Navy Federal Credit Union Review [2021]: Is It the Right Place for Your Money?

Navy Federal Credit Union is a one-stop-shop where members can manage money — emergency savings, retirement savings, loans, and more — under one roof.
Last updated May 13, 2021 | By Taylor Medine
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Choosing the right bank or lender can be overwhelming because of all the options out there. But one thing is for sure: Whenever you’re shopping around for a loan or bank account, you want to make sure the financial institution you choose is legitimate and reputable.

In this Navy Federal Credit Union review, we’ll explain the institution’s background and do a deep dive into its products to help you decide if it’s a good choice for your next savings account or loan.

In this article

Is Navy Federal Credit Union a good company?

Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) is headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, and was founded in 1933 by seven Navy Department employees who wanted to create a credit union that offered more affordable loan rates and terms.

Today, Navy Federal Credit Union is the largest credit union in the U.S., with over 10 million members, 22,800 employees, and 343 branches worldwide. The credit union serves the armed forces, veterans, Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employees, U.S. Government (USG) employees and DoD contractors who work on installation, and their family members.

A key difference between a bank (for-profit) and a credit union (not-for-profit) is that credit unions generally work for the interests of members and not shareholders. According to Navy Federal Credit Union, surplus funds are passed to customers through dividends, reduced interest rates, and the development of better products.

The credit union provides perks, such as online banking features, iOS and Android mobile apps with mobile banking tools, and a network of over 28,000 free in-network ATMs you can use to avoid ATM fees. Plus, there are multiple free checking accounts to choose from that come with a debit card.

Which products does Navy Federal Credit Union offer?

Navy Federal Credit Union offers a variety of account options as well as loans for different purposes. Below is a breakdown of each product available:

Checking accounts

If you need a place to store cash that you can use to cover monthly expenses, Navy Federal offers several checking accounts, including:

  • Free EveryDay Checking: This account has no monthly fee and no minimum balance requirement.
  • Free Active Duty Checking: Also has no monthly fee if you meet conditions, such as setting up direct deposit or maintaining a certain daily average balance. You also get an annual ATM fee rebate of up to $240 (as of Apr. 26. 2021.)
  • Flagship Checking: This account comes with similar perks to the Free Active Duty Checking account, but it offers a higher APY, which means you can earn interest on your deposits. The higher your balance, the more interest you can earn.

Savings accounts

Savings accounts are places where you can stash away money for emergencies or near-term goals because you can access your money at any time.

  • Basic Savings Account: Requires just a $5 minimum deposit to open, and you can set up multiple Basic Savings Accounts for different purposes. For example, you could have one as your primary savings account and another for emergency savings.
  • Money Market Savings Account: No minimum balance is required, but you start earning dividends when your balance reaches $2,500. You can access money in the Money Market Savings Account through checks, ATMs, and digital banking.
  • Jumbo Money Market Savings Account: No minimum balance required, but you earn the highest APY on balances over $100,000.

Certificates of deposit (CDs)

CDs are accounts that may offer a higher APY than savings accounts. The trade-off is that money is locked away for a term, and you may have to pay penalty fees for early withdrawals.

  • Standard Certificate (CD): Requires a minimum deposit of $1,000. CD terms range from three months to seven years, and penalty fees may be charged if you withdraw funds early.
  • EasyStart Certificate (CD): Requires a $50 minimum deposit to open and is a special kind of CD where you can make ongoing deposits. This could be ideal if you don't have a large sum to put into a CD upfront. Terms range from six months to two years.
  • Special EasyStart Certificate (CD): Requires a $50 minimum deposit to open and may offer a higher rate of return than the other CDs available, but with some conditions. The maximum you can have in the account is $3,000, and you must have a Navy Federal checking account and direct deposit set up to qualify for the higher rate.
  • SaveFirst Account (CD): Requires just a $5 minimum deposit to open and is another add-on CD where you can continue making deposits into the account throughout the term. Terms range from three months to five years.

Education savings accounts

Navy Federal Credit Union education savings accounts can help you set money aside for primary, secondary, or higher education expenses.

  • Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESA): Requires no minimum deposit to open. You don’t have to pay interest on account gains as long as you use funds for qualified education expenses, which could include tuition, books, and school-related equipment.
  • Education Money Market Savings Account: Requires no minimum balance to open, but you need $2,500 in the account to earn dividends. Earnings are tax-free as long as you use funds for qualified education expenses.
  • Education Certificates (CD): Minimum deposit requirements vary depending on the type of education CD you open. Terms range from three months to seven years. Earnings are tax-free as long as money is used for qualifying education expenses.

Retirement savings accounts

Retirement savings accounts let you put aside money for the golden years.

  • Retirement Savings Account: Both traditional, Roth, and SEP IRAs are available with no minimum deposit required to open the account.
  • Retirement Certificate (CD): Retirement CDs require a minimum deposit of $50 and offer terms that last from three months to seven years.

Personal loans

Personal loans are installment loans you can use to cover different expenses.

  • Personal Expense Loan: Navy Federal personal expense loans are designed to help borrowers pay for unexpected bills, vacations, repairs, or other major purchases. Loan amounts range from $250 to $50,000 with terms of up to five years available.
  • Savings Secured Loan: This type of loan is backed by funds in your Navy Federal savings account, which could help you qualify for a lower rate. Loan terms of up to 15 years are available.
  • Certificate Secured Loan: This loan lets you borrow up to 100% of the principal in your CD account. Loan terms go up to five years, but the term has to be equal to or less than your CD term.
  • Home Improvement Loan: You can use this loan to finance home repairs or other home upgrades. Loan terms of up to 15 years are available, and no collateral is required.
  • Debt Consolidation Loan: Loans to consolidate or refinance high-interest debt are available with amounts ranging from $250 to $50,000. Learn terms go up to five years.

