We love credit unions — they’re part of our social fabric and a force for energizing communities everywhere. As not-for-profit member-owned institutions, they have a model that returns excess earnings to those who generate them through more affordable products and services and a commitment to community philanthropic support. Whether large or small, urban or rural, in-branch or online, all credit unions seek to match their mission of giving to the members and communities they serve.
California’s credit union community is exemplary in that regard. California has the largest state economy in the US and many pressing needs. All Californians can count on the state’s credit unions and their members to support people struggling with unmet financial needs.
After much reflection, our team compiled this categorical list of California credit unions based strictly on their merits. We regularly speak with credit unions nationwide and look for examples of institutions helping their members and bettering communities. These California credit unions have the products and commitment to do that.
Note: Credit unions may offer membership based on geography, industry, or academic affiliation, among other categories — please check to ensure you qualify for membership.
Best for Educators: SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union
Credit unions usually originate to serve members based on location, occupation, or workplace, and SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union is all about teachers. SchoolsFirst founded the Education Foundation for California Schools with the Orange County Department of Education to support California schools and teachers through grants that fuel innovation and foster student excellence from kindergarten to community college.
The SchoolsFirst Member Education Award scholarship program awards scholarships up to $500 that students can use to cover expenses and purchase supplies. The program recognizes students who perform well in class and demonstrate leadership and community involvement.
During Teacher and Classified School Employee Appreciation Weeks each May, SchoolsFirst holds a sweepstake to reward teachers with prizes.
More about SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union
- Founded in 1934 to serve California school employees and their families
- California’s largest credit union and the fifth largest in the nation, with more than 1 million members and $25+ billion in assets
- Created the Education Foundation for California Schools with the Orange County Department of Education
- Awards scholarships of up to $500 through the Member Education Award program
Best for Rewards: Premier America Credit Union
It’s the rare household that doesn’t use some form of credit as a strategic asset. Savvy credit union members know credit clears the way for improvement in other areas of life. The savviest consumers use credit card rewards to generate additional income on top of the other benefits credit access provides.
But card rewards can be complicated. Premier America Credit Union prides itself on offering some of the best and most accessible rewards around. The Premier Privileges Rewards Mastercard® offers 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases, so there are no obstacles. Members may redeem rewards for travel, merchandise, gift cards, events, activities, and statement credit.
Premier America’s Premier Privileges Rewards Mastercard® is a portal to getting the things you want.
More About Premier America
- Founded in 1957 and serving more than 100,000 members in Ventura and Los Angeles counties and Harris County, TX
- Manages more than $3 billion in assets
- Premier Privileges Rewards Mastercard® pays 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases
- Use rewards for travel, merchandise, gift cards, events, activities, and account credit
Best for Digital Services: First Tech Federal Credit Union
Can you imagine not having a phone or computer? Not only do many credit union members bank remotely, but technology access is imperative in the modern world, the key to success in life and work.
Ironically, people below the poverty line, who may need technology the most, often have the least access to it. The tragedy is that many people still have the old, unwanted tech they no longer use. Fortunately, First Tech Federal Credit Union operates a virtual volunteering portal enabling members and the public to give back online.
Members and the public may use the First Tech Federal website to donate old, unwanted tech to Free Geek in Portland, Oregon, Interconnection in Seattle, Washington, and Tech Exchange in San Jose, California, where the credit union is headquartered.
More About FirstTech Federal
- Founded in 1952 to serve employees of the Hewlett-Packard and Tektronix technology firms
- The third largest credit union in California and the ninth largest in the nation
- Partners with select employer groups, including HP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Microsoft, Agilent, Intel, Cisco, Amazon, Nike, Intuit, and Google
- Facilitates technology donations in California, Oregon, and Washington
Best for Auto Loans: Travis Credit Union
Access to reliable transportation is fundamental to success in life and work, and nothing beats having your own wheels. Friends and family members may be there to take up the slack, and buses and rideshares are always available. But when you absolutely need to be somewhere, getting there through personal transportation is best.
But cars cost money, and only a few people buy cars with cash. Obtaining a vehicle loan through Travis Credit Union puts you in the driver’s seat and does it affordably.
Travis offers instant prequalification, 1% cash back on refinancing, and even a 90-day deferral on your first payment. Through Travis, it’s easier to secure reliable transportation for getting to school or work and to the next level.
More About Travis Credit Union
- Founded in 1951 and manages 24 branches and $4.7 billion in assets
- Almost in the top 10 of California credit unions at number 12
- Offers a prequalification tool for credit cards, auto loans, and personal loans
- Members receive 1% cash back for refinancing non-Travis auto loans
Best for Youth Accounts: Foothill Credit Union
Credit unions provide essential financial education and guidance to help community members of all ages, including students, better understand how to make financial services work for them. Foothill Credit Union goes further with the philosophy that nothing beats learning by doing, and for that, they offer Youth Accounts.
Foothill’s Youth Accounts start with Moneyland, which offers children as young as eight the opportunity to create and manage an account for as little as $5. With Money 101, students from nine to 12 begin to receive educational sessions. MoneySmart offers teenagers a parent-authorized debit card and the opportunity to earn a scholarship. And MoneyBound helps those aged 18-24 manage their money and finance educational and other expenses.
Foothill Youth Accounts help budding credit union members through each step of their financial journey.
