Clean Energy Credit Union Review: Support the Clean Energy Transition

Clean Energy Credit Union offers checking, savings, money market, and CD accounts. The credit union makes clean energy more affordable by financing competitive solar, electrical vehicle, and green home improvement loans. Keep reading to decide if you should ditch your bank for CECU.

SustainFi November 18, 2021

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Rating: Excellent (4.1 / 5)

Pros

  • Your deposits fund clean energy loans, not fossil fuels
  • Credit unions are owned by their members
  • Earn up to 1.0% interest on up to $15,000 in your checking account (must meet two specified conditions)
  • Low minimum balance
  • No monthly service fees for active accounts

Cons

  • You must belong to one of several organizations to be eligible for CECU membership
  • Joining these organizations requires paying membership fees
  • Must meet several criteria to earn interest on checking accounts
  • Only five free ATM withdrawals from a network of 32,000 ATMs ($1.5 after that); $3 fee for out-of-network withdrawals
  • 1% foreign transaction fee
  • No brick and mortar locations
  • No sign up bonus

Summary

CredentialsCredit union, nonprofit
Impact areasClean energy
Minimum balance$5
Account maintenance fees$0
Interest• Checking Account: 1.0% on balances up to $15,000; 0.12% on balances over $15,000 (must meet certain conditions, otherwise 0%)
• Savings Account: 0.10% (on balances over $100 only)
ATMs• 5 free withdrawals from 32,000+ MoneyPass ATMs ($1.5 per transaction after that)
• $3 per transaction fee to use out-of-network ATMs
AppHighly-rated app
Accounts offered• Checking and savings accounts
• CDs
• Money market accounts
• IRAs
LocationsOnline only

This review focuses on personal banking products (checking and savings accounts.)

What is Clean Energy Credit Union?

Clean Energy Credit Union (CECU) is a credit union that uses your deposits to fund the climate transition. It is well-known that many big banks use customer deposits to underwrite the fossil fuel industry. In contrast, CECU and green banks like Atmos use customer deposits to finance clean energy.

Every dollar you deposit in your Clean Energy Credit Union finances solar, electric vehicle, home energy efficiency, residential geothermal, or electric bike loans. By banking with CECU and giving them capital to lend, you help lower the cost of clean energy for the broader community.

Unlike a bank, CECU does not have “owners”; instead, it is owned by its members, who elect the Board of Directors. In addition, Clean Energy Credit Union is a nonprofit with a lean business model. There are no brick and mortar branches.

This review is focused on banking services, but Clean Energy Credit Union (CECU) also offers IRAs, solar and electric vehicle loans, residential geothermal loans, green home improvement loans, and even electric bicycle loans. In the future, they plan to introduce credit cards, mortgages, home equity loans, and commercial loans.

What is a credit union?

Credit unions are nonprofit financial institutions owned by their members. Members can deposit money, take out loans, and vote in elections. To bank with a credit union, you must belong to a specific community that would make you eligible for membership.

Here are some critical differences between a bank and a credit union:

Banks vs. Credit Unions

BanksCredit Unions
Serve everyoneOnly serve a specific community
Owned by stockholders and earnings are paid to stockholdersOwned by members and earnings are paid to members (can be in the form of better interest rates)
Pay taxesTax-exempt
Deposits are federally insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to $250k per customerDeposits are federally insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) up to $250k per member
Board members are paidBoard members are unpaid volunteers

Who can join the Clean Energy Credit Union?

Not everyone can join CECU. Right now, to be eligible for membership, you need to be one of the following:

1. A member of one of the following organizations:

  • African-American Credit Union Coalition
  • American Solar Energy Society
  • Association of Energy Service Professionals
  • Colorado Renewable Energy Society
  • Electric Auto Association
  • Engineers for a Sustainable World
  • Georgia Solar Energy Association
  • Green America
  • GreenHome Institute
  • Midwest Renewable Energy Association
  • Northeast Sustainable Energy Association
  • RENEW Wisconsin
  • Renewable Energy Owners Coalition of America
  • Solar United Neighbors
  • Texas Solar Energy Society

2. An employee or volunteer of one of the following organizations:

  • Clean Energy Credit Union
  • Our Climate

3. A family member of someone who is eligible for membership

You can join one of the above-listed organizations for a fee. For example, joining the American Solar Energy Society costs $45 annually for the lowest membership tier.

