Military members travel frequently, and credit cards come in handy when you don’t have access to an ATM or if you prefer to make one monthly payment to cover all your purchases over the course of a month – as long as you pay the balance in full, of course! I recommend everyone have access to a credit card, especially those who are living overseas or far from home. You don’t have to use your credit card, but it can come in handy and act as an emergency source of funds which can be used to pay for emergency travel, house repairs, car repairs, or other unexpected expenses. That said, credit cards should not be abused and should only be used if you can afford to pay the balance in full or in the event of a true emergency.
There are many great credit cards out there, so we will try to break them down into different categories to help you choose which credit cards is right for you. Since we only promote responsible credit card use, which includes paying the balance in full, the biggest category will be cash rewards credit cards, which will help put money back in your pocket.
Factors considered in this list: When creating this list we considered several factors, including the overall value of the card, including the company offering the card, cash back credit cards, points or rewards, other perks, annual fees, interest rates, and other factors.
Top Cash Back Credit Cards
Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card. The Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card gives cardholders the ability to earn 5% cash back from Citi at Home Depot, Home furnishing stores and home and garden stores between 4/1/13 and 6/30/13, with enrollment. Cardholders also earn a full 1% cash back on all other purchases and eligible cash advances. There is an excellent 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 12 months. After that, the APR will be 12.99%-22.99% variable based on your creditworthiness* The Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card carries no annual fee*. For a limited time, this card offers $100 cash back after $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Apply for the Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card.
Blue Cash Everyday® from American Express. The Blue Cash Everyday® from American Express is a solid rewards credit card and would rank higher if American Express were accepted more places overseas. This card offers a generous cash back plan: Get 3% cash back at US standalone supermarkets, 2% cash back at US standalone gas stations and department stores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. There are caps on the amount of cash rewards you can earn in each category, but there are no rotating rewards categories to worry about, no minimum spending requirements, no enrollment fees, and no annual fees. For a limited time you can also earn a $100 cash bonus when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months you own the card. Learn more about the for the Blue Cash Everyday® from American Express.
Chase Freedom® Visa – $100 Bonus Cash Back. The Chase Freedom Visa $100 Bonus Cash Back card is one of the best general cash rewards credit cards out there. To start with, you can earn a $100 Bonus Cash Back after you make $500 in purchases in your first 3 months. This card offers 5% cash back on rotating categories throughout the year (like grocery stores, restaurants and even airlines) and 1% cash back on everything else. Your cash back rewards never expire and there is no annual fee with this card. Read more about the Chase Freedom® Visa – $100 Bonus Cash Back.
Fidelity Investment Rewards Signature Visa Card. The Fidelity Investment Rewards Signature Visa Card is a unique rewards credit card. You will receive a cash reward of 1.5% of your purchases, which will be deposited into your Fidelity investment account. You will receive 2% cash back if you spend $15,000 or more per year. If you don’t have a Fidelity account, you can choose to receive your rewards in WorldPoints, which can be used to redeem as gifts from the WorldPoints rewards catalog. Personally, I’m a fan of the cash! Apply for the Fidelity Investment Rewards Signature Visa Card.
Best Credit Cards for Frequent Travelers
The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card is one of the top rewards credit cards offered by Citi. Right now, new cardholders can earn 15,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $1000 in card purchases within 3 months of account opening – enough for $150 in gift cards or other great rewards! The standard rewards program allows cardholders to earn 1 ThankYou Point for every $1 you spend on all purchases. There is no expiration and no limit on the points you can earn. Cardholders can redeem ThankYou Points for merchandise, travel rewards, gift cards, cash and more. This card features Chip Technology, making it an excellent choice for travel through Europe or other locations that don’t commonly accept credit cards with magnetic stripes. There is a 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 12 months. After that, the variable APR will be 12.99%-22.99% based upon your creditworthiness*, and there is no annual fee*.
