The 6 Best Military Member Credit Cards of 2019

Reaping rewards on these credit cards is easier than boot camp

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Current and retired military members have access to lots of credit card perks, like rewards, low-interest rates and no penalty rates for late payments. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) limits the interest rates for military and their families on debts incurred before active duty. This limit applies to all credit cards, not just military credit cards, as long as you notify the creditors of your active duty status in writing. In addition to the benefits granted by the SCRA, military members can benefit from credit cards issued by a military-affiliated credit union like USAA, PedFed or Navy Federal Credit Union. These are the best credit cards for military and their family. Specific credit cards include:

  • Best for Cash Back: USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express
  • Best for Carrying a Balance: USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa
  • Best Balance Transfer: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card
  • Best Flat Rate Rewards Credit Card: Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card
  • Best for Restaurants: Navy Federal Go Rewards
  • Best for No Fees: PenFed Promise Visa Card
  • Best for Rebuilding Credit: Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit Card

Applying for a military credit card requires you to join the credit union that issues the credit card. You can generally join one of these if you are an active or retired member of the military. You may also be able to join and get a credit card if you’re the spouse or immediate family member of someone in the military.

To help you decipher which credit card is right for you, we put together a short list of the best military credit cards to sign up for today, so you can start reaping the benefits immediately.

01
Best for Cash Back: USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express
Courtesy of USAA

What we like: The USAA Cash Back Rewards Plus American Express pays 5% cash back on the first $3,000 you spend on gas and purchases you make on military bases. You’ll also earn 2% cash back on the first $3,000 you spend on supermarket purchases each year and an unlimited 1% cash back on everything else, including gas and grocery purchases over the annual limit. 

The United States Automobile Association or USAA is an FDIC-insured financial institution that provides a variety of financial services for service members.

In addition to cash back rewards, the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express comes with a few other perks such as collision damage waiver coverage for rental cars, extended warranty and zero fraud liability.

What we don't like: You could potentially qualify for the highest APR of 28.15%, which an expensive rate for carrying a credit card balance.

  • Minimum Credit Required: Excellent
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Intro APR: None offered
  • Ongoing APR: 14.15% to 28.15%
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the transfer amount
  • Cash Advance Fee: 3% of the advance amount
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  • Signup Bonus: None offered

02
Best for Carrying a Balance: USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa

USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa
Courtesy of USAA

What we like: The low-interest rate on the USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa makes it a good choice for carrying a balance long-term. If you qualify, your interest rate will be as low as 9.15%. Of course, you’ll need to have excellent credit to qualify for the lowest interest rate.

You may be able to save money on a cash advance. The cash advance fee is waived if you transfer the funds to a USAA account, though you’ll still be subject to the higher cash advance APR if you can't pay off your balance right away.

What we don't like: If you don't have great credit, you may qualify for the highest interest rate of 26.15%.

  • Minimum Credit Required: Excellent
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Intro APR: None offered
  • Ongoing APR: 9.15% to 26.15%
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the transfer amount
  • Cash Advance Fee: 3% of the advance amount
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  • Signup Bonus: None offered

03
Best Balance Transfer: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card
Courtesy of Penfed 

What we like: If you need to transfer a balance, the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card is an excellent option. It comes with a zero percent introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 12 months.

With the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature, you’ll earn five points per dollar on gas purchases, three points per dollar on grocery purchases, and one point per dollar on everything else. You can earn a $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 on purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

You must be a PenFed member with a savings/share account to apply. You qualify for membership if you or a relative are a member of the armed forces.

What we don't like: If you use the card to transfer a balance, you may not have enough available credit left to meet the minimum spending requirement to earn the signup bonus.

