly service fee cannot be waived. There are other credit unions and banks with checking accounts that don’t charge any monthly fees.
- No fee-free ATM presence outside of North Carolina. You would face ATM surcharge fees when traveling out of state.
Share Savings Account
The savings account, known as a Share Account, pays interest on your money. It’s best for funds you don’t need to use immediately.
Credit unions use terminology like “share accounts” because customers are also owners of the institution, and this account formalizes your membership.
- Earn 0.75% APY on your balance.
- Pay no monthly fees.
- Open with $25 minimum (and maintain $25 in your account at all times to keep the account open).
- Withdraw cash and make deposits (cash or checks) at ATMs.
- Use your balance to help you get approved for cash-secured loans (called Share Secured loans).
Money Market Share Account
The Money Market Share Account pays more interest than the credit union’s checking or savings accounts, but you still have access to your cash.
Whenever you use a money market account, be aware that federal law limits certain types of withdrawals to six per month (ATM and in-person withdrawals don’t count toward that limit).
SECU does not provide ATM access to your money market balance, but you can transfer money to another account or request funds through a teller or automated system.
- Earn 1.60% APY on your account balance.
- Open with at least $250.
- Pay no monthly maintenance fees if you keep at least $250 in your account.
The SECU money market is competitive for a brick-and-mortar institution, and you get to bank with a local credit union. Online-only banks may pay slightly higher rates, but that might not matter unless you have a significant account balance.
Share Term Certificates (CDs)
SECU offers a variety of CDs with terms between six months and five years. The six-month CD has a particularly attractive rate, but beyond that, online banks tend to pay more. CDs start at $250 and go up from there. Below are SECO’s current CD rates:
|Share Term Certificates|
Potential penalties: SECU’s CDs are standard term deposits that may assess an early-withdrawal penalty if you take your money out before the CD matures. The penalty amount depends on the original term of your CD.
- Pay the lesser of 90 days of interest or all interest accrued as your penalty.
That penalty structure is relatively forgiving, especially for longer-term CDs like five-year options. But you’d be better off setting up CD ladders to make money available at regular intervals.
Other Types of Accounts
SECU has a wide range of product offerings. Account options include:
Health Savings Accounts (HSA): If you qualify to contribute to an HSA (by having an associated High Deductible Health Plan), you can reduce your taxable income, grow your money tax-deferred, and take tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses.
- Earn 2.53% APY.
- Pay no monthly service charges.
- Roll over any unused funds, which are not subject to annual contribution limits.
- Pay bills online or with a debit card.
After you reach age 65, you can withdraw money from your HSA for any reason without penalty. If you withdraw it for medical expenses, the funds won’t be taxed; withdrawals for non-medical expenses will be taxed.
Trust accounts: Members can also open accounts registered to a revocable living trust or special needs trust.
Investments: As a member, you have the option to meet with financial advisors through SECU. Investments are not insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), and it is possible to lose money in higher-risk investments.
SECU’s network is best for those living in North Carolina. Membership is limited primarily to employees of the government and their families.
If you’re eligible, though, you’re joining a big community. The credit union claims membership of about 20% of North Carolina’s residents.
- Call center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- It boasts solid ratings for its iOS and Android apps.
- SECU branches and free ATMs don’t extend beyond the state.
- You can’t qualify for membership by living or worshipping in a certain geographic area, as you can with some other credit unions.
How to Bank With SECU
Because SECU is a credit union, you must first qualify to join as a member before you can open an account.
Complete eligibility details are available here, but employees of the state and related agencies usually qualify. Family members of those employees typically also qualify.
Once you’re a SECU member, setting up an account is relatively easy. To find out more, visit ncsecu.org or call 888-732-8562. You can open an account in a branch, or start the process by phone and receive forms by mail.
You can fund your account with direct deposit, ATM deposits, ACH transfers, wire transfers, remote deposit, or deposits by mail.
Member Services representatives are available by phone 24/7, which is impressive for a credit union focused in one geographic area.
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Fees at SECU are straightforward and clearly explained online and in disclosures. Highlights include:
- Monthly maintenance for checking: $1
- Insufficient funds: $12 (after two free days per year)
- Stop payment on a check: $8
- Overdraft transfer: 50 cents (after two free transfers per year)
- Returned check $5
- Cashier’s check: $1
- Domestic wire transfer: $10
- International wire transfer: $25
The overdraft transfer fee is quite low compared to many banks that charge $10 to $25.
SECU can provide reasonably-priced banking services for people in North Carolina. With a vast network of branches and a broad product offering, you should be able to get your needs met through SECU.
Community involvement and free shred days are a nice perk, so you can feel good about working with a local institution.
Interest on your checking account is another bonus, although it may not amount to much (especially if you keep most of your money in savings).
SECU has a strong branch presence in North Carolina, but it could improve its online features (mobile check deposit and online account opening would be helpful).
Tech-savvy customers and those who can’t get to branches easily may be frustrated with the experience, but the bank is supposedly working on adding features.
Also, SECU is missing one of the best features of most credit union memberships: access to a nationwide shared branching network. Not all credit unions participate, but it’s great when they do.
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