Military members and their families have a unique banking needs. For example, it’s not uncommon for military members to travel frequently, relocate, work irregular hours, live overseas, maintain multiple official addresses in the course of a year, etc. All of this can make banking difficult, at least, if you don’t use a military financial institution. Military banks and credit unions are better at anticipating and meeting the needs of our military families. Even then, they aren’t all created equal. We created this list of military financial institutions to help you narrow down the list and choose a bank that meets your needs.
I’ll run through the methodology used to compare the banks we list, but I’ll preface it by saying it’s virtually impossible for me to list every military bank and credit union in existence. The Defense Credit Union Council consists of more than 200 credit union members which operate branches on military installations around the world. Collectively, they serve over 18 million members. That’s a lot of credit unions! And that doesn’t even include other banks or financial institutions that aren’t classified as a credit union.
Methodology For this List
We can’t cover 200+ financial institutions in this article. The truth is most of the credit unions you will find at your local base or military installation are going to do a fair job at offering you stable financial products and services for most basic banking needs. So we are focused on some of the military banks and credit unions that offer the widest array of services that cater to the military population. This includes features such as:
- Free checking
- Remote check deposit through smartphones or scanners
- Free ATMs and ATM fee refunds
- Smartphone and tablet apps for full banking needs
- Full financial services, including loans, investments, insurance, and other products
- Dedication to the military mission
Inclusion in this page doesn’t mean this is the best financial institution for your banking needs, and not including a financial institution doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy. The above features help us narrow down the sheer number of financial institutions to a more manageable number. From there, we went based on their features, size, accessibility, and dedication to the military mission. This last one is important. While many large, commercial banks have military departments, they often don’t have the same understanding of military members’ needs as some of the financial institutions that are dedicated almost entirely to serving our military and their families. This often includes things like frequent travel, dealing with deployments, seamlessly processing VA Loans, understanding how the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act works, and more.
The following chart lists our top rated Military Financial Institutions. We have avoided giving them a specific numerical ranking, as each of the top three will meet the needs of almost any military member. I don’t hesitate to recommend any of them to any service member or veteran. If you are already a member of one of these banks, and you are happy, then don’t change. Stick with what you know and love! But you may find that one or more of these military financial institutions offers something your current bank doesn’t offer. In that case, it may be worth your time to look deeper.
Top Military Financial Institutions
|Features||USAA Federal Savings Bank||Navy Federal Credit Union||Pentagon Federal Credit Union|
|Free Checking Accounts||USAA Secure Checking||Active Duty Checking |
(Qualifying Military Direct Deposit Required).
|Complete Access Checking (free with Daily balance of $500, or $500 monthly Direct Deposit; other wise $10 per month).|
|Free replacement checks||Yes||Yes||No|
|ATM Availability||Free use of 60,000 USAA-preferred ATMs nationwide||55,000+ free ATMs||over 28,000 surcharge free ATMs within network.|
|ATM Fee Refunds||up to $15 per month||up to $20 per month||None;
Free withdrawals from PenFed ATMs, otherwise $1.50 network fee, or $3.00 surcharge for non-PenFed ATM withdrawal.
|Mobile Check Deposit||Scanner, iPhone, Android, mail option|
Ability to make deposits from UPS Store
|Scanner, iPhone, Android, mail option||Scanner, Mail option. More info - https://www.penfed.org/deposit-anywhere/|
|Free online bill pay||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Mortgages / VA Loans||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Insurance Products||Auto, Home, Life, Health, Renter's, Rental Property Insurance, Valuable Property, Flood, Umbrella, Motorcycot, RV, Boats, Small Business, and more.||Auto, Home, Renters, Boat, Life||Auto, Home, Life, Health|
|Investment Services||Investment advisors, Full service brokerage account, In-house mutual funds, stocks and bonds, annuities, Investment calculators, and other tools.||Investment advisors, mutual funds, stocks and bonds, annuities,||Limited to Certificates of Deposits.|
|International toll-free customer service||Yes - https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/ContactUsMain||Call collect internationally: 1-703-255-8837||Yes, from certain locations - https://www.penfed.org/Contact-Us/|
|Smart Phone / Tablet Apps||iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets||iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets||iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets|
|Additional services||home-buyin gservice, car-buying service; travel agency; member shopping discounts||PenFed Car Buying Service|
|Tools||USAA Money Manager - track spending and budgeting; budgeting tools, retirement planning tools; Variety of financial calculators||Variety of financial calculators||Variety of financial calculators|
|Learn More:||Visit USAA Federal Savings Bank||Visit Navy Federal Credit Union||Visit Pentagon Federal Credit Union|
As you can see from the above chart, there are many similarities between these three military banks. They all offer free checking, the ability to manage your finances online and through your mobile phone or tablet, the ability to deposit checks remotely, and much more. The other benefits include excellent customer service and a dedication to serving the military community. This goes a long way in my book. Here are some quick high points for each of these three banks:
- USAA Federal Savings Bank: Free checking, free replacement checks, no minimum balance, online and mobile access, remote check deposit, ATM Reimbursements, home, auto, and personal loans, VA Loans, full investment services, a variety of insurance products, financial advice and planning, free online tools including the USAA® Money Manager, and much more. Learn more about USAA Federal Savings Bank.
