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Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card Review

Dayana Yochim

Written by Dayana Yochim
Fact-checked by Andrea Coombes
Edited by Carolyn Kimball

February 21, 2024

Why trust us? Investor.com has no financial relationship with any of the credit card providers whose products we analyze and review. Our opinions are based solely on data and our own extensive independent research — that means unbiased guidance for consumers. Rewards cards in our cashback credit card calculator are listed in descending order according to how much money they pay out annually based on the inputs.

The Navy Federal cashRewards card is a good choice if you have average credit, don’t always pay your balance in full, and have an existing Navy Federal Credit Union account that qualifies you for 1.75% cash back instead of 1.5%.

The 1.5% base rewards rate you get with Navy Federal Credit Union cashRewards Credit Card won’t turn many heads. Even the 1.75% cashback rate for cardholders who set up a monthly direct deposit with Navy Federal isn’t all that compared to the growing number of 2% cash back cards.

Why bother? I counted at least three reasons: 1. The cashRewards card doesn’t require pristine credit for approval. (“Average” is acceptable, and if you’re a Navy Federal member you can see if you prequalify.) 2. There are no fees for balance transfers or cash advances (that’s 3%-6% savings right there) or foreign transactions (another 3% fee avoided). 3. The purchase APR is lower than what most other rewards cards charge, which is handy if you ever carry a balance.

Navy Federal vs. other cards for military members: USAA and PenFed offer similar rewards credit cards with cash back rates ranging from 1.5% to 2%. See how the Navy stacks up:

The basics: Navy Federal’s cashRewards Credit Card pays an unlimited 1.75% cash back on purchases for customers enrolled in direct deposit with Navy Federal. The cashback rate without direct deposit is 1.5%. Welcome bonus: Get a low intro APR on balances transferred for 12 months + Earn $200 cash back when you spend $1,500 within 90 days of account opening.

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dining Dining
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Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card

Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card Logo
Cashback Per Year
$...
Annual Fee
$0
Welcome Bonus
$200
Apply Now

On Navy Federal’s CU site
Rates & Fees

Want to compare more cards? Use our full calculator.

Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card pros and cons

thumb_up_off_alt Pros

  • Navy Fed members can find out if they prequalify
  • Competitively low APR
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No balance transfer or cash advance fees
  • Includes Visa Signature perks

thumb_down_off_alt Cons

  • 1.75% cashback rate requires setting up a Navy Federal direct deposit
  • 1.5% default rewards rate without direct deposit
  • No low intro APR on purchases
  • Only available to Navy Federal Credit Union members

Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card cashback rewards spending categories

The following table shows the cashback rewards rate per $1 spent in the six most common spending categories. The “Bonus Rate” refers to the amount you can earn in excess of the card’s standard rewards rate.

Some cashback cards limit the spending amount eligible for the bonus rate (aka the “Spend Cap”). Once you hit that cap (e.g., $1,500 spending in a particular category during a defined time period), the rewards rate on future purchases in that category reverts to the lower “Default Rate.”

Category Default Rate Bonus Rate Bonus Spend Cap Bonus Spend Period (Months)
Gas 1.50% - - -
Travel 1.50% - - -
Dining 1.50% - - -
Entertainment 1.50% - - -
Pharmacy 1.50% - - -
Groceries 1.50% - - -
Other Purchases 1.50% - - -

Note: Cardholders who have direct deposit set up with Navy Federal earn the 1.75% cashback rate on Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card purchases. Customers without direct deposit earn 1.5% cash back. The investor.com Credit Card Rewards Calculator uses the 1.5% cashback rate.

Tip: Expand the “Spend Categories” in the investor.com credit card rewards calculator above to incorporate additional rewards categories (e.g., Transit, Wholesale Clubs, Utilities) into the cash back per year total.

What we like

Better approval odds if you have just average credit. Navy Federal states that its cashRewards Credit Card is best for those with “average to excellent” credit. But it also considers other factors — including your membership relationship with Navy Federal, whether you are active duty, and your annual income — when reviewing applications.

Prequalification check available for Navy Federal members. Prequalification is done with a “soft” credit pull (that doesn’t affect your score) while an application will result in a hard credit pull.

