Navy Federal Credit Union Review

A full-service credit union for military members and their families

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NFCU

Navy Federal Credit Union is the largest credit union in the world. With more than 9 million members, it is a force in the banking universe, especially for those who serve or have served in the armed forces.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Company Overview
Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Competitive rates on certificates

  • No monthly fees on most savings and checking accounts

  • Large fee-free ATM network


Cons
  • Small branch network

  • Strict membership requirements

  • Low interest rates compared with online banks


Company Overview
  • Year Founded 1933
  • Official Website www.navyfederal.org
  • Banking Products Offered Savings, checking, certificates, MMA, credit cards
  • Customer Service Phone line: 888-842-6328 (Domestic) & 703-255-8837 (International)

Pros Explained

  • Competitive rates on certificates – There are five certificate options available through Navy Federal, and many of them offer better rates than found at most national banks.
  • No monthly fees on most savings and checking accounts – Most deposit accounts through Navy Federal have no monthly maintenance fee.
  • Large fee-free ATM network – Navy Federal members have access to more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs.

Cons Explained

  • Small branch network – Although it’s the largest credit union, the number of local branches available aren’t as widespread as its members.
  • Strict membership requirements – Many credit unions offer a way to make a donation to charity to gain membership if you don’t meet the other requirements. Navy Federal doesn’t do that.
  • Low interest rates compared with online banks – While some of the available rates might catch your eye, they still don’t compare with the top interest rates found at many online-only banks.

Who Is Navy Federal Credit Union Best For?

Navy Federal Credit Union is a full-service credit union offering a wide range of products and services. It’s a good fit for customers who:

  • Are part of the armed forces or related to someone who is a member
  • Want a full-service credit union for all of their banking needs
  • Are looking for simple bank accounts that earn interest

What Does Navy Federal Credit Union Offer?

As the largest credit union in America, Navy Federal Credit Union offers a host of banking products:

Checking Accounts

Navy Federal has five checking accounts available currently. Each varies slightly, which means the credit union has an account for almost every need. All of the checking accounts currently earn a 0.05% annual percentage yield (APY) except Flagship checking, which earns between 0.35% and 0.45% APY. Here’s a breakdown of each checking option.

  • Free Active Duty Checking – This checking account is designed for both active duty military and retired military. There is no monthly fee with a qualifying military direct deposit. There’s also no minimum balance requirement. Customers get free personalized checks and up to $240 in out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements annually.
  • Free Easy Checking – This is a simple checking account with no minimum balance requirement and no monthly fee with a qualifying military direct deposit. It comes with up to $120 in out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements annually. 
  • Free Campus Checking – Designed for members ages 14 to 24, this checking account features no monthly fee and no minimum balance requirements. Accounts also come with up to $120 in out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements annually. 
  • Free Everyday Checking – This is a no-frills checking account. It has no monthly fee or minimum balance requirement but not much else.
  • Flagship Checking – Navy Federal’s premier checking account, Flagship Checking has a $10 monthly fee, which can be waived by keeping an average daily balance of more than $1,500 each month. It earns up to $120 in out-of-network ATM reimbursements with direct deposit. Only balances over $25,000 earn the highest interest rate of 0.45% APY.

Interest dividends are credited monthly to all checking accounts.

Navy Federal Credit Union Checking Accounts
Account Name Minimum Opening Deposit Monthly Fee Annual Percentage Yield (APY)
Free Active Duty Checking  $0 $0 0.05%
Free Easy Checking $0 $0 0.05%
Free Campus Checking $0 $0 0.05%
Free EveryDay Checking $0 $0 0.05%
Flagship Checking  $0 $10 Under $10,000: 0.35%
Between $10,000 to $24,999: 0.40%
$25,000 or more: 0.45%
(As of August 4, 2020)

Savings Account

Navy Federal offers a Membership Share Savings account, which is required to join the credit union. It is a basic savings account that earns a 0.25% APY. It requires an initial deposit of $5 to open a savings account.

Navy Federal Credit Union Savings Account
Account Name Min Opening Deposit  Monthly Fee  APY
Membership Share Savings Account  $5 $0 0.25%
(As of August 4, 2020)

Money Market Accounts

There are two money market accounts available through Navy Federal Credit Union: Money Market Savings Account and Jumbo Money Market Savings Account. Both offer competitive rates near what’s offered with the best money market accounts.

Navy Federal Money Market Accounts
Minimum Deposit  APY
$0 to $9,999 0.40%
$10,000 to $24,999 0.45%
$25,000 to $49,999 0.50%
$50,000 and over 0.55%
(As of August 4, 2020)
Navy Federal Jumbo Money Market Accounts
Minimum Deposit  APY
$0 to $99,999 0.25%
$100,000 to $249,999 0.70%
$250,000 and over 0.80%
(As of August 4, 2020)

Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

Another popular account option through Navy Federal is its certificates, which are comparable to certificates of deposit (CDs). There are five CD options available through Navy Federal.

