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Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards® Secured Credit Card Review

At a Glance
navy federal credit union nreward secured credit card
4.2 / 5
Rating

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Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards® Secured Credit Card

  • Sign-up Bonus: None
  • Rewards: Unlimited 1 point per $1 spent on all eligible purchases
  • Fees: Cash advances $0.50 to $1; no foreign transaction fees or balance transfer fees
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Credit Needed: Below average

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

The Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards® Secured Credit Card is a secured credit card with no annual fee and a cash back rewards program that pays you back on every dollar you spend. However, it’s not for everyone – Navy Federal Credit Union membership is limited to active duty and honorably discharged or retired members of the Armed Forces, civilian Department of Defense employees, and immediate family members of people in those two groups.

This card has a solid rewards program, at least compared with other secured cards. Every dollar spent earns 1 reward point, with no limit on how much you can earn. Points can be redeemed for gift cards and merchandise, typically at or near a $0.01-per-point rate.

Setting the rewards program aside, NFCU nRewards Secured Credit Card is designed to help people with poor or even middling credit improve and rebuild their credit after setbacks such as delinquencies, foreclosures, and personal bankruptcies. If you use your card responsibly for at least 6 months after opening your account, you may be considered for an upgrade to a non-secured Navy Federal Credit Union card. So, as long as you can scrounge up at least $200 to cover the initial deposit, this card is definitely worth a closer look.

Key Features

Initial Deposit Requirement and Refund

Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card requires a minimum security deposit of $200. Your deposit amount is always equal to your credit limit, provided Navy Federal Credit Union deems your creditworthiness and income sufficient to handle the limit for which you’ve applied. Your deposit is held in an FDIC-insured account for as long as your account remains open.

Once 6 billing cycles have passed, Navy Federal Credit Union automatically reviews your account and, if it deems you have used your credit responsibly and paid your bills in a timely manner, upgrades your account to the non-secured Navy Federal Credit Union cashRewards Credit Card. Once the upgrade is completed, your security deposit is released.

Credit Limits and Limit Increases

You can apply for a higher credit limit at any time, though you’re not guaranteed approval. If you do qualify for an increase, you must make another deposit equal to the difference between your old and new credit limit.

Earning Rewards

This card earns 1 point per $1 spent on all purchases, with no limits or restrictions on how much you can earn. You can earn additional points on purchases at the Navy Federal Credit Union Member Mall, where select purchases earn up to 10 points per $1 spent.

Redeeming Rewards

You can redeem your rewards online for cash, restaurant and retail gift cards, and general merchandise, usually at a value of $0.01 per point or less. Larger redemptions generally offer more favorable redemption values – for instance, you need 3,500 points for a $25 Applebee’s gift card and 7,500 points for a $75 Home Depot gift card. You can start redeeming once you accumulate 1,000 points.

If not redeemed within 4 years of the date they’re earned, points expire and lose all value. Importantly, points cannot be redeemed for statement credits, bank account deposits, or other forms of cash.

Credit Bureau Reporting

Every billing cycle, Navy Federal Credit Union reports your payment patterns (or lack thereof) and credit utilization to all three major credit reporting bureaus. If you use your credit card responsibly and consistently pay your bills on time, this regular reporting is likely to raise your credit score over time.

Important Fees

There is no annual fee, foreign transaction fee, or balance transfer fee. The cash advance fee is a nominal $0.50 to $1 per advance, depending on how it’s executed.

Credit Required

This card is designed for people with poor to below average credit. Your application may be disqualified if you’ve recently declared bankruptcy, but other serious credit issues are not likely to hurt your chances of qualifying.

Advantages

  1. No Annual Fee. The Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card does not charge an annual fee. That’s a big advantage over many competing secured cards, whose annual fees can range as high as $40. It’s also great news for those seeking to maximize the value of their earned rewards.
  2. Virtually No Other Card Fees. Aside from the nonexistent annual fee, this card has an impressively light schedule of other card fees. It has no foreign transaction fee or balance transfer fee, and its cash advance fee is a piddling $0.50 to $1, depending on how the advance is executed. By contrast, most other secured credit cards have 3% foreign transaction fees, plus balance transfer and cash advance fees ranging from 3% to 5% of the transaction amount.
  3. Every Dollar Spent Earns Rewards. The Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card is one of the few secured cards out there with any sort of rewards program. While its rewards pale in comparison to those offered by leading cash back cards such as Citi Double Cash or Chase Freedom Unlimited, it’s nice that cardholders with less-than-stellar credit can earn real rewards on every dollar spent with this card.
  4. Upgrade Consideration after 6 Months. Once you’ve had this card for 6 months, you’re considered for an upgrade to a non-secured card. Some competing secured cards are essentially dead ends – you can keep them active as long as you want, but you can’t graduate to a non-secured account.
  5. Relatively Low Minimum Security Deposit. This card requires a $200 minimum security deposit. That’s lower than many competing cards, though not the lowest in the secured card category. That honor goes to Capital One Secured Mastercard, whose minimum security deposit is just $49.

Disadvantages

  1. Reward Points Expire. The Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card’s rewards points do not last forever. If left unused, they expire 4 years after they’re earned. While 4 years is a long time, this remains an inconvenience for infrequent card users. Most other rewards credit cards don’t allow their points to expire, no matter how infrequently they’re used.
  2. Points Can Be Worth Less Than $0.01 Apiece at Redemption. This card’s points aren’t particularly valuable come redemption time. When redeemed for gift cards and merchandise, they’re often worth less than $0.01 per point. By contrast, Discover it Secured Credit Card’s cash back points are always worth $0.01 apiece at redemption.
  3. Eligibility Limited to Armed Forces, DoD Employees, and Family Members. Navy Federal Credit Union eligibility is limited to active duty and honorably discharged members of the Armed Forces, civilian Department of Defense employees, and immediate family members of people who belong to those two groups. While those categories collectively include millions of people, they’re still a small minority of American consumers. If you’re excluded, you’ll need to look to another secured option.

Final Word

The Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards® Secured Credit Card is an unusually generous secured credit card with a solid rewards program, low fees, and favorable interest rates. It’s a pretty good deal – if you can get it. Until Navy Federal Credit Union loosens its eligibility requirements to allow more of the general public to open accounts, this card is going to be off-limits to most Americans.

On the other hand, if you’ve provided for the United States’ defense in a civilian or military capacity, or you have immediate family members who clear that threshold, Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card is one way to get paid back.

Verdict
navy federal credit union nreward secured credit card
4.2 / 5
Rating

Apply Now

Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards® Secured Credit Card

The Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards® Secured Credit Card is ideal for frugal cardholders seeking a low-fee, low-interest secured credit card with a solid (for a secured card) rewards program. Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t eligible, so you’ll need to look elsewhere if you don’t have a personal or familial connection to the Armed Forces or Department of Defense.

The Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card’s key advantages include its lack of an annual fee, low to nonexistent card fees, rewards program that pays cardholders back for every dollar they spend, automatic upgrade consideration, and relatively low minimum security deposit.

Its principal drawbacks include the fact that reward points expire, the relatively low redemption value of reward points, and Navy Federal Credit Union’s eligibility limits.

Overall, this is a great secured card for people who hate card fees and love rewards.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Comments Disclosure: The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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