If the main thing you need to pay off debt is a little space, a NASA Federal Credit Union credit card could be a star in your wallet.
These aren't the most rewarding cards on the planet, but they can offer a bit of breathing room to chip away at higher-interest balances if you qualify for their best rates. Here’s what to know before liftoff.
1. There are multiple cards in this universe
The NASA Federal Credit Union offers a handful of credit cards, each with different features:
The card with the richest rewards is the NASA Federal Platinum Cash Rewards Credit Card, a flat-rate cash-back card that earns an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. (That's the same rate as offered by such popular cards as the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card.) This card has an APR of 17.99% for 3 months on balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24% - 17.99% Variable APR. The annual fee is $0.
The NASA Federal Platinum Advantage Rewards Credit Card is a rewards credit card that earns 1 point for each $1 that you spend. Points are redeemable for things like travel and merchandise. The card's website notes that there are no travel blackout dates, which is ideal for those who are frequent travelers. With this card, you may also qualify for a relatively low interest rate, depending on your creditworthiness. The ongoing APR is 9.40% - 17.99% Variable APR. The annual fee on this version of the card is $0.
The NASA Federal Classic Credit Card earns no cash back or rewards and is designed for those who might just be starting out with credit cards. The card offers the following APR: 17.99% for 3 months on balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 12.40% - 17.99% Variable APR. The annual fee is $0.
A secured version of the NASA Federal Classic Credit Card. A secured credit card, designed for people who are building or rebuilding credit, requires a cash deposit equal to the credit limit on the card. The minimum deposit is $500; the maximum, $2,000.
A “Star Trek”-branded rewards card. This card gives you 3 points per dollar spent at startrek.com, 2 points per dollar at gas stations and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Points are redeemable for cash back, travel and more. The annual fee is $39.
2. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to apply
You don’t have to be an astronaut to qualify for one of these cards, but you do have to be a member of the NASA Federal Credit Union. You’ll qualify for membership if:
You’re employed by (or retired from) NASA headquarters, any NASA center or facility, or the National Academy of Sciences.
You work for or are a member of any of the credit union’s partner companies or associations.
You are related to, or live in the same household as, a member of the credit union.
You're a member of the National Space Society. This is the route that applies to most people. You can get a free year's membership in the society through the credit union.
3. You won't encounter many fees in your orbit
As Michael Bay’s space dramedy “Armageddon” reminded us, you don’t wanna miss a thing — except for credit card fees, which you should totally skip if you can. Fortunately, the three primary cards from NASA Federal Credit Union toss several fees right out the airlock. The cards have:
An annual fee of $0.
No foreign transaction fees.
No balance transfer fee.
As mentioned, the "Star Trek" card does have an annual fee, but it doesn't have balance-transfer or foreign transaction fees.
4. You can whittle your debt (just not at warp speed)
The lack of a balance transfer fee on these cards is a rare perk. You also could be eligible for a relatively low APR on balances that you transfer within the first 90 days.
Of course, you might be able to find balance transfer cards that offer an even more attractive deal: no annual fee, no balance transfer fee and a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers. But some of those offers may require excellent credit; the NASA Federal Credit Union has options that do not.
Also, don't discount the inherent benefits of joining a credit union: namely, lower fees overall, higher interest rates on deposits and exceptional customer service.
5. There's a space oddity in California
If you live in California, any NASA Federal Credit Union credit card you get will be considered a secured credit card, according to the credit union's terms and conditions.
The credit union notes that “credit extended under this credit card account is secured by various personal property and money,” which can include goods you’ve bought with the card or shares you have with the credit union. In other words, you might not be required to make a cash deposit, but the credit union will have some leeway if you default on what you owe.
Depending on your needs and where you are in your financial life, a secured credit card may be — in the words of Mr. Spock — illogical.