The Starwood Preferred Guest(R) Credit Card from American Express won the Smarter Travel Editor’s Choice Award for Best Travel Awards Card for Domestic Use. This card gives cardholders an opportunity to earn up to 25,000 Starpoints(R), or enough for up to 6 free nights at a category 1 or 2 hotel. You get 10k points after your first purchase, and can earn 15k bonus points when you spend $5,000 within 6 months, and your Starpoints(R) are redeemable for free nights stay at over 1,000 hotels and resorts in almost 100 countries, or you can receive a free flight on over 350 airlines, all with no blackout dates. There is no annual fee for the first year, then it is $65 per year. Starwood Preferred Guest(R) Credit Card from American Express.
Other Great Military Credit Cards
USAA Credit Cards. You need to be a USAA member to apply for a USAA credit card. Thankfully, becoming a USAA member is easier than ever before, as USAA now offers banking services to anyone who wishes to apply (they still limit insurance availability to those with a military affiliation and their family members). USAA offers 4 credit cards, including the USAA World MasterCard, Active Military MasterCard, USAA American Express, and Military Affiliate Cards. USAA also offers co-branded affinity cards featuring military affiliations. The image in this article is the USAA Wounded Warrior Credit Card. Each of these cards offer some combination of low interest rates, flexible rewards programs, no annual fees, and USAA’s award winning customer service. Click this link for more information, or to apply for a USAA credit card.
Military Star® Rewards MasterCard. The Military Star Rewards MasterCard is offered by Chase and is a huge improvement over the previous version of the Military Star Card, which was only available for use on base. I opened a Military Star Card shortly after I enlisted and used it to help build my credit score. This card has unique offers for active duty, reserve, guards, retired-service members and their family’s credit needs. Benefits include a competitive interest rate, no annual, late or overage fees, online and Call Center account management, and an exclusive deployment policy in which you will receive 100% refund of your interest and fees during a deployment with Blue Star Benefits*. It also offers a rewards program: 2 points for every eligible $1 spent ON base including the Exchange and AAFES.com, 1 point for every eligible $1 spent OFF base, and up to $600 Cash Back or 60,000 points annually. Apply for the Military Star® Rewards MasterCard.
Best Cash Back Debit Card
PerkStreet FinancialSM Debit MasterCard®. Many banks are in the process of slashing debit card rewards programs, but PerkStreet Financial actually pays rewards that are on par with many of the top rewards credit cards – which is certainly rare! The PerkStreet Financial Debit MasterCard offers cardholders up to 2% cash back on debit card purchases with no annual cash back limits. The PerkStreet Financial checking account is free to open and there are no minimum balance requirements or annual fees. The PerkStreet Financial checking account offers free online banking and bill pay and is FDIC insured up to $250,000. You will have access to over 37,000 ATMs nationwide. Apply for the PerkStreet FinancialSM Debit MasterCard®
Best Credit Cards for People with Bad Credit
If you don’t have a good credit score, then you can still get a credit card to help you improve your credit score by making on time payments and paying your balance in full. The best way to do this is to use a secured credit card, which requires you keep a certain amount of money on deposit with the credit card holder to act as collateral on your charges. The good news is making continual on time payments will help improve your credit score and you can eventually use this to get a traditional credit card. Here are some secured credit cards which may be beneficial to you:
Secured Credit Cards. If you have no credit or bad credit, you can apply for a secured credit card to help you establish or improve your credit score. These cards are virtually always approved upon application. To use them, you are required to keep a security deposit with the card issuer, which acts as collateral for your usage. Many of these cards report to the three major credit bureaus each month, which will help build or improve your credit score as long as you use it responsibly. Because these cards are designed as a tool for people who do not have excellent credit, there is usually an annual fee. Once you get your credit established, it is a good idea to begin looking into credit cards which do not charge an annual fee.
Don’t forget to check with your local credit union. There are many military and local credit unions which may offer a great credit card for your needs. We recommend any of the cards above, but as always, do your research and find the best card for your specific situation.
“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.”