- Navy Federal Credit Union: Free checking, free replacement checks, no minimum balance, online and mobile access, remote check deposit, ATM Reimbursements, home, auto, and personal loans, VA Loans, full investment services, a variety of insurance products, financial advice and planning, free online tools, over 200 physical branches, and much more. Learn more about Navy Federal Credit Union.
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union: Free checking with Direct Deposit, online and mobile access, remote check deposit (scanner only), home, auto, and personal loans, VA Loans, and insurance products. Learn more about Pentagon Federal Credit Union.
Other Notable Military Financial Institutions:
There are many other notable military banks and credit unions that go along with the big three financial institutions mentioned in the above table. Some notable military banks include:
- Air Force Federal Credit Union: Account types include: Checking, savings, CDs, IRAs, money market accounts, auto and home loans, VA Loans, credit cards. Features: moneyTracker to monitor account transactions), online calculators, online bill pay. More info: Air Force Federal Credit Union.
- Armed Forces Bank: Account types include: Checking, savings, CDs, IRAs, money market accounts, auto, consumer and home loans, VA Loans, credit cards. Features: online financial education section, online bill pay, online banking, mobile banking. More info: Armed Forces Bank.
Major Banks with Military Accounts
Many major financial institutions also offer accounts for military members. These often come with free checking (usually requires direct deposit), and some other perks. Be sure to compare their features with your current bank and the military institutions listed above to see which is best for your needs.
- Bank of America Military: Account types include: checking, savings, credit cards, auto, home, and personal loans, VA loans, credit cards, online and mobile banking, free bill pay, and more. Learn More: Bank of America Military Account.
- Chase Bank Military Banking: Chase Premier Plus Checking account with Chase Military Banking benefits. Features include no monthly service fee ($25 fee waived with Direct deposit), no minimum balance requirement, no fee for basic checks, no fee for small safety deposit box, no fee for money orders, official checks, travelers checks and gift cards. Learn more: Chase Bank Military Banking.
- Us Bank Military Banking: Account Features: Free checking, online and mobile banking, online and mobile bill pay, Unlimited free non-U.S. Bank ATM transactions, Free DepositPoint™ remote check deposit, Free money orders, cashier’s checks and more, Safe deposit box annual fee discount (50% off) on new rentals, Free U.S. Bank logo checks and 50% off all other personal styles, No fees for overdraft protection transfers, Additional Easy Checking accounts with no monthly maintenance fee. Learn More: US Bank Military Banking.
- Wells Fargo Worldwide Military Banking: Account Features: online and mobile banking; checking and savings accounts; auto, home, and personal loans, VA Loans; homeowners, auto, and renters insurance; online tools for monitoring budgeting, spending, and saving; No Wells Fargo access fees for up to four ATM cash withdrawals per statement cycle at non-Wells Fargo ATMs; investment and wealth management services. Learn more: Wells Fargo Worldwide Military Banking.
Local and Regional Credit Unions
Don’t forget to take a look at the banks and credit unions at your local base, or in your region. Many of these financial institutions are more convenient if you need to visit a bank or credit union in person. You may also find that you need to open an account with a different bank or credit union if you are stationed overseas and need to open an account in the local currency. Many credit unions offer foreign currency accounts if they have a branch at an overseas location. The larger banks don’t always offer this service.
As with everything, determine the items that are most essential to you and find the service that is the best match for your needs.