Navy Federal CashRewards card is an excellent credit card, but only military-affiliated people qualify
The Navy Federal Credit Union (a.k.a. Navy Federal or NFCU) is the largest credit union in the world, with more than 7.5 million members and over $90 billion in assets.
One reason it's so popular is due to its amazing consumer financial products and the equally impressive terms that go with them.
Considering its strict membership requirements, NFCU's high numbers are even more impressive.
Credit unions are members-only. Membership with the Navy Federal Credit Union gets you access to low interest rates when borrowing funds and high interest rates for savings.
The only problem is, as its name implies, you can't join this credit union unless you are affiliated with the United States military and Department of Defense.
Military service or support is rewarded. If you are an active or retired member of the US military, a civilian working for the DoD, or if you are a family member of a person who works in these jobs, you are in luck.
You qualify for membership in the biggest credit union in the world!
This means you can benefit from the incredible products and terms this not-for-profit financial institution offers.
Top-notch credit card for America's best. One of NFCU's best products is the CashRewards credit card.
It's a Visa with good potential for earning cash back on all purchases, and even better cash back earning potential if you use it to shop through Navy Federal's online mall.
Credit unions work for members rather than profits. Considering the important role they play in sustaining our freedom and way of life, people who serve in the United States military and their support staff deserve a financial institution where their needs, rather than bank shareholders', come first.
All Credit unions share a few key features: First, you have to meet certain qualifications to be a member.
Then, once in, members get fantastic terms for their accounts.
Finally, it operates as a not-for-profit institution.
Navy Federal's CashRewards Visa is a great example that illustrates all three of these credit union features.
It's a great credit card if you qualify. It's a really strong credit card for earning cash back, borrowing when you need to, and other perks like cell phone and rental car coverage.
But if you're not affiliated with the military in any way, then you're out of luck.
What Makes It So Special?
The focus on members and benefits rather than stockholders means great rates and services for military
Since Navy Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit, its focus is on providing its members with the best possible terms for their financial needs.
The biggest reason NFCU is so special is it's impossible to become a member unless you, or someone related to you, works for the US military.
Here is the list of people who can become members of the Navy Federal Credit Union, and who therefore can apply to get the CashRewards Visa.
NFCU is for our men and women in uniform. All uniformed personnel of the US military—retired or active—can become members of Navy Federal Credit Union.
Members of the US Army, Navy, Airforce, or Marine Corps are all eligible to join.
Reservists in all these departments, regardless of their drill status (i.e. their level of training), can become members of the NFCU.
Anyone who works for, or who worked in the past for, the US Coast Guard can become a member of Navy Federal, including civilian, non-enlisted Coast Guard employees.
Army and National Guard civilian and enlisted personnel are also qualified to join.
All retired veterans of these services are qualified to join and remain members of the credit union for the rest of their lives as long as they were honorably discharged.
Even cadets and trainees at the United States Military Academy, Naval Academy, or Air Force Academy can join the NFCU and apply for the CashRewards Visa.
Non-uniformed staff are also welcome to join Navy Federal. All civilian employees of the Department of Defense can become a member of the NFCU and benefit from its products and services.
If you're a government employee and you've been assigned to a DoD installation, or if you're a defense contractor assigned to a government post, you'll get a chance to be part of its 7.5 million members if you apply.
Family members are welcome to join to. The membership qualifications open up a bit to include anyone who is directly related to the people listed above.
Grandparents and grandchildren, parents and spouses, and siblings (including adopted, foster, and stepchildren) are all invited to join the Navy Federal Credit Union.
Employees can join too. The NFCU has never laid any staff off in its 85-year history, and its 14,000 employees also get the job benefit of joining the credit union.
The only membership fee is a $5.00 deposit in a savings account, which covers the new member's share in the Credit Union.
The CashRewards Visa is special for a lot of reasons, but the most special part about it is definitely its exclusive availability to military-related customers only.
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Why People Love the NFCU CashRewards Visa
Navy Federal Credit Union includes its customer reviews on its website, and the feedback for the CashRewards Visa is glowing.
95% of members say they'd recommend the card to someone else.
The Visa's cash back is popular. Cash back earning is the biggest benefit customers talk about when they review the CashRewards Visa.
The card offers its members 1.5% cash back on everything purchased on the card, no matter what you're buying, and no matter how much you're buying—the amount of cash back you can earn simply has no limits.
There's a lot of popular cash back and travel rewards credit cards that give higher bonus rates, 5% for example, on rotating categories like gas, groceries, and wholesale club purchases.
Straightforward, simple, and lucrative. With the CashRewards Visa from Navy Federal, you don't need to keep multiple cards in your wallet or keep track of bonus earnings categories that change every few months.
Customers say they use the card for absolutely everything and simply earn the cash back rewards for all their spending.
