Navy Federal Credit Union Review: Free ATMs and No Monthly Fees

GoBankingRates Score

4.7
Our Take: For people who can meet Navy Federal Credit Union’s membership qualifications, this credit union has many features that might be worth considering, including competitive rates, an absence of fees and membership perks. Those features are part of the reason why GOBankingRates identified NFCU as one of the 10 best military credit unions of 2020. However, members must be comfortable with online banking or e-banking due to the limited number of branches available.
  • Fees
    4.5
  • Rates
    4.5
  • Cash-Back Opportunities
    4.8
  • Breadth of Products
    4.8
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • Dividend-paying checking accounts
  • Credit card options with APRs as low as 5.99%
  • Freedom lock on both new mortgage and refinance loans, which allows relocking of the interest rate if it drops before the transaction is finalized

Cons

  • Limited number of branches
  • Basic savings rate of 0.25% APY is lower than rates of some competitors

About Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union began with only seven members in 1933. Today, the credit union, which is headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, has 9.8 million members and serves members of the armed forces, the Department of Defense, veterans and military dependents. NFCU has 343 branches and a network of more than 30,000 free ATMs. Some branches are located outside of the U.S. in countries such as Italy, Japan and Spain and require a military ID to access. In addition, GOBankingRates named Navy Federal Credit Union the Best Credit Union of 2021 in its annual Best Banks rankings.

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Navy Federal Credit Union Products

NFCU offers a full range of financial products, including savings, checking and money market accounts, and loans, as well as non-deposit products such as investments, life insurance, and financial and retirement planning. Here’s a quick overview of the credit union’s offerings. 

Product Key Details
Checking Accounts
  • 5 checking account options
  • Dividends paid on all accounts
  • ATM fee rebates on most accounts
Money Market Accounts
  • Money Market Savings and Jumbo Money Market Savings accounts with up to 0.60% APY
  • Higher rates apply to higher balances
Savings Accounts
  • Membership Share Savings Account is required to establish NFCU membership.
  • Share Savings Account is an additional account and is also available as an Education Savings Account or IRA.
Certificates of Deposit
  • 5 types of certificates with terms from 3 months to 7 years
  • Up to 1.2% APY on standard certificates
  • Up to 3.50% APY on Special EasyStart Certificate
Retirement Savings
  • Traditional or Roth IRA options
  • Rates up to 0.25% APY
Education Savings
  • Grow education savings tax free
  • Option to supplement with a 529 plan
Credit Cards
  • Variety of card types for your lifestyle
  • Competitive rates starting at 5.99% APR
  • No foreign transaction fees or balance transfer fees
Loans
  • Personal loans  
  • Student loans 
  • Auto loans
  • Leisure vehicle loans 
  • Mortgage and home equity loans 
Sponsors of

NFCU Checking Accounts

NFCU offers its members five options for checking accounts, and all but one are free — plus all accounts earn dividends. Checking options are Free Active Duty Checking, Free EveryDay Checking, Free Campus Checking, Free Easy Checking and Flagship Checking. Here’s more. 

Features

  • Free checks
  • ATM fee rebates on all accounts except Free EveryDay Checking
  • Dividends credited monthly
  • Checking protection options: savings transfer, checking line of credit and optional overdraft protection service
  • No monthly service fee on all accounts except Flagship Checking

Pros

  • Wide selection of checking products
  • Dividends paid on all accounts
  • ATM fee rebates on most accounts
  • No service fees on most accounts
  • Free checks

Cons

  • Dividends credited monthly, not daily
  • $1,500 average daily balance required to waive $10 service fee for Flagship Checking

NFCU Money Market Accounts

If you’re interested in earning more than what a standard savings account can provide, an NFCU money market account might be worth your while.

Features

  • 0.40%-0.50% APY for standard Money Market Savings Account
  • 0.25%-0.60% APY for Jumbo Money Market Savings Account
  • Minimum $2,500 balance to earn dividends on standard account
  • Minimum $100,000 balance to earn dividends on jumbo account
Sponsors of

Pros

  • Access money with checks and ATM withdrawals
  • Higher balances equal higher earnings

Cons

  • Better rates and lower minimums may be found elsewhere

NFCU Savings Accounts

NFCU offers has one savings account option — the basic Membership Share Savings account. It is required to become an NFCU member.

Features

  • Minimum opening deposit of $5
  • Basic savings rate of 0.25% APY

Pros

  • Low opening deposit of $5
  • Earn dividends from account opening
  • Multiple accounts allowed

Cons

  • Higher savings rates may be found elsewhere. 

NFCU CD Account

NFCU offers a selection of CDs — also known as share certificates  including standard and special certificates. Options include a Standard Certificate, 3-Year Variable Rate Certificate, EasyStart Certificate, Special EasyStart Certificate, and the SaveFirst Account. Many of these options allow you to add money to your account at any time. Here’s more.

Features

  • Terms from three months to five years, depending on certificate type
  • Rates from 0.40%-3.50% APY, depending on certificate type
  • Minimum deposits from $5

Pros

  • Variety of CD options to fit almost anyone’s savings goals
  • Low minimum deposits available
  • Higher APYs than what you can find at traditional banks
Sponsors of

Cons

  • Special EasyStart Certificate has a $3,000 maximum balance.

