With over $18.4 billion in assets, Golden 1 Credit Union is the seventh-largest credit union in the United States and the second-largest in the state of California.
It offers a wide range of banking products and services, including direct deposit checking, savings, money market accounts, CDs, and home and auto loans.
Most deposit accounts require a small initial deposit, however, many accounts have low fees or no fees. Membership is open to California residents, or those who work in California.
What Is Golden 1 Credit Union?
Golden 1 Credit Union is a Sacramento-based credit union with over 1.1 million members. Customers appreciate the best-in-class banking experience Golden One provides, as sometimes the “best bank” is actually a credit union institution.
The credit union offers a variety of low-fee and no-fee financial products similar to what you would find at larger banks, including deposit accounts, credit cards, consumer loans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and 529 college savings plans.
Golden One has 72 branches throughout the state, and also several mortgage and home loan centers. Additionally, it boasts a large network of over 30,000 free ATMs through Golden 1 and CO-OP networks.
Golden 1 Credit Union Checking Accounts
Golden One offers four (4) different checking accounts, including two (2) fee-free accounts.
1. Free Checking
This account is a great option for consumers looking for a basic, no-frills account. Your account balance does not earn interest, but it has no monthly maintenance fees, no minimum balance requirement, and there is no minimum deposit to open an account.
Other account features include free mobile, online, and text banking services, mobile check deposits, and a free first box of Golden One checks.
A free debit card may also be available, subject to financial approval including credit score review.
2. MarketRate Checking
This account offers you a smart way to earn a return on your money if you regularly keep a high balance in your checking account. The MaketRate account pays the annual percentage yield (APY) of a high-yield savings account, but it offers all the flexibility of a spending account with the ability to make unlimited transfers and withdrawals.
There is a $15 monthly account fee, but the fee is waived for maintaining a minimum daily balance of at least $10,000 or enrollment in Golden Prestige (for members 62 or older).
Dividends are paid for a minimum daily balance of at least $1,000.
Like the Free Checking, the account offers mobile and online banking, text banking, free mobile deposit, and a free first box of checks. A minimum $25 deposit is due upon account opening.
3. Premium Checking
There is an $8 monthly fee for this checking account, but the monthly fee is waived if you maintain a daily balance of at least $500, set up direct deposit with a recurring paycheck, or have a combined balance of at least $5,000 across Premium Checking and other qualifying accounts. It’s also waived for Golden Prestige members.
While it is a dividend-earning account, interest is only paid out on balances of at least $1,000. If you regularly keep a daily balance of at least $1,000 and have a direct deposit set up, this account may be a good option.
Like other Golden 1 Credit Union checking accounts, this account comes with a first free box of checks, mobile banking, mobile check deposit, and text banking. A minimum $25 deposit is due at opening.
4. Student Checking
This account is designed for students and young consumers at the start of their banking journey. This is a fee-free account with no minimum deposit due and no monthly maintenance fees.
The Student Checking account doesn’t pay interest, but it comes with many other perks including mobile and online banking, mobile deposits, a contactless debit card (if approved), card management features to set alerts and transaction limits, Zelle integrations, and getting paid up to two (2) days early with enrollment in direct deposit.
The card is designed for students aged 13 to 24 years old. Upon the age of 25, the account will automatically convert into a Free Checking account.
For account holders under age 18, a parent or legal guardian must be a joint owner. Minors can still make purchases or deposits without the joint owner signing off.
Golden 1 Credit Union Savings Accounts
Golden One has many savings accounts to help consumers set aside money for a rainy day, including youth savings options.
1. Regular Savings Account
A basic savings account for savers who want a safe place to stash their money. Only $1 is needed to open an account, and it’s an easy way to establish membership with the credit union.
Balances of at least $0.01 earn interest with dividends paid out monthly, and this account may be linked to another Golden 1 account for overdraft protection.
APYs are tiered, with the highest rate at 0.20% for balances over $100,000.
2. Additional Savings Account
The Additional Savings Account is similar in set-up to the Regular Savings Account. There’s no minimum balance required and no monthly maintenance fees. An initial deposit of $1 is needed to open an account and balances over $0.01 earn tiered APY dividend rates.
Account holders earn an APY dividend of 0.05% for balances up to $10,000, 0.10% for balances up to $100,000, or 0.20% for balances greater than $100K.
