The Bottom Line: If you don't mind joining the credit union and funding the security deposit, this card can be a smart and effective tool to help build up your credit profile.
Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card
recommended credit score
- 1X point per dollar spent
- No annual fees
- No balance transfer fees
Pros & Cons
Qualify with limited / bad credit
No annual fee
No foreign transaction fee
Must be a Navy Federal member
Alternate Pick: No security deposit required
Deserve® Pro Mastercard
Potentially qualify with no credit history
The Deserve® Pro Mastercard is generally aimed at those with established credit. But because the card doesn't follow a traditional underwriting model, exceptions are possible, depending on factors like income, employment and U.S. bank account balances. The annual fee is $0, and the card also earns rewards.Read our review
The Navy Federal Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card is just about everything a secured card should be. It does require a security deposit, but there's no annual fee, no unnecessary application or "account management" fees, and starting at six months — with good payment behavior — your account will be considered for conversion to unsecured status.
The Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card also comes with some extras not typically seen in secured cards, including rewards and cell phone protection.
For someone just beginning to get their financial footing, or anyone recovering from damaged credit, this card can be an excellent first step toward building a strong credit profile.
There's just one catch: You have to be a member of Navy Federal Credit Union to apply for the card. And to join that credit union, you have to meet certain eligibility criteria.
Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card: Basics and benefits
Card type: Secured.
Annual fee: $0.
Security deposit: Minimum $200.
Sign-up bonus: None.
Rewards: Earn one point per $1 spent. A point is worth about a cent and can be redeemed for cash back, merchandise or gift cards.
APR: The ongoing APR is 18.00% Variable.
Foreign transaction fee: None.
Balance transfer fee: None.
Issuer: When you apply for the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card, you can choose to have Mastercard or Visa as your card's payment network. The perks and benefits differ slightly depending on which you choose. (More on that later.)
Why you might want the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card
Little in the way of fees: There are many secured cards on the market, but many tack on additional charges like account opening fees or annual fees. The only thing you'll pay upfront for the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card is a minimum $200 security deposit. The card also charges no foreign transaction fees, making it a good choice for use abroad. And there's no fee for balance transfers.
Rewards: Cards designed for those with less-than-good credit don't always offer rewards, but the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card does. You'll earn one point for every net purchase you make on the card, and there's no limit to the number of rewards you can earn. Rewards points are worth about a cent each and can be redeemed for cash back, merchandise or gift cards.
Collision damage waiver coverage is included: If you rent a car for 15 days or less and pay for the rental with the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card, you'll get this benefit. Keep in mind, there are certain terms, restrictions, and exclusions to CDW coverage.
Cell phone protection: The Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card is among a relatively small group of credit cards that offer cell phone insurance. Pay your monthly mobile phone bill with the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card and receive protection for up to three cell phones. The maximum benefit varies slightly depending on whether your card is issued by Visa or Mastercard, but both cover damage and theft.
Other perks and benefits: Aside from the CDWs and cell phones, if your Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card is a Visa, you'll get other benefits including car rental discounts and specific shopping discounts. If your Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card is issued by Mastercard, the perks include price protections, extended warranties and travel assistance.
Why you might want a different card
Membership requirement: Unless you or a family member is a current or former member of the military, or a Department of Defense employee, you're not eligible for membership to Navy Federal's credit union, which is a requirement for the card. If you are eligible and not already a member of the credit union, you still have to apply for membership and open a savings account with a minimum $5 deposit. If the extra effort sounds like a headache, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card doesn't require a credit check or any kind of membership. That application ease comes with a price, though: an annual fee of $35.
Security deposit: Navy Federal lowered the minimum required security deposit from $500 to $200 in December 2018. But for some, that may still be a big barrier. If a lower opening deposit is more appealing than earning rewards, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® gives you an initial credit line of $200 for a deposit of $49, $99 or $200, depending on creditworthiness (but it doesn't have a rewards program). If you simply can't afford a security deposit, some alternative credit card options could work for you.
You want the lowest APR: The ongoing APR is 18.00% Variable. But depending on what shape your credit is in, you may only qualify for the upper end of that range. If you think you'll need to carry a balance, choosing a card with the lowest possible interest rate is a smarter move. The ongoing APR is 9.99% for the Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card. That might make it a worthy contender for those seeking a secured card with the lowest possible interest charges. However, it has an annual fee of $49.
Visit NerdWallet's roundup of top credit cards to get to see more options.
Is the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card right for you?
If you're looking for a secured card, and you meet Navy Federal Credit Union's eligibility criteria, the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card is a great choice to get your credit score in shape while earning benefits along the way.
But if joining the credit union is out of reach or unpalatable, or you're seeking a smaller potential opening deposit, you might be able to find a card that has a lower barrier to entry.
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