Here's a typical NFCU CashRewards Visa customer review:
"I use this card for literally every purchase I make.
I put everything on my credit card to maximize my cash rewards, and then pay it off at the end of the week.
I never have to pay interest.
I did a lot of research on different cash back cards and this one is the best I can find.
I love that you don't have to hassle yourself in keeping track of the different categories of purchases."
Earn more cash back at the Member Mall. Another amazing feature of the CashRewards cashback program is the ability to earn even more cash back when shopping at the NFCU Member Mall.
It's an online shopping portal that members can access by logging into their digital banking account and choosing Member Mall under the Rewards Points section.
Get rewarded for shopping online with major retailers. The Membership Mall offers exclusive deals and discounts from big time stores like Staples, Home Depot, Apple, Best Buy, and Walmart.
The cash back rewards are increased with Member Mall purchases.
An additional 5% and up to 15% cash back bonus is offered when shopping at the Member Mall.
Let's say for example you wanted to buy an Apple product worth $400.
If you bought it in person at the Apple store with the CashRewards card, you'd earn $6 in cash back at the 1.5% rate.
When you buy the same product through the Member Mall using your CashRewards account, you'd still earn the $6, but you'll receive an additional $20 if the cash back bonus for that item happens to be at 5%.
6.5% cash back is unbeatable. Instead of earning $6, you'd earn $26 for buying the same item from the same retailer using the same card through the Member Mall.
$26 earned back on a $400 purchase is a 6.5% cash back rate, which is even better than what cashback cards that use rotating 5% earning categories can offer.
You keep all of your earnings. When you consider the fact that the NFCU CashRewards card has no annual fee to claw back any of the cash back you earn, it's hard not to be sold.
The Downsides of the NFCU CashRewards Visa
Low credit limits make it difficult to take advantage of the low interest rates
Negative reviews on the Navy Federal CashRewards card website frequently complain about how hard it is to get a credit limit increase even with a high credit score.
Higher credit scores mean lower interest rates. Usually, a high credit score qualifies someone for a low credit card interest rate (known as the Annual Percentage Rate, or APR).
Better-than-average interest rates. The average credit card interest rate at the end of 2017 was 13.16%.
The Navy Federal Credit Union's CashRewards Visa charges 10.9% APR to people with the highest credit scores, and 18.0% for successful applicants with the lowest scores.
10.9% is one of the lowest credit card APRs you'll find, particularly if you're comparing it against interest rates charged by major credit card companies and banks.
Low APRs are only good if you can borrow. Even though the CashRewards card's APRs are outstanding, online complaints from members suggest that their credit limits are kept low, and it's difficult to get an increase.
One member with an Excellent credit score posted, "I recently submitted a request for a limit increase to my credit card account and was declined.
I have a FICO score of 810 across the board and a 100% payment record with ALL of my credit that I have.
I am not sure why Navy Federal is so demanding on their credit card customers."
The interest charged on balances carried on a CashRewards card is impressively low, unfortunately, so is the credit limit, and that restricts how much you can benefit from its excellent APR.
Many other members have posted similar complaints saying that the credit limit they were offered when they were approved for the CashRewards card was low and didn't increase even after a while.
The PenFed Credit Union Visa has a 0% balance transfer APR introductory offer
PenFed Credit Union is another big and impressive credit union serving military and defense members and their families.
The main advantage the PenFed's Visa offering has over the Navy Federal's is a 12-month intro period with 0% APR for transferring a balance.
The low interest rate charged for the PenFed Visa is comparable to the CashRewards card, which makes it a good choice for transferring a balance from a high-interest card.
Pay more to earn a $100 sign-up bonus. Both the PenFed Visa and the Navy Federal CashRewards cards offer new members a $100 sign-up bonus if they spend a certain amount within a certain time.
With PenFed, you get the $100 after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days.
For comparison, new cardmembers qualify for Navy Federal's $100 bonus after spending only $500 within 90 days of the card opening.
Comparable cash back earnings. Both of these cards let you earn 1.5% cash back on everything you purchase with the card with no limits.
Less restrictive membership. PenFed is more inclusive in its membership qualifications, for example, if you're a Red Cross volunteer you can join.
2% cash back for actual military service. If a member has actually served in the military, they get qualified for the PenFed Honors Advantage, which gets them 2% cash back on their PenFed Visa expenses.
Non-military members can also qualify by opening a checking account.