You can also link this account to your Golden One checking for overdraft protection.
If you have another Golden 1 deposit account balance of over $250,000, opening an Additional Savings Account can offer you additional deposit insurance coverage of up to $250,000.
3. FlexSavings Account
The FlexSavings Account offers you a flexible way to save for a short-term goal or near-future events like a vacation, wedding, or vehicle down payment on a house. Set up the payout date when you open your account so you can tie it to a goal date.
An opening deposit of $20 is required, or alternately you can set up a $5 payroll direct deposit or monthly automatic transfer from a linked Golden One account.
Account balances of $0.01 or greater earn a 0.20% APY.
4. Youth Savings Account
Designed to teach children about money and build the habit of saving, the Youth Savings Account is for consumers under the age of 18.
A parent or guardian must be a joint account owner until the minor reaches age 18, however, the account empowers minor account holders to make deposits and withdrawals on their own and experience what it’s like to make financial decisions.
A $1 deposit is due upon opening a Young Savings Account. An APY dividend of 0.20% is paid out for average daily balances of at least $0.01.
5. Santa Saver Account
The Santa Saver Account offers a controlled way for consumers to save for the November and December holiday season. Avoid overspending or going into debt and save for the holidays all year round, with funds available to you on November 1.
You can open an account at any time of the year, with $20 due at account opening. Or, you can sign up for $5 monthly deposits through payroll deduction or an automatic transfer from a linked Golden One account.
This account will automatically renew each year. There is no fiscal penalty for withdrawing funds early, however, if you make any withdrawals before October 31 your Santa Saver Account will automatically be closed.
Golden 1 Credit Union CD Accounts
The Golden 1 Credit Union CD offerings are competitive with rates you’ll find at other banks and credit unions nationwide.
Plan for short-term or longer-term goals, with CD terms ranging from 3 to 60 months. A $500 opening deposit is required for most CD options.
Right now, the best options are the credit union’s 9-month or 28-month certificates of deposit. The APY rates are 5.25% for a 19-month CD or 4.65% for a 28-month CD.
Returns are guaranteed, and there’s an option to automatically renew although the CD rates are subject to change.
Golden One also offers IRA certificates.
Golden 1 Credit Union MMA Account
The Money Market Account (MMA) offers the highest rate of interest among all Golden One savings accounts. Maximize your earnings with a tiered rate of interest, and have the flexibility to withdraw funds when needed with no penalties.
A minimum opening deposit of $100 is needed to open the account and it has no monthly maintenance fees. Additionally, it may be linked to another Golden 1 account for overdraft protection.
The APY dividend rate is 0.05% for balances under $10,000. Balances from $10,000 to $99,999 earn an APY of 1.00% and balances above earn an APY of 1.25%.
Beyond their deposit accounts, CDs, and MMAs, Golden 1 Credit Union offers a range of other financial products.
- Coverdell Education Savings accounts for college savings
- Home mortgages and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs)
- Rewards credit cards
- Credit-rebuild credit cards
- Auto loans
- Personal loans
- Recreations and SUV loans
- Investment — self-guided or advisor options
- Insurance — life, auto, homeowner’s
- Location convenience: 72 branches throughout the state of California, with 26 of them in Sacramento. There are also over 1,800 shared co-op branches offered nationwide for added convenience.
- Online banking: Secure, easy-to-navigate, online banking with Credit Sense, bill pay, online money transfer, online documents, and other banking features.
- Mobile app: Highly-rated mobile banking app has a 4.5-star rating in the Google Play Store and a 4.7-star rating in iTunes.
- Zelle: Available in the mobile banking app as of June 2023 for consumers aged 18+, it offers a free and easy way to send and receive money from trusted friends and family.
- Community outreach and financial education: Strong support and involvement in California, offering grants, scholarships, and financial wellness resources via webcasts, podcasts, and The Learning Lab.
Pricing and Fees
As with other financial institutions, Golden One Credit Union does have a list of consumer fees for various services or account penalties.
- ATM Fees: No fees for in-network use. For out-of-network transactions, there is a $2 fee for withdrawals or transfers and a $1 fee for balance inquiries. Additionally, fees may be imposed by the other bank or ATM machine owner.
