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National Institute of Health Federal Credit Union Secured Visa

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By : Mr Credit Card

Who is National Institute of Health Federal Credit Union?

The National Institutes of Health was founded in 1940 and serves members working in select Biomedical and Healthcare organizations in the Washington DC metro area. They have now expanded to to serve industries in MD, VA, DC, WV and NC. You can also join NIHFCU is you become a member of the American Consumer Council.

NIHFCU offers a range of financial products including credit cards. In this review, we will be looking at their secured credit card. One of the key features of this card is that you can deposit a large amount and hence have a high credit limit. Let's dig into this card further.

Card Details

Annual Fee $0
Regular APR Min 8.99%
Foreign Transaction Fee 1%
Credit Limit Max $250-$25,000

Fees - The NIH Secured Visa has no annual fee. It does have a foreign transaction fee so you have to be aware of this is you plan to use this card outside of the USA.

Minimum and Maximum Security Deposit/Credit Line - You can deposit anywhere from $250 to $25,000 for your security deposit (which is your credit limit). $250 is a pretty low amount and hurdle for those of you who are cash strapped. However, the key attraction of this card is that you can deposit up to $25,000 and have a large credit limit.

Visa Benefits

  • Online card controls for quick management of your card features
  • 24/7 fraud monitoring and Visa Zero Liability
  • Real time purchase alerts to monitor card activity
  • Car rental collision reimbursement


Card Annual Fee APR Credit Limit Foreign Transaction Fee Chip and Pin
NIH Secured Visa $0 8.99% $250-$25,000 1% No
CU of New Jersey $0 Min 14.99% Max $25,000 1% No
FirstTech Secured $0 9% to 18% $500 - $25,000 0% Yes
1st NorCal Secured $0 7.9% Up to $10,000 Not Sure No

The unique feature of the NIH secured card is that you can put down $25,000 as your security deposit and get a credit limit as high as that amount. Since there are so many secured credit cards available to consumers today, we have narrowed down to the following credit cards that also have credit limits of up to $25,000. And they all happen to be secured credit cards from credit unions.

The first card to compare with is the FirstTech FCU Secured Mastercard. Like the NIH, you can deposit up to $25,000 for your security deposit and credit limit. It also has no annual fee. However, FirstTech is better in that they have a reward program, charge no foreign transaction fee and also have Chip and PIN rather than Chip and Signature. This makes the FirstTech a much better fit if you plan to use your card overseas.

The other comparable card is the Credit Union of New Jersey Secured Mastercard. It has no annual fee and also has a credit limit of $25,000. It is very similar to NIH in that there is no reward program, charges a foreign transaction fee and does not have Chip and Pin. The CUNJ will obviously be appropriate if you live in New Jersey.

Pros and Cons


  • No Annual Fee - The NIH Credit Union Secured Visa has no annual fee.

  • Low APR - The APR is low at 8.99%. Having said that, we do not recommend that you carry a balance. Instead, we always recommend that you pay off your bill in full every month.

  • High Credit Limit - This is what the NIH secured card is known for, it's high $25,000 credit limit. You can deposit up to $25,000 for your security deposit (which then becomes your credit limit). Having a high limit allows you to control your credit utilization ratio to a level that you want.

  • Can Graduate to NIH Unsecured Cards - NIH will consider you for an upgrade to one of their unsecured credit cards if you use your secured card responsibly.


  • Foreign Transaction Fee - This may or may not be a problem for some of you. If you intend to use this card when you travel abroad, then having to pay the foreign transaction fee sucks. If you do not travel internationally, then this is not an issue.

  • No Reward Program - Most secured credit cards do not have reward programs so in all honesty, we should be making a big fuzz of of this. Having said that, more secured credit cards are offering reward programs so this is something that might bother some of you.

How To Join NIH?

  • You’re an employee, contractor, fellow, volunteer, pensioner/retiree of the National Institutes of Health.

  • You’re an employee, member, or student of one of NIH partners. Here is their partner list

  • You’re a child, sibling, parent, spouse, grandchild, or grandparent of, or share joint household financial responsibility with, a current NIHFCU member.

  • If you do not fit any of the above criteria, NIH will open a free membership for you to the American Consumer Council, a non-profit Consumer Education organization. Being a member of the American Consumer Council qualifies you immediately for NIHFCU membership.

Our Take: Is the NIH Secured Visa Good?

The National Institute of Health Secured Visa is a really good secured credit card because it has no annual fee and also because it allows you to deposit a large amount for your security deposit and have a large credit limit. This is very important because if you are a rebuilder, you can actually control your credit utilization ratio. Also, in times of financial crisis (like during 2008/2009 and the Covid19 Pandemic), your credit lines with a secured credit card can never be reduced.

There are very few secured credit cards that will give you a credit limit of up to $25,000. For those of you who have a significant amount in your checking account and would like the peace of mind of your credit limit never being slashed, this is a great card to get.

If you are a rebuilder, this is also a great card to get because you can control your credit utilization ratio.

NIH also gives you an easy way to join. If you do not meet any of their criteria, all you have to do is to join the American Consumer Council ($5 fee and NIH will pay for this) and you can be eligible to join them.

If you live in an area where NIH has got branches, then their credit cards (including their secured card) is worth considering.