Navy Federal Credit Union Review - Everything You Need to Know

Serving military families since 1933

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Who is Navy Federal Credit Union Best For?

Navy Federal Credit Union serves those in the military and defense space and their families. Founded in 1933, Navy Federal Credit Union serves more than 7.5 million customers and will appeal to customers looking for a full-service bank. It’s perfect for customers who:

  • Meet the membership requirements of the credit union
  • Prefer credit unions over banks
  • Are interested in Certificates of Deposits
  • Want a single place to handle all of their banking needs

Membership Requirements

Navy Federal Credit Union is open to active duty and former military members, Department of Defense officers, contractors to U.S. government installations, retired DoD employees, military reservists, or members of the delayed entry program. Additionally, if you are a family member, you can join too.

Unlike some credit unions that restrict membership to only immediate family, NFCU allows grandparents, grandchildren, and other household members to join.

Pros

  • Higher interest rates than traditional brick and mortar banks

  • No fees or service charges on many of their accounts

  • More than 30,000 fee-free ATMs

Cons

  • Small amount of branches relative to their national reach

  • Questionable customer reviews

  • Low interest rates compared to online-only banks

Types of Accounts

Navy Federal Credit Union offers the following types of accounts:

Learn more about each type of account Navy Federal Credit Union offers below.

Savings Account

Navy Federal Credit Union has a basic savings account and other savings accounts focused on certain goals. For example, the education savings is similar to a 529 plan and the SaveFirst account is great for first-time home buyers and those stashing away funds for a dream vacation. Advantages of the basic savings account include:

  • No fees
  • Education Savings Accounts do not tax earnings when used for education purposes
  • Interest rates of 0.25% APY
  • Minimum balance of $5
  • Dividends are compounded monthly

Being a member of a credit union involves having a share account. Think of this as your investment into the credit union but the investment is only $5. You must have a savings account to have other services but if you would rather keep the bulk of your savings somewhere that pays a higher return than the average savings account, you can since you only have to keep $5 in the account.

Navy Federal Credit Union has a special account for anybody who will have kids in college or plan to go back to school in the coming years and decades. Just like a 529 plan, the dividends you earn grow tax-free as long as you use the money for quailed educational expenses.

SaveFirst accounts are perfect for setting a savings goal for (expensive) life events like saving for a home, a wedding, or a big vacation. You can start with as little as $5, set your start and end dates, and even name the account anything you would like.

Although Navy Federal Credit Union has competitive rates, there might be better ways to save toward specific goals depending on your financial situation and risk tolerance. Speak to a financial advisor about other options.

Checking Accounts

Navy Federal Credit Union has an impressive five varieties of checking accounts. Each fits a different type of person with differing financial needs.

Active Duty Checking Account: Specifically designed for active-duty service men and women, you receive ATM fee rebates up to $20 per month, free checks as long as you have the account and ability to access your direct deposit one business day earlier. This account has no fees and there is no minimum balance.

EveryDay Checking: This is a no-frills checking account for people with basic needs. There is no minimum balance and no fees.

Make sure you use the EveryDay checking at least once per year or you will pay a $3 monthly fee after 365 days.

Campus Checking: For students ages 14 to 24, this is similar to the Active Duty Checking account but you get $10 in ATM rebates and free name-only checks.

Flagship Checking: Why wouldn’t you just stick with the EveryDay Checking? Because once your balance grows, you might want to earn a little interest on your balance. If you can keep $1,500 or more in the account you will avoid monthly fees and earn 0.35% on your money. As your balance grows your rate will rise. You get $10 in ATM fee credit as well.

e-checking: Not near a Navy Federal Credit Union branch? Open an e-checking account. You get $10 in ATM fee rebates, no fees with direct deposit, and no minimum balance.

Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

Most CDs work the same way and Navy Federal Credit Union is no different. When shopping for Certificates of Deposits, look at the term, rate, and the reputation of the bank. NFCU offers CDs as simple share certificates (taxable) and IRA and ESA certificates that come with tax advantages. The downside to NFCU's CDs are that the minimum deposit is $10,000 and you can only make a one-time deposit — so you can't add more to the account until your term is up. Current rates are as follows:

Certificates of Deposit
CD Term $1K-$20K APY $50K APY $100K APY
3-Month 0.85% 1.01% 1.10%
6-Month 1.50% 1.65% 1.76%
9-Month 1.76% 1.90% 2.00%
12-Month 2.25% 2.40% 2.50%
18-Month 2.35% 2.50% 2.60%
24-Month 2.50% 3.00% 3.00%
3-Year 2.60% 2.75% 2.85%
4-Year 2.65% 2.80% 2.90%
5-Year 3.00% 3.15% 3.25%
6-Year 3.05% 3.20% 3.30%
7-Year 3.10% 3.25% 3.35%

NFCU also has a 12-month EasyStart Certificate that you can open with as little as $50 that comes with a 3.50% APY. You can also deposit an additional $3,000 at any time. This account takes the ridged rules out of the CD and gives you some options not normally found in CDs.

Money Market Accounts

Money market accounts are higher APY forms of savings accounts that fluctuate with the markets. Translation: you get paid more but you shoulder slightly more risk. Navy Federal Credit Union offers a regular and jumbo money market account. The higher your balance, the higher your interest rate. Current rates are as follows:

Money Market Accounts
$0-$9,999.99 0.80%
$10K-$24,999.99 0.85%
$25K-$49,999.99 0.90%
$50K+ 0.95%

The jumbo money market kicks in at $100,000 with rates starting at 1.25% and tops out at 1.35% once you reach $250,000.

Loans

Navy Federal Credit Union has a variety of loan products including but not limited to:

  • Auto Loans
  • Mortgages
  • Home Equity
  • Personal Loans
  • Student Loans
  • Motorcycle, boat, and other leisure vehicle loans

Advantages of getting a loan at Navy Federal Credit Union include:

  • Lower interest rates compared to traditional banks
  • Easier approval process
  • Easy online application
  • Online calculators to help you estimate your monthly payment

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.

Their credit card offerings include interest rates significantly lower than some other cards on the market to those with excellent credit.

All of Navy Federal Credit Union’s loan products are easy to apply for online or with the help of bank personnel.

Although Navy Federal Credit Union has competitive rates, shop around for all loans before making a decision.

Customer Service

You can reach bank representatives 24/7 by phone at 1-888-842-6328 (or 1-703-255-8837 if you're calling internationally). You can also chat in real-time on their website, send a secure message with account-specific inquiries by signing into your account online (just click "messages" then "send us a message"), or by mail.

Navy Federal Credit Union's mailing address is:

Navy Federal
PO Box 3000
Merrifield, VA 22119-3000

About Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union is a full-service bank that started in 1933 as an institution for Navy employees. Once the Federal Credit Union Act was signed in 1943, credit unions were born and 21 years later, after a few additional organizational changes, Navy Federal Credit Union was debuted.

The Bottom Line

BENEFITS

NFCU truly lives up to what people believe about credit unions—they can beat traditional banks' rates all day long. The special rates and discounts for military personnel and accounts that cater to the special needs of active duty military make it a no-brainer for those who qualify as long as the credit union model works for them.

DRAWBACKS

Although the credit union excels in their offerings and the quality of their loan products, their savings rates leave some room for improvement and the terms of their checking accounts might pose issues for families that don’t carry a high balance—such as young military personnel who haven’t yet built a healthy nest egg.

Finally, if you’re somebody who likes to drive less than a handful of miles to visit your bank’s branch location, the credit union model probably isn’t for you as NFCU doesn't have the geographical presence of most mega-banks.