Hanscom Federal CU Thrive Review: 3% APY High Interest Starter Account

savebuttonbank(Update: It has been almost exactly a year since I posted about this unique savings account, and I just cashed out my CU Thrive funds with interest. I initially wrote about this account during a limited-time 6% APY promotion, but the rate is now 3% APY and has been steady for the last year. I have updated this review to reflect current conditions and my own experience holding this CD until maturity.)

Hanscom Federal Credit Union (HFCU) has a CU Thrive account, which works like a certificate of deposit that rewards consistent saving. The rate is set for 12 months, and during those 12 months you can transfer up to $500 every month from a HFCU checking account. No monthly fees. However, you cannot make any withdrawals during those 12 months, or you will be subject to an early withdrawal penalty of 90 days interest.

This product is not meant for big balances, it is meant to encourage a modest savings habit. The interest rate of 3% APY is triple what the top high-yield savings accounts offer right now, and more than double what the top 1-year bank CDs are offering. NCUA-insured!

A bit o’ math… At 3% APY, if you maxed out this account and set aside $500 a month for 12 months, at the end you’d have put in $6,000 and earned about $90 in interest (~$97 if you made every transfer on the 1st of the each month by my quick calculations). Not life-changing, but again federally-insured and triple what you could get at another bank. $6,000 also happens to be just about the same amount as a full Roth IRA contribution. Hint, hint.

At the end of the 12 months, all accrued savings plus earned dividends will be transferred into your primary savings account. Each member can only have one CU Thrive account open at one time, but after one 12-month period ends you can open up another one (assuming it is still offered). Full disclosure (PDF).

Eligibility details. To open a CU Thrive account, you must first open an HFCU checking account. HFCU offers a free checking account with no direct deposit and no minimum balance requirement. To open a checking account, just must be a member. Like most credit unions, membership is open by family, employer, or by membership in a partner organization (which makes it open to nearly everyone). You must also keep $25 in a share account as long as you are a member.

However, if you are referred by an existing member, you can also join without any other affiliation and you can currently get an additional $30 bonus after being an active member for 90 days, and the referring member gets $30 as well. If you’d like, here is my referral link.

Account opening process. I started the online application and said I would join the Nashua River Watershed Association for a one-time $35 fee (I didn’t know about the refer-a-friend option at the time). I had to provide the usual personal information and then answer questions based on my credit report to verify my identity. Based on my free credit monitoring, they did not perform a hard pull on my credit report. You can fund with an online bank transfer but they also gave me the option to fund with credit card up to $2,000. They didn’t mention if this would be considered a cash advance or not, but it showed up as a purchase on my American Express card. Finally, you must print out, sign, and mail in a signature card. You can also open an account in-person. All of their physical branches appear to be located in Massachusetts.

One-year update. Over the past year, I had set the maximum $500 to be transferred every month to my CU Thrive account from my HFCU Checking account. I made 11 transfers but missed one because my checking balance was too low on the date of automatic transfer. When that happens, the account basically just skips the transfer. There is no penalty, you just don’t get to earn interest on that money. I called them but they said there was no way to replace that transfer, even if I moved more money into the checking account a day later. Other than that, everything went very smoothly and I was paid my interest as promised. At the 1-year maturity date, the funds were automatically transferred to my HFCU savings account and the CU Thrive no longer shows up on my online account page. I guess now I can open up another one if I wanted to.

(Side note: I discovered that Hanscom Federal has paid a “Loyalty Dividend” to its Credit Union members for over 15 consecutive years. For 2014, they paid a 2% bonus on dividents earned and consumer finance charges paid over the year. So on top my my $78.46 of interest earned in 2014, I earned another $1.57 in bonus loyalty dividends.)

I think this account is nice for people looking to build up a savings habit, but it really works best if you use HFCU as your primary checking account. Juggling it as an additional piggy-back account is do-able but you have to keep on top of your transfers to avoid idle cash earning zero interest.

When it comes to paying a one-time fee to join a credit union, I like to see that the credit union has a history of offering member-friendly products. In addition to the CU Thrive and free checking options, HFCU also has a competitive Home Equity Line of Credit (HELoC) with no application fee, no annual fee, and no closing costs if you keep it open for 24 months. I’m thinking of opening one just to have around, does anyone have experience with this HELoC?