More About Foothill Credit Union
- Founded in 1958 and serves 280+ employer groups in the San Gabriel Valley
- Offers school districts, educational institutions, and healthcare employees exclusive savings opportunities
- Caregivers may start youth accounts for children as young as eight
- Offers affordable student loans in partnership with Sallie Mae®
Best for Credit Building: KeyPoint Credit Union
A good credit score opens doors of opportunity that compound advantages and create additional options. But everybody has to start from square one.
Fortunately, starting from scratch at KeyPoint Credit Union is easy with the Credit Starter loan, available to all without a credit history. KeyPoint deposits a $500 loan in a member savings account to secure repayment. Members receive access to the funds after they pay the loan with on-time payments.
KeyPoints Credit Mender performs almost the same function for members who have experienced credit setbacks. Approved members can receive a loan of between $500 to $2,500 at 3.99% APR, with on-time payments securing the funds.
KeyPoint’s Credit Starter and Credit Mender loans broaden access to credit and all the opportunities it offers.
More About KeyPoint Credit Union
- Founded in 1979 to serve technology employees
- Provides free financial education programs to foster financial literacy and mentor individuals and business professionals
- Offers hardship assistance for consumer and auto loans
- Credit Starter and Credit Mender loans help members build and rebuild credit
Best for Home Equity Loans: Logix Federal Credit Union
A home purchase is the biggest purchase most people ever make, and homeownership is the key to wealth building. Home equity loans and lines of credit can open doors to additional opportunities as a smart source of cash.
Logix Federal Credit Union’s home equity loans offer some of the best rates in California. Members may borrow up to 80% of their combined loan-to-value with no points, closing costs, or annual fees on loans up to $250,000.
The loans offer low “interest only” minimum monthly payments and instant access online or with free PrimeLine checks. In addition, interest may be tax-deductible.
Meanwhile, the line of credit offers a much lower introductory rate for the first year. It’s a great way to leverage your home as an asset to build a better future.
More About Logix
- Founded in 1937 for employees of Lockheed Aircraft
- 96% of members say they would recommend Logix to their friends
- Donations and volunteerism through the Logix Community Stars Foundation supports local charities
- More than 15,000 4- and 5-star ratings in online reviews
Best for Savings Accounts: Patelco Credit Union
Savings accounts may not be obsolete, but they have been less relevant and competitive over the past few years. Fortunately, Patelco Credit Union offers a solution through its Money Market Account, which provides the same benefits of a savings account with a tiered interest structure that rewards savers.
Unlike most Money Market products, Patelco’s tiered Money Market account provides the highest rate at the lowest end of the scale — 2% on deposits of up to $2,000.
The rate decreases from there, but for deposits up to and around $25,000, it’s highly competitive, and Patelco includes a rate calculator to help members compute returns at different levels.
Patelco enables members to maximize the opportunities a savings account provides.
More About Patelco Credit Union
- Established in 1936 by employees at the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company
- Serves more than 450,000 members in Northern California communities and employees at 1,100 large and small businesses
- Manages $9 billion in assets
- The credit union’s Money Market account offers higher APY than a traditional savings account and lets members write checks
Best for Financial Literacy: Ventura County Credit Union
Credit unions typically dedicate significant resources to promote financial well-being for all, but Ventura County Credit Union goes the extra mile.
The credit union’s comprehensive Financial Center includes a Security Resource Center to tackle fraud prevention and identity theft. Workshops and webinars help members stay up to date on financial trends.
Ventura also provides workshops for businesses and organizations on financial foundations, preparing for retirement, investing, small business essentials, and financial caregiving, among other topics.
The credit union also partners with Affinity Trusts to provide living trust and estate planning workshops. The BALANCE Financial Fitness program provides access to free counseling, tools, and webinars. And a partnership with Everfi offers free personalized financial learning.
Ventura Credit Union members have all the tools to learn and plan productively.
More About Ventura County Credit Union
- Started in 1950 in the Ventura County courthouse
- Serves more than 75,000 members and manages $1+ billion in assets
- The nonprofit Foundation of Ventura County Credit Union helps underserved community members and promotes sustainability, health, and well-being
- Comprehensive Financial Education Center offers a wide variety of resource
Best for Military Members: Navy Federal Credit Union
America calls on military service men and women to sacrifice in service of their country. They endure months and years away from home and family, often in harm’s way. The work is hard, and the pay leaves a lot to be desired.
But service members make these sacrifices for the greater good because they know they’re helping preserve and extend the things we all value.
At the same time, military personnel, their families, and their colleagues in the federal government have real-life plans for the future, just like the rest of us. More than 12 million service men and women turn to Navy Federal Credit Union, a full-service institution dedicated to improving financial health and well-being for all.
More About Navy Federal Credit Union
- Founded in 1933 by a small group of naval employees
- Now serves more than 12 million officers and enlisted men and women in all branches of the military, veterans, Department of Defense employees, and family members
- The largest US credit union, managing more than $150 billion in assets
- Widely recognized and rewarded for providing a superior customer experience
Since the idea for credit unions started in 19th-century Germany, credit unions have built a long history of seeing people through economic ups and downs. It’s no different in California. All California credit union members can expect outstanding products and services and that extra something to make the state better for everyone. We hope you use this list of top California credit unions to find the best financial products and services for your area and occupation.