- Courtesy Pay Fee: There is a $30 per item overdraft fee due to debit card transactions, checks, or other ACH activity. This courtesy pay fee is assessed if the account holder has opted into this courtesy pay service. A maximum of three (3) courtesy pay fees are assessed per day, and the fee is waived for transactions of $5 per less.
- Insufficient Funds Fees: There is an additional $10 fee for the re-presentment of an item previously declined due to an insufficient balance. The $10 fee is for consumer accounts; business accounts are assessed a $30 re-presentment fee. A maximum of one (1) insufficient funds fee is assessed per day.
- Overdraft Protection: Golden One offers members solid overdraft protection options to prevent NSF fees. A $2 fee will be assessed to transfer funds from a linked account to prevent an overdraft or overdraft protection that can be extended through an additional loan account at no additional charge. A maximum of one (1) overdraft protection fee per day is assessed for most checking accounts.
- Money Orders: There is a $5 fee per item fee for money orders (MOs). A needed MO can be purchased at a credit union or co-op branch location.
- Cashier’s Checks: There is a $6 per fee item for cashier’s checks, which can be purchased at a credit union or co-op branch location. There is no fee for cashier’s checks made payable to yourself, a consumer credit counseling program, or a title company.
- Coinstar Coin Machine: There is a 5% fee to use a Coinstar Coin Machine to count any spare coinage you bring to a credit union branch. Non-members can also use this service for a 9% coinage fee. Either fee is cheaper than the 11.9% Coinstar kiosk fee.
It’s easy to get started and open a Golden 1 Credit Union account.
- Visit any Golden 1 branch location.
- Call 1-877-GOLDEN or 1-877-465-3361.
You must make an opening deposit of at least $1 to open an account, as well as have a Social Security number (SSN) and government-issued identification.
You must live or work in California to be eligible. Active-duty military personnel who live or work in California for at least part of the year may also be eligible.
While Golden 1 Credit Union doesn’t offer account sign-up bonuses the way many online-only banks do, it does offer its members some unique promotions you can’t find anywhere else.
Account holders enjoy unique promotions tied to the Sacramento Kings basketball team, including:
- Up to 50% off tickets for home games
- Exclusive Monday Member VIP events
- 15% off merchandise at the Kings’ team store when purchased with a Golden One credit card or debit card
- Special game day experiences like seat upgrades and member-only contests
- Community nonprofits are regularly hosted in the credit union’s VIP box
Banking with Golden 1 Credit Union is a safe and secure experience.
While Golden One is not FDIC-insured (that coverage is offered only to banks), Golden One account deposits are insured up to $250K through a similar program with the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). This means your money here is as safe as it would be at any FDIC-insured bank institution.
Beyond deposit and investment security, Golden One has a number of ultra-strong security measures in place to keep your account details safe. Golden One continually monitors your account logins and account transactions to monitor for suspicious behaviors, and it uses encryption, extended validation certification, and other similar measures to protect your online data.
Golden One offers customer support to its members through a variety of online and offline channels.
- Web form: You can contact customer service via web form (which Golden One refers to as “email” support. A member advocate will follow up within 24 hours, excluding bank holidays.
- Phone support: Call 1 (877) 465-3361 toll-free. Customer support is offered on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Visit a Golden One branch: Hours vary by location, but most are open on weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Locations hours fluctuate most widely on Saturdays, and not all branches are open that day.
There is an option to select “Live Chat” on the “Contact Us” page, however, our editorial team tested this feature on three occasions. On each, we received an automated message that live agents were unavailable and the chat dialogue ended.
It’s worth trying this feature if online chat is your preferred method of contact, however, it appears to be unreliable at this time.
If you want to reach a rep, the posted hours for Live Chat are 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.
Pros and Cons
- No or low minimum opening deposits on accounts, with many accounts requiring only a $1 minimum deposit.
- No monthly service fees on accounts — eight (8) deposit accounts with no fees altogether, and most other accounts have easy ways to waive the fees.
- Overdraft protection — Golden One charges no more than one (1) overdraft fee per day, and offers you overdraft protection by linking your spend account to a Golden One savings ($2 nominal fee) or loan account (no additional fee).
- Competitive interest rate on CDs — attractive range of CDs with terms ranging from a few months to five (5) years and competitive
- More than 30,000 in-network ATMs. There are over 200 Golden One ATMs within the state of California and a nationwide network of over 30,000 fee-free CO-OP ATMs.