  • Standard Certificates – Navy Federal’s primary certificate has terms from three months to seven years and earns up to a 1.25% APY. To earn the highest interest tier, you’ll need a balance of more than $100,000. It comes with a minimum deposit as low as $1,000.
  • Three-Year Variable Rate Certificates – This certificate allows members to keep up with changes in the market with rates that automatically adjust each year. Members can also add more funds on the 12-month and 24-month anniversary of the certificate opening. Interest earning tops out at a 0.42% APY, with minimum deposits as low as $500.
  • EasyStart Certificates – This starter certificate comes with terms from six months to 24 months, earning up to a 0.80% APY. Members can add money anytime, and there’s no account maximum.
  • Special EasyStart Certificates – This certificate comes with just one term length: 12 months. It earns up to a 3.50% APY and can be opened for as little as $50. You do need to have a checking account and direct deposit set up to open this certificate, and there’s a $3,000 maximum purchase.
  • SaveFirst Account – This certificate comes with a minimum deposit as low as $5 with terms from three months to five years, earning as much as a 0.50% APY.

Standard certificate rates are based on both term length and balance amount. Only accounts with a balance of $100,000 or more earn the highest interest rates.

Navy Federal Standard Certificates
Term APY
$1K Min
APY
$50K Min
APY
$100K Min
Three Months 0.50% 0.50% 0.55%
Six Months 0.60% 0.60% 0.65%
Nine Months 0.60% 0.60% 0.65%
One Year 0.80% 0.80% 0.85%
18 Months 0.85% 0.85% 0.90%
Two Years 0.90% 0.90% 0.95%
Three Years 1.05% 1.05% 1.10%
Four Years 1.10% 1.10% 1.15%
Five Years 1.20% 1.20% 1.25%
Six Years 1.20% 1.20% 1.25%
Seven Years 1.20% 1.20% 1.25%
(As of October 5, 2020)

Credit Cards

Navy Federal Credit Union offers a handful of credit cards too, including several rewards credit cards, a cash back card, and a secured credit card.

  • cashRewards Card
  • Navy Federal More Rewards American Express Card
  • Visa Signature Flagship Rewards Card
  • Go Rewards Card
  • Platinum Card
  • nRewards Secured Card

Other Financial Products Offered by Navy Federal

Navy Federal offers a host of other products and services:

  • Retirement savings accounts
  • Retirement money market and jumbo money market accounts
  • Retirement certificates
  • Education Savings Accounts (ESA)
  • Education money market accounts
  • Education certificates
  • Prepaid and gift cards
  • Mortgage loans
  • Home Equity Loans (currently suspended)
  • Home Equity Lines of Credit (currently suspended)
  • Student loans
  • Personal loans
  • Auto loans
  • Motorcycle, boat, and RV loans

Navy Federal Customer Service

Navy Federal members have access to a wide range of support options from the credit union. Phone support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with options for domestic and international callers:

  • Domestic: 888-842-6328
  • International: 703-255-8837

Other support options include chat, email, mail, and social media channels.

Navy Federal does give members online and mobile access, which aren’t options at many credit unions. Members can check balances, make payments, transfer money, and order checks from almost anywhere.

How to Bank Through Navy Federal Credit Union

To bank at Navy Federal requires membership, which isn’t open to everyone. To become a member of Navy Federal, you must be active duty, retired, or veteran member of the armed forces, which includes:

  • Army
  • Marine Corps
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • Coast Guard
  • National Guard
  • Space Force

Family members of military members, including minors, are eligible to become members of the credit union too. Membership is also an option for the Department of Defense civilians, including retirees and annuitants, and other select citizens.

You can apply for a membership only on the Navy Federal website or by calling 888-842-6328. You’ll need to have personal information on hand to verify your identity, including your Social Security number, driver's license, or other valid ID.

Verdict

If you’re someone who is eligible for membership, Navy Federal Credit Union offers enough accounts and services to meet most banking needs. It’s a full-service credit union that rivals most national banks. If you prefer a credit union to a bank, Navy Federal may be the best place to keep your savings. It’s not for everyone, though, especially if you don’t qualify for membership. Despite its size, it still doesn’t have enough local branches to offer in-person services to all of its members. You may find better rates on most deposit accounts at an online bank.

Methodology

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  1. American Banker. "The Navy commander behind the credit union banks love to hate." Accessed July 29, 2020.