Best Military Banks and Credit Unions

best military banks and credit unionsMilitary 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

USAA Federal Savings BankNavy Federal Credit UnionPentagon Federal Credit Union
FeaturesUSAA Federal Savings BankNavy Federal Credit UnionPentagon Federal Credit Union
Free Checking AccountsUSAA Secure CheckingActive 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 checksYesYesNo
ATM AvailabilityFree use of 60,000 USAA-preferred ATMs nationwide55,000+ free ATMsover 28,000 surcharge free ATMs within network.
ATM Fee Refundsup to $15 per monthup to $20 per monthNone;
Free withdrawals from PenFed ATMs, otherwise $1.50 network fee, or $3.00 surcharge for non-PenFed ATM withdrawal.
Mobile Check DepositScanner, iPhone, Android, mail option
Ability to make deposits from UPS Store
Scanner, iPhone, Android, mail optionScanner, Mail option. More info -
Free online bill payYesYesYes
Auto LoansYesYesYes
Credit CardsYesYesYes
Mortgages / VA LoansYesYesYes
Insurance ProductsAuto, Home, Life, Health, Renter's, Rental Property Insurance, Valuable Property, Flood, Umbrella, Motorcycot, RV, Boats, Small Business, and more.Auto, Home, Renters, Boat, LifeAuto, Home, Life, Health
Investment ServicesInvestment 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 serviceYes - collect internationally: 1-703-255-8837Yes, from certain locations -
Smart Phone / Tablet AppsiPhone, iPad, Android phones and tabletsiPhone, iPad, Android phones and tabletsiPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets
Additional serviceshome-buyin gservice, car-buying service; travel agency; member shopping discountsPenFed Car Buying Service
ToolsUSAA Money Manager - track spending and budgeting; budgeting tools, retirement planning tools; Variety of financial calculatorsVariety of financial calculatorsVariety of financial calculators
Physical Branches1922327
Learn More:Visit USAA Federal Savings BankVisit Navy Federal Credit UnionVisit 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.

Customer Service Win: Reporting a Stolen Debit Card to USAA

I recently logged into my USAA account to pay a bill and I noticed three large transactions from my joint checking account. My first thought was that my wife may have gone shopping (the category listed was clothing and shoes). But my wife isn’t the type of person to spend over $1,000 on three separate transactions at the same store, in the same day – in another country.

Further investigation showed the card in question was mine, not hers. It looks like I was the victim of fraud. Thankfully, I have USAA on my team, and they helped me take care of this situation in less than half an hour.

What to do if Your Debit Card is Stolen

I am very careful how and where I use my debit and credit cards. I almost always use my credit card over my debit card because credit cards offer better consumer protections and better cash rewards.

Stolen Debit Card

Do you know what to do if your debit card is stolen?

I usually only use my debit card for ATM withdrawals. In fact, I distinctly remember one of the last times I used my USAA debit card to make a purchase. It was last summer and I received a call from the USAA fraud department as I was leaving the store (I hadn’t used the card for a purchase in a long time, and I made the purchase in another state while on vacation, so USAA’s software flagged the transaction and their department called me).

But a stolen debit card or stolen credit card can happen to you, even if you take precaution. Thieves, may for example, plant a virus onto your computer, hack into a third party system that stores your debit card information, they could skim your card number when you make a purchase at a restaurant or other location, or you could simply lose your wallet.

Fill out a fraud report

The first step in any case of credit or debit card theft is to report it immediately. This will limit the damage to your account, get the ball rolling on having your money replaced in your checking account (it can take a few days), and get a replacement card sent to you.

Filling out a fraud report with USAA was easy – it took about 20-25 minutes total, and the customer service rep handled the entire process over the phone. All I needed to do was answer questions while he took down my information and verified my statements. Throughout the process the customer service rep never made me feel as though I did anything wrong (of course, I didn’t, but I’ve dealt with another company in the past in which the customer service reps had the sound of suspicion in their voice as they processed the fraud report).

This highlights why I prefer to use credit cards over debit cards

These thieves stole over $1,000 of my money. That is money that was immediately taken from my checking account. Thankfully, we had enough money in our account to cover the temporary loss of that money. But we were lucky. Had we not noticed it, we could have bounced checks, and possibly had to deal with overdrafts fees and embarrassment. It’s just an ugly situation.

This event highlights why I primarily use credit cards, as they offer better consumer protections against fraud (read the FTC guidelines for stolen credit and debit cards for consumer responsibilities).

When your credit card number is stolen, the disputed charges should be removed from your available balance, which gives you the flexibility to continue spending as you normally would. With debit cards, however, the stolen money is immediately taken out of your account, which can cause overdrafts and other problems. It can also take some time before you get the funds replaced. In other words, it can quickly become a financial nightmare.

