I joined Alliant Credit Union back in December. So far, I primarily used the savings account. Because all my bill payments are on autopilot, I didn’t want to go through all the trouble of making changes to the checking account. But I’ve come to like Alliant Credit Union more and more. I decided use its checking account for some bills.
The biggest difference is that Alliant pays 1.5% interest on the checking account balance versus others paying near zero. There are no minimum balance, no interest rate tiers or cap, and no debit card usage requirement. To get the 1.5% rate, you only have to get paperless statements and have one electronic deposit a month (ATM, direct deposit, or transfer from another account).
Although Alliant doesn’t reimburse ATM surcharges, there are many free ATMs around me — all ATMs at US Bank branches are free; so is the ATM near the cafeteria at work. Some of those free ATMs can take deposits even though they are run by someone else. It’s quite amazing to be able to deposit a check at a different bank’s ATM and have it show up in the credit union’s account instantly. It makes Alliant Credit Union feel more local.
While doing the setup for the checking account, I also learned why a credit union isn’t for everyone. Having used some mega banks in the past, I see banks do many things better than a credit union. Whether you care about those things is a different matter. I already mentioned a few small things in the previous post. Here are a few more.
Look at this odd email Alliant Credit Union sent to me:
This e-mail was generated to notify you that your ACH account has added a new Payee.
That’s the whole email; I only left out a confidentiality notice footer. Can you tell what the email is trying to say? I have a checking account and a savings account, what exactly is my ACH account and why did it decide to add a new Payee? Who is this new Payee? Alliant Credit Union’s domain is alliantcreditunion.org. How come the from-address is alliantcreditunion.com? Is it real or phishing?
If you guessed the email was triggered because I added a payee in online bill pay, you’d be wrong. Try again.
Debit Card Activation Asks for SSN and Date of Birth
I received a debit card in the mail. When I called the toll-free number on the sticker to activate it, I was asked to punch in the full debit card number, my Social Security Number and date of birth. I’m not sure if the activation toll-free number is operated by the credit union itself or a vendor. If it’s operated by a vendor, did the credit union give out my SSN and date of birth to the vendor?
I did call from my home phone. For cards issued by some other banks, I only had to enter the last four digits of the card number and the activation system used caller ID to validate against my home phone number on file. It was faster and more secure.
Frequent Security Challenges
When I log in to online banking, more than half of the time I’m challenged to answer a secret question. It doesn’t matter if I’m logging in from the same computer with the same IP address. After a while, it gets annoying. I also wonder if the frequent challenges will make the secret questions less effective. The more often I answer them, the more opportunities for criminals to intercept my answers.
Online Bill Payment Always Shows Payment by Check First
When I add a payee to Alliant’s online bill pay, it always shows it will be paid by check. It doesn’t show when it will be delivered. There’s no online directory to search for known billers for electronic payments. I learned from FatWallet forum that the system will update the payment method (electronic transfer or paper check) only after it makes the first payment. Until then, you have to schedule more lead time and assume it will be paid by a paper check.
You see providing a checking account is more complicated than doing a savings account or CD. I don’t know if Alliant Credit Union is typical among credit unions. Being one of the largest, it should be better than average. There are still rooms for improvement in many areas. That’s why a credit union isn’t for everyone.