Best Credit Cards for Military Members

Our Top Picks, Whether You’re Active Duty, Retired, or Family

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If you’re on active duty, retired from the military, or a family member of someone who serves, you’re looking for the best credit cards for military members. Some offer rewards and benefits specifically for those in the armed forces, and some are just the best picks regardless. Certain cards offer more than what’s legally required by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), including fewer fees and super-low interest rates on existing card balances for those on active duty. 

Here’s what our research showed to be the best cards for military members.

Best Credit Cards for Military Members of August 2022

Best Overall, Best With No Annual Fee, Best With a Low APR During Active Duty : Citi Custom Cash℠ Card


Our Rating Among Military Member Cards
5.0
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
Current Offer

Earn $200 in cash back after spending $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 16.24% - 26.24% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 5 points per $1 on purchases in your top eligible spend category up to the first $500 spent, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 15 Months
Foreign transaction fee (%) 3%
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros and Cons
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

No late fees and low interest rates? It’s possible with the Citi Custom Cash card and its generous military-oriented benefits, which can drop your APR to 0% while eliminating any fees when you go on active duty.

It’s also an easy way to earn cash back, since you can get 5% back on up to $500 in purchases each month. Citi automatically applies the 5% earnings rate to your top spending category each month—there are no rotating categories to keep track of. After that, all your purchases earn 1% back in Citi ThankYou Points, which you can redeem in several ways, including cash back and travel via Citi’s transfer partners.

You’ll get up-front value too, with a $200 sign-up bonus if you spend $750 in the first three months.

Pros and Cons
Pros
  • No annual fee

  • Good 0% APR intro offer

  • Competitive welcome bonus

Cons
  • Foreign transaction fee

Highlights
  • Earn 5% cash back on your highest eligible spend category each billing cycle up to $500 spent and 1% cash back thereafter.
  • Earn $200 cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Get 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers.

Best Sign-Up Bonus : United℠ Explorer Card


Our Rating Among Military Member Cards
4.7
United℠ Explorer Card
Current Offer

Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 17.99% - 24.99% variable
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, including tickets, Economy Plus®, inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, and other United charges. 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, including eligible delivery services. 2 miles per $1 spent on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros & Cons:
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

How far can a credit card take you? You’ll earn 60,000 bonus miles with this card after spending $3,000 in the first three months, and another 10,000 miles (for a total of 70,000) after spending $6,000 in the first six months—that’s enough for round-trip airfare to Europe. Plus, Chase waives the annual fee for all military families, and if you have the card before joining, you’ll also enjoy a 4% APR and no late fees.

Ongoing travel benefits include a free checked bag, priority boarding, and a $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit. You’ll also earn 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, dining, and hotels; everything else earns 1 mile per dollar spent.

Pros & Cons:
Pros
  • Miles are worth more than most other major U.S. airline's, according to our calculations

  • Lots of great travel perks, such as lounge passes and free checked bags

  • Extra miles can be earned on more than just flight purchases

Cons
  • Annual fee is waived the first year, but it’s still a notable cost

Highlights
  • Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.
  • Get 2 United Club one-time passes each anniversary year.
  • Save up to $140 per roundtrip with a free checked bag for you and a travel companion on the same reservation.
  • Get 25% back as a statement credit on inflight United purchases.

Best With a Low Ongoing APR : Navy Federal Platinum


Our Rating Among Military Member Cards
3.9
Navy Federal Platinum
Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Fair - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 7.49% - 18% variable
Annual Fee $0
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 12 Months
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros and Cons
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

If you’re searching for low fees and minimal interest rates, this card is worth a look. Only available to those with a military affiliation, the card’s interest rate is as low as 7.49%—and there’s a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for the first 12 months you have the card.

All cardholders are charged no annual fee, no balance transfer fees, and no foreign transaction fees, and if you get the card before becoming active duty, you’ll snag a 4% interest rate on balances.

Fair credit or better is suggested to apply, so the card can help you build your credit score while avoiding expensive fees.

Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Accessible to consumers with average credit scores

  • Very fee friendly, with no balance transfer or cash advance fee and a low ongoing APR

Cons
  • Must be affiliated with the military or Department of Defense to apply

Highlights
  • No annual fee
  • No balance transfer fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No cash advance fee

Best Military Rewards Program : USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card


Our Rating Among Military Member Cards
3.8
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 13.4% - 27.4% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros and Cons
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express reserves its highest rewards-earning rate for on-base purchases. You’ll get 5% cash back on the first $3,000 you spend on base (and at gas stations) each year.

Otherwise, you’ll earn 2% on the first $3,000 in grocery store purchases each year and 1% everywhere else. There’s no annual fee, and the card offers lots of perks, including a 0% intro APR, travel protection benefits, and extended warranty protection. If you open this card prior to becoming active duty will also receive a low 4% interest rate on existing balances.

Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Great rewards rate on gas and military base purchases

  • Low APR for most creditworthy cardholders

  • For cardholders on active duty in the military, APR is 4% (better than mandated)

Cons
  • Must be affiliated with the military to apply

  • Earning caps on higher rewards rates

  • No welcome bonus

Highlights
  • 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in combined gas station and military base purchases yearly.
  • 2% cash back on your first $3,000 in grocery purchases yearly.
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel outside the U.S.

How Do Military Credit Cards Work?

Some banks have credit card programs that are just better for military members than other cards. The ones we’ve highlighted above have low interest rates, few fees, and excellent rewards. Many card issuers extend benefits to active-duty service members that go beyond what’s required under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

What Are SCRA Credit Card Benefits?

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is a federal law that gives military members a number of financial and legal protections while on active duty.  

Under this regulation, credit card companies are required to:

  • Cap APRs at 6% for existing card balances
  • Forgive any interest charges made in excess of 6%
  • Waive select fees and service charges that result in a borrowing cost of above 6%

Many card issuers go above and beyond these minimum requirements and offer active-duty military members extra perks, like even lower APRs, extended low-interest periods, and waived fees.

To access SCRA credit card benefits, service members must apply for relief with each card, which can be done online with most major issuers. If you’re unsure how to start an SCRA application process, call the customer service number listed on the back of your card.

During our research, The Balance found issuers rarely disclose all military benefit details online. We recommend contacting an issuer directly to learn more about what they can do for your situation.

What Else Should You Look For in a Military Credit Card?

The best military card will serve you well before, during, and after active duty. If you’re in the military and looking for a new card, it’s important to consider the SCRA benefits you may get while on active duty, but don’t forget about all the other valuable card qualities:

Standard APR: SCRA interest rate caps only cover debts that you rack up before you go on active duty, so look at what each card will charge you for carrying a balance each year. Interest rate information has to be listed in each card's terms and conditions, which can usually be found via a link on the card page. Look for small text that says “view rates and fees,” “terms and conditions,” or something similar.

Sign-up bonus: If you can get a pile of extra points or miles just for being a new cardholder and using your card, give that card offer a second look. Large sign-up bonuses can boost a card’s rewards value if you aren’t a high spender. Or if your card charges an annual fee, a good sign-up bonus can make up for that cost. 

Rewards: With a rewards card, you’ll earn a set number of rewards points for each dollar spent on card purchases. You may also earn extra points on certain purchases, like airline flights or groceries. Look for a card that fits your typical spending habits. For example, if you travel often when not on active duty, consider an airline card.

Just think about how valuable a card’s rewards are before applying. We’ve done a lot of that research for you in our card reviews, so check them out for more information—click on the “Full Review” button below each credit card in the list above. 

Annual fee: Many rewards cards come with annual fees, which is the cost you pay for your earnings. Sure, many issuers waive annual fees for service members on active duty, but you should still weigh annual fee costs now. Will the card benefits and/or rewards make up for the annual fee after you return? It’s something to keep in mind when choosing a card. 

Customer service: Good customer service resources, like 24/7 online chat, U.S.-based customer service call centers, and user-friendly mobile apps, will make your life easier regardless of your active-duty status. Card issuer customer service will also be crucial for understanding SCRA benefits if you apply.

How Can You Benefit From Credit Cards While in the Military?

  1. Apply for SCRA benefits: If you’re bound for active duty, don’t pass up an opportunity to save money on credit card costs. Visit your card issuer’s website or call customer service as soon as you know when your active service date is.
  2. Contact card issuers: Our research found some issuers may offer more perks than what’s readily disclosed online, but you’ll need to call to learn more.
  3. Make on-time card payments: If you’re super busy or even deployed overseas, make sure card payments are still taken care of so you preserve your payment history and prevent credit score damage. Set up automatic payments to ensure you’re at least making minimum payments on time.
  4. Only charge what you can afford: Don’t rack up massive card balances while overseas. Debt may actually impact your eligibility for security clearances, so don’t risk it.

Remember, because the SCRA interest rate cap only applies to pre-existing debt, you may still be charged the card’s higher APR while on duty. Pay off your balances every month to avoid paying expensive interest.

How We Chose the Best Credit Cards for Military Members

We collect data on hundreds of cards and score more than 55 features that affect your finances. We do this because it's our mission to give you unbiased, comprehensive credit card reviews.

Our reviews are always impartial. No one can influence which cards we review, the way we present them to you, or the ratings they receive.

About This List

All credit cards in our database came into play when determining our top picks for military members, but only a few stood out. To curate this list, we asked 16 major credit card issuers what special benefits they offer active-duty military members, like waived fees, additional rewards, or extra-low interest rates.

What We Score

We consider low APRs, minimal fees, big sign-up offers, valuable rewards, and minimal fees some of the best card qualities. We believe these features benefit all members of the military—not just those on active duty. Our full methodology includes further detail about how we evaluate credit card attributes.

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Department of Justice. "The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)."