You need to confirm eligibility with Clean Energy Credit Union before you can open an account.

Clean Energy Credit Union Checking Account

APY• $0 – $15,000 account balance: 1.00%
• > $15,000 account balance: 0.12%
To earn APY, you must meet two of the following conditions:
• Use your debit card ten times per month
• Have at least $1,000 in direct payroll deposits per month
• Have an outstanding Clean Energy Loan
• Have at least $2,500 on deposit in all accounts
Minimum deposit$25
Monthly service feeNone ($5 / month inactivity fee after six months of no activity)

Opening a checking account requires a $25 deposit, but there is no minimum monthly balance or service fee after that if you use your account. You can deposit mobile checks via the app, though recycled paper checks cost extra. You can earn up to 1.0% APY, but that requires meeting at least two conditions, such as making ten transactions per month. If you don’t qualify, APY is 0%.

Accounts come with a debit card made from a type of biodegradable plastic.

Clean Energy Credit Union Savings Account

APY • $0 – $100 account balance: 0.00%
• > $100 account balance: 0.10%
Minimum deposit$5
Monthly service feeNone

To maintain your credit union membership and your savings account, you must keep a $5 minimum balance. There are no monthly service fees, but you can only make up to six transactions each month.

Clean Energy Credit Union CDs

APY• 1-year: 0.40%-0.50% (depending on the balance)
• 2-year: 0.45%-0.55%
• 3-year: 0.50%-0.60%
• 4-year: 0.55%-0.65%
• 5-year: 0.60%-0.70%
• 10-year: 0.90%-1.00%
Minimum deposit$1,000
Monthly service feeNone

CECU offers certificates of deposit for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10-year terms. CD accounts require a $1,000 minimum balance. You will earn interest on a monthly basis.

Clean Energy Credit Union Money Market Account

APY• $2,500 – $9,999 account balance: 0.15%
• $10,000 – $49,999 account balance: 0.17%
• $50,000 – $99,999 account balance: 0.30%
• $100,000 – $199,999 account balance: 0.35%
• > $200,000 account balance: 0.45%
Minimum deposit$2,500
Monthly service feeNone

You need a $2,500 minimum balance to maintain your money market account. You are allowed up to six transactions per month, and the more you have invested, the higher the APY you can earn.

How many ATMs does CECU have?

You get five free withdrawals from a network of 32,000+ MoneyPass ATMs. Over five withdrawals cost $1.5 per withdrawal. Withdrawals from other networks cost $3 per withdrawal.

Is Clean Energy Credit Union safe?

Yes. Even though CECU is not a bank, your deposits are still federally insured for up to $250,000. The only difference is that bank deposits are insured by FDIC, and credit union deposits are insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF).

Clean Energy Credit Union vs. Aspiration

See how CECU compares to Aspiration, the best known socially responsible bank. (Though neither company is technically a bank. CECU is a credit union, while Aspiration is a fintech company that partners with a bank to insure your deposits.)

Online Checking Account

Online Savings Account

Spend & Save Account

Monthly Service Fee

None

Monthly Service Fee

None

Monthly Service Fee

Pay What Is Fair ($7.99 for Aspiration Plus)

APY

Up to 0.20%

APY

0.40%

APY

Up to 5.00%

Minimum deposit

$100

Minimum deposit

$100

Minimum deposit

$10

Sign on bonus

None

Sign on bonus

None

Sign on bonus

Up to $200

Free ATMs

40,000+

Free ATMs

40,000+

Free ATMs

55,000+

Deposits

Never fund fossil fuels

Deposits

Never fund fossil fuels

Deposits

Never fund fossil fuels

FDIC insured?

Yes, up to $250,000

FDIC insured?

Yes, up to $250,000

FDIC insured?

Yes, up to $250,000

🔔 Interested in other sustainable bank accounts? Check out our guide to socially responsible banks.

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