This was an inconvenience, but no major harm was done. In the end, this is an inconvenience for me, and for USAA. But I won’t lose any money. I should receive the money back in my account in a few days. I also had to cancel my ATM / Debit card, and I will get a new one in about a week or so. Other than that, it was a half hour of my time, and the hassle of not having a debit card for a week. I didn’t have any automatic payments routed through that particular card, so I didn’t need to cancel any payments and set up a new payment source. Had that been the case, this would have been a larger inconvenience.

Thankfully, I had enough money in my account that it didn’t hurt us. And thankfully we had USAA on our side during this event. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if either of those had not been the case.

Photo credit: Don Hankins.

USAA Blogger Conference

Last month I was invited (along with about 20 other military and financial bloggers) by USAA to a military and financial blogger event in San Antonio. (As a full disclosure, the event was sponsored and paid for by USAA, and took place at their headquarters building in San Antonio). That said, USAA did not require that we write about the event, nor give us any other compensation aside from travel and lodging. Their goal was to share the USAA experience with military and financial bloggers and share what USAA is doing for their members and the military community.

In short, I was impressed. I have been a USAA member for about 10 years now, and seeing their operations in person, and more importantly, seeing their dedication to their members and the military community, left a big impression on me. And I want to share some of that with you today, as well as share some of the initiatives USAA is working on for their members and the general military community.

First a little more information about USAA

If you aren’t familiar with USAA, they are a large member owned financial institution which caters to the military community. They offer banking, investing, and other financial products, homeowner’s, auto and life insurance, and other related products. Anyone can use USAA’s banking and investment products (and a few other products and services), but you need to be a member to use their insurance products – membership eligibility is limited to current and prior military members, spouses of members, adult children of a USAA member, and a few other limited situations. Learn more about USAA eligibility.

What does USAA membership mean? It’s important to understand that USAA is member owned, which means if you are a USAA member, you are a part owner of USAA’s assets. Wikipedia has a great explanation of how this works (see the “Legal Structure” section for more information). So USAA’s number one goal as an entity isn’t to hoard profits like a normal corporation – it’s to best serve their members. That’s why USAA puts so much time, money, and effort into creating a great user experience, and in creating innovative products and services for their members (more on these in a moment). It’s also the reason why many USAA members receive a refund check from USAA in some years as their Subscriber Savings Account – this is USAA redistributing some of their profits to its membership.

Back to the USAA Blogger Conference

Sharing a little about USAA membership is important because you have to understand their relationship with their members to understand why USAA puts so much time, effort, and money back into their company. Everything they do is to increase the value to their members – from user experience to innovative products and services.

Learning about these initiatives was the purpose behind the USAA Blogger Event. It was also great to meet many of the people on USAA’s marketing and social media teams, as well as meet a lot of other military and financial bloggers. Together, they are all doing a lot for the military community and it is great to continue serving the military community in that capacity.

USAA has an amazing innovation section where they come up with unique ways to create products and services to better serve their members. One example of this is the Deposit @Home feature, which gives members the opportunity to remotely deposit checks by scanning them and uploading the image to their USAA account, or by doing the same thing with their smartphone or iPad. This is an incredibly useful function, specially when you are geographically separated from the nearest USAA branch (Several banks are now offering similar products, but USAA was the first to offer it). USAA Auto Circle and USAA Home Circle are also recent initiatives they created for their members.

USAA is also working on a variety of other services for their members, some of which they asked that we don’t share publicly, as they aren’t yet ready for launch (there were also some things they wouldn’t share with us as they are considered “Top Secret” – kinda reminds me of my days in the military!).

The bottom line is that everything USAA is doing is for the benefit of the military community and their members. And I can’t begin to say how much that means to me from both a member’s perspective, and as a military veteran.

September 11th Memorial

The USAA Blogger Event also coincided with a September 11th Memorial event which was held in the USAA HQ building. Here an excerpt from the presentation:

Here are more thoughts from participants of the USAA Blogger Event:

Jeff Rose from Good Financial cents and Soldier of Finance shares his thoughts in a video:

Overall, I was impressed as always with USAA. Meeting the other military and financial bloggers and learning more about how they are helping the military community was also a wonderful experience.

USAA Deposit@Mobile Easy and Convenient!

I recently bought a new smart phone running on the Android platform. My old cell phone was over 3 years old, and finally starting to wear down. I’m very happy with he upgrade – I went from a cell phone with minimal internet capability (basically enough to check e-mail and sports scores), to what is essentially a mini-computer in my pocket. I got an HTC Evo, which is an awesome phone.

One of the cool features about the Android phones is the ability to download apps, which are basically small programs that run on your phone. USAA offers a free app for Android phones, as well as one each for the iPhone and iPad (read a USAA iPad app review for more info).