Comments

  1. Darrell says:

    I’ve had a CU Thrive account with HFCU for the past two years now. The latest 6% is the highest I’ve even seen it by far. (It was 3.5% two years ago, 3% last year, and 3% earlier this year.) I suspect the 6% rate won’t last that long. Too bad I already have a CU Thrive account at 3% and can’t open another one!

    • Aaron B says:

      I’m in the same boat. I’m very tempted to close my current CU Thrive account, forfeit something like $28 of the $38 I’ve made over the past 7 months, and open a new account. That would boost my net interest from ~$94 to $162. But I’m not sure the time it would take and potential for bad feelings would be worth $68.

      • Hi Aaron! We’re thrilled to hear you already have a CU Thrive account. We’d like to also bring to your attention our increase on our Refer-A-Friend promotion. We are offering $30 to you and anyone you refer to become a member and the referrals are unlimited. (Refer 5 people, they join, you get $150 and each successful referral gets their $30.) You can register and start referring here: https://www.hfcu.org/site/refer_fb.html

    • Hi Darrell,

      You are correct. This is a limited time offer and ends this Saturday 5/10/2014. In honor of our 60th Anniversary we wanted to offer a higher rate for mew CU Thrive accounts, but for those who already have one, we also increased the amount members can earn for referring others to join the credit union. You’ll get $30 for every successful referral. Using the current 6% APY promotion is a great conversation starter for referrals.

      Heres the link to register and start referring: https://www.hfcu.org/site/refer_fb.html

  2. Hi Jonathan!

    Thanks for the great review. We’re really excited to be able to offer our members this special rate to celebrate our 60th Anniversary. We appreciate you helping to spread the word about our accounts! Have a wonderful day.

    – Hanscom Federal Credit Union

    • Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the unique account.

    • Nice to see Hanscom FCU in this thread. Can you confirm as to whether or not an initial deposit via credit card would be a cash advance or not? Thanks!

      • I welcome HFCU to weigh in as well with their experiences. I would note that usually it is the credit card company that has the final decision whether to code something as a purchase or cash advance, but it can depend on the merchant category that the bank uses to process the payment. My American Express charge is showing up right now as a purchase under temp charges with the category “Business Services – Banking Services”. So far it looks like it will go through as a purchase.

        • Jonathan, did you do the full $2,000? Don’t want to get stuck with the cash advance fee for this…

          • I did $1,9XX on AmEx. First, in my experience AmEx is least likely to classify as cash advance and most banks don’t even let you fund with AmEx. Second, I did $1,9XX on the unlikely chance (superstition?) that round numbers like $2,000 are more likely to trigger a second look by the credit card company.

          • Thanks. Will give it a try.

      • Hi Mike!

        An initial deposit via credit card can be done when opening your account online. That is to open the membership, not the CU Thrive (as stated below). Also, from our expereince it comes in as a POS (point of sale) not a cash advance.

        Hope this helped!

        -Hanscom FCU

  3. Looks like there is a $30 referral bonus to the member and the person who signs up as well:

    http://www.urefer.com/hanscom/register

    If you are a member – can you send me an email referral so that we can both earn that bonus?

  4. Joanna says:

    I want to take advantage of this but I don’t meet any of the eligibility criteria. Any thoughts on loopholes around this?

    • Not a problem, no loopholes needed. Just start the application and state that you want to join HFCU by joining a partner organization. There are about four of them, and the easiest/cheapest one appeared to be the Nashua Watershed one that I linked to in my review for a one-time $35 fee.

  5. Called HFCU – other points of note:

    1. Soft credit pull + chexsystems for the mandatory checking account/share savings account.

    2. After the 12 months is up – the whole amount in the account gets transferred to share savings – you cannot start up another new account with the total accrued amount in the previous account. I.E. You start back at zero.

    3. The initial deposit does not go into the CU Thrive account, but rather the checking – cannot bulk fund the thrive CU account at the beginning etc… which really limits the power of interest (because average amount in the account would be $3,000 or so over 12 months).

