Navy Federal Credit Union Review

Is Navy Federal Credit Union a good bank?

hand holding credit card and wallet by laptop
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Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) serves families in the military and defense space. The credit union was founded in 1933 with just seven members, but it now serves more than 9 million customers. While Navy Federal Credit Union specializes in serving both active-duty and former military service members, extended family members such as grandparents and grandchildren can also open an account.

What We Like
  • Higher interest rates than traditional brick-and-mortar banks

  • No fees or service charges on most accounts

  • More than 30,000 fee-free ATMs

What We Don't Like
  • Few physical branch locations relative to their national reach

  • Not everyone qualifies for membership

  • Low interest rates compared to online-only banks

Who Is Navy Federal Credit Union Best For?

Navy Federal Credit Union is a full-service credit union with a wide range of services. It’s perfect for customers who:

  • Are members of a military family or work in the defense industry
  • Prefer credit unions over banks
  • Are interested in no-frills savings and certificates of deposit (CDs)
  • Want a single place to handle all of their banking needs

What Does Navy Federal Credit Union Offer?

The accounts offered by Navy Federal Credit Union are enough to meet most banking customers' needs. Those accounts include:

Savings Account

Navy Federal Credit Union has a basic savings account. Since it's a credit union, this account is known as a share account. Think of this as your investment in the credit union, but the investment is only $5. You must have a savings account to become a member, but you can keep the bulk of your savings in other products such as CDs and money market accounts. You only need to maintain that $5 minimum in the savings account.

Savings earn 0.25% APY with monthly distributions. As long as you maintain the $5 minimum, you'll earn that APY on your balance.

Although Navy Federal Credit Union has competitive rates for its savings account, there might be better ways to save. It all depends on your financial situation and risk tolerance. Speak to a financial advisor about other options, including CDs, money market accounts, and investments.

Checking Accounts

Navy Federal Credit Union has five types of checking accounts, an impressive variety for a credit union. Each account is similar, though there are some differences meant to fit customers' specific needs. As of June 22, 2020, all accounts earn 0.05% APY, with the exception of Flagship Checking accounts, which earn more.

Free Active Duty Checking: Active-duty service members receive more ATM fee rebates than other accounts, up to $20 per month. These accounts also get earlier access to military pay when direct deposit is set up. Other features include free checks, no fees, and no minimum balance.

Free EveryDay Checking: This is a no-frills checking account for people with basic needs. There is no minimum balance and no fees. This account doesn't offer ATM fee rebates.

Free Campus Checking: This account is designed for students between the ages of 14 and 24. There's no minimum balance and no fees, and members receive up to $10 in ATM fee rebates every month.

Flagship Checking: This account earns a higher APY than other accounts. The exact rate is based on your balance, but it ranges between 0.35% and 0.45%. Members receive up to $10 in ATM fee rebates every month. Unlike other accounts, a minimum balance of $1,500 is required. If your balance falls below this, you'll be charged a $10 fee and you won't earn interest.

Free Easy Checking: This account is essentially Free EveryDay Checking with the addition of $10 in ATM fee rebates every month. It also comes with more requirements; members must either establish a direct deposit or use their debit card linked to the account 20 times per month. If members fail to meet these requirements for three months in a row, the account will be converted into a Free EveryDay Checking account.

Certificates of Deposit

CDs function similarly from bank to bank, and Navy Federal Credit Union is no exception. The key aspects to consider while shopping for certificates of deposit are the term and the rate. NFCU offers CDs as simple share certificates (which are taxable), as well as special certificates for Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) that come with tax advantages. 

Take a look at the chart below for current rates on standard CDs.

Certificate of Deposit Rates (as of June 22, 2020)
CD Term $1,000 minimum APY $100,000 minimum APY
3 Months 0.50% 0.55%
6 Months 0.75% 0.80%
9 Months 0.75% 0.80%
12 Months 1.05% 1.10%
18 Months 1.10% 1.15%
24 Months 1.10% 1.15%
3 Years 1.20% 1.25%
4 Years 1.20% 1.20%
5 Years 1.25% 1.30%
6 Years 1.25% 1.30%
7 Years 1.25% 1.30%

In addition to these standard CDs and the tax-advantaged CD accounts, NFCU also offers a few unique CD products. EasyStart Certificates and Special EasyStart Certificates drop minimum deposits to as low as $50 and allow customers to contribute throughout the lifetime of the certificate. The Special EasyStart certificate offers an impressive 3.5% APY, as well, though deposits are limited to a maximum of $3,000.

Navy Federal Credit Union also offers variable-rate certificates. These three-year CDs adjust annually to match any rate movements in the market. The minimum deposit is only $500 for these variable CDs, compared to $1,000 for standard CDs.

CDs are time deposits, and that means you should plan on leaving the money alone for the predetermined time. Early withdrawals come with a penalty fee. The amount of the fee depends on how much is withdrawn and the remaining time until the CD is scheduled to mature.

