BEST OF

Best Credit Union Credit Cards of October 2021

NerdWalletAug 20, 2021

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Credit unions are member-owned cooperatives whose mission is to help the communities they serve succeed financially. Profits that a bank might distribute to its shareholders or owners are instead returned to members in the form of better interest rates and fees. As a result, some credit unions offer better credit cards than you might find at a bank, depending on what you're looking for.

To get a credit card from a credit union, you must be a member. You can usually qualify based on where you live, work or worship, or if you have a qualifying relative. If you don't meet the standard eligibility requirements, some credit unions allow you to join by donating to a partner organization.

NerdWallet's Best Credit Union Credit Cards of October 2021

Our pick for

Travel

PenFed Pathfinder® Card
Apply now

on Pentagon Federal Credit Union's website

PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

4.7

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Pentagon Federal Credit Union's website

Annual fee

$95

Intro APR

0% promotional rate for 12 months on balance transfers made between now and March 31, 2022

Regular APR

14.99% - 17.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

The PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card offers premium travel perks without the added cost. With its generous rewards rate, you can also rack up points toward your next vacation.

Pros

  • This credit card's travel perks and features can help put your travel goals into action. Cardholders earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel purchases and 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. If you’re part of the PenFed Honors Advantage program, you get a slightly higher rate of 4 points per $1 spent on travel-related purchases. The card's rich welcome offer can defray some of your travel costs. You can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in purchase transactions within the first 90 days of account opening. And its two noteworthy perks — a $100 annual air travel credit and a statement credit to cover the application fee for TSA Precheck or Global Entry programs — can provide ongoing value.

Cons

  • You must be a PenFed credit union member to qualify for this credit card. Everyone is eligible to join, but it will require a few extra steps such as submitting an application and opening a PenFed savings account with a $5 deposit.

Read full review
  • Rate and offers current as of October 1, 2021 and subject to change.

  • 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in purchase transactions within the first 90 days of account opening.

  • 4x points on travel for Honors Advantage Members, 3x points on travel for everyone else

  • 1.5x points on all other non travel purchases

  • $100 annual domestic air travel ancillary statement credit

  • $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Pre-check statement credit

  • Complimentary Annual Priority Pass Select™ membership

  • $95.00 annual fee - if you qualify for Honors Advantage (member of the military or Access America account holder) at the time of application, we will waive the annual fee on your account. If you were not eligible at account opening but subsequently become eligible, the annual fee will be waived on your next and each anniversary. If at any time you fail to meet the eligibility requirement, you will no longer be eligible for the waiver. You will receive advance notice of this change.

  • No foreign transaction fee

  • No cash advance fees

  • Chip and Contactless ‘Tap to Pay’ enabled for added security, ease and convenience at the point of sale

  • Click and Pay eligible, via Secure Remote Commerce, so you can enjoy easy and secure online buying checkout

  • Digital wallet capable

  • Purchase variable Rate As Low As 14.99% APR

  • 0% promotional rate for 12 months on balance transfers made between now and March 31, 2022. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be a non-variable rate of 17.99%. 3% balance transfer fee per transaction. Subject to credit approval. If you take advantage of this balance transfer, you will immediately be charged interest on all purchases made with your credit card unless you pay the entire account balance, including balance transfers, in full each month by the payment due date.

  • Cash Advance APR 17.99%

Our pick for

Bad credit

Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card

DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card

3.7

NerdWallet rating 
Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

11.50% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

The DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card is an excellent credit-building tool. It reports to all three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, companies that gather the information used to calculate your credit scores). It also offers the chance to upgrade to a regular Digital Federal Credit Union credit card if you keep up a good payment history.

Pros

  • There's no limit on how much you can deposit, and, therefore, no limit on your credit line. With a good payment history, you can eventually get that deposit back and possibly upgrade to a regular DCU credit card within a year. Your payment history —  a key component in your credit scores — will be reported to the bureaus that compile credit reports.

Cons

  • Though there's no maximum deposit, there's a very high minimum of $500 — much higher than what other secured cards require. Plus, you’ll have to qualify for membership at Digital Federal Credit Union. You can get that deposit back eventually, but you’ll have to part with it for at least a year. 

Read full review
  • Secured card rates well below the national average

  • Borrow against your DCU savings account

  • No Annual Fee*

  • No Fees or Higher Rates for Cash Advances and Balance Transfers

  • Works with Apple Pay®, Google Pay™, and Samsung Pay

  • Insurance, car rental, travel, and warranty benefits

  • Optional Overdraft Protection On Your DCU Checking

  • Buy online easily and safely with Visa Checkout

  • Embedded EMV chip to protect your card information

Our pick for

Cash back with no annual cost

Pentagon Federal Credit Union Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Credit Card
Apply now

on Pentagon Federal Credit Union's website

PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

4.3

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Pentagon Federal Credit Union's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% promotional rate for 12 months on balance transfers made between now and March 31, 2022

Regular APR

14.99% - 17.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

This card's ongoing rewards make it a valuable pick for PenFed members, especially if you can qualify for the 2% rate, which puts it among the best in class.

Pros

  • The PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card holds a lot of value for a $0-annual-fee card. It offers an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. (If your checking account or military status qualifies you for the Honors Advantage program, that rate rises to 2%.) There's also a solid bonus for new cardholders.

Cons

  • Membership is required to qualify for the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card. Even though it’s easy to join, it still requires a few extra steps. You’ll have to submit an application and make a $5 deposit into a PenFed savings account to join.

Read full review
  • Rate and offers current as of October 1, 2021 and subject to change.