    • Thanks for checking. Yes, the average balance would only be about $3000 x 6% = $180 of interest for a maxed out account. Still really good for putting aside $500 a month.

  6. Why is savings account “Prime Shares” checked by default. What are the fees with the Prime share account? I clicked on the link but no information came up wrt that account. Anyone have any info?

    • As noted in the review, as a member you must keep $25 permanently in a Share savings account. If and when you leave the credit union, you can get this $25 back. Lots of credit unions do this, I think PenFed only requires $5 and I’m a member of a local CU with $100 minimum.

      I guess the thinking is that you are buying into your “share” of the credit union and they can use this money to lend out to other members. No fees and the interest rate is currently 0.20% APY.

  7. Joathan, what is your Promotional Code for the $30 referral? I started the process but stopped midway. Now when I click in the referral link it says “You have already accepted the introduction and it is still pending”; but on Pg2 of the App process theer is a box to enter the code

    • Hmm… I don’t see any promo code but if you just finish opening the account with the name and e-mail provided to the referral page, I think you should be good to go.

  8. Alexandria says:

    Jonathan, thanks for sharing! My kids have a CU account that pays 7%, but the cap is $500 on the account. My 10-year-old almost has $500! I will probably open this HFCU account for myself today, but might open another for him once he exceeds $500. I never imagined I would have so many bank accounts to manage for my kids though. But, before we found the 7% account I was thinking of paying them 3% or 5% or whatever. I certainly never had to suffer such low interest rates as a kid, and you do want to make savings motivating. 7% and 6% is pretty motivating. πŸ˜€

  9. I started application and noticed CU Trhive at 3% not 6% . Did they reduce the interest rates?

    EasyStart Certificate 0.45% 0.45%
    3 Month Certificate 0.45% 0.45%
    6 Month Certificate 0.55% 0.55%
    Premier Certificate 0.85% 0.85%
    12 Month Certificate 0.70% 0.70%
    18 Month Certificate 0.85% 0.85%
    30 Month Certificate 1.09% 1.10%
    60 Month Certificate 1.69% 1.70%
    CU Thrive 2.96% 3.00%

    But here it still says 6% https://www.hfcu.org/cu_thrive.html

    • Hi Arun,

      The 6% CU Thrive is only for a limited time. The promotional rate of 6% ends on May 10th, 2014. After this date, it will go back to the 3% APY. As long as ypu open it before then you WILL get the 6%.

      Hope this helped!

      -HFCU

  10. Alexandria says:

    I am really confused. I applied last night but can not enroll in online access. Customer service said we will get a 4 digit pin in the mail which is our X-Tel password. Which is nothing at all what it says on their website. & I did set up a X-Tel password when I enrolled, which is not a 4-digit number. (The account is in my spouse’s name and he called customer service, but it’s a bit like playing telephone since I filled out the application and am more aware of all the details).

    Just curious if anyone else was able to get online access and what the process was.

  11. Where is the listing of organizations you can join to be eligible? The link on the second page of the “Apply” series of pages goes to a site map.

    I have tried both “Join” link at the top of the homepage and the “Join Online” button under the CU Thrive graphic on the homepage to access the application series of pages and I run into this with both links (same thing – the “organizations” link in the paragraph under the “Membership Organization” opens a site map.

    I emailed Hanscom on the 6th for assistance, but have not heard back.

    Thanks.

  12. It’s working fine for me. Maybe try a different browser? Just click on one of the referral links (mine follows, but others have been posted): http://www.urefer.com/referral/1742/3076386/t/11 and it should take you to the application page. You can join the eligible organization after you sign up if you like, but there’s a drop-down list which shows the eligibility options.

  13. ttfitz says:

    HFCU – glad to see you here answering questions, it’s nice to see the attention. I had the same problem John mentioned earlier – I used Jonathan’s referral link, but had to step away in the middle and my session expired. I got the same error he did, so I just continued my application using the same info. Is there any way to make sure the referral was registered without having to wait 90 days to see if the credit appears on my account?

    Thanks.

    • Hi TTFitz,

      We looked into our system on the back ened and it appears that your referral did go through. Keep in mind it takes up to 90 days for the $30 to be applied and as long as the referral meets all the requirements (18+ etc…) it should. We appologize for the confusion and thank you for bringing the issue to our attention. We will look into making the function a bit more smooth to pick up after stepping away.