USAA Android App

USAA Android App

The Android app is a great way to access your USAA account while at home or on the go. In fact, since I got my new phone, I have found myself using it to access my USAA account more frequently than booting up my computer. It’s faster and the app is streamlined, giving users the ability to access their general account, pay bills, transfer funds, start an insurance claim, access USAA Auto Circle and USAA Home Circle, and my new favorite, USAA Deposit@Mobile, which gives you the ability to deposit a check with your cell phone. Talk about cool!

USAA Deposit@Mobile on Android

USAA already offers this feature for home computers under the name Deposit@Home. The premise is the same. With the home version, you scan the front and back your check (after you endorse it with your signature and account number). Then you send the scanned photo and amount of the check and the USAA software verifies the information on the check and deposits it into your account. The process is quick and much faster than mailing the check in, since the funds are usually available the same day. Check it out on YouTube:

But believe it or not, USAA Deposit@Mobile is even faster and easier than Deposit@Home since it basically removes a step from the process. Instead of having to scan the check, then save and upload the photo to your USAA account, you simply take a picture of the front of your check, then endorse the back of the check, take another picture, then click submit. USAA then informs you whether or not the picture quality was good enough and whether or not it was accepted.

The first time I tried I didn’t have the check on a dark background and I had to take another picture (this was clearly stated in the instructions. I just used a medium color background). I didn’t have any troubles after I switched to a dark background.

Once your deposit is accepted you will receive a confirmation number and your funds will be available to you. Users are also instructed to write VOID across the front of the check in large lettering, or to destroy the check.

Here is the main difference between USAA Deposit@Mobile and Deposit@Home: with Deposit@Home you will have a digital copy of your check. It’s probably a good idea to keep a copy of these for your records. With USAA Deposit@Mobile, your phone doesn’t keep a record of the photo. Since the photo isn’t stored, you need to either take another photo, scan it into your computer, or keep a physical copy if you want to maintain a copy for your records.


A couple notes about USAA Deposit@Mobile and Deposit@Home: Not all USAA members are eligible for Deposit@Home and Deposit@Mobile. You must have a USAA checking or savings account and:

  • Have an active USAA property and casualty insurance policy and be qualified for a USAA loan or credit card (not a USAA Secured Card), OR
  • Be eligible for USAA property and casualty insurance and have an active USAA loan or credit card (not a USAA Secured Card).

In addition to meeting eligibility requirements, you will need to have an iPhone or iPad running the , or an Android capable phone or tablet with the right hardware. You can download the USAA apps here:

USAA also offers apps for the iPad, Windows 7, Blackberry, and other platforms. The Deposit@Mobile is currently only available for the iPhone and Android platforms, but my guess is the iPad app will be added soon, since the iPad 2 now features a camera.

Overall, I’m more than pleased with the USAA Android App, and I’m seriously loving the Deposit@Mobile feature. It simplifies my banking life and makes my money available to me more quickly. Win-win-win.

USAA iPad Application Review

I‘ve said it many times before – I’m a big fan of USAA. They run a top notch financial institution and they have the best customer service I’ve ever run across. In addition to running a tight ship, USAA gets best in class awards for their innovative products. USAA constantly pushes the boundaries of what banks and other financial institutions can do, and they constantly set new standards in the industry. A prime example of this is the ability for customers to scan a check to deposit it (since copied by several other financial institutions, but it took them months to catch up). Other examples include USAA Auto Circle and USAA Home Circle.

And USAA has done it again.

USAA Introduces an iPad Application

Sure, you say. Anyone can make an iPad application. Simply take your iPhone app and make it bigger. And you’re right. Anyone can do that. But USAA chose not to do that, and instead created an iPad app from the ground up.

USAA iPad Features

The USAA iPad app gives users access to a full service banking application. From the interface, users can view and access their bank accounts, investment portfolio, and insurance policies which are held with the company. You can transfer money to various accounts, use your online bill pay to pay bills, make investments, or set up a new insurance policy with a couple taps of your fingers. You can even access real-time stock quotes and make trades, which is a nice feature if you are an active investor.

The USAA iPad app also features an information section which features articles, stories, and interviews with USAA financial planners. The topics cover a wide variety of topics, from investing to insurance, to buying a house. Other articles can help you manage debt, improve your credit score and help you decide how to handle your next major life event, such as planning your life insurance needs, buying a house, planning for retirement, etc. The articles are updated frequently, so you will always have new information available at your fingertips.

USAA iPad App Interface

Like the USAA website, you will need to login through the secure connection, then enter your PIN before you can access any accounts or make any financial transactions or change any insurance policies.

