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Compare the best credit cards for military members

Discover the benefits of a travel, gas or cashback card designed for active-duty servicemembers.

Many credit lenders offer special terms under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to help alleviate some of the financial pressure experienced by active-duty military members. 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 active-duty 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.

What’s changed in 2022?
Heading into 2022, our best list for military members remains relatively unchanged. However, a great number of standard rewards cards on the market grew stronger over 2021 and into 2022, with military-specific cards staying roughly the same. As a result, we recommend military members take a closer look at some of the other rewards cards on the market and weighing up the potential value of those cards versus the benefits you would gain from a military-specific credit card.

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.

Best for travel

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Finder rating 4.6 / 5 ★★★★★

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on Creditcards.com's secure site
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The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers extensive valuable travel perks and features at a formidable price. And if you're a military member, you're in a position to sidestep this $550 annual fee entirely, giving a card worth well over $600 at no cost.

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.

Best cashback card

PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

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on Pentagon Federal Credit Union's secure site
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The PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card is worth considering if you're looking to earn flat cash back on all purchases. Notably, if you're on active duty with the military, on reserve, honorably discharged or retired, you'll earn 2% cash back rather than 1.5% back. In addition, you get to earn a decent signup bonus and you can use a long intro APR period on balance transfers.

Best low APR with rewards

Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card

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.

Best for building credit

nRewards® Secured Credit Card

Finder rating 4.4 / 5 ★★★★★

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.

How to choose the best military credit card

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 be able to pay after your SCRA benefits end? Annual fees, standard APRs and waived fees often revert some time after your retirement from active duty, leading to unexpected and unwanted costs. This can hurt you financially if you’re unable to make these payments when your SCRA benefits end.

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.

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. If you’re in the process of transitioning to veteran status, compare some of the best cards for veterans.

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 service members’ needs.

USAA

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.

Issuers that offer military credit card benefits

Not all cards with military benefits are designed exclusively for active-duty service members. Some cards are intended for the general public but come with perks limited to military members.

IssuerBenefits
American Express
  • Waived fees
  • 6% fixed APR on eligible preservice balances
Bank of America
  • Waived fees
  • 6% fixed APR during active duty and extended 6 months after SCRA-eligible period ends
Barclaycard
  • Waived fees on accounts opened prior to duty
  • 0% fixed APR for preservice balances and new transactions
Capital One
  • Waived fees on accounts opened prior to and during active duty
  • 4% fixed APR during active duty and up to one year after
Chase
  • Waived fees on accounts during active duty and one year after
  • 4% fixed APR during active duty and one year after
Citi
  • Waived fees on accounts opened prior to duty.
  • 0% fixed APR during military service on accounts opened prior to active duty.
Discover
  • Waived late fees and overlimit fees.
  • Up to 5.9% SCRA APR on balances accrued prior to or during active duty.
U.S. Bank
  • Waived fees on accounts opened prior to active duty.
  • 6% fixed APR on preservice balances during active duty.
Wells Fargo
  • 6% fixed APR on preservice balances during active duty.

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.

Bottom line

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. 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

Which credit cards waive annual fees for military?
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.

How do I get my annual credit card fee waived?
To receive your SCRA benefits as a military member you need to apply for them at your issuer’s website.

Are there bank accounts designed for military members?
Yes, some banks and credit unions offer benefits to military members, like no monthly fees. Check out our list of the best military banks.

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