Little-Known Way to Qualify for Navy Federal Credit Union Membership
UPDATE 5/15/17: Navy Federal Credit Union has removed this method of qualifying for membership. Joining the Navy League, San Diego Council will no longer qualify you for Navy Federal membership.
Last week’s news of the hot CD special at Navy Federal Credit Union helped to uncover a way to join the credit union. In that Navy Fed blog post, commenters mentioned that you can qualify for Navy Fed membership by joining the San Diego Council of the Navy League. Anyone can join the San Diego Navy League. This method isn’t mentioned on Navy Fed’s website. However, I did receive confirmation from a Navy Fed CSR via online chat. Other commenters have also received similar confirmations, and a few have reported success in obtaining Navy Fed membership.
Here are the steps to join Navy Fed via the San Diego Council of the Navy League. This is based on what I received from an online chat with a Navy Fed CSR and from comments from several readers.
- Join the Navy League, San Diego Council. Refer to the Navy League membership page for details. The minimum membership cost is $25 for their E-Membership. The “join/renew” green button at the top right of the Navy League membership page begins the online application. In this application, make sure to enter “San Diego” in the “preferred council” box.
- Gather proof of your San Diego council Navy League membership. I was unable to get details from the Navy Fed CSR about the required documentation. One reader said he included the Navy League welcome email (which included a copy of the online application and credit card payment information). The reader also said they seem to be looking for the source of the welcome email, payment made and the election of the San Diego Council.
- Complete the Navy Fed paper application instead of the online application. This is what I was told by the Navy Fed CSR. The paper application is available here (PDF).
- Email or fax the filled-out paper application and the documentation proving your eligibility through the San Diego Navy League. A Navy Fed CSR provided the fax number 1-703-206-4600 and the email address [email protected] Readers have reported success by using this email address.
- To expedite the application process, call Navy Fed. A reader said he called and was able to get a CSR to locate the emailed documents and have them reviewed while he waited. The CSR was then able to open the accounts. Once the accounts are opened, you can make your first deposit by phone with the help of the CSR.
Since Navy Fed representatives are providing information on this backdoor, I consider this as a legitimate method of gaining Navy Fed membership. You’re following the rules as disclosed by a Navy Fed representative. If you want to confirm this backdoor yourself, you can call Navy Fed or perform an online chat.
Why is Navy Fed making it so hard for anyone to join? Backdoor methods to gain credit union membership have long been controversial. Bankers have been fighting to end the credit union tax exemptions, and bankers have been using this membership issue as a reason why the tax exemption should end. This NY Times article has an insightful overview of this controversy. The bankers complaints may have had an impact on the NCUA. In 2013 the NCUA began cracking down on federal credit unions that were advertising that they were open to all.
History of Navy Fed’s Membership Rules
This backdoor may be related to Navy Fed’s acquisition of USA Federal Credit Union in 2010. USA Federal Credit Union was headquartered in San Diego, and before the acquisition, USA Fed was well known as an easy-to-join credit union. However, the Navy League wasn’t the well-known association to join for USA Fed membership. It was the Prime Meridian Association, and Navy Fed did not add this association into its field of membership (perhaps due to the bad publicity this association received in this NY Times article.)
I’ve monitored Navy Fed’s website closely since I began writing about the credit union in 2006. The eligibility section of Navy Fed’s website has always limited membership to those who have military affiliation. The last big change to eligibility was in 2008 when membership expanded to include all branches of the Armed Forces.
As the largest credit union in the nation, Navy Fed probably doesn’t see the need to aggressively pursue new members. There’s little to gain with promoting a backdoor to membership, and there’s a lot of potential bad publicity if the backdoor makes news.
Will It Last?
Due to the controversial nature of the backdoor and the lack of Navy Fed documentation of this backdoor, I wouldn’t be surprised if this backdoor disappears at some point in the future. At the very least, Navy Fed may change the rules of what’s required. If you do try to join Navy Fed via the Navy League, please comment on your experience.
IMO, joining NFCU is a total no-brainer. I think anyone who has followed Ken's work over the years would agree with that. There have been countless invaluable CD deals in the past, and they continue.
As far as the Navy League doorway disappearing in the future, who knows. I guess anything could happen. Were I not already a member I would be joining NFCU right now, today. That way there is no need to be concerned about what might happen in the future. NFCU membership is a "must have" membership. Period.
But for anyone joining NFCU I want to post this little warning; don't panic, this is no deal killer. But this is something you need to know if you join and attempt ACH transfers early with your NFCU savings account:
The NFCU savings account, where ACH is concerned, is the "Roach Motel" of savings accounts. Your money can check in via ACH, but it never can check out via ACH. NFCU does not allow ACH withdrawals from savings accounts. It's fine as long as you know before trying. They offer a free checking account. You can transfer money from savings over to checking and then withdraw money, via ACH, from checking without any drama whatsoever. Just don't try that with your savings account and you will be fine.
