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The Benefits of a Credit Union Checking Account

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A checking account is the basic banking tool that everyone needs. Whether you're paying for groceries on your way home from work with your debit card, getting paid via direct deposit, or making a purchase online, your checking account is probably involved.

While a checking account is a necessity, paying monthly fees and overdraft charges is not. Credit union checking accounts offer an attractive, less costly alternative to traditional bank accounts and come with the same conveniences. Let’s look at checking accounts and why a Florida checking account at a credit union is a smart choice.

Checking Accounts: Function and Types

Checking accounts are essential for making everyday withdrawals at an ATM, and for making payments via debit card or check. Most accounts have no limits on withdrawals, deposits, or electronic transactions, and some pay interest. Most checking accounts today have online bill pay features, too. Balances are generally federally insured up to $250,000.

Checking accounts come in several varieties. Here are some standard options:

Traditional Checking Accounts

These accounts usually pay little or no interest. Most checking accounts charge monthly maintenance fees if your balance drops below the minimum. Joint accounts allow two or more people to write checks and make deposits on shared assets.

Premium Checking Accounts

These checking accounts are for those who maintain a high balance. Account holders generally avoid fees and earn interest on their funds.

Business Checking Accounts

Business accounts are for small business owners and other commercial entities. Authorized owners and employees can use the business checking account to cover expenses.

Student Checking Accounts

High school and college students can open beginner checking accounts with no balance requirements and low or no maintenance fees.

Getting to Know Credit Unions

Credit unions and traditional banks offer the same basic products to customers: savings and checking accounts, loans, and credit cards. Credit unions may offer a narrower choice of products, such as one or two credit cards with one rewards option, versus the more extensive selection of cards with different rewards plans available at some banks.

While the selection may be smaller, the accounts or products at credit unions are usually very competitive. They typically have lower fees, higher interest paid on accounts, lower interest charged on loans, and reasonable terms.

The reason credit unions can be more competitive is their ownership structure. Banks are for-profit businesses that answer to shareholders. Credit unions are nonprofit institutions owned by members who elect a board of directors to run them. Member deposits represent their share in the business, which is why their accounts are often called “share savings" or "draft" accounts. Credit unions reinvest profits into their products via lower fees and more favorable interest rates. That’s why many call interest earned on accounts “variable dividends.”

Account Fees at Banks vs. Credit Unions

Banks make money by charging fees for maintaining accounts, transferring money, overdrafts, or using an ATM at a different bank. You can avoid some fees by maintaining higher balances, limiting transactions, or only using a bank's branded ATMs.

On the other hand, credit unions are non-profit organizations that reinvest profits to offer more favorable terms, including lower fees.

Some credit unions, such as Power Financial Credit Union, have eliminated overdraft fees. And if you sign up for Courtesy Pay, your payments will go through even if you have insufficient funds. 

Surcharge-Free ATMs and Shared Branch Networks

Most credit unions are based in a specific geographic area with limited locations. For example, Power Financial Credit Union's branches are located in South Florida. However, our members can access as many or more fee-free ATMs nationally as those at major banks with branches in multiple states.

Many credit unions participate in the national Co-op Shared Branch Network with other credit unions across the country. This gives members access to 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs and allows account holders to travel and avoid out-of-network ATM fees.

Personalized Customer Service and Community Focus

Unlike banks, credit unions typically have membership requirements based on where you live or work, your school or industry, membership in a particular organization or union, or other criteria. You can usually qualify if someone in your family is already a member.

Because credit unions are tied to serving a region, business, or specific community, they tend to be community and member-focused. They are known for catering to members with better in-person member service at their branch locations, more support for local businesses, and specially timed loan promotions.

For example, a credit union may offer a special auto loan promotion at a time when their members typically receive their annual bonus. Because credit unions have local knowledge, they are able to better serve their membership.

Exploring Florida Checking Account Features at Credit Unions

Credit unions in Florida offer different terms and offers—just like banks. For example, one large credit union offers a checking account that earns interest with tiered rates as long as you maintain a minimum balance of $10,000. Another has a "green" checking account that is paper-free and pays 0.50 APY on balances with no minimum.

Compare that to Power Financial Credit Union: their Cash Back Checking account offers a 5.12% APY on an account with a minimum $20 balance and a maximum of $15,000. The requirements are simple: just use your debit card for purchases at least 12 times per month, use bill pay three times per month, and get statements online. They also have standard checking accounts, college student accounts, and special accounts for teens.

Other Features to Consider

While fees, interest payments, and balance requirements are important considerations when choosing a banking institution, here are two other features to consider when shopping for a Florida checking account at a credit union:

Technology – It's a common assumption that credit unions don't offer the convenience and technology you can get at traditional banks. However, many do offer a myriad of online features. For example, Power Financial Credit Union's highly rated mobile app allows members to conveniently and securely handle many transactions on the go, such as depositing checks and transferring money.

Rewards – Cashback or mileage rewards are common credit card benefits. They can be found on some checking accounts, too. The Power Financial Credit Union My Rewards program lets members earn cash back for using their debit card at participating merchants.


Credit unions are non-profit institutions that offer no or low fees, higher interest rates on checking and savings products, and more personalized service than for-profit banks. With the national Co-op Shared Branch Network and mobile baking, a credit union can be just as convenient as a traditional, for-profit bank.

Power Financial Credit Union is one of your best options when you're looking for an ideal Florida checking account. Members especially appreciate our high-interest Cash Back Checking account and the fact that we charge no overdraft fees.

Take the time to learn about the checking accounts at your credit union as well as the other financial services they offer. If you live, work, or attend school in South Florida, explore the attractive, competitive options at Power Financial Credit Union.