Many credit lenders offer special terms under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to help alleviate some of the financial pressure military service members experience during duty. These benefits include waived fees, lower APRs, and even unique military-specific cards.
We chose our top military cards based on a variety of factors, including special offers available only to military members, waived fees under the SCRA, military-specific APRs, annual fees, foreign transaction fees, signup bonus values, reward or cashback eligibility and other considerations a military member might weigh when choosing a credit card. The cards on our list stood above their competitors in one or several of these areas, earning our nomination.
Heading into 2020, both USAA and American Express cards still reign strong this year, while the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card dethroned the Citi® Double Cash Card. That’s because the PenFed card, aside from earning the same rewards rate as the Citi card, offers a signup bonus and low interest rates overall. This makes it a better choice long term.
Best military credit cards
The best card for you depends on your spending habits, lifestyle and needs. We’ve rounded up some of the top credit cards for service members offering top rewards on top of SCRA bonuses.
Quick glance: Best credit cards for military members
If you’re a service member who travels often, this may be a card worth considering. You get to enjoy premium travel perks, access to VIP airport lounges, earn rewards and with the SCRA benefits — you can get your annual fee waived.
Welcome offer. Earn 60,000 bonus membership reward points once you spend $5,000 in your first 3 months of card membership.
Rewards points. Earn 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or prepaid hotels booked through American Express travel portal. All other purchases earn 1x points.
Annual fee waived. Active-duty military can get their annual fee waived under the SCRA.
Annual fee. If you don't get your annual fee waived, you'll pay $550 each year.
Foreign transaction fee
60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months
5x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases
Best gas card
USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
If you spend a lot of money on gas and at military bases, this may be a card for you. You get to earn one of the highest rewards rates on these purchases, plus you get special deployment, PCS and SCRA interest rates.
Cash back. Earn 5% cash back on gas purchases and purchases made at military bases on up to $3,000 annually in combined purchases. You also earn 2% cash back at supermarkets on up to $3,000 annually. On both the 5% and 2% cashback categories, you earn 1% back once you reach the $3,000 cap. All other purchases also earn 1% cash back.
No annual fee. Enjoy the card and its benefits without paying an annual fee.
Deployment, PCS and SCRA rates. Get a low 4% fixed APR on all balances for 12 months if you're on deployment or in a permanent change of station. If you enter active military duty, you'll receive the same 4% fixed APR on all current balances until one year after you complete active duty. After that, your rate reverts to a variable APR of 11.9% to 25.9%.
No signup bonus. Unfortunately, you don't get to earn any bonus when you sign up for this card.
11.9% to 25.9% variable
Balance transfer APR
11.9% to 25.9% variable
5% cash back on up to $3,000 in combined annual gas and military base purchases, 2% on up to $3,000 at supermarkets annually and 1% on all other purchases
The PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card is worth considering if you're looking to earn flat cash back on all purchases. In addition, you get to earn a decent signup bonus and you can use a long 0% intro APR period on balance transfers.
Cash back. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. If you have a PenFed checking account or if you're on active duty, in the reserves, honorably discharged or retired, you can become an Honors Advantage member and earn 2% cash back on all purchases.
Signup bonus. Earn $100 cash bonus once you spend $1,500 in your first 90 days of card membership.
Balance transfer. Get 12 months of 0% intro APR period on balance transfers made before a rolling deadline depending on your application date. After the intro period expires, your APR reverts to to 17.99% variable.
No intro APR on purchases. You get to use 0% intro APR on balance transfers, but unfortunately, you don't get the same rate on purchases.
14.99% to 17.99% variable
Balance transfer APR
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 17.99% variable)
$100 after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days
2% cash back for all PenFed Honors Advantage members and 1.5% cash back on all purchases
While the Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card isn't the strongest rewards card for military members, military members will have their APR slashed to 0% while on active duty. This is well below what's required of card providers under the SCRA.
Cash back. Earn 5x points on Priceline purchases and x points on all other purchases.
Signup bonus. Earn 10,000 points after spending $1,000 in your first 90 days of account opening.
Intro balance transfer. This card comes with a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 billing cycles, reverting to 14.99% to 24.99%.
Limited earning categories. This card earns most on Priceline purchases and below average on everything else.
14.99%, 19.99% or 24.99% variable
Balance transfer APR
0% intro for the first 15 billing cycles (then 14.99%, 19.99% or 24.99% variable)
10,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
5x points on priceline.com and 1x points on all other purchases
The nRewards® Secured Credit Card is a secured card and thus requires a $200 security deposit. However, it also earns rewards — a rarity for secured cards. Add in a low ongoing APR and no annual fee and this is a great card for military members who need to build their credit.
Earn rewards. Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases.
Reports to credit bureaus. This card reports to all three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
No annual fee. You won't pay an annual fee to use this card.
NFCU membership required. You're only eligible for this card if you're an NFCU member.
Though not marketed as a balance transfer card, the Citi® Double Cash Card offers an excellent 18 months intro APR on balance transfers. And as part of SCRA benefits, Citi removes the balance transfer fees you'd typically have to pay.
Intro APR. Enjoy a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, reverting to 13.99% to 23.99% variable
Earn rewards. Earn 1 back on all purchases and another 1% back after you pay your balance.
No late fees. This card doesn't charge fees on late payments.
No signup bonus. This card doesn't offer a signup bonus for bonus cash back.
