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NerdWallet’s Best Credit Union Credit Cards of 2018

April 26, 2018
NerdWallet's Best Credit Union Credit Cards
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  • Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card

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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. 

Membership at credit unions is exclusive. 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. All of the issuers on NerdWallet’s list of the best credit union cards allow membership by donation. 

NerdWallet’s best credit union cards

Balance transfersAspire Platinum Rewards Mastercard®

Best for … Card
Cash back Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card
Low interest Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Card
Bad credit Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card

Best cash back rewards

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card

Apply Now on Alliant Credit Union's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • High rewards rate
    • No foreign transaction fee

    Cons

    • Has annual fee

    Annual Fees

    $0 the first year, then $59

    APR

    • Min APR: 11.99%, Variable
    • Max APR: 14.99%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    None

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Exclusively designed for those spending $50,000+ a year on their card
    • Unlimited Cash Back: 3% cash back in year one & 2.5% cash back after
    • No limit to the cash back awards you can earn
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Generous credit line
    • $59 annual fee, waived the first year
    • Works with Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay
    • $0 fraud liability guarantee from Visa

Benefits of the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card

  • A high rewards rate: 3% cash back on all purchases the first year and 2.5% on all purchases thereafter
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • A minimum approved credit line of $10,000

Drawbacks of the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card

  • An annual fee: $0 the first year, then $59
  • A minimum of $25 earned to redeem cash back
  • Unredeemed cash back expires after five years

How to join Alliant Credit Union

You can become a member of Alliant Credit Union if you live or work in one of the communities near Alliant’s corporate headquarters in Chicago. You can also qualify for membership through an eligible relative or domestic partner, or an employer or organization. If you don’t meet any of these requirements, you can still become a member by donating $10 to Foster Care to Success, a nonprofit organization that works with college-bound foster youth.

Bottom line

The Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card offers one of the highest rates of any flat-rate cash-back credit card, but after the first year, you’d have to spend at least $2,360 annually to make up for the annual fee. You’d do better with this card than with a no-fee 1.5% cash back card if you spent more than $5,900, and you’d come out ahead of a no-fee 2% card if you spent more than $11,800.

Best for balance transfers

Aspire Platinum Rewards Mastercard®

Aspire Platinum Rewards Mastercard®

Apply Now on Aspire Federal Credit Union's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No annual fee
    • Intro APR period on Balance Transfers

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • Min APR: 10.90%, Variable
    • Max APR: 18.00%, Variable
    • Cash Advance APR: 18.00%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    5,000 Bonus Rewards Points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months

    Intro APR

    • Purchase: None
  • Additional Information
    • Generous credit limits.
    • No annual fee.
    • 5,000 Bonus Rewards Points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months – that includes balance transfers!
    • Mastercard Benefits: Extended warranties, price protection, ID theft resolution
    • 0% introductory APR* on balance transfers for the first six months

Benefits of the Aspire Platinum Rewards Mastercard®

  • A $0 annual fee
  • Introductory APR of 0% for 6 months on balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 10.90% - 18.00% Variable
  • No fee for balance transfers in the first six months (afterward: $5 or 2% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater)
  • A sign-up bonus: 5,000 Bonus Rewards Points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months in the first three months; unlike with most rewards cards, balance transfers count toward earning the bonus
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all purchases; CURewards can be redeemed for merchandise and travel discounts

Drawbacks of the Aspire Platinum Rewards Mastercard®

  • Longer 0% periods are available elsewhere, though often with a fee
  • A 1% foreign transaction fee

How to join Aspire Federal Credit Union

An eligible family member or an employer is enough to qualify for membership at New Jersey-based Aspire Federal Credit Union. If you don’t meet those requirements, membership at the American Consumer Council will get you in the door. You can join this partner organization at no cost through Aspire Federal Credit Union.

Bottom line
If you want to earn rewards while getting some time to pay down debt without interest, the Aspire Platinum Rewards Mastercard® is a good choice. If you want a longer 0% introductory APR period, other balance transfer credit cards might be a better fit.

Best for low interest

Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Card

Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Card

Apply Now on Lake Michigan Credit Union's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 720
    850
    Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No annual fee

    Cons

    • No rewards
    • Needs excellent credit

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • Purchase: 8.25%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    None

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • One of the lowest interest rates in the country, as low as Prime + 3.00%
    • Rate is variable, tiered, and is linked to Prime
    • No annual fee
    • Credit line of up to $25,000
    • Free car rental insurance

Benefits of the Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Card

  • A $0 annual fee
  • The ongoing APR is 8.25% Variable for both purchases and balance transfers
  • A credit line of up to $25,000, depending on your creditworthiness
  • No balance transfer fee

Drawbacks of the Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Card

  • A 1% foreign transaction fee
  • No rewards

How to join Lake Michigan Credit Union
If you live, work, go to school or attend church in any county in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and select counties in Florida, you can qualify for membership at Lake Michigan Credit Union. If you don’t meet one of these requirements, an immediate family member with accounts at this credit union can help you qualify. Otherwise, you can donate $5 to the West Michigan Chapter of the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALS) to qualify.

Bottom line
If you usually keep a balance on your credit card, the Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Card can save you money in interest. If you carry a lot of high-interest debt and need to catch up on payments, it also offers a low ongoing interest rate on balance transfers.

Best for bad credit

Benefits of the Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card

  • A $0 annual fee
  • The ongoing APR is 13.25% Variable APR for purchases and cash advances — extremely competitive for a credit card for bad credit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Reports to all three major credit bureaus
  • No limit on your security deposit and, therefore, your credit line; your deposit earns dividends in a Digital Federal Credit Union savings account
  • The ability to apply for a regular credit card and get an upgrade when you establish a good payment history after a year
  • No fee for cash advances

Drawbacks of the Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card

  • No rewards
  • A high minimum security deposit of $300

How to join Digital Federal Credit Union
You are eligible to become a member of Digital Federal Credit Union if:

Bottom line
If your goal is to build credit, the Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card offers low fees and interest and the possibility of upgrading to a regular credit card in the future. You’ll get to keep the length of your credit history and continue to build a solid credit foundation.


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.