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How to find the best credit union in Illinois


Finding a financial institution is no easy task. By “banking” with a credit union, you’re helping to keep business within your local community. Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations, governed by a board of unpaid volunteer members who live and work right by you! While you’re making your decision, here are some things to look for when searching for the best credit union in Illinois:

Free checking accounts

Don’t pay your financial institution to hold your money. Most credit unions offer some sort of free checking account, or simple actions to avoid being charged a monthly fee. First Northern Credit Union offers Value Now Checking with no minimum balance requirement and no monthly maintenance fee, but with all the services you need in a checking account. Some checking accounts do even more— like our Advantage Checking account which pays 1.00% APY* on balances up to $7,500 AND has easy ways to avoid paying a monthly fee! 

Low rates on auto loans

Loan rates are increasing. But when you bank with a credit union, you have local people working hard to keep loan rates as low as they can. Why? Because credit unions work for you, not for shareholders. So check rates at the big banks vs the credit unions in your area. You may be surprised at how much they can vary — even within the same city! At First Northern, our team has worked hard to keep our auto loan rates more competitive than most of the banks and credit unions in the Chicago and Rockford areas. 

Unique product solutions

Credit unions can offer unique products and service solutions tailored to you, because they know what is happening in their local area. Often, these unique products vary by credit union — so do some research on what's out there. In fact, have you heard of First Northern’s Driving Sense loan? This loan/lease hybrid offers all the benefits of vehicle ownership with the flexibility of leasing. What does that mean? To many, it means a low auto loan rate with up to 40% lower monthly payments!

Local mortgage experts and decision makers

Don’t leave your mortgage up to an online lender and risk potential surprises that could delay your closing (or worse). Make sure the credit union you choose for your mortgage not only has a local branch, but is headquartered locally as well. First Northern’s mortgage teams are based in Chicago and Rockford. Being local means that they know exactly what is happening in northern Illinois and your area and will help lock you into the lowest rate they can, while ensuring your mortgage transaction goes as smooth as possible. Why look elsewhere when the lowest rates and best service are right in your own backyard!

Thousands of branches and ATMs nationwide

Credit unions often “join forces” under the cooperative umbrella of the CO-OP Network, STAR Network, and Allpoint Network. This allows credit union members to use ATMs on all of these networks with no surcharge fee. Also, the CO-OP Shared Branch Network allows credit union members to access their money at another participating credit union—anywhere in the country! Banks don’t have reciprocal situations like this, so you’ll have to search harder for an ATM, or risk paying fees. Be sure the credit union you choose is a member of at least one (or more!) of these networks, and you'll pay less in fees. First Northern members have access to 71,000 surcharge-free ATMs and 5,600 CO-OP Network shared branches nationwide—more than most of the big banks!

Helpful, friendly staff

Walk into a credit union. Does it feel good and did the staff greet you with a smile? That’s a good first start. Happy employees work hard to make customers (called members at a credit union) happy. As a credit union, First Northern is driven by the “People Helping People” philosophy. That’s why you’ll find credit union staff going the “extra mile” to do what’s right.

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