5 Best Credit Cards for Military Members and Their Families

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Current and retired military members have access to many credit card perks, like cash and points rewards, low interest rates, and no penalty rates for late payments. Military banks and credit unions like USAA and PenFed Credit Union offer the best credit cards not only for military members and veterans, but for their family members too. Here are a five of the best credit cards for military personnel and their families—there's even a credit card options for servicemen who need to build or rebuild their credit history.

USAA Credit Cards for Military Members

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

USAA credit cards have great interest rates on their own, but the bank also provides special interest rates even lower than those required by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Service members enjoy 4 percent APR for up to 12 months during deployment or PCS. If there's a balance on an existing account at the time you enter active duty, get 5 percent APR on the balance until one year after completing active duty.

Best for Cash Back Rewards

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express: The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express is great for military members who want to earn cash rewards on their credit card purchases.

The card pays 5 percent cashback on the first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases each year; 2 percent on the first $3,000 in supermarket purchases per year; and unlimited 1 percent cashback on everything else.

Gas and grocery purchases over the annual limit are paid 1 percent for the remainder of the year and the threshold resets at the beginning of the next calendar year. There's no annual fee on the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express.

The variable APR for purchases, balance transfers, or cash advances is between 12.9 percent and 26.9 percent based on your creditworthiness.

There's no penalty APR, no foreign transaction fee, and the balance transfer and cash advance fee is up to 3 percent.

Cardholders receive other perks and benefits including extended warranty, collision damage waiver coverage which pays for damage and theft of most rental cars, and zero fraud liability.

Best for Low Interest Rate

USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa: If you want to carry a balance at a low interest rate, the USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa is perfect. Qualified applicants can receive an interest rate as low as 7.90 percent with no annual fee. Qualifying for the lowest interest rate will of course require you to have a good credit score. Check your credit score before applying to gauge the likelihood of qualifying for a lower interest rate. The regular APR could be as high as 24.90 percent.

There's no penalty APR, which means your interest rate won't increase if you become delinquent on your credit card payments.

Balance transfers and cash advances are charged a fee of 3 percent of the transfer amount up to a maximum of $200. The cash advance fee is waived when you transfer funds electronically to a USAA account.

There's no foreign transaction fee, which means this card can be used internationally for purchases made in other currencies without incurring an additional fee.

Best for Building or Rebuilding Credit

USAA Secured Visa: Military members and their family who need to build or rebuild their credit can take advantage of the USAA Secured Visa. A secured credit card requires a security deposit against the credit limit. The USAA Secured Visa allows you to make a security deposit from $250 to $5,000 for your credit limit. Your security deposit goes into a USAA bank two-year variable rate certificate of deposit.

The APR for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances is 10.90 percent to 20.90 percent based on creditworthiness. There's no penalty APR, so your interest rate doesn't go up when you're behind on your credit card payments.

The annual fee is $35, which is fairly normal for a secured credit card. USAA may be willing to waive the annual fee if you ask.

 Balance transfers and cash advances are charged a fee up to 3 percent. The cash advance fee is waived when you transfer funds electronically to a USAA account.

Perhaps best of all, your credit card history reported to the major credit bureaus, which helps build or rebuild your credit score as long as you use your credit card responsibly.

Who Can Join USAA? To establish USAA membership—and apply for any of the USAA credit cards—one must be: 

  • Active military
  • Former military (honorable discharge)
  • A widow, widower, or un-remarried former spouse of a USAA member who joint USAA prior to or during the marriage
  • An individual whose parents joined USAA
  • A cadet in advanced ROTC or on ROTC scholarship, plus officer candidates within 24 months of commissioning

Best Overall Credit Card

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card: The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card pays point on purchases. You earn 5 points per dollars on gas purchases and 3 points per dollars on groceries including grocery purchases made at military commissaries. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. Once you have the card, you're automatically enrolled in the rewards program; there's no need to signup to earn rewards.

As a signup bonus, you'll get a $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days.

Not only does the card come with great rewards, it also has a 0 percent introductory promotional APR on balance transfers for the first 12 months. The promo rate applies to transfers made between October 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. Transfers made after that time receive the regular APR.

There's no annual fee or foreign transaction fee, a great benefit for travelers. The regular APR for purchases and cash advances is from 9.74 percent to 17.99 percent based on your creditworthiness. The penalty APR is 17.99 percent.

If you transfer a balance to the credit card, you'll pay a balance transfer fee of 3 percent of the transaction amount.

Who Can Join PenFed? There are a number of ways to join PenFed credit union. For military members, you must be an active or retired U.S. Military & Uniformed Service member, or a relative or housemate of one.

Best Flat Rate Rewards Credit Card

Navy Federal Cash Rewards Visa: The Navy Federal Cash Rewards Visa keeps it simple. Cardholders receive a flat 1.5 percent cashback on all purchases. That means you earn $1.50 for every $100 in purchases you make with the credit card. Spend $1,000 each month and earn $180 in credit card rewards by the end of the year. There are no rewards tiers or quarterly enrollment required to earn rewards.

The APR for purchases and balance transfers will be between 16.65 percent and 18.0 percent depending on your creditworthiness. The APR for cash advances is 2 percent higher than the purchases APR, but maxed out at 18 percent. (That's pretty inexpensive for a cash advance APR.)

You have the flexibility of paying a minimum payment of 2 percent of your outstanding balance or $20, whichever is greater.

There's no annual fee, no balance transfer fee, and no foreign transaction fee. There is no cash advance fee if the advance is made at a Navy Federal Credit Union branch. Non-NFCU cash advances are charged up to $1.00 foreign ATM fee.

Who Can Join Navy Federal Credit Union? Members of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Navy or the Army or Air National Guard are eligible to become Navy Federal Credit Union members. You also qualify if you are an immediate family member of a current Navy Federal member or someone who's eligible for a Navy Federal membership.

Military Perks for All Credit Cards

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act outlines financial protections military personnel and their families while servicemembers are on active duty or deployed. Rates on debt incurred before active duty are capped at 6 percent as long as servicemembers notify the creditors of their active duty status in writing.