[UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired. For current terms and conditions, please see card agreements. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
If you have ever been to an army surplus store, you know that there are a lot of neat gadgets that were originally created for the military that are quite useful to the rest of us. Likewise, there are several financial institutions that were created to serve members of our armed forces that also make their credit card offers available to civilians — and many of these products have terms that are really worth checking out. Here are a few of noteworthy military credit cards out there:
USAA is the United States Automobile Association, a reflection of its creation in 1922 in order to provide affordable car insurance to members of the military. Today, USAA provides a range of financial products to 9.6 million members of the military and their families. Membership is available to active, retired and honorably separated officers and enlisted personnel of the U.S. military, as well as family and spouses of members. Children and grandchildren of active and retired service members are also eligible.
USAA offers a range of six different credit cards, including its USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum Card that features a low APR for the most highly qualified applicants (See Rates & Fees).
PenFed stands for the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, and they currently serve more than 1.2 million members. To receive one of their credit cards, you have to first become a member. Fortunately, their membership criteria is extremely broad. Eligible groups include active and retired members of the military, members of their household or extended family, and employees of the United States Government, as well as many other defense related companies. Those who don’t meet any of those criteria can simply join a military support organization for a one-time fee as little as $15.
PenFed offers six different credit cards with highly competitive rates and fees. Perhaps the most unique of these cards is the PenFed Promise Visa. It has no annual fee, foreign transaction fee, late fee, balance transfer fee or penalty interest rate. Promotional balance transfers are at 4.99% APR for 12 months. In addition, their PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card offers an outstanding five points per dollar for all airline purchases, with no annual fee. Service members stationed abroad and international travelers will appreciate the fact that none of their credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee.
Navy Federal Credit Union
Despite its name, the Navy Federal Credit Union was created to serve all branches of our armed forces, including the Coast Guard and members of the Department of Defense. Membership is open to all Department of Defense personnel, including members of the Coast Guard, reservists and DOD civilian employees. Once a family member joins, members of their household and extended family can join, too — including grandparents, parents, spouses, siblings, grandchildren, children (including adopted and stepchildren).
Navy Federal Credit Union offers six different credit cards, including its cashRewards Visa card. This product features 1% cash back on a cardholder’s first $10,000 of purchases each year, and 1.5% cash back on all other transactions. This card offers a standard APR as low as 9.65% and no annual fee. Their Visa Signature Flagship Rewards card earns two points per dollar spent with a $49 annual fee, while their Platinum card offers a standard APR of as low as 7.99%, with no annual fee.
Members of our armed forces do their part to serve our country, and they have also created some outstanding organizations to serve their own financial needs. But in most cases, there is no need to enlist in order to apply for these very competitive credit cards. By understanding all of the credit card options that you can choose from, civilians and military personnel alike can select the best credit cards for their needs.