Navy Federal Credit Union Review

Updated: April 27, 2022
In this Article

    Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) was established in 1933. Since that time it has grown out of a membership in the single digits to a financial institution with more than 13.5 million members. NFCU was open only to Navy members until 2008 when membership was opened to include all those associated with the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard.

    What Is A Credit Union?

    NFCU is a military-oriented financial institution that operates as a credit union, meaning account holders aren’t customers only; they “own” a stake in the credit union. Each member has a vote, and only members can use NFCU banking services.

    Credit Unions function as not-for-profit entities, and profits go back to the members in the form of dividends, reduced interest rates, or other improvements.

    Who Can Join Navy Federal Credit Union

    NFCU is open to those who have a connection to the United States military including:

    • Active duty members of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force
    • Active duty members of Coast Guard
    • Active Duty Air National Guard
    • Recruits in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP)
    • DoD Officer Candidates
    • ROTC
    • DoD Reservists
    • Veterans
    • Retirees and annuitants
    • Qualifying family members of the above

    The Navy Federal official site anticipates that the “qualifying family members” eligibility question is more complicated than just inviting parents, children, or spouses with military connections to join. NFCU lists the following family members and related individuals as being eligible to join:

    • Household members (roommates included) of current NFCU account holders
    • Parents
    • Grandparents
    • Spouses
    • Siblings
    • Children
    • Adopted children
    • Stepchildren
    • Grandchildren

    NFCU Services

    The Navy Federal official site describes the credit union’s programs as follows:

    • Checking & Savings
    • Loans & Credit Cards
    • Services
    • Financial Wellness

    Of the four, the Financial Wellness section is aimed more at education in areas such as retirement planning, military life, taxes, etc. The other sections (Checking & Savings, etc.) showcase NFCU account options, etc.

    NFCU Pros & Cons


    • Members have access to more than 355 branches worldwide, including 26 international locations, and 30,000+ free ATMs
    • Offers a wide range of affordable mortgage products designed for military members
    • As a not-for-profit credit they offer low rates compared with most lenders
    • VA loan expertise


    • Membership is only available to those with a military affiliation

    NFCU Loans And Credit Cards

    • Credit Cards
    • Auto Loans
    • Mortgages
    • Personal Loans
    • Student Loans
    • Home Equity Loans
    • Motorcycle, Boat & Leisure Vehicles

    Navy Federal credit card options for rewards and cashback are typical of what you might expect from any credit card program; rewards, cash back options, and variable APRs. What makes these cards different than some commercial (and not-exclusively-military) cards?

    No annual fees. There are (at press time) three levels of credit card service with the lowest interest rates reserved for those who qualify for the NFCU Platinum card. Note, there are six total cards available from Navy Fed, and the Flagship card does carry an annual fee of $49.

    Auto loans are offered for both new and used vehicles, and there is also a refinance option. What some military members may be interested in here? Motorcycle, boat, and leisure vehicle loans.

    Why are these NFCU loans particularly helpful? Because some military members and veterans find out the hard way that VA mortgage loans are not available for houseboats, Recreation Vehicles (RVs), campers, and other vehicles that can technically act as a dwelling but have no permanent foundation.

    A VA loan cannot be used to buy a house boat or RV because they cannot be classified or taxed as real estate. That’s where the NFCU Motorcycle, Boat & Leisure Vehicles loan comes in.

    And while we’re discussing VA mortgages, Navy Federal offers them in addition to some other home loan programs with similar features in some case (such as a zero-down option). Home loan options include:

    • Standard VA mortgage
    • Military Choice loans for those who have already used their VA mortgage entitlement
    • Conventional fixed-rate mortgages, but with no Private Mortgage Insurance required
    • Homebuyer’s Choice (a zero-down loan option for those who qualify with no Private Mortgage Insurance required

    Home loans aren’t the only lending choices you have. Navy Federal offers student loans with the following basic terms:

    • Loans are available for a semester OR full academic year up to the school-certified cost of attendance (see more here)
    • Repayment options while in school
    • Interest rate reduction when you sign up for automatic payments (learn more here)
    • A co-signer release may be requested after 24 consecutive “on-time principal and interest payments”

    Specific interest rates, loan amounts, and other variables are subject to change depending on the school, legislation, NFCU policy, and other factors.

    NFCU Checking & Savings

    Navy Federal account services include the following options:

    • Checking & Debit Card
    • Savings Accounts
    • Certificates
    • Money Market Accounts
    • Retirement Savings
    • Education Savings
    • Prepaid and Gift Cards

    All members have some form of free checking offered. There is an active duty free checking program, and similar options for students and for “everyday checking” uses.

    Those with Active Duty checking accounts are eligible to receive their direct deposit payment from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service a day early. The savings account options include retirement and education savings; whatever your future financial needs might be in these areas, there are options.

    The retirement savings account features include Roth IRAs, Traditional IRAs, SEP accounts, and more. For education savings accounts, there are multiple choices including the Coverdell Education Savings Account and the 529 Plan.

    Other NFCU Services

    • Mobile Banking
    • Online Banking
    • Branches & ATMs
    • Business Solutions

    ATM fees are subject to refunding each statement period up to $10 or $20 depending on checking account. The NFCU official site has an ATM locator tool you can use to find the nearest cash machine near you. The usual online deposits, mobile pay, and automatic bill pay programs are available here but under Services you will also find options for small business banking.

    If you are a veteran entrepreneur, or otherwise run your own business as a Navy Federal member, these services may be able to help. Navy Federal offers small business credit card and loan services including vehicle and business real estate lending.

    It’s important to point out that while Navy Federal offers VA mortgage loans, the business loan options are entirely separate from VA home loan offerings; VA mortgages can only be used for primary residences and not investment properties.

    Written by Team