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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.
Quick look at the best credit cards for military members
Best for travel
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Finder rating 4.6 / 5 ★★★★★
- Annual travel credit. Get $300 in statement credit as reimbursement for your travel purchases every year on your card account anniversary.
- Signup bonus. Earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months when you open your account. This is worth $900 if you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
- Rewards points. Earn 5x points on flights booked through Chase, 10x points on hotels and car rentals booked through Chase, 3x points on Chase Dining, 3x points on all other travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases. These points are worth 50% more when redeemed through the Chase travel portal.
- Annual fee. You'll pay $550 annual fee for the card.
- No intro APR period. Like many other travel cards, you won't get a 0% intro APR period on purchases, balance transfers or both.
- Excellent credit score required. Being a premium card, your chances of approval greatly increase with a credit score of 740 or higher.
Best gas card
USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
- 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 12.65% to 26.65%.
- Cap on cash back. You’re limited to $3,000 in combined purchases for the 5% rate and $3,000 for the 2% cashback categories. After reaching the cap for either, you earn 1% back.
- No intro APR period. You start off with a variable APR of 12.65% to 26.65%. If you’re looking to transfer your balance from another account, or if you want to make a large purchase and to pay it off interest-free for a prolonged period of time, check out 0% intro APR cards.
|Rewards||5% cash back|
|Minimum Credit Score||670|
Best cashback card
PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
- Cash back. Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases, or % back if you're a PenFed Honors Advantage member. This is in line with similar cashback cards.
- Signup bonus. Earn a $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days when you open your account. Other cards that offer 1.5%
- Intro APR on balance transfers. Use of intro APR period on balance transfers. After the intro APR period ends, your rate reverts to 17.99% variable.
- No intro APR for purchases. While the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card offers an intro APR period on balance transfers, it doesn’t extend to purchases.
Best low APR with rewards
Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card
- Signup bonus. You’ll earn 10,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. That’s enough for a $75 statement credit toward Priceline.com purchases or up to $50 for non-Priceline.com purchases.
- Get 10% back. Redeem your points toward statement credits for eligible travel purchases with Priceline.com of $25 or more made in the last 120 days and get 10% points back to use toward your next redemption.
- No annual fee. You won’t pay an annual fee to own this card and get all the benefits it offers.
- Earn points. For eligible Priceline purchases, earn 5x points. For all other purchases you’ll earn 1x points. Redeem your points for a Priceline statement credit at a 1.5% value, or 1% for a non-Priceline purchase. You can also redeem for gift cards and merchandise.
- Balance transfer limitations. To use the intro APR period for balance transfers, your balance transfers must post within 45 days days of your account opening. Keep in mind that balances you want to transfer including the fees can’t exceed your credit limit. The fee for each transfer is either $5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater.
- Potentially high APR. Depending on your credit, you could have a purchase and balance transfer APR as high as 15.74% to 25.74%, which is relatively high when compared to other rewards cards.
- Penalty fees. For any late or returned payments you’ll pay up to $37.
|Welcome Offer||$100 points|
|Minimum Credit Score||670|
Best for building credit
nRewards® Secured Credit Card
Finder rating 4.4 / 5 ★★★★★
- Rewards. Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases. This may not seem like a spectacular rate, but for a credit-building card it's quite decent.
- No annual fee. There's no annual fee for the card.
- Few miscellaneous fees. There are no fees for balance transfers, foreign transactions or cash advances.
- Membership required. You'll need to be a NFCU member to qualify for this card.
- No intro APR period. The card doesn't have lower interest-rates period on purchases or balance transfers. But most secured cards don't have this perk anyway.
|Minimum Credit Score||300|
How to choose the best military credit card
- 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 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.
|Bank of America|
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.
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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