      -HFCU

      • HFCU – thanks for checking into that. I guess it wasn’t hard to figure out who I was, huh? πŸ˜‰

        After faxing in a X-TEL password (even though I did it in the application), I’m now able to access my account online, so everything is good. I even referred my son and he’s signed up, too!

        Thanks, Jonathan, for pointing this one out.

  14. Alexandria says:

    So, I finally got access to my account online. Two questions:

    1 – How do you get a referral link?

    2 – How do you set up ACH transfers from other bank accounts?

    I have a contact at the CU who has been very helpful, but I already e-mailed her 100 times about getting enrolled online. Would like to figure out what I can without bothering her again. πŸ˜€ These seem like fairly simple questions.

  15. Alexandria,

    1 – Look on the right side of the home page, under “Stay Informed”, there’s a link there for setting up the referral.

    2 – After you have logged into your account, on the left you will see “Transactions”, in that is “External Transfer”. Go from there.

    • ttfitz, Is there no fee for ACH pull into HFCU?

      • Sorry, couldn’t tell you. Haven’t actually done that yet – I’m more likely to push from my savings account, to tell the truth, so I may never do that.

        Didn’t see any fees mentioned when I looked at that, though.

  16. Alexandria says:

    I didn’t see anything under external transfers, last I looked. (IT just directed me to online bill pay??) But, maybe that is easier – just to push from savings account. I hadn’t thought that through too much so glad for the other comments. I just want to do whatever is easiest. & also, thanks for the referral info!

    • Yeah, it’s a little confusing – you have to sign up for online bill pay in order to do external transfers. I forgot about that when I responded.

  17. Hi Jonathan,

    I take this is the first comment in 2015.

    Thanks for the post.
    My Houston CU does not rrequire a new member to join an assocaition (hence pay a fee) if he is referred by another member.

    If I click your refrerral link, do I still need to pay $35 to join an association?

    • That is a good question. I don’t know the answer, because the referral program came out after I joined HFCU. You could start the process and ask?

      • Hi Jonathan,

        I talked with CSR and opened the account. With Referral there is no need to join assocaition. Thanks.

        The CSR did say for us both to qualify the $30 bonus you need to send me an email for the referral link. Would you please?

        • I can send you a priate email for my email address if needed. (as I have put here.

        • I’ll send you an e-mail, but I think it sends you an e-mail automatically if you fill out this link:

          http://www.urefer.com/referral/1742/3076072/t/11

          It’s worked for several other people so far. But if you send me an e-mail to jonathan at this domain with your first and last name, I’ll send you it manually.

          • Jonathan,
            I did not get any email by following the referral link. It was still asking me to join an association. I sent you an email as mentioned. Thanks.

          • Since HFCU hasn’t responded, my advice is simply to put down that you plan to join some association like the Nashua but follow the referral link instructions to open an account otherwise. This is the same form I’d use if you gave me your name and e-mail.

            http://www.urefer.com/referral/1742/3076072/t/11

            If they ask for membership proof (they probably won’t ever ask), then tell them you were referred by an existing member and HFCU said it was fine (as HFCU’s social media team did on a previous comment here). If you need to, speak to a human at HFCU, they are usually quite helpful and understanding. I don’t think you’ll have a problem joining.

          • I didn’t get your e-mail, please re-send if still needed.

    • Hello playc and Jonathan –

      Good news! You do not have to pay a fee to join an association. All you need to do earn the referral bonus as a new member is:
      * Open your account using the referral link
      * Fund your savings account with $25 or more. This is your share in the credit union — you must keep it in your savings to retain your membership
      * Open a checking account (we have free and Premier options)
      * Keep both your savings and checking accounts open for at least 90 days

      Hope this helps. Please feel free to contact us at info@hfcu.org with questions.

    • If I remember correctly, I still had to join the association when I used Jonathan’s referral. Somewhere in the application process after the referral link, it asks how I qualified for membership.

      Then again, looking back over the comments I see I had a little problem with the referral, so it’s possible if I hadn’t messed up, it would have let me sign up without that.

