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The 5 best credit union credit cards: Rock-bottom interest rates

What is the best credit union credit card? The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card is ZDNet's top choice. Credit unions can offer some of the best deals to their members, from rock-bottom interest rates to great rewards.
Written by Erica Sandberg, Contributor
Reviewed by Marc Wojno
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card | Best credit union credit card overall
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card
Best credit union credit card overall
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Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card | Best for flat-rate cash back rewards
Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card
Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card
Best for flat-rate cash back rewards
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Banks aren't the only credit card issuers in town because credit unions also offer credit cards. These nonprofit financial institutions are often a fantastic alternative to the major issuers. As a member, you become a shareholder, so the products and services are tailored to its membership base.

The top credit cards that credit unions offer are strong contenders for many consumers. Very often they have more flexible credit requirements and will work with you so that you do qualify in the event that your credit isn't perfect. These cards may be secured or unsecured. In either circumstance, they tend to have few fees and valuable rewards. In most cases the interest rates are also lower than they are for bank-issued credit cards, too. 

There are differences among the credit unions and the credit cards they offer, though. For many, membership is restricted though some have open enrollment. 

With that in mind, here's ZDNet's best list for credit union credit cards:

card highlights
intro bonus15,000 Bonus Points when you spend $1,500 in first 90 days
APR17.99% Variable
recommended creditGood, Excellent
reward rates
  • 5x Points on gas paid at the pump and EV charging stations
  • 3x Points at the supermarket (including most Target and Walmart locations), restaurants, and TV, radio, cable, streaming services
  • 1x Points on all other purchases
annual fee$0
intro purchase APRN/A

With gas prices through the roof, a credit card that offers high rewards at filling stations can be a powerful tool to keep those costs to a minimum. The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card does just that. With it, you will earn an elevated (and unlimited) number of points when you spend at the pump. If you drive a lot, the savings can be significant. But that's not all. This card also offers a high level of rewards when you spend money at the grocery store and a decent rate on other qualifying purchases.  

It offers an exceptional introductory rate on balances you transfer over. If you have high interest balances, this feature will give you plenty of room to delete the debt without fees being added. The welcome offer, though, is low compared to many other rewards cards designed for people with excellent credit. 

Unlike some other credit unions, PenFed is open to anyone. All you would need to do is start a savings account with a deposit of at least $5. At that stage, you can apply for the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card. You do need excellent credit to qualify. Once you have it, you'll also enjoy the other benefits, such as no annual or foreign transaction fees and low APR. 


  • Anyone can become a member
  • Impressive rewards on gas and food-based spending 
  • No annual or foreign transaction fee
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers 


  • Rewards will be low if you don't charge much in high reward categories
  • Unimpressive welcome bonus 
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit Card

Best for members with bad credit

If you have bad or no credit and think you may not qualify for a great credit card, think again. For the Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit Card, you don't need an established credit history or good credit score. This secured card comes with low fees and a basic rewards program. With it, you can build your credit rating up as you borrow and repay responsibly. 

The credit line you get matches your deposit. As long as you make your payments on time and don't misuse the account in any way, Navy FCU will increase your credit limit in three months without having to increase your deposit. Then after six months of the same positive activity, the card many convert to an unsecured account and you can get your deposit back.

To become a member of Navy FCU, you will need to have personal ties (current or veteran) to the armed forces, Department of Defense, or National Guard. You may also join if an immediate family member is a member of Navy FCU. Once you have this card, you can take advantage of its other benefits, such as no annual or foreign transactions fees and a low APR.


  • Great for people with low credit scores 
  • Low cost credit card
  • Credit line increase in three months
  • Converts to unsecured card in six months


  • Not everyone qualifies for credit union membership 
  • Cash deposit required
card highlights
intro bonusN/A
APR17.49% - 27.49% (Variable)
recommended creditExcellent
reward rates
  • 2.5 percent cash back on all purchases (on up to $10,000 in qualifying purchases each billing cycle, then 1.5 percent) with a qualifying Tier One Rewards status
  • Unlimited 1.5 percent cash back with Tier Two Rewards status
annual fee$0
intro purchase APRN/A

Cash back is the most popular rewards program for a reason: everyone likes money returning to their wallet. If you're looking for a credit union card that offers cash back as a flat rate, the Alliant Cashback Visa is a terrific choice. You won't have to strategize on how to earn the most cash; simply charge and pay the bill in full. When you do (and if you charge large sums), you'll earn rewards at no cost to you. 

There are two tiers to the cash back program, though. In order to earn the highest cash back rate, you will need to maintain an average daily balance of $1,000 or more in the credit union's checking account during the previous quarter. If you don't, you'll earn at a lower rate. Other benefits of the Alliant Cashback Visa include no annual or foreign transaction fees and a low APR. 

Not everyone can become an Alliant Credit Union member, however. You need to be: a current or retired employee from one of the credit union's partner businesses/organizations; a domestic partner or immediate family member of a current Alliant member; or living or working in one of the communities near their corporate headquarters in Chicago.


  • High, flat-rate cash back rewards 
  • Low APR
  • No annual or foreign transaction fees


  • Will need to keep a high checking account balance to earn the best rewards 
  • No welcome bonus 
  • Not everyone can join the credit union 
Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card

Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card

Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Rewards

Best for people who revolve balances

One of the main benefits of having a credit card is that you are able to charge something expensive and pay for it over time. The problem is, some credit cards have very high APR's. Not so with Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) Visa Platinum Rewards card -- it has one of the lowest starting regular APRs available. If you can get it, you'll keep the financing fees at bay while you satisfy your debt over time. If you are ineligible for the lowest rate, the APR is still lower than what it may be on many credit cards offered by banks. 