Auto loans

Auto loans are loans you can use to finance the purchase of a vehicle or to refinance one you already own.

  • Auto Loans: Navy Federal offers loans for new and used cars. You can also refinance your existing auto loan with Navy Federal Credit Union.
  • Alternative Vehicle Loans: Navy Federal Credit Union may offer loans for motorcycles, mopeds, boats, RVs, trailers, ATVs, and snowmobiles.

Mortgages

Navy Federal Credit Union offers a wide array of mortgages, and many low down payment options are available.

  • VA Loans: VA loans let you put down as little as 0% with no private mortgage insurance (PMI), and loan terms range from 10 to 30 years. Sellers can also provide up to 4% of the home’s value to help pay closing costs.
  • Military Choice Loans: For military members, reservists, and veterans who cannot use the VA loan benefit, the Military Choice loan is another option that may allow 0% down with no PMI. Loan terms range from 16 to 30 years, and sellers can provide up to 6% of the home’s value to help with closing costs.
  • Fixed-Rate Conventional Loans: This conventional loan requires at least 5% down, and loan terms range from 10 to 30 years. It also doesn’t require PMI.
  • Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs): ARMs have a fixed rate for an introductory period and then change to a rate that adjusts after that initial period expires. The down payment required for a Navy Federal ARM ranges from 0% to 10%, and loan terms range from 10 to 30 years. These may or may not require PMI, depending on the mortgage you apply for.
  • Homebuyers Choice Loan: This is a no-PMI, zero-down-payment loan with a term of 16 to 30 years. Sellers can contribute up to 6% of the home’s value to help with closing costs.

Student loans

Navy Federal Credit Union offers student loans and student loan refinancing.

  • Student Loans: Navy Federal Credit Union offers variable- and fixed-rate student loans with a 10-year term. You can use the loan to pay for an associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degree at eligible schools, and cosigners may be accepted.
  • Student Loan Refinancing: Navy Federal Credit Union also offers refinancing for private and federal loans. Terms of 5, 10, and 15 years are available, and you can apply with a cosigner.

What Navy Federal Credit Union customers are saying

Many customers have positive things to say about Navy Federal Credit Union, specifically related to how easy and fast it can be to apply for a new loan or refinance with this lender.

For those who didn’t have an easy time applying for a loan, most complaints are related to frustrations with how difficult it can be to get a response from a representative when you need to ask questions, submit paperwork, or receive documents.

This is something to think about if you’re a first-time homebuyer or self-employed worker applying for a mortgage or loan. Both scenarios could involve more questions and communication with a loan officer, and you want to be confident that you’re working with a lender who’s responsive. (If you’re currently shopping around, check out our picks for the best mortgage lenders.)

FAQs about Navy Federal Credit Union

Can you join Navy Federal Credit Union without serving in the military?

Yes, you don’t need to be serving in the military to qualify for Navy Federal Credit Union membership. Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employees, as well as U.S. Government employees and DoD contractors assigned to an installation, can join. Family members of eligible DoD workers and service members may also join.

How do you contact Navy Federal Credit Union customer service?

You can contact Navy Federal Credit Union by phone seven days a week and 24 hours a day at 1-888-842-6328 from the U.S. The international phone number is 1-703-255-8837.

You can also send a secure message from the message center in your online bank account. Another option is visiting a Navy Federal branch in person, asking a question on social media, or chatting with a representative on the website.

Is it hard to get a mortgage with Navy Federal Credit Union?

Like any other lender, Navy Federal Credit Union has eligibility requirements for mortgages. However, Navy Federal does look at your credit score and your banking history with the credit union to qualify you for a mortgage.

As far as down payment options, Navy Federal Credit Union has several mortgages that require no money down, which could be helpful if you don’t have a large sum saved. The VA loan allows zero down and the seller can provide up to 4% of the home’s value to help pay closing costs.

If you can’t use your VA loan benefit, you might be able to qualify for the Military Choice and Homebuyers Choice loans with no money down.

Can family members join Navy Federal Credit Union?

Yes, family members of the armed forces, reservists, veterans, and retirees of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Space Force can join. Family members of Department of Defense civilian employees or U.S. Government employees and DoD contractors who work on installations may also join.

The bottom line on Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union offers many different types of savings accounts and loan products. If you’re looking for a place to park your cash, Navy Federal has options galore. Choosing the best savings account comes down to your goals.

If you don’t need access to your money, locking into a CD could be worth considering because of the higher APY. If you would need access to your cash in an emergency, a traditional savings account or money market account that you can tap into at any time could be a better choice.

Navy Federal Credit Union members also have several options for financing, whether you want to buy a house or refinance credit cards. If you’re not eligible for membership, FinanceBuzz’s roundup of best banks and best checking accounts could help you explore other financial institutions.

Editor's note: This author has an account at Navy Federal Credit Union.

Figure Benefits

  • Take advantage of historically low interest rates
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  • 100% online application done from the comfort of your home
  • Good/excellent credit needed

Author Details

Taylor Medine Taylor Medine is a freelance writer who's covered all things personal finance for the last six years. She enjoys writing financial product reviews and guides on budgeting, saving, repaying debt, and building credit.