  18. My year is almost up, too. I think I may start a new one when this one matures.

    And it’s funny, I was just like you, Jonathan – I forgot one month to make a transfer into my checking account, so I only had 11 payments in.

  19. Darrell says:

    Odd, I’ve missed the automatic transfer for some reason or another a few times, but every time I asked, Hanscom would process the transfer again for me.

  20. I don’t know about this particular HELoC product, but in general I think having a HELoC around is a great idea – it provides great flexibility for no cost!

  21. unimax says:

    Do you know if I can open one on me and one on my spouse’s name? Or is it limited to one account per household?

    • Both my wife and I have one of these, so it’s not limited to one per household. Since several people have posted referral links, here’s mine: http://www.urefer.com/referral/1742/3076386/t/11

      • malav shah says:

        so even if I choose referral link, it asks me to select option under – Membership Organization. Should i choose –

        I am a relative or domestic partner of a Hanscom FCU member.

        And add your name there? I am confused. Please let me know.

        • malav shah – when you get to the membership organization section, choose “I am a member of or will be joining a sponsoring member organization.” As part of the membership process, we will assist you in joining an appropriate sponsoring member organization. You will not pay the membership fee to join the organization.

          • malav shah says:

            Thank you, I have selected the option – alerady member or will join member ship organization and already joined Hanscom and opened account online. Also asked to open CU Thrive account. Please help me to join ‘Nashua River Watershed Assoc.’.

            Thanks again
            Malav.

    • Unimax – CU Thrive accounts are one per membership. So your spouse, son, daughter (age 13 and up), or other household member can have his/her own CU Thrive if they have their own account.

  22. scott w says:

    What is the interest rate on the HELOC

  23. malav shah says:

    so when I use referral link, it asks me choose option under Membership Organization after selecting free checking. Please let me know.

  24. unimax says:

    Dumb question. After I go thru the referral link, I have to pick “type” of account. I don’t see “CU Thrive” listed. What am I doing wrong here?

    • I think you have to just open up the basic share savings account (or free checking if you want more flexibility, but everyone gets the share savings), and then you can open additional accounts later.

      • so even if I choose referral link, it asks me to select option under – Membership Organization. Should i choose –

        I am a relative or domestic partner of a Hanscom FCU member.

        And add your name there? I am confused. Please let me know.

        • Since HFCU hasn’t responded, my advice is simply to put down that you plan to join some association like the Nashua but follow the referral link instructions to open an account otherwise. This is the same form I’d use if you gave me your name and e-mail.

          http://www.urefer.com/referral/1742/3076072/t/11

          If they ask for membership proof (they probably won’t ever ask), then tell them you were referred by an existing member and HFCU said it was fine (as HFCU’s social media team did on a previous comment here). If you need to, speak to a human at HFCU, they are usually quite helpful and understanding. I don’t think you’ll have a problem joining.

      • You need to open both the basic share account AND a checking account – the basic share account is requirement for the credit union, and the funding for the CU-Thrive account comes from withdrawals on the checking account.

      • HI Jonathan – yes, you are correct. When you apply, you can open a basic savings and checking accounts. A representative will follow up with you to help you open additional accounts.

        • HFCU – my CU Thrive account matured/expired on Friday, so today I went into my account online to open a new one. The “open new account” option made me go through a full set of screens entering data like I was a new customer, but okay. I had selected I wanted to open a CD, since I mistakenly thought that was what this was classified as. When I got to the end, the CU Thrive account wasn’t listed. I discovered from the main page that this is classified as “Savings”, so I started there. I didn’t go as far this time, because “CU Thrive” wasn’t one of the options given. And the “Get started” button on the CU Thrive asked me to either fill out the form to get contacted, or call Customer Service.

          So, I called. The service guy I got on the line was very nice and polite, but I soon realized he had no idea what I was talking about. He was taking my information to pass onto a “specialist”, but I’m not 100% sure it will end up in the right place – I finally got him to admit he didn’t know what a CU Thrive account was.

          So I guess I’ll see if someone will contact me. I don’t remember it being this hard to open my original account online, but there doesn’t seem to be a good way to do so as an existing member.

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