  • $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 in purchase transactions within the first 90 days of account opening

  • 2% cash back on all purchases through the PenFed Honors Advantage program

  • 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases

  • Flexible cash redemption options (Power Cash statement credit or cash-out to a checking or savings account)

  • No caps, limits or category restrictions on cash rewards

  • No annual fee

  • No foreign transaction fees

  • No cash advance fee

  • Chip and Contactless ‘Tap to Pay’ enabled for added security, ease and convenience at the point of sale

  • Click and Pay eligible, via Secure Remote Commerce, so you can enjoy easy and secure online buying checkout

  • Digital wallet capable

  • Purchase variable rate as low as 14.99% APR

  • 0% promotional rate for 12 months on balance transfers made between now and March 31, 2022. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be a non-variable rate of 17.99%. 3% balance transfer fee per transaction. Subject to credit approval. If you take advantage of this balance transfer, you will immediately be charged interest on all purchases made with your credit card unless you pay the entire account balance, including balance transfers, in full each month by the payment due date.

  • Cash Advance APR 17.99%

Our pick for

Everyday purchases

Navy Federal Credit Union® More Rewards American Express® Credit Card

Navy Federal Credit Union® More Rewards American Express® Credit Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

9.65% - 18.00% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

It's rare to find cards that earn such elevated rewards across so many popular spending categories, and rarer still to encounter no caps on those higher rates.

Pros

  • The Navy Federal Credit Union® More Rewards American Express® Credit Card offers rich and unlimited bonus rewards across multiple everyday categories like groceries, gas, dining and transit. (All other purchases earn 1 point per $1 spent.) There's also a rich welcome offer.

Cons

  • You’ll have to be a Navy Federal Credit Union member to qualify for this card. Membership is limited to current or former members of the military, Department of Defense employees, or their qualifying family members. And since it's an AmEx, you may encounter limited global acceptance abroad.

Read full review
  • 3X points at supermarkets

  • 3X points on gas and transit

  • 3X points at restaurants and on food delivery

  • 1X points on everything else

  • No annual fee

  • No balance transfer fee

  • No foreign transaction fees

  • No cash advance fees

Our pick for

Travel with current or former military status

Navy Federal Credit Union Flagship Rewards Credit Card

Navy Federal Credit Union® Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card

4.6

NerdWallet rating 
Annual fee

$49

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

9.99% - 18.00%, Variable

Recommended Credit Score

You'll get generous ongoing rewards, as well as some perks that are usually found on higher-annual-fee cards, all of which can easily outweigh the annual fee.

Pros

  • The $49-annual-fee Navy Federal Credit Union® Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card earns 3 points per $1 spent on travel and 2 points per $1 on all other purchases. That base rewards rate helps you pile up points even when you're not traveling. There's also a statement credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fees.

Cons

  • Credit union membership is required and is limited to military or Department of Defense employees and qualifying family members. And the $49 annual fee may be unappealing.

Read full review
  • 3X points on travel

  • 2X points on everything else

  • Receive statement credit (up to $100) for Global Entry or TSA Pre√®

FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS: BEST CREDIT UNION CREDIT CARDS

Click the card name to read our review. Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.

» FOR ELEVATED CASH BACK

The Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card is designed for big spenders, although perhaps not the biggest spenders. It offers the highest ongoing rewards rate of any flat-rate cash-back card, but it also charges an annual fee, and it limits the amount of spending that earns rewards. (That limit is high, but it's still a limit.) If you're expecting to put more than $2,500 a month on a credit card, this is an excellent one to put it on. Read our review.

» FOR GENERAL-PURPOSE TRAVEL REWARDS 

With premium perks for a $95 annual fee (which can be waived in some cases), jet-setters will get a lot of value from the PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card. It also offers a generous rewards rate on travel purchases and a decent flat rate on everything else. Plus, you’ll get travel credits and a Priority Pass membership that offers airport lounge access for $32 per visit. Read our review.

» FOR BALANCE TRANSFERS

With debt, the Aspire Platinum Rewards Mastercard® is a decent match to pay off a balance over a short term. It offers a $0 annual fee, a 0% intro APR period and a low balance transfer fee. Terms apply. Membership at Aspire Federal Credit Union is required to be eligible for this card. It's easy to join with a few extra steps. Read our review.

» FOR BAD CREDIT

With low fees and interest, the DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card has the ideal features to help you build credit. You'll have to clear a few hurdles to qualify for this second-chance credit card. To be eligible, you must be a member of Digital Federal Credit Union and pay a steep security deposit requirement.  Read our review.

» FOR CASH BACK WITH NO ANNUAL COST

The PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases, the gold standard among flat-rate credit cards. Some PenFed members may qualify for more rewards. Honors Advantage program members get an additional 0.5% back, bringing their cash-back earnings rate up to 2%. Read our review.

» FOR EVERYDAY PURCHASES

It's easy to rack up rewards on everyday purchases with the Navy Federal Credit Union® More Rewards American Express® Credit Card. It offers 3 points per dollar spent on groceries, gas, dining and transit. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent. You’ll have to be a Navy Federal Credit Union member to qualify. Membership is typically limited to current or former members of the military, Department of Defense employees, or their qualifying family members. Read our review.

» FOR TRAVEL WITH CURRENT OR FORMER MILITARY STATUS

The Navy Federal Credit Union® Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card can take your travel goals further with perks typically found on cards with higher annual fees. For a $49 annual fee, you earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel and 2 points per dollar spent on everything else. You’ll have to be a Navy Federal Credit Union member to qualify. Membership is typically limited to current or former members of the military, Department of Defense employees, or their qualifying family members. Read our review.

Last updated on August 20, 2021

Methodology

NerdWallet's credit cards team selects the best cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to be chosen in multiple categories.