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Best credit cards for military veterans

Take advantage of waived fees and big rewards from military credit unions.

Military credit unions issue some of the best credit cards on the market, typically with fewer fees and better rewards than many bank-issued cards. We compared rewards, fees, intro APR periods and more across every major player in this space to bring you this list of top contenders: the five best credit cards for veterans in 2021.

What are the best credit cards for military veterans?

PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Finder rating 4.4 / 5 ★★★★★

This is a rare travel credit card that lets you earn one of the highest rewards rates on travel purchases without paying a high annual fee. On top of that, there's a generous welcome offer worth around $500 when you meet the spending requirements, plus an annual $100 air travel credit.

Use the air credit to cover baggage fees, lounge access, flight changes and more. This perk alone is enough to offset the card's annual fee.

nRewards® Secured Credit Card

Finder rating 4.4 / 5 ★★★★★

If you had financial difficulties in the past and you're trying to rebuild your credit, this card should be at the top of your list. It comes with low-interest rates, no cash advance fees, no balance transfer fees and you get to earn rewards on your purchases, which is rare with secured credit cards.

On top of that, you won't pay an annual fee for the card. Of course, there are other secured cards with no annual fee, but most of them charge up to $49 annually.

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

This card lets you earn 5 points for every dollar spent on gas purchases when you pay at the pump. This comes at around 4.5% back in reward value and it has no limits on the amount of points you can earn. Similar gas cards limit your rewards rate.

There's also 3x points on groceries, a decent welcome offer and a 0% intro APR period on balance transfers. And you get all this without paying an annual fee.

Navy Federal More Rewards American Express® Card

The Navy Federal More Rewards American Express® Card lets you earn 3 points per dollar spent on purchases at restaurants and food delivery, supermarkets, gas and transit. Combined with a $0 annual fee, this makes the card one of the most rewarding a military veteran can get.

On top of that, the card waives a host of fees, including balance transfer fees, cash advance fees and foreign transaction fees.

PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

With 2% cash back on all purchases — for PenFed Honors Advantage Members — the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card rivals even the best credit cards in the cashback space. Those who aren't Advantage members earn 1.5% back, which is on par with similar cards.

On top of this, you get to earn a decent signup bonus — a perk that no other 2% cashback card offers — and a long 0% intro APR period on balance transfers.

How to choose the best cards for veterans

Finding the right card may seem daunting, but to choose the best card for your situation, consider the following:

  • Do you need to rebuild your credit? Fighting through financial difficulties is made easy with a military secured credit card. These are often better options than the standard, bank-issued cards, because of the lower interest rates and fewer fees.
  • Where do you spend most of your money? PenFed offers arguably the best no-annual-fee travel credit card if that’s what you need. Otherwise, check out their other cards if you’re looking for rewards on gas, groceries or flat rewards on all purchases. Other unions, such as the USAA and NFCU, offer similar cards.
  • Are you juggling debt? If the answer is yes, consider a card that offers a 0% balance transfer APR, like the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards Visa Signature Card. Keep in mind that introductory APR periods typically last no longer than 12 months, after which the interest rate will revert to the card’s standard rate.
  • Do you travel often? Besides earning rewards points for air travel and paying at the pump, some cards don’t charge a foreign transaction fee: which means there’s one less thing for you to worry about when you make purchases abroad.

Do I really need a credit card for veterans?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all option. But as a veteran, you have access to military credit unions whose cards often have lower interest rates than bank-issued credit cards.

If this is something you value, then a military credit card is definitely an option. But if you always pay your balance before it’s due, you can safely go for any credit card you want, regardless of which institution issues the card.

Can my card provider raise my interest rate because of my veteran status?

When transitioning from active-duty to veteran status, it’s possible your card provider will raise your interest rates to where they’re at for civilians – even if you’ve diligently kept up with your credit card payments. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) caps credit card interest rates at 6% for active-duty U.S. military members. Unfortunately, this interest cap isn’t extended to veterans.

Some providers may extend benefits for active duty credit cards for up to six months after service members are discharged, but those transitioning from active duty should anticipate a change in rates.

If you’re transitioning to veteran status, review your accounts for any perks or rate reductions that may change during the process. Compare your options across multiple providers to find the card that works best for you moving forward.

Bottom line

Veterans get to access most military credit union credit cards, which are often a better choice over their bank-issued cards. Their non-profit nature means credit union cards come with lower interest rates and fewer fees, while maintaining a similar — or even better — rewards structure than their bank-issued counterparts.

But if you don’t think any of these cards are right for you, you can always compare other credit cards until you find the one that fits your wallet best.

Frequently asked questions

Do other credit unions offer credit cards to military veterans?
Yes, and the eligibility criteria to join the union may vary.

Do bank-issued credit cards waive fees for military veterans?
Ask to have your annual fee removed. And low-interest rates and fees are often waived for active duty.

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