The Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Card is a low APR credit card with few frills and even fewer fees. Though it’s not explicitly designed for building or rebuilding credit, it’s comparable to (and costs less than) “starter” credit cards such as Capital One Platinum. Thanks to its favorable rates and introductory balance transfer promotion, it’s also a nice alternative to better-known balance transfer cards such as Chase Slate and low APR products such as Barclaycard Ring. (See Ring’s terms and conditions for more details.)
However, unlike these cards, Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum MasterCard comes with one important caveat: it’s designed exclusively for current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, civilian employees of the U.S. Department of Defense, and immediate family members (including spouses and children) of either group. If you don’t fall into any of those categories, you can’t join NFCU nor apply for this card. So, if you don’t plan to join the military anytime soon and don’t have a close relative with a service record, you may need to go with another option.
If you do meet NFCU’s eligibility criteria, this card lets you transfer balances at a very low introductory rate and finance large purchases at a reasonable ongoing rate. Plus, you’ll enjoy more than your fair share (at least, for a no-frills credit card) of fringe benefits, including travel emergency assistance and complimentary rental car coverage.
Here’s what to expect from your NFCU Platinum MasterCard.
For 12 months following your sign-up date, the balance transfer APR is 0%.
Once the balance transfer promotion period ends, the balance transfer rises to between 7.24% and 18.00%. This rate is variable, depending on prevailing interest rates and your personal creditworthiness. The purchase APR falls within the same range from the day you open your account.
The cash advance APR is 2.00% higher than the regular purchase and balance transfer APR. However, it can’t rise higher than 18.00%. The penalty APR is 18.00% but is subject to change with prevailing interest rates.
This card has no annual fee, balance transfer fee, or foreign transaction fee. Cash advances are free unless they occur at domestic non-NFCU ATMs ($0.50 per advance) or international non-NFCU ATMs ($1 per advance). Late and returned payments cost $20.
This card has a nice lineup of MasterCard-backed benefits, including:
- Complimentary loss and damage coverage for rental cars charged in full to the card
- Extended warranties (up to 12 months) on items with original warranties up to 12 months
- Emergency services for ill or stranded travelers
This card is for people with good credit. Your application won’t necessarily be disqualified by a credit issue or two, but serious problems could prove troublesome.
- No Annual Fee. NFCU Platinum MasterCard has no annual fee, so there’s no downside to keeping it in your wallet as you pay down a balance transfer or finance a large purchase over the course of several months.
- Few Additional Fees. This card has very few add-on fees: no balance transfer fee, foreign transaction fee, or cash advance fee (in most instances). If you avoid taking cash advances from non-NFCU ATMs and pay your bills on time, you can use this card for years without incurring any charges.
- Low APR Range. This card’s APR ranges from 7.24% to 18.00%. If you qualify for a rate at the bottom end of that range, you’re in rare company. Most competing cards’ APRs start in the 11% to 12% range and go up from there.
- Nice Introductory Balance Transfer APR. NFCU Platinum MasterCard’s introductory APR promotion is ideal for new cardholders looking to transfer high-interest balances from existing credit card accounts. Transfers made shortly after account opening accrue interest at 0% APR for the first 12 months – a hefty discount from the regular rate.
- Excellent Fringe Benefits. This card’s fringe benefits are substantial for a no-frills card. They include complimentary loss and damage coverage on rental cars paid in full with the card, extended warranties on products purchased with the card, and travel emergency assistance services. Many low APR cards, especially those issued by credit unions, are much stingier with such perks.
- Doesn’t Require Excellent Credit. This card doesn’t require perfect credit. That’s great news for applicants whose credit histories include some ups and downs, and a big advantage over gold (or diamond) plated low APR cards such as Citi Simplicity and Citi Diamond Preferred.
- No Rewards. NFCU Platinum MasterCard doesn’t reward cardholders for spending. If you’re looking for a low APR card with a cash back or general rewards program, look to NFCU cashRewards Credit Card or NFCU GO Rewards Credit Card.
- No Sign-up Bonus. This card also lacks a sign-up bonus for new cardholders. When you sign up for this card, the only welcome perk you get is the introductory balance transfer APR deal. That’s great if you’re looking to save on the cost of a balance transfer, but not helpful if you just want to earn a quick $100 for your first three months’ spending. Many popular cash back credit cards, including Chase Freedom Unlimited (up to $175 sign-up bonus), can help on this front.
- Not Available to the General Public. NFCU Platinum MasterCard’s most glaring drawback is the fact that it’s only available to current or former members of the Armed Forces, civilian Department of Defense employees, and immediate family members of people who fall into either category. If you’re just a regular old civilian, you’re out of luck – and you’ll need to find yourself a general-purpose credit card that doesn’t restrict membership to those who’ve served.
There are roughly 10 million Americans who either currently or previously serve(d) in the U.S. military, currently work for the Department of Defense, or have spousal or immediate blood relations with people who fall into either category. That means that there are over 320 million Americans who don’t make NFCU’s cut – a problem for the vast majority of Americans with no direct ties to the military.
The good news is that some ostensibly service-oriented credit unions are far less selective than NFCU. State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) is a case in point: though it was initially intended for State Department employees and their families, it’s now open to nearly everyone. Even if you don’t work for the U.S. government in any capacity, you can qualify for SDFCU membership for life simply by making a one-time donation of $15 to a reputable consumer advocacy organization. That’s lower than most credit cards’ annual fees – and some premium checking accounts’ monthly maintenance fees.