A UNFCU (United Nations Federal Credit Union) Practical Guide: All you need to know

A UNFCU Practical Guide: All you need to know [2024]

This practical guide to UNFCU is intended to supplement the wealth of information available on the UNFCU website. It is to help you get set up quickly, as well as tips and tricks for avoiding unnecessary fees and useful advice for making the most of everything UNFCU have to offer, particularly for international civil servants based in Geneva.

TL;DR: If you haven’t signed up for UNFCU, you are missing a lot! Use this UNFCU referral link and get USD10.

Disclaimer: The information presented here, to my best knowledge, is accurate at the time of publication. Nevertheless, please seek the advice of UNFCU before making any decisions. I am not liable for any financial loss or suffering. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to contact me.

The United Nations Federal Credit Union or UNFCU is a non-profit cooperative founded in 1947 by UN employees to provide financial services to the UN community.

The headquarters is in Long Island City, New York with representative offices in Europe and Africa. There is an office conveniently located in the UN, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Is UNFCU a good bank?

I like the fact that the UNFCU is a non-profit operated by UN staff for UN staff. I am also assured by the fact that they have been around since 1947 and our accounts are federally insured up to USD250,000. And everyone I know who works for the UN has a UNFCU account.

From my personal experience, they provide excellent service and are always willing to help you.

They have good products which I like e.g. UNFCU Visa Elite credit card and free transfer from your UNFCU account to a US-based brokerage account (“ACH transfer” or Automatic Clearing House Transfer).

Share certificates currently have pretty good interest rates of around 4.1% APY for a 6-month certificate (Jan 2024).

Who is UNFCU open to?

You can be a member of UNFCU if you are working in or retired from a recognized organization or related to someone who is already a member. The list includes:

  • Employees, consultants, retirees of the UN, affiliated agencies and diplomatic missions. You will get an exhaustive list during the signup process in a drop-down menu.
  • Immediate family members (i.e. parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, spouse or even someone sharing the household with a UNFCU member).

How do I open an account in UNFCU?

Take note that UNFCU is only denominated in USD.

So, if you send non-USD to your UNFCU account, it gets converted to USD. This is especially important for international civil servants who are not based in the US and receive local currency at your duty station e.g. CHF in Geneva.

You would need a document to prove your employment or retirement status, a government-issued identification (e.g. passport) and an address.

Once you have this information, proceed to the UNFCU website to start your new application. Use this UNFCU referral link and get USD10.

unfcu name email date of birth

If you are a newly joined staff to a UN organization, you could simply select “Other”.

unfcu start membership application

Once you are a member of UNFCU, you should enroll in digital banking.

Your UNFCU membership number vs UNFCU username vs account numbers

When you open a UNFCU account, you will be given a 7-digit number which is your UNFCU membership number.

With this membership number, you can enroll in the digital banking service and you can create your login UNFCU username for digital banking.

Your savings and checking account numbers are usually 13-digit numbers, respectively:

  • 10 + [UNFCU membership number] + 0001
  • 10 + [UNFCU membership number] + 0002

What is the difference between a checking and savings account?

Checking and savings accounts are similar but they are not exactly the same. 

In general, a checking account offers a convenient and cheaper way to move active money around while a savings account (also known as a high-yield savings account) is used more for accumulating money or receiving your salary, for example. 

If you do not plan to spend the money within a certain period (e.g. months), then it is a good idea to store it as a share certificate which will give you an interest of up to 4.1% APY.

Checking AccountSavings AccountShare Certificates
(Fixed-term deposits)
Free transfers out of your accountUnlimitedUp to 6 times per month (debit card purchases, online bill payments, transfers, wire)N/A
Interest on your balanceVery low (Almost 0%)Low (Less than 2%)Medium (Up to 4.1%)
Good forATM withdrawals

ACH transfers to your brokerage in the US (USD25k per transaction and USD125k max per day)
Paying credit cardLonger-term savings or emergency fund
Balances count toward Membership Loyalty Rewards requirementsYesYesYes
Federally insured by NCUAYesYesYes

How do I deposit money into my UNFCU account?

Based on my experience, here are some of the best ways to deposit funds into your UNFCU account if you are a Geneva-based international civil servant. There are no transfer fees with any of these options.

Option 1 – Auto deduction from salary

Ask your HR payroll to deduct a fixed portion of your salary and send it to UNFCU in USD. This is obviously a very convenient way to help you save and the money also arrives quickly.