Unlimited rewards and no redemption minimums. That means there are no caps on the amount you can earn in cash back, and you can use the money as soon as it’s applied to your account after the monthly statement cycle.

Multiple reward redemption options, including statement credits, merchandise and gift cards.

Access to up to 15% bonus cash back via Member Deals. Formerly known as Member Mall, more than 950 online retailers participate in the Member Deals program, including Best Buy, Home Depot, Macy’s, Kohls, Walmart and Travelocity. You must complete your online purchase through the Member Deals portal, and rewards may take up to eight weeks to post to your account, according to Navy Federal.

No or low cash advance fees — which, in my experience, is kinda unheard of in the credit card realm. Cardholders are not charged a dime for getting cash at a Navy Federal branch or ATM. And the fee if you use some other bank’s ATM is a mere $0.50 per domestic transaction or $1 per foreign transaction, plus whatever the non-Navy Federal ATM provider charges. Note: The cash advance APR is 2% above your regular variable APR.

Low purchase APR. Here’s where the member-focused credit unioniness of Navy Federal shines through. Like all variable-rate cards, the interest rate you pay (APR) is based on your creditworthiness and the going U.S. Prime Rate. But unlike other rewards cards, the APR range on the cashRewards card is well below those I’ve seen when researching similar cards. So, if you carry a balance — please don’t, if you can help it — at least you’re not subject to loan shark-level rates. (FYI, if you’ve got debt, we’ve got tips on how to get out of it.)

Comes with credit score monitoring and the ability to instantly freeze and unfreeze your card to protect yourself from ne’er-do-wells, or until you find your lost card wedged in the sofa crevices.

What we don't like

Direct deposit is required to qualify for the 1.75% cashback rate. And I highly recommend doing this to boost the card’s default 1.5% cashback base rate to 1.75%. At least there’s no minimum deposit requirement.

The 1.5% cashback rate is just OK. This is the rate customers get if they don’t enroll in direct deposit. It’s not insultingly low (it's on par with USAA's Preferred Cash Rewards card) and is workable if the base cashback rates on other rewards cards in your wallet are lower.

Limited availability. The cashRewards card isn’t an option unless you qualify for Navy Federal Credit Union membership, which requires a military or Department of Defense connection. For comparison, Alliant Credit Union membership is relatively easy to get, and its flat-rate rewards card — the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card — ups the 1.5% cashback rate to 2.5% for customers who maintain a $1,000 average daily balance and complete one monthly deposit in its high-rate checking account. Venturing outside of credit union offerings …

Better flat-rate cashback cards are available — including no-annual-fee rewards cards that pay 2% on all purchases with no strings (like direct deposit requirements and credit union membership) attached. See The Best Flat-Rate Cashback Credit Cards for options.

Navy Federal Credit Union membership is required. It’s open to current and retired service members from all branches of the armed forces, qualifying family and household members, Department of Defense personnel and others. (See more about Navy Federal membership eligibility.)

No introductory 0% APR offer on balance transfers and purchases. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to see rewards cards pile on the charm at the outset (aka offer lots of sign-up goodies) to win me over. That said, the Navy Federal cashRewards card has been known to offer a limited-time-only 1.99% APR on balance transfers, which is a boon for new recruits who have debts on other cards at punishingly high interest rates.

Visa Signature benefits are offered only to applicants who are approved for a credit line of $5,000 or more. Cardholders with lower credit limits still qualify for regular Visa benefits, like auto rental collision damage waiver and zero fraud liability, but miss out on additional purchase and travel protections and emergency assistance that are offered with a Visa Signature card.

The bottom line

Is the Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card the best rewards card for your wallet? The answer depends entirely on your spending patterns. Let the numbers speak for themselves: Use the investor.com Cashback Credit Card Calculator to see which credit card pays back the highest rewards based on how much you spend each month.

Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card fine print

Explore the nooks and crannies of the Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card terms and conditions and its enhanced rewards structure.

Does the Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card charge an annual fee?

No, there is no annual fee for the Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card.

tips_and_updates Trivia time!

