The Best Credit Union Credit Cards

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — While thousands of bank customers have found better deals on checking accounts and all of their associated fees by moving their money from big banks to smaller community banks and credit unions since Bank Transfer Day, do the smaller institutions offer the same benefits for credit accounts?

Credit cards issued by credit unions generally offer lower interest rates than cards from major issuers, but not all of these products are created equal.

To help you choose the best card for you, MainStreet asked the experts which credit union credit cards were the best ones currently on the market. Anyone considering a switch in their credit accounts should consider these four:

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card

Those with good credit scores can make a one-time $15-$20 donation to one of the nonprofit organizations associated with  Pentagon Federal Credit Union (a required step to join the credit union), since its premium rewards cards can net cardholders much more than that in the long run. PenFed’s Amex (Stock Quote: AXP) gives cardholders five points for every dollar spent on airfare purchases and one point for every dollar spent on other purchases. They can also earn three points back on dining purchases through a promotion lasting until April 30, 2012.

Rewards aside, the card also offers a variable 9.9% annual percentage rate, it carries no annual fee and it does not incur any foreign transaction fees.

“It’s an excellent rewards card, not just for credit unions but for the whole industry,” says Beverly Harzog, a credit card expert with Credit.com.
NASA Federal Credit Union Platinum With Cash Rewards.

This rewards card from the NASA Federal Credit Union entitles cardholders to a 1% rebate for purchases up to $1,000, a 1.25% rebate for purchases from $1,001 to $2,000, and a 2% rebate for purchases $2,001 or more.

“This means the card is nearly a 2% card with no annual fee if you spend more than $2,000 per year,” says Tim Chen, CEO of credit card ranking site Nerd Wallet.

For cardholders who keep a balance from month to month, the card features a variable APR between 13.9% and 17.99%, depending on creditworthiness, and no annual fee. According to Chen, anyone can join the credit union by signing up to be a member of the American Consumer Council, which is free if you join a credit union.

PenFed Visa Platinum Cash Back Card

Another solid product from PenFed, this Visa (Stock Quote: V) cash-back card is great for anyone who owns a gas guzzler, since it entitles cardholders to 5% cash back on gas purchases paid at the pump throughout the year. It also entitles cardholders to 0.25% cash back on all other purchases during each billing cycle.

“Those are unbeatable gas rewards, because unlike other cards, you get the 5% on gas year round,” Chen says.
The card features a low 9.99% low introductory purchase APR, fixed through June 30, 2014. (After that date, the APR will increase or decrease based on the prime rate.) It also has no annual fee.

Navy Federal nRewards Card

The Navy Federal Credit Union has both a secured and traditional version of its nRewards card that entitles cardholders to earn points on 1% on all purchases, which can be redeemed for a variety of gift cards.

Additionally, each version of the card features a low variable 8.99% percentage rate and no annual fee. Sadly, unlike the other cards on this list, only members of the military and their family are eligible for membership.

“If you’re affiliated with the military, the card is a good option,” Harzog says.

Looking for a low-interest credit card? We have a few more for you to consider in this MainStreet roundup!

—Jeanine Skowronski is staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach her by email at Skowronski.jeanine@thestreet.com, or follow her on Twitter at @JeanineSko.

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