How Navy Federal Cash Rewards Compares to PenFed Visa
|Navy Federal Cash Rewards||PenFed Visa|
|How high of a credit score do you need?||>600||>600|
|How big of a sign-up bonus do you get?||$100||$100|
|How much do you need to spend to get the bonus?||$500 in first 90 days||$1,500 in first 90 days|
|How many points do you get for every dollar?||1.5 points (with bonus points at the Member Mall)||1.5 points (2 points for PenFed Honors Advantage)|
|Any restrictions on cash back earned?||No||No|
|If you spent $100 on the card, then how much would the points be worth in dollars?||$1.50||$1.50 ($2 for PenFed Honors Advantage)|
|How much would you need to spend on the card to make up for the fees (excluding APR/rates)?||N/A||N/A|
Two other competitors to consider
Alliant Credit Union Signature Visa has higher earning rates, with an annual fee. Another popular credit union is Alliant Credit Union, which was created for people living in or around Chicago.
Its Signature Visa has a first-year cash back earning rate of 3%, and after year one it's still quite impressive at 2.5%.
The only problem is the $59 annual fee you have to pay every year, excluding the first year.
Consumers Credit Union's Visa Signature Cash Rebate card has high cash back. Consumers Credit Union has no membership or geographic restrictions and operates completely online.
Its Visa Signature Cash Rebate credit card earns 3% cash back on grocery store purchases and 2% on gas station expenses.
Everything else you purchase earns cash back at a 1% rate.
There's a cap to what you can earn. You can only earn a maximum of $6,000 cash back in a year with the Consumer's Credit Union card.
The 3% grocery rate is only good for up to $6,000 in purchases (then it goes down to 1%).
How It All Works
Earn 1.5% cash back with flexible redemption options
Once you start spending on everything using the Navy Federal CashRewards Visa, your account will start accumulating rewards.
Soon after you spend $500 in the first 90 days, $100 will show up on your cash back balance.
You can redeem as little as $20 from your cash back balance and you can redeem as soon as it appears in your account.
There are many ways to redeem cash back. When you redeem, you can choose to get the money as a statement credit, or you can have it deposited into a checking, savings, or money market savings account.
There's no limit on how much you can earn, and there is no expiration date on the cash back rewards you've collected as long as your account is open.
The Navy Federal online banking portal lets you bank and shop remotely
Having an online banking portal where you can transfer funds, pay bills, manage your accounts, and review statements is fairly standard these days.
The difference between the Navy Federal online banking site and those of other banks and credit unions is the Members Mall.
You can get to the Members Mall through your online banking account. Once there, follow the links under the Rewards Points section.
You make your transactions while you're on the Member Mall page and you can choose the account you want to pay with, earning bonus points the whole time.
If you navigate out of the Members Mall, you won't qualify for deals and bonuses. So make sure you complete you transactions before leaving.
Considering the high-caliber of the retailers you can access through the Members Mall, it's a pretty cool feature for an online banking platform to include.
- How do I apply for a Navy Federal CashRewards card?
The first step is to confirm you're eligible as part of the military, its support staff, or a family member of military personnel.
Afterwards, apply to be a member of the credit union by clicking on "Become a Member" under the website's Membership tab.
You'll be screened for eligibility and then go through the full application process.
Upon approval, you'll need to put a $5 deposit into a savings account to purchase your share. This is because a credit union is owned by its members, not investors, so you are literally purchasing a share.
Go back to the homepage, select "Credit Cards" under Loans and Credit Cards, and click "Apply" for the CashRewards option.
- How do I cancel my Navy Federal CashRewards Visa?
The recommended way to close your account is to send an eMessage with the request.
To send an eMessage, login to your account, select the "Messages" link on the top right corner of your screen and click on "Send Us a Message."
If you have any current cash back rewards, you may redeem them prior to requesting the closure by clicking on the credit card under "Accounts" and then by clicking "Rewards."
- How do I get support from a human being?
Although it's not technically talking to a human being, Navy Federal has a great "Live Chat" support service available through every page on its website.
You can also call Member Services 24/7 at 1-888-842-6328.
There are also branches you can visit in person in the D.C. area, Virginia and Maryland, as well as in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, California, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Texas.
Branches are also located at military bases in Guam, Puerto Rico, Oregon, Japan, and Portugal.
People who serve our country deserve an excellent credit card
Serving in our nation's armed forces is a career choice worthy of praise. If someone is putting himself or herself in harm's way to defend our country, the least anyone could do is to provide them with decent financial support.
Who would argue against giving a person who has served with or supported the American military the best possible financial services, including credit cards?
Navy Federal Credit Union rewards those who help in defending our country with a cash back credit card that has some of the best perks and privileges found anywhere.
Despite the relatively low credit limit that it comes with, its super-competitive APR, attractive and easy-to-get sign-up bonus, and the unlimited opportunity to earn cash back all make the NFCU CashRewards a true winner.
Do you use the Navy Federal CashRewards Visa?
How has the card worked for you so far?
Any great tips or stories you'd like to share with the rest of us?
Let us know in the comments below!