Discover the benefits of a travel, gas or cashback card designed for servicemembers.
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.
Our pick for military service members
PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Compare credit cards for military servicemen and family
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 travel card: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or travel booked through American Express.
- Annual fee waived for active-duty military under the SCRA (usually $550) (see Rates & Fees).
- 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
- Up to $200 in airline fee and $100 in Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credits annually.
- Up to $200 in Uber credits each year.
Best gas card: USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
- No annual or foreign transaction fees.
- 5% cash back on gas and spending at military bases on up to $3,000 in combined purchases annually.
- 4% fixed APR for 12 months when deployed or in a permanent change of station. If you enter active duty, USAA extends the rate until a year after you complete your duty.
Best cashback card: Citi® Double Cash Card
- No annual, foreign transaction, late payment or other fees under SCRA.
- 0% fixed APR for balances carried from before entering active duty and extended until the end active duty.
- 1% cash back on all purchases — with no limit. Plus, earn an additional 1% back when you pay for those purchases.
How we selected our top 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.
What’s changed in 2019
Heading into 2019, these cards have kept their positions as top-notch military products.
USAA’s cashback card is potentially lucrative for members of the military, offering unique bonus rewards for spending at military bases. Also, the provider’s special interest rates for servicemembers continues to be a strong differentiator.
Amex’s product is still a military favorite, given its normally high annual fee. If you prefer consistent everyday rewards, however, Citi’s card is a reliable choice.
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.
How to apply for the SCRA
Applying for SCRA benefits varies by lender. Typically, you apply for the financial product you’re interested in, and the provider requests proof of your enlistment or military orders.
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
- 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 offer military credit card benefits
|Bank of America|
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
You’re eligible for join PenFed if you’re a member of the United States Armed Forces, a US government employee or a 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. Cards are compatible with Apple Pay and other mobile payment apps, while offering 24/7 fraud monitoring and no liability on unauthorized charges.
How to compare 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.
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.