How Credit Union Cards Can Help Improve Credit

Credit union cards can help improve credit if you make payments on time.

Last Updated: 4/24/2022
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Getting a credit union credit card and using it in the right manner can help improve your creditworthiness. While qualifying for a typical credit union card requires good to excellent credit, you may want to consider getting a secured card if you have poor or fair credit. Joining a credit union gives you other ways to improve your credit, one of which includes getting a credit builder loan.

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MoneyGeek's Takeaways

excellentCredit

Making payments toward your credit union card on time may help improve your credit score.

fairCredit

Using a large part of your card’s credit limit may have an adverse effect on your credit score.

goodCredit

If you have poor or average credit, you may consider getting a secured credit union credit card.

Does a Credit Union Credit Card Help Build Your Credit Score?

A credit union credit card helps you build your credit score just like any other credit card. When you make payments toward your credit union card, you can expect your card’s issuer to report your payment history to credit bureaus. Making your payments on time helps improve your credit score, and the converse holds true as well.

The amount of money you use from the total available credit of your credit union card also has a bearing on your credit score. For instance, if your credit union card has a credit limit of $5,000, of which you’ve used $4,000, its credit utilization ratio is 80%. However, if you’ve used just $1,000, the credit utilization ratio is 20%. If you wish to improve your credit score, your credit utilization ratio should be 30% or lower.

Secured Credit Union Cards

People who are unable to qualify for regular credit union credit cards may want to consider improving their credit scores by getting secured credit cards. You need to pay a security deposit to get a secured credit union card, which usually also doubles as your credit line. Credit unions report payments made toward secured cards to credit bureaus, thereby giving cardholders the ability to build their credit histories. Examples of secured credit union credit cards include:

  • Rewards Secured Credit Card from Navy Federal Credit Union
  • Secured Visa Card from USF Federal Credit Union
  • Secured Visa Credit Card from America First Credit Union
  • Secured Credit Card from USC Credit Union
  • First Credit Union Visa Secured Credit Card

The Credit Union Advantage

Credit unions are run as not-for-profit financial cooperatives, which is why they place top priority on addressing the needs of their members. Since credit union credit cards typically offer lower interest rates and fees than banks, cardholders can use their money more effectively when repaying their credit card debts. By bringing down your outstanding balances quickly, you can expect a positive effect on your creditworthiness. Other benefits of joining a credit union include getting access to free online credit-building tools as well as credit counseling that might help you deal with different types of financial situations.

>>MORE: BEST CREDIT UNION CREDIT CARDS FOR BALANCE TRANSFER

What Credit Score Is Needed for a Credit Union Credit Card?

Qualifying for most credit union credit cards requires that you have good to excellent credit. However, some credit unions also provide cards for people with poor to average credit. For instance, while you need very good to excellent credit to qualify for the Visa Signature Flagship Rewards Credit Card from Navy Federal Credit Union, the More Rewards American Express Credit Card is available even for people with average credit.

If you have bad credit or have just started building your credit history, you may want to consider getting a secured credit union credit card. A number of credit unions across the country offer secured cards for their members. You need to pay a security deposit to get a secured card, and the same typically functions as your credit limit. You need to make regular payments toward the purchases you make using your card. The issuer of your card reports your payment history to credit bureaus, thereby giving you the means to build your credit score.

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Look for a credit union card based on eligibility criteria, annual fees, APRs and the possibility to earn rewards. We’ve put all the leading credit union cards through our unique ranking methodology so that you can select one with ease.

Is It Worth Joining a Credit Union?

There is more to joining a credit union than getting a credit card to improve your credit. Besides, unlike banks, most credit unions are willing to reconsider your application for a credit card if it’s denied the first time around. This is because credit unions usually look beyond credit scores and give their members opportunities to explain their financial situations. Your chances of approval increase if you’ve been a good, long-standing customer. Some credit unions even reconsider giving you a card if you agree to enroll in financial education classes.

Before deciding to join a credit union, take time to understand the possible pros and cons:

Pros

  • You gain access to different financial products such as credit cards, savings accounts, checking accounts, auto loans and mortgages.
  • Credit unions typically offer lower interest rates and fees than banks on credit cards and loans.
  • Credit unions typically offer higher interest rates than banks on savings accounts and certificates of deposit.
  • You typically receive better customer service than at large banks.

Cons

  • You might need to meet specific criteria to become a member.
  • Cross-collateralization might link all your credit accounts with a credit union together, although this is not always the case.
  • Not all credit unions provide 24/7 customer service.
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Credit unions used to be fairly restrictive about who was eligible for membership. Now, becoming a member is easier than ever. This gives more of us an opportunity to benefit from their low rates and fees. -- Lee Huffman, credit card expert at BaldThoughts.com

Other Questions You May Have About Credit Union Cards

Understanding the answers to other commonly asked questions about joining a credit union and getting a credit union credit card will help you make a well-informed decision.

Next Steps

Now that you know of benefits that credit unions have to offer and how credit union credit cards can help build credit, consider becoming a member of one based on eligibility criteria and the cards on offer. To select a suitable card, compare your options against parameters such as fees, interest rates, rewards and added features.

Learn More About Credit Cards

Members of the MoneyGeek editorial team aim to answer all our readers’ questions about how credit cards work, how to improve credit scores and how to choose suitable credit cards quickly and accurately. They do this by staying up to date on all the changes that take place in the credit card market.

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About the Author


Rajiv Baniwal has been writing about different financial topics for over 15 years. Meticulous in his research, he makes sure he provides accurate and up-to-date information. His areas of expertise include mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, insurance and international money transfers.


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*Rates, fees or bonuses may vary or include specific stipulations. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting/last updated date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. We recommend visiting the card issuer’s website for the most up-to-date information available.
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