13.99% to 23.99% variable
Balance transfer APR
0% intro for the first 18 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
Up to 2% cash back on purchases (1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay)
How to choose the best military credit cards
With so many top options available to service members, it can be daunting to choose the best for you. As you narrow down your choices, ask yourself:
Does my military service require travel? You’ll find cards that offer travel perks like waived foreign transaction fees and even accelerated points on military bases.
Do you have a family? Military-focused credit unions often extend membership to family of service members, which can help you grow your credit line and pay off existing debts under SCRA terms.
Will you maintain spending? Annual fees, standard APRs and waived fees often revert some time after your retirement from active duty, leading to unexpected and unwanted costs.
Issuers that offer military credit card benefits
6% fixed APR on eligible preservice balances
Bank of America
6% fixed APR during active duty and extended 6 months after SCRA-eligible period ends
Waived fees on accounts opened prior to duty
0% fixed APR for preservice balances and new transactions
Waived fees on accounts opened prior to and during active duty
4% fixed APR during active duty and up to 1 year after
Waived fees on accounts during active duty and 1 year after
4% fixed APR during active duty and 1 year after
Waived fees on accounts opened prior to duty.
0% fixed APR during military service on accounts opened prior to active duty.
Waived late fees and overlimit fees.
Up to 5.9% SCRA APR on balances accrued prior to or during active duty.
Waived fees on accounts opened prior to active duty.
6% fixed APR on preservice balances during active duty.
6% fixed APR on preservice balances during active duty.
What is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act?
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a law designed to ease the financial burdens of service members and their families during military service. Enacted in 2003, the SCRA has undergone several amendments since. Today, it covers financial issues that include security deposits, rental agreements, mortgage interest rates, life insurance and credit card interest rates.
Under the SCRA, credit card companies are required to provide specific benefits to military members, usually in the form of waived fees and APR rates no higher than 6% on balances accrued prior to active duty. Many credit lenders offer even stronger benefits to honor service members.
Who is eligible for SCRA benefits
SCRA benefits are available to:
Active-duty service members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard.
Any activated reservists.
National Guard members called to active duty.
Commissioned officers of the Public Health Service or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
Spouses or dependants of active-duty servicemembers.
Tips to maximize SCRA benefits
SCRA benefits are an inherent feature to most credit cards, but you can maximize them. Here’s how:
Take advantage of your rewards. A premium credit card with SCRA benefits can provide accelerated rewards in categories like gas or travel without a high annual fee.
Transfer your balances. Balance transfers allow you to efficiently pay off your existing debts from other accounts under the more beneficial terms of your SCRA credit card.
Extend your benefits to family. Some providers allow spouses or close family to apply for cards with SCRA benefits. Taking advantage of this opportunity can diversify your potential card rewards.
Issuers that design cards for military members
Some credit unions offer cards specifically designed for members of the military. These cards often provide unique benefits tailored to the needs of service members.
USAA is a credit union that’s open to members of the military and their families. Once you’re a member, you’re eligible for credit cards that offer solid rewards like 3x points at restaurants and 2x points at gas stations and grocery stores.
USAA cards offer a 4% fixed APR, which is lower than the 6% required under the SCRA.
Navy Federal Credit Union
One of the largest credit unions in the country, Navy Federal offers membership to military members, Department of Defense employees, and family members of service members.
Its credit cards offer variable interest rates as low as 8% with no annual fee, though debts incurred on accounts prior to active duty receive the 6% fixed APR required under SCRA. Other benefits include no balance transfer or foreign transaction fees, among more traditional perks like access to FICO credit scores, fraud notifications and zero liability.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union
Anyone is welcome to join PenFed, but membership is aimed towards those who are members of the United States Armed Forces, US government employees or family members.
The credit union offers credit cards with no annual fee, low APRs and strong rewards, a few offering up to 4x points on select purchases for eligible members. Cards are compatible with Apple Pay and other mobile payment apps, while offering 24/7 fraud monitoring and no liability on unauthorized charges.
Should I apply for a military credit card?
The rates and fees of military credit cards tend to be quite generous. If you’re eligible to apply for one, we say go for it. The one trade-off may come in the form of rewards. Military reward cards aren’t always as robust as standard credit cards. If you’re hoping to amass some rewards with your credit use, consider doubling up on your military card with a rewards card from one of the major providers.
Compare credit cards for military servicemen and family
If you need a better comparison of your military credit card options, select your credit score below and click on “Show cards” to compare cards side-by-side.
No matter your spending habits or financial circumstances, you can often leverage your military service to grow your credit and get your financials in order. And if you’re no longer a member, compare some of the best cards for veterans. Many credit unions tailor strong benefits and rewards for military members, including waiving annual fees and high APRs on strong rewards cards.
Frequently asked questions
Several credit card companies waive annual fees under the SCRA, including American Express, Citi, Chase, and Capital One. Currently, Bank of America does not waive annual fees.
To receive your SCRA benefits as a military member you need to apply for them at your issuer’s website.
SCRA benefits generally apply only to active military personnel. Most benefits associated with SCRA terminate within three months of discharge, though some credit card companies extend these benefits up to a year following discharge.
Megan Horner is the credit cards publisher at Finder. She's passionate about helping you find the best credit cards to meet your financial needs — whether that's earning great rewards or improving your credit score. Megan's expertise has been spotlighted on Lifehacker, CreditCards.com, American Banker and featured on news broadcasts across the country.
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