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7 best military banks and credit unions

The best financial institutions for current and former military members and their families.

The best military banks and credit unions give veterans, reservists, active-duty personnel and employees of the Department of Defense access to various benefits like no monthly fees, discounts on loans, ATM fee reimbursements and more.

We compared 17 military banks and credit unions, including regional and nationwide financial institutions, and reviewed their fees, interest rates, ATM networks, branch locations and other features to find the seven best banks and credit unions for military members and their families.

Security Service Federal Credit Union logo

Best for checking: Security Service Federal Credit Union

Security Service is the best military credit union for checking accounts because it earns interest ranging from 0.05% to 0.65% depending on your balance, and there’s no monthly fee. And the more money you keep in your checking account, the more interest you’ll earn. Plus, Security Service FCU offers several other benefits, including deployment loans and a credit card that earns 1.5% cashback on every purchase with no annual fee.

Criteria to become a member

To become a Security Service Federal Credit Union member, you must meet any of the following criteria.

  • Live, work, worship, attend school, volunteer or own a business in Colorado, Texas or Utah.
  • Be a member of select military branches or units, or work for the Department of Defense at specific military bases within Security Service’s service areas.
  • Live with or be related to an existing member of the credit union.

Best for digital banking: USAA

USAA is the best military bank for digital banking because it has a highly rated app with more features than the other accounts on this list. The USAA mobile app includes free budgeting tools and it works with Siri, Google Assistant and other voice-activated tools.

Your USAA account also integrates with all major digital wallets, including Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay, and it works with the Zelle payment processing platform. However, USAA’s interest rates on savings accounts and CDs aren’t competitive. And USAA only has five brick-and-mortar branches, so it may not be easy for you to meet with a banker in person.

Criteria to become a member

To qualify for a USAA account, you must meet either of the following requirements.

  • Active, retired, and honorably discharged veterans from the US military
  • Family members are eligible, though this does not include the account holder’s parents or siblings
penfed logo

Best ATM network: PenFed Credit Union

Pentagon Federal or PenFed is the best military credit union for ATM access because its network includes more than 85,000 ATMs, including many convenient locations inside retailers like 7-Eleven, Walgreens and CVS. PenFed also offers an interest-bearing checking account plus decent APYs on savings accounts. But it has relatively few branches compared to other credit unions on this list, and you need to meet specific requirements to avoid some fees.

Criteria to become a member

PenFed previously required nonmilitary applicants to donate to a military charity to qualify for membership, but the credit union no longer requires this. Now, any U.S. citizen or permanent resident can join PenFed simply by funding a savings account with at least $5.

Best for CDs: Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union is the best military credit union for CDs due to its Special EasyStart Certificate, which earns 3.0% APY over a term of 12 months. Get this certificate for any amount ranging from $50 to $3,000, and you can add money to the account at any time. Navy Federal Credit Union also offers several other certificates with terms ranging from three months to seven years and APYs ranging from 0.40% to 0.95%. But account holders can only open one Special EasyStart Certificate at a time.
Criteria to become a member

To qualify for an account at Navy Federal Credit Union, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Active Duty members, reservists, veterans, retirees and annuitants of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard
  • Army and Air National Guard personnel
  • Delayed Entry Program personnel
  • Department of Defense (DoD) civilians
  • US government employees assigned to DoD installations
  • Contractors assigned to DoD installations
  • Family members of one of the above

Best for military benefits: Chase Bank

Chase is the best bank for military benefits because it waives fees for personal and business accounts for military members. Chase also provides benefits under the Servicemembers Civil Rights Act (SCRA), which includes reduced interest rates, early termination of auto leases and protection from foreclosures and repossessions.Chase also offers a unique Survivor Program, which absolves outstanding debt for eligible spouses and dependents of Chase military customers who lose their lives either in the line of duty or as a result of wounds received while in action. Plus, Chase has more than 4,700 branches across the US, making it the best military bank for in-person interactions. But Chase’s savings accounts don’t earn competitive interest rates.
Criteria to qualify for military benefits
Chase offers two levels of benefits for members of the military:
  • Primary benefits are available to all active, reserve or National Guard service members and vets with qualifying military IDs. Benefits include a waived monthly service fee, a free safe deposit box and four waived fees for using out-of-network ATMs.
  • Enhanced benefits are available to active duty and reserve military service members of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy and National Guard. To qualify for the Enhanced benefits, you also need to set up direct deposit for your military base pay. Benefits include unlimited waivers.
Service Credit Union logo

Service Credit Union: Best for savings

Service Credit Union is the best military credit union for savings because the first $500 in your account earns 5.0% APY, and balances over that amount earn 0.25% APY. If you keep $1,000 in your account for a year, you’ll earn a total of $26.83 in interest.

