Military Banking: Navy Federal Credit Union vs. USAA

In this article...
  • A military bank can help you meet your financial goals as a serving member, veteran or family member. Discover how Navy Federal Credit Union compares to USAA.
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Military banks and credit unions offer a range of services to support the financial security of serving members of the military, veterans and their families. Two of the most well-known institutions are Navy Federal Credit Union and USAA, both of which provide full-scope banking services to their customers. 

Both institutions have unique advantages and disadvantages, and one may suit your goals and circumstances better than the other. Below, we'll explore the Navy Federal Credit Union vs. USAA debate to help you make an informed decision. 

Navy Federal Credit Union vs. USAA: What Products Does Each Institution Offer?

At first glance, Navy Federal Credit Union and USAA offer broadly similar products. Both provide access to checking accounts, savings products and various borrowing options. However, USAA offers some products unavailable through Navy Federal Credit Union, including investments and insurance.

Product

Navy Federal Credit Union

USAA

Checking Accounts

x

x

Savings Accounts

x

x

CDs

x

x

Mortgages

x

x

Auto Loans

x

x

Personal Loans

x

x

IRAs

x

x

Annuities



x

Youth Banking

x

x

Home Refinancing



x

Investing



x

Financial Wellness Tools

x



Home Equity Loans

x



Credit Cards

x

x

Insurance



x

Checking Accounts

Navy Federal Credit Union offers a choice of five checking account options:

  • Free Active Duty Checking
  • Free Easy Checking
  • Free Campus Checking
  • Free EveryDay Checking
  • Flagship Checking

Most Navy Federal Credit Union checking accounts don't have service fees or minimum balance requirements, and all allow you to access your military paycheck a day in advance. Flagship checking accounts are designed for people with higher bank balances and cost $10 per month unless you maintain an average balance of at least $1,500. Free Active Duty checking accounts offer annual ATM fee rebates of up to $240, while Free Easy, Flagship and Free Campus accounts will refund up to $120. 

In contrast, USAA offers a single checking account option — the Classic Checking account. This account has several features in common with Navy Federal Credit Union's accounts, including access to pay a day in advance and no service fees. You can also receive an ATM fee rebate of up to $15 per statement cycle.

If you want a checking account that offers decent earnings on your balance, Navy Federal Credit Union has a distinct edge. Most of its accounts offer an APY rate of 0.05% and a 0.05% dividend rate, although its Free Everyday account offers 0.01%. Its Flagship account provides the best rates, yielding between 0.34% and 0.45% in APY and dividends. Meanwhile, USAA checking accounts provide a flat APY rate of 0.01%, and you'll have to maintain an average daily balance of at least $1,000 to receive it.

Credit Cards

Both institutions offer a decent range of credit cards, but USAA has more diverse options. It could be the better choice if you want to transfer an existing balance, as you can qualify for an introductory APR of 0% on any unsecured USAA credit card. Navy Federal Credit Union and USAA both offer secured credit cards that could help you build your credit rating and improve your access to other borrowing options.

Whether Navy Federal Credit Union or USAA is better for cashback credit cards depends on your spending habits. Navy Federal Credit Union's cashReward card offers the highest rate on general purchases at 1.75%. However, USAA could be a better choice if you spend a lot of time on base, offering a whopping 5% cash back on up to $3,000 of military base purchases per year through its Cashback Rewards Plus card.

If you shop online regularly, Navy Federal Credit Union's welcome gift could be a significant advantage. New credit card customers are eligible for free Amazon Prime membership for an entire year, worth around $139.

CDs

You'll have more CD options with Navy Federal Credit Union if you have a relatively low deposit amount. You can open a SaveFirst account with just $5 at an APY rate of up to 0.40%, while Special EasyStart certificates have a $50 minimum deposit and an APY rate of up to 3%. Meanwhile, you'll need to deposit at least $1,000 to purchase a CD through USAA.

Both banks offer CD terms of up to 7 years. However, short-term savers may be better off with USAA, as it sells CDs with fixed terms of just 30 days. 

On the other hand, Navy Federal Credit Union offers more favorable long-term dividend rates on balances over $1,000. For example, a 3-year fixed-rate CD from Navy Federal Credit Union offers 2.38% APY compared to 0.03% through USAA.

Does Navy Federal Credit Union or USAA offer Better Customer Care?

When it comes to customer satisfaction, there's little separating Navy Federal Credit Union and USAA. Navy Federal Credit Union has a slightly lower Consumer Affairs score of 3.7 stars compared to USAA's 3.8 stars

Customers of both military banks mention courteous, helpful customer service and appreciate being able to access a broad range of financial products from a single institution. Navy Federal Credit Union's fraud detection services are a particular highlight, and several customers say that representatives swiftly identified and rectified fraudulent transactions. Meanwhile, many USAA customers praise its affordable insurance policies and like being able to purchase insurance through their bank.

However, some customers express frustration with USAA's customer support helpline and say they experienced difficulties getting through to the correct department. Getting support online has been an issue for some Navy Federal Credit Union customers, with some users citing long wait times. 

Which Has More Branches: Navy Federal Credit Union or USAA?

If being able to attend your bank in person is crucial, Navy Federal Credit Union could be the more convenient option. The bank operates 350 branches across the USA and overseas, including in:

  • Bahrain
  • Cuba
  • Greece
  • Guam
  • Korea
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • Spain

Meanwhile, USAA has five domestic branches in Colorado, New York, Maryland and Texas. It doesn't operate in any overseas locations. 

Navy Federal Credit Union vs. USAA: Which Is Better?

Navy Federal Credit Union and USAA both offer decent customer care and broad product ranges, so which one you should choose depends on which products you need and your financial goals. 

Choose Navy Federal Credit Union If:

  • You want to purchase CDs with the highest possible APY rates
  • You want decent cashback rates on general credit card purchases
  • You want to earn more interest on your checking account balance

Choose USAA If:

  • You want to open a short-term CD account
  • You want the highest possible credit card cashback rate on military base purchases
  • You want to transfer your existing credit card balance to a 0% APR credit card



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