  • Minimum Credit Required: Good
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Intro APR: 0% for the first 12 months on balances transferred in the first 45 days
  • Ongoing APR: 11.99% to 17.99%
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the transfer amount
  • Cash Advance Fee: None
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  • Signup Bonus: $100 statement credit after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 90 days

04
Best Flat Rate Rewards Credit Card: Navy Federal cashRewards Credit Card

Navy Federal Cash Rewards Visa
Courtesy of Navy Federal

What we like: The Navy Federal Cash Rewards credit card pays a flat 1.5 percent cash back on all your card purchases. There are no reward tiers so you don’t have to worry about spending more in certain categories to maximize the rewards you earn. You can start redeeming rewards as soon as you earn them.

Members of any military branch are eligible to join the Navy Federal Cash Credit Union, not just members of the Navy.

It’s typically not a good idea take out a cash advance on credit cards because the interest rate and fees make it more expensive. The Navy Federal Cash Rewards Visa doesn’t charge a cash advance fee if you use a Navy Federal ATM to take out the advance. The cash advance APR is just 2% above your regular APR.

What we don't like

  • Minimum Credit Required: Good
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Intro APR: None offered
  • Ongoing APR: 11.90% to 18.00%
  • Balance Transfer Fee: None
  • Cash Advance Fee: None
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  • Signup Bonus: $250 bonus cash credit after you spend $2,500 on purchases in the first 90 days

05
Best for Restaurants: Navy Federal Go Rewards

Navy Federal Go Rewards
Courtesy of Navy Federal

What we like: The Navy Federal Go Rewards credit card pays higher rewards on restaurant purchases, which is perfect if you dine out regularly. You’ll earn three points for every dollar you spend at restaurants, two points on gas purchases and one point for every dollar you spend on everything else.

You can redeem your points for travel, cash back, merchandise and gift cards.

Another perk that comes with the Navy Federal Go Rewards credit card: cell phone insurance. You can insure up to three phones when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your credit card.

What we don't like: There’s no limit on the amount of points you can earn, but you must have at least 1,000 points to redeem. Points expire four years from the month you earned them. There's no initial signup bonus offered.

  • Minimum Credit Required: Good
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Intro APR: None offered
  • Ongoing APR: 11.24% to 18.00%
  • Balance Transfer Fee: None
  • Cash Advance Fee: None
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  • Signup Bonus: None offered

06
Best for No Fees: PenFed Promise Visa Card

PenFed Promise Visa Card
Courtesy of PenFed

What we like: The PenFed Promise Visa Card is a rare credit card that doesn’t charge any fees at all - no annual fee, and no fees for balance transfers, cash advances, foreign transactions, late payments, over limit balances or returned payment. There’s also no penalty APR and no minimum interest charge.

What we don't like: While you can earn a signup bonus, there's no ongoing rewards program.

  • Minimum Credit Required: Good
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Intro APR: 4.99% for the first 12 months on balances transferred between now and September 30, 2019
  • Ongoing APR: 11.99% to 17.99%
  • Balance Transfer Fee: None
  • Cash Advance Fee: None
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  • Signup Bonus: $100 statement credit after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 90 days

07
Best for Rebuilding Credit: Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit Card

Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit Card
 Courtesy of Navy Federal

What we like: The Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit Card offers military members a chance to rebuild a low credit score. Because the card requires a security deposit as collateral for the credit limit, it's much easier to qualify for. You also have the chance to earn one point for every dollar you spend on purchases.

After you've had the card for six months, Navy Federal will review your account to see if you're eligible to be upgraded to an unsecured card.

What we don't like: The APR is low compared to other secured credit cards, but is still relatively high compared to other credit cards.

  • Minimum Credit Required: Any
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Intro APR: None offered
  • Ongoing APR: 18%
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A
  • Cash Advance Fee: None if performed at a Navy Federal branch or ATM, otherwise up to $1.00
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  • Signup Bonus: None offered

About Our Reviews

We are committed to researching and recommending the best financial solutions and products for our readers. The Balance has partnered with CardRatings and may receive commissions from links within our content, but these have no bearing on our reviews or recommendations. The above content has not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any card issuers prior to publishing.