But if you plan to keep more than $12,500 in your account, look into PenFed Credit Union’s Premium Online Savings account that earns 0.45% APY as you’ll earn about $0.76 more than at Service Credit Union. If you’re sent to an active combat zone, Service Credit Union’s Deployed Warrior Savings lets you earn 10% APY on balances up to $10,000.

Criteria to become a member

When Service Credit Union opened in 1957, it exclusively catered to members of the military and their families. But membership is now open to civilians as well. To open an account, you must meet at least one of these criteria.

  • Active-duty military, veteran or the family member of one
  • A current or former employee of the Department of Defense or the family member of one
  • Member of the credit union’s Select Employer Groups
  • Member of the American Consumer Council (free to join with promo code SERVICE)
Tyndall logo

Tyndall Federal Credit Union: Best for earning rewards

Tyndall is the best military credit union for rewards because you earn one point for every dollar you spend with your credit card and one point for every $5 you spend with your debit card. There’s no fee or enrollment required and you can redeem your points for cashback, gift cards, vacation packages, merchandise and more. Tyndall also offers a no-fee checking account and a relatively high APY for their Smart Checking account, but not all military members are eligible for accounts.

Criteria to become a member

To qualify for an account at Tyndall Federal Credit Union, you must satisfy any of the following criteria.

  • Live, work, worship, attend school or volunteer in select counties in Florida and Alabama.
  • You are a current or former employee of one of Tyndall’s select employee groups.
  • You are a current or former employee of one of the groups or organizations Tyndall serves.
  • One of your immediate relatives or members of your household is within Tyndall’s field of membership.

5 factors to consider when choosing a bank for military members

When selecting the best military bank account for you, pay special attention to the following factors.

  • Fees. Checking accounts and credit cards sometimes have monthly or annual fees for civilians, but these fees are often waived for military members.
  • Interest rate. Some military credit unions let you earn interest on balances in your checking and savings accounts, but others only offer interest on savings and their rates aren’t always competitive.
  • ATM network. Military banks and credit unions have different ATM networks. Some are nationwide, while others are only regional. Some credit unions like Service Credit Union let you use ATMs overseas without extra fees, but others will charge you for withdrawals from international ATMs.
  • Benefits. Some banks and credit unions offer unique benefits for military members, such as fee waivers and discounted rates on personal loans and business loans for veterans.
  • Physical branches. Most military banks and credit unions have physical branches you can visit to conduct your banking in person, but digital banks exist exclusively online.

4 online alternatives for military members

Although the banks and credit featured in this guide each have something to offer, military members aren’t limited to choosing one of these institutions. Depending on your needs and lifestyle, a civilian-centric online bank might make more sense for your needs. Here are five banks that offer free banking regardless of your military affiliation.

  • Discover Bank. With Discover you won’t pay fees on insufficient funds, monthly account maintenance and more. But it offers comparatively fewer types of bank accounts.
  • Ally Bank. With Ally you won’t pay monthly maintenance fees and all accounts earn interest. But business accounts aren’t available and like most online accounts there’s no way to deposit cash.
  • Axos Bank. Offers unlimited ATM fee reimbursements and 1.25% APY on checking account balances, but you need to receive at least $1,000 in direct deposits each month and use your debit card at least 15 times a month to qualify.
  • Synchrony Bank. Earn 0.4% APY on its savings account that also comes with an ATM card you can use to withdraw money from your account. But customer service is limited to weekdays from 7 a.m. to midnight ET.

Bottom line

The best military banks and credit unions each have their specific strengths and weaknesses. Consider the factors that matter to you most, and weigh your options carefully. And if you’re not satisfied with any of these options, compare our picks for the best online banks.

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