- Easy membership requirements for those living or working in California. Immediate family members can also join.
- Branches are available only in California, with the bulk of them concentrated in and around Sacramento. Many large cities have one or no Golden 1 locations.
- Other institutions offer a higher interest rate on savings accounts – Golden 1 savings account APYs are well below the national average. They range from 0.05% to 0.20%.
- No debit card or check-writing is included with a money market account and its APY caps out at 1.25%.
- Compounds interest monthly, not daily, for savings and other accounts.
Alternatives to Golden 1 Credit Union
If you’re shopping for a financial institution, it’s a good idea to compare different banks and credit unions alongside one another. For consumers evaluating Golden One, here are three other strong options to consider.
Bank of America (BOA)
Known as a national banking giant, BOA offers some of the best checking accounts in California. As the nation’s second-largest bank, it features a much larger line-up of savings accounts, checking accounts, credit cards, loans, and investment services.
Bank of America also offers much better accessibility for Californians, with 786 branches in the state.
Bank of the West
Bank of the West is another California-based financial institution. Founded in Pasadena in 1874, Bank of the West has over 230 branches with most of them located in the Golden State. It offers convenient, in-state banking, excellent regional customer service, and a broad range of accounts including a checking account that donates a portion of your account’s revenue to green causes.
Alliant Credit Union
While technically Alliant Credit Union is a Chicago-based institution, through online banking Alliant is available to consumers nationwide. Alliant boasts CDs, MMAs, and deposit accounts with APYs competitive with the best rates offered anywhere in the country.
If you don’t need a physical brick-and-mortar location, Alliant could be a good fit. The credit union doesn’t have in-state branches, but it does offer online banking services and customer support through online banking, mobile app, phone, and email.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that consumers have when evaluating Golden 1 Credit Union.
How Good is Golden 1 Credit Union?
Golden 1 Credit Union is an outstanding financial institution for Californians in terms of convenience, customer service, financial strength, and robust security. It’s easily accessible to residents with a blend of modern, digital services and branch locations throughout the state.
Golden One’s CD rates are among the best you’ll find anywhere, and it has easy membership requirements.
Are Credit Unions Always Better than Banks?
For many consumers, yes. Credit unions are a better choice than banks, but this is not an absolute for all consumers.
While credit unions often offer lower account fees and service charges, higher interest rates, and better customer service due to a credit union’s member-owned structure, banks generally offer a much larger range of products and services and more advanced technology options.
Whether or not a credit union is “better” depends on individual financial goals and preferences. Banks and credit unions each have their own advantages and disadvantages, and savvy consumers must consider what their priorities are.
Can Anyone Join Golden 1 Credit Union?
For those who work or reside in California, anyone can join. If you don’t live or work in the Golden State, there are some restrictions. To be eligible for Golden One membership, you must:
- Have a spouse or immediate family member who is a Golden One member
- Be an active-duty member of the military who works and/or resides in California for at least a portion of the year
- Work for a business that is part of Golden 1 Credit Union’s Select Employee Group. The list of eligible businesses is not published on the website, but you can reach out to your workplace HR directly to see if you are member-eligible.
Who is the Best Credit Union to Join?
The best credit unions to join, nationwide, are Connexus Credit Union and Navy Federal Credit Union.
Connexus operates in all 50 states, has over 5,000 shared branches, and offers high APYs for money market accounts and checking accounts.
Membership to the Navy Federal Credit Union NFCU is for members of the military and their family and household members. It offers a $1,000 credit toward closing costs for NFCU mortgages and over 30,000 fee-free ATMs.
Is Golden 1 Credit Union Best for Your Needs?
Golden 1 Credit Union is one of the best credit unions in California. Golden One makes everything about the baking experience easy. Most accounts have no monthly fees and low opening deposit requirements that start at just $1. While savings account APYs are low, they offer many other short-term and longer-term saving options with competitive rates.
This account may be best for Californians who want an in-person banking experience and digital options, and who can benefit from its high rates on CDs. And for Sacramento Kings super-fans, with all the extra-game perks, Golden One could be a giant must.
The BankBonus team has analyzed dozens of banks to provide our readers with thoroughly informed and accurate reviews.
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Our assessment of each bank factors in these considerations:
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- Customer service: In our review process, we also explore banks’ customer service channels, hours of availability, and third-party reviews.