Also, you may be avoiding currency exchanges by not having to convert your salary in USD to CHF and back to USD again in UNFCU. But it is also less flexible and your HR payroll may limit the number of times you can change the amount you wish to transfer.

Option 2 – E-banking (my favourite way)

Send money to UNFCU’s La Poste account from your local bank (CHF). This is a “domestic payment,” which means there are no transfer fees. To check the exchange rate, go to https://www.unfcu.org/exchange-rates/ and select the “Switzerland” tab. The exchange rates are typically very favourable.

Option 2 is my personal favourite. To obtain detailed instructions on how to transfer to La Poste, contact UNFCU at genevaoffice@unfcu.com.

The only thing you should avoid doing is transferring from your local bank (CHF) to UNFCU in the US directly!

This is considered “payment abroad” and you will incur transfer fees which you can easily avoid with option 2. Similarly, I would advise against using Wise (previously known as TransferWise).

How do I contact UNFCU?

You can reach them by phone or webchat at any time of day. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Otherwise, you can email them at email@unfcu.com or if you are in Geneva, at genevaoffice@unfcu.com. They usually respond within a few days.

6 tips to avoid unnecessary charges or fees

It is critical to keep an eye on the fees charged by UNFCU. Here are some of the most common, as well as some tips on how to avoid them:

Tip 1 – Account Transfers

You can transfer up to 6 times per month from a “savings account” for free. Thereafter, you pay USD5 per transaction up to a maximum of USD15 per day.

Tip 2 – Inactive Accounts

Make sure you keep your account active! If your account is inactive for 2 years, you will be charged USD5 per month. To keep your account active, make a transaction or complete the inactivity form.

Tip 3 – Outgoing Transfers

There is no fee for incoming transfers (e.g. receiving money in your UNFCU account from another bank).

But for outgoing transfers (e.g. sending money from your UNFCU account to another bank) with digital banking, there are fees.

For example, sending from UNFCU in USD costs USD30 per transfer while sending from UNFCU in non-USD costs 1% of the amount you are sending (with a minimum fee of USD 5 and a maximum of USD 30).

Avoid asking a UNFCU to transfer for you as that would cost between USD35 and USD40.

In general, avoid sending money out of UNFCU as the fees are extremely high!

However, if you have a US brokerage account, the trick is to use “ACH” for the transfer from UNFCU for FREE!!

This means you can transfer from UNFCU to Interactive Brokers, change the money at a very good exchange rate from USD to CHF and then send it to your Swiss bank account for FREE!!

Check out this blog post for more details on Top 3 Cost-Effective Ways to Move Funds.

Tip 4 – ATM Withdrawals in non-USD

With a UNFCU debit card, you can withdraw non-USD cash from any ATM worldwide for free up to 8 times per month. Even though the foreign transaction fee is 1%, it still makes a lot of sense when travelling. It prevents local money changers from defrauding you, and the exchange rates are usually reasonable.

unfcu debit card

Make sure you withdraw money using the UNFCU debit card and not the UNFCU credit card! Borrowing money from a credit card is never a good idea due to high-interest rates.

Tip 5 – Member Loyalty

If you keep a minimum balance of USD2,500 in your account at all times, you’ll be eligible for fee rebates (Member Loyalty) of up to USD10.

Tip 6 – Credit Cards

If you use a UNFCU credit card, such as the Visa Elite, make sure to pay it off in full each month to avoid paying high interest (approximately 10-12 per cent per year). To avoid forgetting, set up an automatic payment to do so for you (see the section below).

The UNFCU Visa Elite allows you to access the airport business class lounge (under Priority Pass) for free 5 times per year!

unfcu credit card visa elite

Make sure you have enough money in your savings account to cover your monthly credit card payment. Otherwise, you will be charged a USD25 insufficient fund fee.

Check out all the fees here.

If you want more tips check out this blog post on How to Beat UNFCU’s Fee System.

How to set up an automatic UNFCU credit card payment?

It is always best to set up an automatic payment to pay your credit card bill in full to avoid any interest fees. Here’s how to go about it for UNFCU:

  1. Log in to Digital Banking.
  2. Click on “My Account” on the menu.
  3. Then go to the section “Loans & Credit Cards” and click on the row of your credit card.
  4. Then click on the “Card Access” button.
  5. On the menu, select “Payments” > “Automatic Payments”
  6. Under “Automatic Payment Type”, select “Pay statement balance each month”.
  7. Under “Payment Account”, select “UNFCU Savings 0001”
  8. Select the checkbox “I authorize … “ and click “Submit”.

