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Getting a credit card from a credit union requires that you become a member of the credit union first. Since these cooperatives are member-owned, they tend to charge lower interest rates and fees when compared to banks. Eligibility criteria for membership to a credit union vary and might require affiliation to a certain group, such as a labor union or the armed forces.
MoneyGeek’s Take: Top 10 Credit Union Credit Cards
We’ve selected the best credit cards from credit unions based on different requirements that people might have. For example, while the Gold Visa® Card is a great option for people with excellent credit, those with fair or average credit might consider looking at what the GO REWARDS® Credit Card has to offer. Both cards come with no annual fees, and only the latter offers rewards.
Gold Visa® Card
GO REWARDS® Credit Card
Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
1.5% – 2% Cash Back
1.5%–1.75% Cash Back
Navy Federal Credit Union cashRewards World Mastercard®
1.50% – 1.75% Cash Back
Alliant Visa Signature Card
1.5% – 2.5% Cash Back
Alliant Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card
Some of the links in the above table will take you to one of our partner's sites, where you can compare and apply for a selected credit card.
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Best Credit Union Credit Cards Explained
Much like other credit card issuers, credit unions offer different types of credit cards. These include rewards cards, cash back cards, low APR cards, balance transfer cards and secured cards. You can narrow down your search further based on aspects such as welcome offers and foreign transaction fees.
Top Credit Union Credit Cards At A Glance
The links in the table below and the following component will take you to one of our partner's sites, where you can compare and apply for a selected credit card.
Our selection of the best credit union credit cards begins by collecting 57 data points from issuer websites and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. We then subject all the cards to our unique ranking methodology and compare them based on different parameters. Each criterion comes with a pre-assigned percentage, and the best cards of the lot fare well across most aspects. The data points we rely on include but are not limited to:
- Welcome offer (15%)
- Cash back rate (10%)
- Points per dollar rate (10%)
- Intro APR offer (7%)
- Annual fee (6%)
- Regular APR (5%)
MoneyGeek’s Quick Guide to Understanding Credit Union Credit Cards
Credit unions are member-owned financial cooperatives. They function as not-for-profit organizations with the aim of serving their members. Credit unions typically provide financial solutions similar to banks, some of which include deposit accounts, credit cards and loans. However, unlike a bank, the profit that a credit union generates is transferred to its members in the form of better interest rates and lower fees. This is one of the main reasons people choose to get credit union credit cards.
Do Credit Unions Issue Credit Cards?
Many credit unions issue credit cards. Depending on the credit union you’re a member of, you may be able to choose from cards for individuals and businesses alike. Cards for individuals may come in the form of low APR cards, rewards cards, student cards and secured cards.
While some credit unions require that you become a member first, others let you submit your membership application together with your credit card application. An easy way to look at the credit cards that a credit union offers is to visit its website. Alternatively, you may walk into any physical branch and check which cards you might qualify to get.
The advantages of getting a credit card from a credit union may come in the form of:
- Lower interest rates and fees.
- The ability to earn rewards/cash back.
- High levels of customer service.
- Slightly relaxed eligibility criteria.
The possible downsides of getting a credit union credit card include:
- You might need to meet specific membership eligibility criteria.
- Your credit union might use your other accounts as collateral.
- Absence of 24/7 customer support.
- Lengthy application process.
Credit unions are an ideal choice for consumers looking for cash back rewards and credit cards whose fees and interest rates are lower than those of a traditional bank. Before applying, review the membership requirements carefully to ensure that you are eligible to join. — Lee Huffman, credit card expert at BaldThoughts.com
Are Credit Union Credit Cards Easy to Get?
Since getting a credit union credit card requires that you become a member of the credit union first, you need to ensure that you meet the required membership eligibility criteria. Once you become a member, getting a credit card through a credit union is usually easier than through a bank, even if you have less-than-perfect credit.
If your credit union declines your credit card application at first, you might be able to get it to reconsider its decision. This is because most credit unions give their members a chance to explain their individual circumstances. If you have maintained a good relationship with your credit union for an extended period of time, the chances of your application’s approval improve further still.
How long it takes for you to receive your new card depends on how you apply as well as your credit union. For instance, applications sent by mail usually take longer to process, as is the case with over-the-phone applications. Even if you apply online and get instant approval, it can take up to 14 days for the card to get to you. Some credit unions offer expedited delivery for an additional fee.
Does a Credit Union Credit Card Help Your Credit Score?
Getting a credit union credit card affects your credit score the same way as getting a credit card issued by a traditional bank. For instance, if you borrow close to your card’s total available credit limit, you may expect an adverse effect on your credit utilization ratio and credit score. Credit utilization ratio refers to the credit you’ve used from your total available credit and should ideally be lower than 30%.
Making all your payments on time may help improve your credit score, whereas missing even one payment can have a negative effect. In addition, much like a credit card from a bank, the longer you hold a credit union credit card, the better it is for the length of your credit history, which is another factor in calculating your credit score.
As long as you keep making your payments on time, keep your credit utilization ratio low and don’t apply for new forms of credit often, you can expect your credit union credit card usage to improve your credit score over time.
FAQs About Credit Cards for Credit Unions
Understanding the answers to commonly asked questions about credit cards from credit unions will help you arrive at a well-informed decision.
Now that you know how credit union credit cards work, determine if you might benefit by getting one. Alternatively, you may look for options based on the different types of cards available, such as cash back cards, airline cards, 0% APR cards and balance transfer cards.
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About Rajiv Baniwal
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses and recommendations are the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. Learn more about our editorial policies and expert editorial team.
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