Thanks again for the "heads up". I'm assuming you were the poster from just about a week ago that first alerted to the Navy League/San Diego Council option. NFCU was always the missing "third leg" of the stool for me, USAA and PenFed being the other two legs. Perhaps I can now remedy that oversight.
If one has has indeed joined the Navy League & paid for said membership a year or so ago,
before the policy changes, Does it affect one's NFCU membership when the annual League expires??
In other words - Is it imperative to maintain annual Navy League/ San Diego involvement, & pay dues - to maintain NFCU membership?
.Or is it once-a-member...always a member??
section c: affiliation, do you check 'navy' (re the council) or leave affiliation blank
section d: employment, as a retiree (not from the military), do you leave the employment section blank? none of the categories seem to fit a non-military retiree
I was told to use the paper application titled, "Application for an Association Account". Here is the URL:
I had customer service confer with a membership supervisor. They told me to leave Section C blank, but to be sure to select "Association/Community/Company" in Section B.
I apologize for any confusion.
Re the wonder about why they are allowing membership via the San Diego Council of the Navy League, I note, from their Website, I see they have recently opened a new branch in La Mesa, CA. That's San Diego. I wonder if that has anything to do with it, although with so much Navy in the San Diego area, I have to think they have other branches there already.
Also, on a side note, this secret way to join is not the first such I have encountered. I noted in the threads a year ago about finding the same at Financial Partners FCU, which will let anyone join via a $5 donation to the Downey Rose Float Assn. The CU is headquartered in Downey, CA, and they do not post that as one of the ways you can join, you only find out by asking in a phone call to the CU. That also makes that CU an easy membership CU rather than a local one, as we now find Navy FCU is.
USAA has (historically) been able to offer lower rates for insurance to current and former commissioned officers because of the risk-pool. Whether this is still true, across-the-board, I have no clue.
B. Membership Eligibility
C. Affiliation (If none, use sponsor’s affiliation.)
D. Employment Status (I work as a teacher, no military affiliation)
That would be my guess, assuming you're using Navy League San Diego as basis for eligibility. I don't think answers to those questions matter much as long as you provide SSN, date of birth, required signature(s) and documentation.
Not sure how to proceed and whom to complain.
Joined Navy League - 1/6
Received membership number - 1/17
emailed scanned copy of filled out application with drivers license and copies of both emails from Navy League - 1/18
Transunion hard pull - 1/25
Welcome email - 1/25
Called and CSR helped me setup online access to my accounts - 1/25
Haven't received any communication from NFCU except the welcome email...
By the way, I did not use that approach. I served my time in the military. But as long as it's a legal eligibility method for others, I don't let it to bother me.
I understand your concern, normally a CU should be for the benefit of its members. But I recall the point made somewhere above about other members coming and that providing a path and funding to provide more funding, including to the original members, which would be a benefit. Seems legit to me.
The instructions worked for me. I joined Navy League (San Diego council) and right away filled out Navy FCU application (I checked Association/Community/Company in section B Memberhsip Eligibility and Navy in section C Affiliation). I then scanned in signed copy of application and attached it to a forwarded Welcome email from Navy League to email in Ken's post.
Exactly a week later I called to find out that they did not see my Welcome email attachment. While being on hold their backoffice opened up new account; I charged my credit card for opening deposit and then got transferred to CD dept to open up the CDs.
In talking to CSRs I got the impression they knew about the San Diego council way of membership.
As others mentioned here, CSR confirmed that ACH transfers (even those initiated from outside institution) really work with checking account and not so much with savings acct, so I ended up opening checking account as well.
CSR claimed there is no inactivity fee as long as there is at least $50 is in combined accounts including checking, savings, CDs. And even if account goes inactive after 6 months and then dormant after 1 year, there are no fees in such case. Also, there will be no need to "activate" the account; so for all practical purposes, they said dormancy statuses do not matter if there is no activity for over a year.
Speaking in general, the danger with inactive accounts can come if one inadvertently attempts to push funds into an account via ACH while it is inactive, or to pull funds from an inactive account via ACH. It is better to be certain an account is active before attempting to exercise it from outside using ACH.
Field of Membership Restrictions
Membership in Navy Federal Credit Union is open to anyone through joining the Navy League-San Diego Council ($25 membership fee). Membership is also open to members of active duty Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Army and Air National Guard, Department of Defense Officer Candidate/ROTC, Department of Defense Reservists, retirees from military service, Department of Defense civilian employees and contractors and retirees, U.S. Government Employees Assigned to Department of Defense Installations. Military veterans who were honorably discharged are also eligible. Membership is also open to immediate family of current members or those eligible for membership.