Have you served, or are you currently serving in the U.S. military? Wondering whether a United Services Automobile Association (USAA) or Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) credit card is right for you or a family member? Both of these lending institutions value service and strong military tradition, but their special credit card opportunities differ slightly.
So, which is better?
The best credit card issuer depends on your needs. While USAA cards are ideal for those who frequently spend at specific places, NFCU appeals to a wider audience, has more credit card offerings, and provides better interest rates and signup bonuses. However, it's crucial to explore your options.
In this post, we'll put these financial institutions head to head to help you make an informed decision about where to apply. Besides comparing USAA and NFCU, we'll outline credit card features and benefits, as well as answer key questions about how many cards you can have, credit card limits, and more. Let the battle commence!
USAA or Navy Federal Credit Card
Before we jump in, you should know who can use USAA and NFCU services, as both of these credit card issuers are more exclusive than banks.
Eligibility for USAA is restricted to active-duty and retired service members of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy. This includes separated service members (i.e., those with an honorable discharge) and cadets and midshipmen at U.S. service academies, in advanced ROTC, and on ROTC scholarships. Candidates within 24 months of commission may also apply. Family members who may qualify include immediate family members such as a spouse, widow, widower, un-remarried former spouse, child, and stepchild.
Similarly, NFCU is reserved for active-duty service members, veterans, retirees, and annuitants of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Army and Air National Guard. This includes Delayed Entry Program (DEP) members, Department of Defense Reservists, and Department of Defense Officer Candidates/ROTC. Immediate civilian family members, such as grandparents, parents, spouses, children (including stepchildren and adopted children), grandchildren, and other household members may qualify.
If you don't know your eligibility status, contact both institutions to determine whether you're a prime candidate for their credit card offers. For quick reference, USAA's customer service number is 00 1 210-498-2722, and Navy Federal's customer service number is 00 1 703-255-8837.
Now that you know whether you're eligible, let's get into the nitty-gritty of the credit card offers themselves and answer crucial questions to assist in your decision-making process.
Types of USAA and Navy Federal Credit Cards Available
While USAA currently has five credit cards on the market, NFCU offers six options. Here's a list of each:
- USAA Rewards™ American Express® Credit Card
- USAA Rewards™ Visa® Signature Credit Card
- Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Credit Card
- Preferred Cash Rewards Visa® Signature Card
- USAA Rate Advantage Visa® Platinum Card
- cashRewards Credit Card
- Platinum Credit Card
- GO REWARDS® Credit Card
- Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card
- Navy Federal More Rewards American Express® Card
- nRewards® Secured
Features and Benefits of USAA vs. Navy Federal Credit Cards
Both providers give you a multitude of reasons to love them.
No matter which card you choose from either institution, the benefits in each column below apply across all of their particular cards. Some cards offer additional features and benefits that apply specifically to them, so you'll need to assess each card individually, as well.
|No annual fee
|24/7 access to stateside member reps
|No penalty APR (annual percentage rate)
|Zero liability policy for unauthorized transactions
|Travel and retail benefits
|No balance transfer fees
|No foreign transaction fees
|Points don't expire
|Ability to freeze and unfreeze a card
|Access to your credit score
|Low rates (an APR about 5% lower than the industry average)
|Travel, entertainment, and shopping benefits
USAA vs. Navy Federal Credit Card Fees
Let's take a closer look at the breakdown of fees between these institutions.
|Credit Card Fee
|$0 (except Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card at $49)
|Foreign transaction fee
|Balance transfer fee
|3% of each transaction amount
|Cash advance fee
|3% of each transaction amount
Special offers continuously change at both of these financial institutions, but when there's a 0% intro APR for balance transfers, it usually lasts for 12 months at NFCU and 15 months at USAA.
How Many USAA or Naval Federal Credit Cards Can You Have?
With Navy Federal, you can be a primary member on up to three credit cards as a primary cardholder. However, you can also be added as an authorized user to other cards. USAA, on the other hand, doesn't make it clear how many cards you can have but rather focuses on maximum limits.