Roughly 14% of the consumer cashback cards we track in our database charge an annual fee. The average annual fee is $72.60, while the median is $95.

Does the Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card offer a welcome bonus?

Yes, the Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card has a welcome bonus of $200.

tips_and_updates Fun fact

Of the more than 60 cashback credit cards in our database, 66% offer a welcome bonus. Currently, the average sign-up bonus on a new cashback card is $210.71, with the median being $200.

How much cash back can I earn with the Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card?

The average American that spends $1000 per month will earn $180.00 in cash back per year using the Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card. For comparison, the average annual rewards payout from the cashback credit cards in the investor.com database is $191.26, and $180 is the median.

These calculations are based on average consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the reward payout rates from the providers we track. Of course, you’re so much more than an average data point (aka “consumer unit,” in BLS parlance). The amount you can earn in cashback rewards using the Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card depends entirely on your unique spending habits.

Find out exactly how much you’ll rake in with the Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card by tailoring the spending inputs in the calculator above.

Even more good stuff



Methodology

The results of the investor.com Credit Card Rewards Calculator are based on the monthly spending amounts you enter and the annual dollar value of the rewards each credit card program pays per $1 spent. Credit card companies often express this payout amount as a percentage (e.g., 1.5% of every dollar spent) or on a points basis (e.g. ,1.5 points for every dollar spent). We converted all of them to a dollar amount (“Cash Back Per Year”) to make comparing offers easier.

To calculate the amount of cash back you could earn per year, we factored in:

  • Spend category inputs: The default dollar values for each “Spend Category” in the Best Cashback Credit Cards tool — gas, groceries, travel, restaurant, entertainment, pharmacy, other — are based on average American spending data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We also include additional spend categories (such as streaming services, online shopping, utilities, transit, Amazon and more) to help you see which rewards cards are most closely aligned with your actual spending patterns. We encourage you to customize the monthly spend inputs for the most accurate results.
  • Tiered rewards rates: If a rewards credit card pays higher cashback rates on certain spending categories (also called “Bonus Rewards”), that difference is reflected in the total “Cash Back Per Year” tally.
  • Rewards spending caps: Some cards impose category- or time-based limits (monthly, quarterly, annually) that affect the amount of rewards you can earn. For example, a card may pay 3% cash back on groceries on up to $1,000 of spending each quarter, then revert to the base/default rewards rate until the following quarter. We accounted for bonus spending caps and timeframe in the calculations.
  • Default rewards rates: Purchases that exceed a spending cap are usually subject to a lower default rewards rate (e.g., 1% or 1.5%). We mathed that out too.
  • Annual fees: If a rewards card charges an annual fee, we deducted that amount from the “Cash Back Per Year” total to provide a true accounting of a card’s annual rewards payout.

What’s not included in the “Cash Back Per Year” total is the cash value of any sign-up/introductory bonus. We highlight any Welcome Bonus separately. While sign-up bonuses can be the most lucrative part of getting a new cashback rewards credit card, not everyone will want or be able to do what it takes to earn the extra cash. (It usually requires spending a certain amount in a specified time period after the card is activated.)

About the Editorial Team

Dayana Yochim
Dayana Yochim

Dayana Yochim has been writing (articles, books, podcasts, stirring speeches) about personal finance and investing for more than two decades, focusing on bringing clarity and the occasional comedic aside to what is often a murky, humorless topic. She’s written for NerdWallet, The Motley Fool, HerMoney.com, Woman’s Day, Forbes, Newsweek and others, and been a guest expert on "Today," "Good Morning America," CNN, NPR and wherever they’ll hand her a mic.

Andrea Coombes
Andrea Coombes

Andrea Coombes has 20+ years of experience helping people reach their financial goals. Her personal finance articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, MarketWatch, Forbes, and other publications, and she's shared her expertise on CBS, NPR, "Marketplace," and more. She's been a financial coach and certified consumer credit counselor, and is working on becoming a Certified Financial Planner. She knows that owning pets isn't necessarily the best financial decision; her dog and two cats would argue this point.

Carolyn Kimball
Carolyn Kimball

Carolyn Kimball is Managing Editor for Reink Media Group and the lead editor for content on investor.com. Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money.

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