SaveFirst accounts are another saving option that's similar to a CD. These time deposits help members work toward savings goals. You can start with as little as $5, set your start and end dates, and even name the account anything you would like. The minimum timeline is three months and the maximum is five years. These accounts earn 0.5% APY.

Money Market Accounts

Money market accounts are a form of savings account that fluctuates with the markets but offers a higher APY. In other words, you get paid more, but you shoulder slightly more risk. Navy Federal Credit Union offers a standard money market account, as well as a "Jumbo" account that's designed for those with $100,000 or more to set aside.

Both accounts offered tiered rates that increase as your balance grows. Check the chart below for current rates on the standard account.

Money Market Account Rates (as of June 22, 2020)
Balance APY
$0-$9,999.99 0.50%
$10,000-$24,999.99 0.55%
$25,000-$49,999.99 0.60%
$50,000 or more 0.65%

The Jumbo Money Market account offers just 0.25% APY until the balance reaches $100,000 (as of May 7, 2020). At $100,000, you'll start earning 1%. The APY increases to 1.10% once the balance reaches $250,000.

Credit Cards

Navy Federal Credit Union's credit card offerings include lower interest rates than some other cards on the market, especially for customers with excellent credit. The list of credit cards includes:

Other Financial Products From Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union has a variety of loan products that come with advantages like an easier application and approval process. As a credit union, the interest rates are likely to be more favorable than you'd experience with traditional banks.

Because Navy Federal Credit Union caters to military personnel and their families, they offer military discounts and 100% financing on some loans. They also offer VA loan options.

The full list of Navy Federal Credit Union's financial products include:

  • Auto, motorcycle, boat, and RV loans
  • Mortgages
  • Home equity lines of credit
  • Personal loans
  • Student loans
  • IRAs
  • ESAs
  • Business credit cards

Although Navy Federal Credit Union has competitive rates, shop around to better understand your options before making a decision.

Navy Federal Credit Union Customer Service

Navy Federal Credit Union offers a wide range of options for customers with a question or concern. Phone support for customers is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Domestic callers can reach customer service at 1-888-842-6328, and international callers can call 1-703-255-8837. The credit union's website also features real-time chat options with responsive customer service representatives. Alternatively, customers can send an email, reach out through social media, or send a letter through the mail.

How to Bank With Navy Federal Credit Union

Unlike some other banks and credit unions, Navy Federal Credit Union isn't open to everybody. As the name implies, it's specifically designed for military service members, though membership extends beyond the Navy. All branches of the military are welcome, including ROTC members, reservists, veterans, annuitants, and members of the Delayed Entry Program.

Certain civilians can join, as well, including Department of Defense (DoD) contractors, U.S. government employees assigned to DoD installations, and retired DoD civilian employees.

Those who are eligible to join extend membership eligibility to their family, including siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and other members of the household. Once you know you're eligible, opening a bank account with Navy Federal Credit Union is similar to any other banking institution. Just visit navyfederal.org or call 1-888-842-6328. Make sure to have personal information like your social security number and a valid ID on hand.

The Bottom Line

BENEFITS

NFCU truly lives up to people's expectations for credit unions—they can beat traditional banks' rates any day. The special accounts, rates, and discounts for military personnel that cater to their specific needs make it a no-brainer for those who qualify.

DRAWBACKS

Although the credit union excels in its offerings and the quality of its loan products, the savings rates leave some room for improvement. Another inconvenience is the lack of branch locations. Some areas are covered with multiple locations, but others aren't. San Francisco, for instance, only has one branch location within 100 miles. Ann Arbor, MI doesn't have any branches within 100 miles.

Article Sources

  1. Navy Federal Credit Union. "About Navy Federal Credit Union." Accessed May 7, 2020.

  2. Navy Federal Credit Union. "Rates." Accessed May 7, 2020.

  3. Navy Federal Credit Union. "Checking & Debit." Accessed May 7, 2020.

  4. Navy Federal Credit Union. "Free Easy Checking." Accessed May 7, 2020.

  5. Navy Federal Credit Union. "ESA Certificates." Accessed May 7, 2020.

  6. Navy Federal Credit Union. "IRA Certificates." Accessed May 7, 2020.

  7. Navy Federal Credit Union. "EasyStart Certificate." Accessed May 7, 2020.

  8. Navy Federal Credit Union. "Certificates." Accessed May 7, 2020.

  9. Navy Federal Credit Union. "Money Market Savings Accounts." Accessed May 7, 2020.

  10. Navy Federal Credit Union. "Contact Us." Accessed May 7, 2020.

  11. Navy Federal Credit Union. "Membership Eligibility." Accessed May 7, 2020.

  12. Navy Federal Credit Union. "Branches & ATMs." Accessed May 7, 2020.