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).
As I mentioned in the previous post, anyone can join Alliant Credit Union by joining a PTA or by donating $10 to Orphan Foundation of America. Alliant doesn’t pay me in any way if you join.
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:
From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Add Payee Notification
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.
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We have been on and off with our local CU for a long while. Mostly now it’s just a local place to bank as I have everything else at USAA. LOVE them.
Anyway, I’d say that the email is phishing: the difference between .com & .org are enough to alarm. ACH stands for Automated Clearing House and it’s here and there in regards to payments made with a debit card, if I remember correctly. If you haven’t set up any bills to pay I would be concerned~
“As I mentioned in the previous post, anyone can join Alliant Credit Union by joining a PTA or by donating $10 to Orphan Foundation of America.”
For what it’s worth, Alliant will donate this $10 on the applicant’s behalf if the applicant uses the mail-in form to join Alliant:
Alliant’s offer to donate $10 on the applicant’s behalf appears in Section 1, Membership Eligibility.
Hm, I think you are generalizing overly. You have a poor experience with one institution, is that really indicative of practices throughout an entire class of institutions? My credit union does none of these things (it is also a closed union requiring membership through certain local nonprofit organizations). How do you know some banks do not also do these things?
Any further updates? Have you tried Alliant lately? I believe they have made improvements to their website and they have also added $20/month ATM-fee reimbursements.
Harry Sit says
I’m still using Alliant for my primary checking account. Since I wrote this six years ago Alliant made improvements. I recommend it.
Here are some of Alliant shortcomings that I’ve noticed over the years:
1) Slow customer support (it takes 1-2 business days to respond).
2) Limited support after business hours. My account was locked, and not only did they not call, email, or snail mail me, nobody could help me over the weekend.
3) Joint users can’t get a debit card unless they are also part of the main savings account.
4) Joint users see the account, but can’t generate statements.
5) Consolidated statements list all accounts together, which defeats the purpose of having seperate accounts.
6) Draconian check deposit rules. They refused a $5 check, which was machine printed, had my name and address on it, simply because it wasn’t endorsed. No other bank ever required me to endorse a check when depositing via mobile app, even for much larger amounts.
7) Only one free box of checks per membership, regardless of how many accounts you have with them.
8) Security questions with pre-selected answers to choose from. It’s possible to set up your own answers, but they disallow copy and paste, which makes logging in burdensome.
9) Slow to catch up to Ally’s interest rates.
Overall, I’m glad Alliant exists and their heart is in the right place, but if you don’t need cash deposits and are ok with $10 monthly ATM reimbursements (as opposed to $20), I’d recommend Ally.
Sarah – I agree with you there.
In fact, Alliant is one of the better Credit Unions in that they at least have some 24×7 CS phone support but many other CU’s only have limited hours for support. But as you experienced – I also ran into the same thing when after hours, I was told to call back during business hours for an account related issue.
The Joint account issue is also a bit odd I’ve found just like yourself. Others who use Alliant individually won’t notice the issue but there are some oddities with how couples use Alliant jointly and rarely ever discussed in any blogger reviews.
Also at the time of signing up with Alliant and speaking to several Reps – most of them were unaware of how couples can share/view each other’s account within their own login. Most reps mentioned that if I have my own login + checking account and my wife does to — then we can simply share each other’s login credentials to view each other’s checking account, even if we made each other joint owners of the checking accounts. Again, several reps told me that’s how it works — are you kidding me?
The way joint owners of accounts share checking/savings account is cumbersome and clunky and at odds with how it works at Banks and Brokerage firms where a Couple with each their own login accounts – can easily share/view access to joint Checking accounts, etc.
Now Alliant reps cited that what a Couple could do and they cite that they see this done all the time is that 1 member account can be created and the couple would share the login. Ok fine – I could handle that – however the problem with that that an experienced Alliant rep told me is that only 1 user is the primary member. Only the primary member can perform certain account administration such as account lockout resets, etc. Even if your spouse is a joint owner of the checking/saving account – they can’t perform certain account admin functions, only the primary member can.
Again the way joint account ownership, usage, administration works is cumbersome and clunky as you and I have experienced — and I have experienced banking in such a way with other Banks where it’s much more flexible and seamless.
The other thing too is that they have a hard limit of $2000 for a transaction on the debit card and it cannot be increased even for a one-time transaction authorized in advance. I found out the hard way when trying to make a transaction that was denied. Other banks can do permanent increases or one-time increases when calling ahead to pre-authorize.
But for many others – it’ll work perfectly fine and seamless. But as you said too – I’m favoring some of the other online banks or national banks for my core banking usage.
Hi Harry, if you were starting afresh now, which would you choose or recommend for checking account that allows us to deposit cash via ATM? I’m trying to avoid the required minimum balance at brick-and-mortar bank, and currently considering Alliant Credit Union (due to deposit-taking-ATMs), but would be glad to hear in case you now have a better recommendation. Thank you.
Harry Sit says
If I’m starting fresh and I need to deposit cash, I would still choose Alliant Credit Union. My only gripe with them is the relatively lower limits for ACH transfers initiated at Alliant: $25k per day push, $100k per day pull. If you can live with those limits, Alliant Credit Union works well.
Thank you, Harry, for your helpful reply!