Outside of the impressively low APR, this card doesn't have a long list of benefits. There is no rewards program enabling you to earn points or cash back, though the credit union will not charge you an annual fee, or fees for cash advances, balance transfers, over-limit, or foreign transactions.  

Although not everyone will be able to become a DCU member, many can. You will be eligible if you live, work, worship, or attend school in one of the many communities on their list.


  • Potential for extremely low APR 
  • No fees on almost everything 


  • No rewards program
  • No welcome bonus 
  • Eligibility is limited 

Odyssey Rewards World Elite Mastercard by First Tech Federal Credit Union

Best for travel rewards

While major banks have a leg up on cards that are packed with travel benefits, a strong contender is the First Tech Credit Union Odyssey Rewards World Elite Mastercard. It offers premium rewards for travel and dining, boasts global concierge services, and offers an exceptionally high credit limit. So when you're globetrotting, you won't be impeded with an insufficient credit line. It comes with a decent welcome bonus, too. 

This card has a sound rewards program, enabling you to earn substantial, unlimited points as you charge. And if you have high interest debt on other accounts, you can transfer it over and enjoy the luxury of 0% APR in the first 12 months after shifting the balance. After that, the APR will span from very low to moderately low, depending on your credit. Although the card does come with an annual fee, you won't be charged for the balance transfers, nor for cash advances or foreign transactions. 

First Tech Credit Union encourages membership, offering hundreds of ways to join. The credit union will help you meet the criteria, too, so you won't be left out of the advantages it can offer. 


  • Low APR
  • Rewards program centered on travel and dining 
  • No fees on balance transfers, cash advances, foreign transactions
  • High credit line


  • One of the few credit unions charging an annual fee for a credit card
  • Doesn't offer all the perks many travel cards have 

What's the best credit union credit card?

Our vote for the best credit union credit card is the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card. The rewards it offers for gas and groceries satisfy most consumers' spending habits. The ability to shift expensive debt over and pay without interest being added for a year has the potential to save you a lot of money. And since membership at the credit union is open to all, all you need to get this deal is open a deposit account at PenFed -- and have a good to excellent credit score.  

Credit Union Credit Cards

Main Features 

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

  • Great rewards on gas and groceries 
  • No annual or foreign transaction fee
  • 0%intro APR on balance transfers 

Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit Card

  • Can qualify with low credit scores 
  • Credit line may increase in three months and convert to an unsecured card in six months
  • Secured card, so deposit required 

Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card 

  • High, flat-rate cash back rewards 
  • Low APR, no annual and foreign transaction fees
  • High checking account balance to earn the best rewards 

Digital Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Rewards

  • Very low APR available 
  • No annual fee
  • No fees for cash advances, balance transfers, over-limit or foreign transaction 

Odyssey Rewards World Elite Mastercard by First Tech Credit Union 

  • Low APR, high credit line 
  • Travel and dining rewards 
  • No fees on balance transfers, cash advances, foreign transactions

Which credit card is the right one for me?

There are a number of different credit cards offered by credit unions. Though this list narrows down your choices, you can land on the right one for you by focusing on: 

  • Membership: All credit unions require you to be a member. Not all are open to everyone, so check out the requirements first. 
  • Rewards: Many credit union cards have a rewards program where you can earn cash or points. The program should be right for your needs and lifestyle. 
  • Welcome bonus: Banks often offer high welcome bonuses to new cardholders, but credit unions don't offer them as frequently. If this perk is important to you, look for the card that has one. 
  • Balance transfer deal: One of the best ways to save money is to transfer high APR debt to a card with 0% APR for a certain number of months. If you you could benefit from a transfer, hone in on the card that offers it. 
  • Low fees: One of the major advantages of credit unions is the free structure. Unlike traditional banks, credit unions often waive annual and other common fees. Find the card that has the best fee structure for your lifestyle. 
  • Credit requirement: Although the best credit cards tend to have high credit rating requirements, not all do. Look for the credit scores needed before applying for any credit card. 

Are credit unions safe?

Yes. A US government agency called the National Credit Union Administration regulates and supervises credit unions. They are also insured by the National Credit Union Administration, which provides deposit insurance to depositors.  

Can I use credit union credit cards anywhere?

Most credit unions partner with payment transaction companies, such as Visa and Mastercard. When they are, they will be accepted anywhere these networks are, too, both domestically and internationally. 

Will the credit union send my credit card information to the credit bureaus?

Yes. Just like banks and other lenders, credit unions furnish the three credit reporting agencies -- TransUnion. Equifax, and Experian -- with your credit report account activity. When you apply, open the account, and then begin to use it, all of that information will appear on your credit file.

How did we choose these credit cards?

To compile the best credit union credit cards list, we reviewed the credit cards offered by popular credit unions. We selected cards that offered a variety of benefits that would appeal to a range of potential cardholders. Some credit unions are difficult to join. so we focused on those that were open to all or to a large group of people. The cards had to have at least one special benefit, as well as low fees and attractive financing. 

Are there alternative credit cards worth considering?

In addition to the credit union credit cards listed in this guide, many others are excellent alternatives. They include: 

  • State Department Federal Credit Union Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card: Best secured card with rewards 
  • Aspire Platinum Mastercard: Best for 0% APR for balance transfers and purchases for six months
  • Navy Federal Visa Signature Flagship Rewards Card: Best for travelers looking for rewards and perks 
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