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. They can even earn you nice rewards and cash back! 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 (many military banks and credit unions offer credit cards), cash back credit cards, points or rewards, other perks, annual fees, interest rates, lack of an annual fee, and other factors. What we have listed are some of the best credit cards for military members. As always, research your options and choose the best credit cards for your specific needs.
Featured Credit Cards for Military Members
Cash rewards credit cards are my favorite category of credit card. Many travel rewards or Points rewards programs can be very “rewarding.” But they may take a little more time and effort to maximize your rewards. Cash back is usually very simple to understand and redeem. When considering cash rewards credit cards programs, be sure to review whether or not the credit card has any limits, fees, maximum rewards levels, cash back tiers, rotating categories, or other limitations. These aren’t necessarily deal breakers, but they are good to understand before applying for a new card. Here are our favorite credit cards for military members.
USAA Credit Cards
You need to be a USAA member to apply for a USAA credit card. USAA membership is open to U.S. military service members, veterans with an honorable discharge, and their eligible family members. They also offer some products to individuals with no military affiliation. USAA offers a variety of credit cards, including the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards VISA Signature®, USAA American Express, and co-branded affinity cards featuring organizations with military affiliations. Each of these cards offer some combination of low interest rates, flexible rewards programs, no annual fees, and USAA’s award winning customer service. The flagship USAA cash rewards credit card offers 2.5% cash back on all purchases, with no limits. Click this link for more information, or to apply for a USAA credit card.
PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
PenFed recently launched the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card, which offers up to 2.0% cash back on all purchases. The standard cash back rate is 1.5%. However, PenFed members can receive a total of 2% cash back on all purchases if they have a PenFed Access America checking account or if they have served or are currently serving in the US military. The additional rewards are available through PenFed’s Honors Advantage Program. There are no cash back limits, spending caps, hidden fees, or revolving categories common with many other cash rewards cards. Please visit the PenFed website to view additional information, including balance transfer terms, statement credit bonus offers, interest rates, and other terms. Visit PenFed for additional information.
Other Great Credit Cards for Military Members (or Anyone Else!)
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. 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.
Fidelity Investment Rewards Signature Visa Card. Earn unlimited 2% cash-back on every net purchase, with no annual fee, no limits on reward points and no restrictive categories, and your points will never expire. You can have your rewards deposited into your Fidelity investment account, split it among several Fidelity accounts, or even have it deposited into a loved one’s account. Your rewards can be deposited into a Fidelity brokerage account, retirement account, 529 plan account, or other options. Apply for the Fidelity Investment Rewards Signature Visa Card.
Navy Federal cashRewards card. The Navy Federal cashRewards card is one of the top credit cards on the market, offering up to 1.5% cash back on all purchases, without spending categories or other qualifiers. There are no caps on the amount of rewards you can earn, your cash rewards never expire, and you can redeem your rewards with as little as $20 cash back. The interest rates are also attractive, as they never exceed 18% APR. There is no annual fee for this card. Here is an in-depth Navy Federal cashRewards card review.
Best Credit Cards for Frequent Travelers
The Starwood Preferred Guest® 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 bonus Starpoints(R) for meeting minimum spending requirements after joining. Your Starpoints(R) are redeemable for free nights stay at over 1,200 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries with no blackout dates. There is no annual fee for the first year, then it is $95 per year.
Other Great Military Credit Cards
Military Star® Card. The new Military Star Card is 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.
- Promotional 0% interest offers
- Exclusive savings just for cardholders
- Free standard shipping on shopmyexchange.com and myNavyExchange.com
- Five cents per gallon fuel discount every day‡
- 10% food court discount every day‡
- Apply for the Military Star® Rewards 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.
Best Secured Credit Card? I recommend looking into a secured credit card from USAA. You can connect your card with your primary bank account, and use it help establish or rebuild your credit. Click this link for more information, or to apply for a USAA credit card.
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 any credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated if you sign up for a credit card through this site.