Keep in mind that successfully managing more credit cards can boost your credit score, which is essential for easily obtaining loans and saving on things like interest and insurance rates. However, there's a risk to having multiple cards, as it can increase your odds of racking up unsustainable debt.
What Are The Maximum Credit Limits For USAA And Navy Federal Credit Cards?
NFCU tends to be slightly more generous than USAA. With NFCU, your total credit limit can go up to as much as $80,000—on one flagship card or across all three cards (if you choose to have three). While USAA's total personal credit limit is unclear, online reports put it somewhere around $50,000.
Which Credit Bureaus Do USAA And Navy Federal Use?
USAA mostly uses Experian but may refer to other credit bureaus under certain circumstances. NFCU uses TransUnion or Equifax.
What Is The Value Of USAA And Navy Federal points?
They're both 1 cent per point for cashback or some kind of statement credit. It can vary when redeeming for merchandise, travel, and other items.
Depending on the card you choose, you can potentially earn points on dining out, gas, groceries, military base purchases, travel, and more.
Which USAA Or Navy Federal Credit Cards Are Good Starter Cards?
One of the easiest cards to qualify for is the nRewards® Secured Card from Navy Federal. It's a fantastic card if you have no credit, want to build credit, or need to rebuild bad credit caused by issues in the past. The card does carry a relatively high APR of 18% compared to NFCU's other cards. However, after several months, you can graduate to Navy Federal's Cash Rewards card and start earning more rewards. This card has an APR range of 9.65% to 18%.
At USAA, any of the three VISA cards is a great starter card for newer cardholders, as these cards are accepted at more places. While the USAA Rewards™ Visa® Signature Credit Card has an APR of 9.90% to 25.90%, the Preferred Cash Rewards Visa® Signature Card has an APR of 11.90% to 25.90%, and the USAA Rate Advantage Visa® Platinum Card has an APR of 6.90% to 23.90%.
Which USAA And Navy Federal Credit Cards Are Cashback Cards?
USAA currently has two cashback rewards cards, including its Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Credit Card and Preferred Cash Rewards Visa® Signature Card. Here's a breakdown of each card's current APR and earning potential.
APR: 11.90% to 25.90%
Rewards (everyday cashback):
- 5% cash back after you spend your first $3,000 in combined gas station and military base purchases (yearly)
- 2% cash back after you spend your first $3,000 in grocery purchases (yearly)
- Unlimited 1% cashback on all other qualifying purchases
APR: 11.90% – 25.90%
Rewards (unlimited cashback):
- 1.5% cashback on all qualifying purchases
- No category restrictions
NFCU only has one cashback card, which is its cashRewards Credit Card. Here's a brief overview of its standard APR range and rewards.
APR: 9.65% – 18.00%
- Earn up to 1.75% cash back on all purchases with direct deposit
- Earn up to 1.5% cash back without direct deposit
In addition to these rewards, Navy Federal is currently running a special offer on this card where you can earn $200 in bonus cash back if you charge $2,000 worth of purchases to your card within 90 days of opening your account. This offer expires July 05, 2022.
Do USAA And Navy Federal Offer Secured Credit Cards?
NFCU does offer a secured credit card, while USAA does not.
How Long Before You Can Apply For A USAA Or Navy Federal Credit Card Limit Increase?
NFCU requires you to wait for at least three billing cycles (approx. 91 days) to apply for a credit limit increase or another card. Whether or not this inquiry results in a soft or hard pull on your credit report depends on your particular circumstances.
At USAA, you must have an account open for at least 180 days before they'll consider a credit limit increase. However, this is subject to approval and will appear as a hard pull on your credit report.
On the whole, NFCU credit cards tend to have the upper hand compared to USAA. While the latter has some benefits and rewards that suit specific lifestyles, the former simply offers more. As always, it's essential to spend time doing your own recon to decide which credit card provider is right for you. Whatever you do, don't forget to read the fine print.
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Shawn Manaher is a former financial advisor, has founded 5 online businesses, and is a coach, speaker, podcast host, and author. He's been featured on Forbes, The Consults Corner on TAE Radio, The Writing Biz, What's Your Story, and more.