Banking Experience

The breadth of products and competitiveness of rates that a financial institution offers are important. However, the quality of the actual banking experience is also a factor to consider. Here’s what you need to know.

Customer Service

NFCU has a variety of customer service options. Call 888-842-6328 around the clock to speak to a representative. Or if you’re outside of the U.S., you can make an international collect call to 703-255-8837. You also can sign in to Online Banking and send a secure message, or access help via chat or social media.

Accessibility/Branch Availability

While NFCU doesn’t have as many branches as bigger financial institutions only 343 total  it does offer 24/7 accessibility to stateside representatives. Plus, some branches are opening an hour early on Wednesdays to serve high-risk members, including seniors, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mobile and Digital Experience

NFCU offers a mobile app that allows you to do your banking anywhere, on the fly. The app rates 3.3 out of five stars on the App Store. The lower rating may be from multiple fixes the developer has had to complete, according to the app’s page on the App Store. On Google Play, the app rates slightly higher at 3.8, but users complain of slow functionality, having to uninstall and install the app to get it to work, and more. The app is also available on Amazon Appstore with a rating of 4.4.

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NFCU offers two-step verification for its app, which it contends is three times more secure with the verification than without it.

Convenience/Ease of Use

Banking with Navy Federal is easy, as long as you are comfortable doing your banking online if you don’t happen to have a branch nearby. Branch locations are limited to 343 locations, but the credit union does offer access to a network of more than 30,000 free ATMs.

How To Open an Account

A basic Membership Share Savings account is required for membership. Here’s what you’ll need to open the account.

  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license or other government ID
  • Current home address
  • Account number and routing number for funding source

Here’s how to open an account:

  1. Click on the orange “Join Now” button on the NFCU website.
  2. Answer some eligibility questions.
  3. Complete the membership application.
  4. Enroll in digital banking.

Key Information 

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NFCU Fees

While you can escape many of the account fees that other banks charge, NFCU does have fees for some services. Here’s more.

  • Monthly maintenance fees: $10 for Flagship Checking, waived with $1,500 average daily balance; $0 for most account options  
  • Incoming wire transfer$0 
  •  Outgoing domestic wire transfer: $14 
  • Outgoing international wire transfer: $25
  • Non-sufficient funds fee: $29 
  • Stop payment fee: $20 for single item; $25 for series of items
  • Inactive member fee, per quarter: $3

    NFCU vs. Competitors

    Take a look at how Navy Federal Credit Union compares to other credit unions and a big national bank.

    Bank Name Best For
    Navy Federal Credit Union Variety of no-fee checking options that earn dividends
    USAA People looking for a one-stop shop for banking, insurance, investing and advice
    Pentagon Federal Credit Union People who wouldn’t normally qualify for membership at a military credit union
    Wells Fargo People who like to bank in person

      Navy Federal Credit Union vs. USAA

      None of USAA’s checking accounts include monthly service fees, while NFCU’s Flagship Checking does. But Navy Federal has a much wider variety of checking account options than USAA’s two offerings.

      Navy Federal Credit Union vs. Pentagon Federal Credit Union

      Pentagon Federal Credit Union offers additional paths to membership if you don’t have close connections to the military. However, NFCU has better starting APRs on its credit card offerings than Pentagon Federal Credit Union. 

      Navy Federal Credit Union vs. Wells Fargo

      Wells Fargo is much more accessible with no membership requirements and 7,200 locations. However, Navy Federal offers much higher savings and CD rates than Wells Fargo’s standard 0.01% APY.

      Final Take

      For people who can meet NFCU’s membership qualifications, this credit union has much to offer, such as account variety and 24/7 customer service. But, with the limited number of branches available, members must be comfortable with online banking. If you think NFCU is right for you, you can get started today by opening a Membership Share Savings account

      Editor’s Favorite

      NFCU offers a variety of checking accounts — five to be exact — to meet just about anyone’s preferences. A bonus is that all checking options offer the opportunity to earn dividends. Plus, four out of five of the account offerings are free from monthly maintenance fees.

      FAQ

      Now that you know more about NFCU’s products and services, here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
      • Can anyone join Navy Federal Credit Union?
        • No. You must qualify to be a member by being a current or retired member of the armed forces, a family member of a current or retired military member, or a Department of Defense civilian employee.
      • Is there a monthly fee for Navy Federal?
        • There is no monthly fee for NFCU membership.
      • How long does it take to get approved for Navy Federal?
        • You can apply for an account online or in a branch. Approval can happen as soon as that day.
      • Does Navy Federal Credit Union have Zelle?
        • Yes, NFCU is partnered with Zelle for the easy transfer of money.
      • Does Navy Federal offer free money for signing up for an account?
        • Yes, NFCU offers bank promotions. Currently, Navy Federal is offering $150 cash back with its cashRewards credit card when you spend $2,000 within 90 days of account opening.

        Rates are subject to change; unless otherwise noted, rates are updated periodically. All other information on accounts is accurate as of 1/5/2021.

        This content is not provided by Navy Federal Credit Union. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Navy Federal Credit Union.

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        About the Author

        Cynthia Measom is a personal finance writer and editor with over 12 years of collective experience. Her articles have been featured in MSN, Aol, Yahoo Finance, INSIDER, Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Times and The Network Journal. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

        Navy Federal Credit Union Review: Free ATMs and No Monthly Fees
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