Make sure you have enough money in your savings account to cover your monthly credit card payment. Otherwise, you will be charged a USD25 insufficient fund fee.

How to redeem UNFCU credit card reward points as cash?

  1. Log in to Digital Banking.
  2. Click on “My Account” on the menu.
  3. Then go to the section “Loans & Credit Cards” and click on the row of your credit card.
  4. Click on the “Redeem Points” button.
  5. You will be brought to a new webpage.
  6. Click on “Redeem rewards” from the menu bar and select “Cashback”.
  7. Then enter a point value of at least 2,500 points. 100 points is equivalent to USD1.
  8. Then select “Cash Back Type” – Checking or Savings Deposit will send the cashback as a deposit to your bank account. Statement Credit will send the cashback as a credit to your credit card.

What is the UNFCU ATM withdrawal limit?

Withdrawing money with the UNFCU Debit Card makes a lot of sense, especially when traveling. 

You can withdraw non-USD cash for free with a UNFCU debit card up to 8 times per month, but there is a 1% foreign transaction fee. However, it prevents local money changers from defrauding you, and the exchange rates are usually reasonable.

You can set the daily withdrawal limit from a UNFCU ATM using the UNFCU debit card.

The limits that can be selected are: Withdrawals up to 5 times per day with a total limit of USD 200, USD 500 or USD 1000 or 7 times per day with a total limit of USD 1500. For example, if you selected USD500, it means you can withdraw one time USD500 or you can withdraw USD100 each time up to five times over the period of a day. Given that you have only 8 free withdrawals per month, I recommend setting your limit to the maximum of USD 1500. This allows you to withdraw more cash with fewer transactions.

You can change the withdrawal limit by doing the following:

  1. Log in to Digital Banking.
  2. Select “Card Management”.
  3. Click on “Modify ATM Limit”.

What are the good practices to keep your money safe while travelling?

Tip 1 – Travel Notice Form

Make sure you fill up the travel notice form on the UNFCU website to inform UNFCU that you are travelling. This is to make sure that your cards are not blocked by UNFCU when you try to use them during your travel. To fill up the travel notice form, you need to do the following:

  1. Log in to Digital Banking.
  2. Select “Card Management”.
  3. Click on “Travel Notice”.
  4. Enter Travel Dates – “Start date” and “End date”. The dates here may be based on US dates, so consider the time zone difference. I usually add one day before the start date and one day after the end date to be sure.
  5. Enter “Destinations” of your travel where you will be using your card.
  6. Enter “Phone Number” in case they need to contact you.
  7. Click “Add”.

Tip 2 – Transaction Alerts

Set up an alert for any transaction in your accounts and credit and debit cards. To set an email alert for your credit and debit cards, you need to do the following:

  1. Log in to Digital Banking.
  2. Click on “Account Services” on the menu.
  3. Select “Alerts”.
  4. Click on “Credit and Debit Card Alerts”.
  5. If you have more than one card, you should do this for each one.
  6. Click on the first card and make sure all the checkboxes are selected.
  7. Then enter the transaction amount as USD0.00.
  8. Enter an email address for the notification to be sent to.

Tip 3 – ATM Withdrawals in non-USD

Use your UNFCU debit card to withdraw non-USD cash from an ATM at your destination instead of using a money changer.

What are the important information for UNFCU digital banking?

UNFCU digital banking login website: https://www.unfcu.org/home/

UNFCU Digital Banking app on the Apple App Store.

UNFCU Digital Banking app on the Google Play Store. 

The UNFCU Routing or ABA number: 226078609

The UNFCU address:

Court Square Place, 24-01 44th Road

City: Long Island City

State: NY

Zipcode: 11101

Final thoughts

Despite the fact that the UNFCU account is only available in USD, it is an extremely useful account for international civil servants regardless of duty station. Some of the best features are their Visa Elite Credit Card, which offers 1% cashback and free VIP lounge access, the ability to withdraw non-USD cash from ATMs while travelling with the Visa Debit Card, and free ACH transfers from UNFCU to a US brokerage.

If you haven’t signed up for UNFCU, you are missing a lot! Use this UNFCU referral link and get USD10.

What do you think of UNFCU? Please leave a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe!

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