If you carry a low credit score or don’t have a strong credit profile, you may not have a lot of options when it comes to credit cards. Many card issuers offer secured credit cards, which can be helpful in this situation because they’re backed by a cash deposit you provide, which can be used by the credit card issuer to cover your balance in case you can’t.  By providing this security as collateral, you’re increasing your chances of approval versus a regular unsecured credit card.

Navy Federal Credit Union’s credit card for bad credit (called the nRewards® Secured credit card) is a good option for those who are trying to build or rebuild their credit because it comes with no annual fees, a comparatively low interest rate and may help you qualify for an unsecured credit card down the road, assuming you practice good credit management and spending behavior with this secured card, for at least six months.

Navy Federal offers a range of credit card options to its members. However, in most cases, you’ll need a good or excellent credit score, in the high 600’s or better, to qualify. For those with bad credit or no credit history, qualifying for a credit card is not easy.

If you’re looking for a credit card that’s issued by Navy Federal Credit Union, but you have bad credit or no credit history yet, one option is to apply for the nRewards Secured credit card. This credit card is specifically designed for new credit card users, those with little to no credit history, and those trying to rebuild their credit score.

A Credit Card for People With No Credit

The Navy Federal credit card for bad credit, nRewards, is a secured credit card. This means you’ll need to deposit at least $200 into a savings account to qualify for the credit card.

The amount you deposit will act as the collateral for the card while it continues to earn interest. Your credit limit will be determined based on your deposit amount, as well as other factors, such as your level of income and your normal housing (rent or mortgage) payment. The card also offers one reward point for every $1 you spend. The points can then be used for merchandise, gift cards, cash back, and statement credits.

A major benefit of the card is that after six months of using the card, Navy Federal reviews your application, which can allow you to transition to an unsecured credit card, and your deposit can be returned.

What Are the Benefits of a Secured Credit Card?

If you’re relying on debit cards or cash to make purchases, it won’t help establish your credit profile because the purchase or payment activity isn’t reported to the credit bureaus. Using a secured credit card can help you rebuild or establish a credit history for you and demonstrate that you’re responsible for using credit.

Additionally, there’s no annual fee for the Navy Federal credit card for bad credit. If you pay your balance each month in full before the due date, you can build your credit while avoiding interest charges.

The amount you deposit as collateral will continue to earn interest, and your purchases will earn reward points, which is an added benefit. You can also prequalify for the card to see your card offer before you apply.

How Does a Secured Credit Card Work?

Secured cards work like regular credit cards. The key difference is that with a secured credit card, you’ll have to pay an upfront deposit to secure your credit line. Your security deposit will act as a safeguard against any purchases you make if you miss payments.

With the Navy Federal credit card for bad credit, you’ll have to deposit at least $200 in your savings account before submitting your application. As you continue to use the card, you’ll earn rewards on your purchases while also earning interest on the deposit like a regular savings account.

After three months of on-time payments, you may be eligible for a credit limit increase without putting down an additional security deposit. After six months of on-time payments, your account will be reviewed to determine eligibility for unsecured Navy Federal Credit Union credit cards.

Tips to Improve Your Credit Card Approval Chances

While you can get a Navy Federal credit card with bad credit, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of getting approved for a regular credit card in the future.

Improve Credit Score

To improve your credit score, get a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Review your credit report to spot any errors so you can dispute them.  These errors may be unfairly lowering your credit score, so once you have them corrected and taken off your reports, your credit score will likely improve, all other things equal.

Other strategies to improve your credit score include paying your bills on time, reducing your debt load, and keeping your credit utilization rate low.  

Build a Positive Credit History

Once you get the Navy Federal credit card for bad credit, you’ll have the opportunity to upgrade to a regular credit card if you build a positive history.

Cardholders must demonstrate responsible use of credit cards to build a positive credit history. This includes keeping your credit utilization low by not over-spending on your card and by making on-time payments that are more than the minimum payment due. A positive payment history shows credit card companies you’re a responsible credit card user and can manage a card with a larger credit limit.

Brad Reichert, debt expert and founder and managing director of Reichert Asset Management LLC, suggests some strategies to rebuild your credit. “The best way to help build or rebuild your credit history with a secured card is to make small, everyday charges like a tank of gas or to pay for your lunch every so often, being careful not to spend more than you can pay off all at once each month,” says Reichert. “Then, when your bill comes due, pay off your balance in full to avoid paying interest charges,” he adds.

“Rebuilding your credit after running into trouble with your debts requires a long-term, conscious effort to adhere to a credit management and repayment plan over several months, even years,” explains Reichert. 

Other than Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU), there are several other options to choose from if you’re looking for a secured credit card to build your credit. We recommend comparing the best credit cards available to you to determine which one offers you the best interest rates.

Navy Federal nRewards CardCapital One Secured MastercardDiscover it Credit Card
Security depositMinimum $200Minimum $49Minimum $200
Annual fee$0$0$0
Rewards1 point for every $1 spent.None2% cashback at restaurants and gas stations. 1% on other purchases.

Capital One Secured Mastercard

The Capital One Secured Mastercard has a $0 annual fee and flexibility when it comes to deposits. Unlike most cards, you can get a $200 credit line when you put down as little as $49 if you qualify.

You can also get a credit limit of up to $1,000 when you deposit more money before opening your account.

Discover it Secured Credit Card

Discover it Secured Credit Card allows you to graduate to a regular credit card after seven months to get your deposit back. With an annual fee of $0 and rewards on your purchases, it is a solid option for those looking for a cash rewards credit card option.

The card also comes with an option for balance transfers, with an intro APR of 10.99% for six months, after which the ongoing APR is 28.24%. Balance transfer fees may apply.

nRewards, the Navy Federal credit card for bad credit requires a security deposit, but there’s no annual fee or other fees. With good payment behavior, you may be eligible to upgrade to an unsecured card after six months.

The card also comes with extra perks like rewards, which are typically not seen in many secured cards. If you’re just beginning to establish your credit history or trying to recover from damaged credit, this can be a great first step to establishing a strong credit profile.

The only drawback is that you’ll need to be a credit union member to apply for the card. Only those who are active-duty military members, veterans, Department of Defense personnel, and family members are eligible for membership.