USAA iPad App Screenshot

The above screenshot is an example of how you can see your various USAA accounts in one place – from saving and checking accounts to investments to insurance policies. Each folder (which looks like a leather bound binder) represents a different account, and you simply need to click on the folder to access the account and begin your banking activities. The interface is intuitive and easy to use. The screen can be read from a vertical or horizontal position and the way you hold it will determine the amount of information you will be able to see (just try it out; it’s a nice feature). Overall, the app is beautifully designed and easy to use – exactly what anyone would want.

Improvements I would like to see with the USAA iPad App

The only issue I had from a technical perspective was when I was reading an article and wanted to change from a horizontal to a vertical reading position (and vice versa). In a couple instances, changing the positions of the screen caused the article to jump to a different page in the article – in this instance, it was from page 7 to 11, so that was a big difference. It happened a few times in a row, so it may just be a bug that needs to be worked out by the tech team.

The other thing I would improve is the ability to change auto insurance policies through the app For example, my wife and I just relocated to a new state. I logged into the app and accessed my auto policies with the intent to try and move them to the new location. Unfortunately, I could apply for a new auto policy, but I couldn’t move one. I decided against inputting my updated address, VINs for two vehicles, and the other requested information and instead handled the transaction over the phone, which only took a few minutes since the USAA customer service rep only had to change my location and didn’t need to add much else. (there could be a reason for this that I am not aware, such as state laws or other insurance regulations; I’m not an expert in the insurance industry).

Verdict – The USAA iPad Application is a Win

If you are a USAA customer and you have an iPad, then I highly recommend downloading this app. It’s free and incredibly beautiful, easy to use, and most importantly, useful.

Where to get the USAA iPad App. Download it from the Apple App Store, or directly from

*Disclaimer: was kind enough to provide me with an Apple iPad to use for 30 days in order to review the USAA iPad App, on the condition that the review be my honest opinion of the service – good, bad, or indifferent, and that the iPad be returned after the review period. We were not compensated in any way for this review.

The Dangers Of Only Using A Joint Bank Account

Joint bank accounts provide a simple and convenient means of sharing money with your spouse. They can also help ease the trouble associated when dealing with an account while your spouse is deployed. But, there are also several risks involved when married couples operate their household budget solely out of a joint checking account. Before you give your spouse access to everything in a joint account, you should be aware of some of the potential consequences of that decision.

The Risk Of Only Using A Joint Bank Account

Joint Bank Accounts Provide Unlimited Access

Either spouse listed as an owner on a joint bank account has the right to make unlimited withdrawals from that account no matter who deposited the money into the joint bank account. Each joint can deposit and withdraw money from the account freely without permission or even notification of the other owner. While we all like to think that our spouses have our best interests at heart, many can quickly take advantage of the ease of access to a joint account in times of marital trouble.

Joint Bank Accounts Make You Vulnerable To Lawsuits

A joint bank account makes your money in the account vulnerable to lawsuits from creditors that your spouse did not pay. If your spouse is sued and found at fault or liable for damages, your joint bank account may be used for settlement of the debt even though you may have had nothing to do with the reason for the legal action. It is guilt by association, and the courts will not separate what you think may be yours and what is the spouses in a joint account before seizing it.

Both Parties Are Held Liable For Any Debt On Joint Accounts

The creditors or banks that lent money against a joint bank account do not make a distinction between which party the bank account belongs to. They view a joint bank account as equal to an individual bank account and will try to reclaim the money that they are owed. This can be especially tricky if you or your spouse have an overdraft protection on that account, and it is used. Even if it used without the other spouse’s knowledge, both parties are responsible for the debt despite who actually incurred it. This can also lead to damaging the innocent spouse’s credit score as well. If the debt against the joint bank account is not paid, then negative marks are placed on both party’s credit report.

Joint bank accounts provide military and civilian couples the easy and convenience of having access to money when one of the parties is not available. But, having a joint account opens both individuals up for several different types of risk to their financial help. While most people assume that they will not have difficulties with their spouse properly using a joint account, many find that is simply not the case unfortunately.

USAA Home Circle – Home Buying Made Easy

USA recently brought me and several other military bloggers on a trip to their headquarters to view several new iPhone apps in work, as well as discuss some other applications and features they have in work (See USAA Auto Circle for their iPhone app for buying a car).

I have always thought of USAA as a top tier bank in terms of being a customer (I have been a USAA member now for about 10 years), but I have a newly found respect and admiration for their company after seeing their campus and headquarters in person, as well as meeting several members of their development and marketing teams. Everything USAA does is designed to improve their service for military members and their families, which truly makes them unique in the financial and insurance industries!

Programs and applications to help military members and families

USAA is working hard on developing tools that will make life easier for USAA members. They know that most of their members are either in, or have been in the military, and often have to move to a new location quickly. That means they often don’t have the time to fully research an area or search for the best housing prices before they need to either commit to rent or buy.

That is a key reason for the development of USAA Home Circle, an iPhone app that gives USAA members the ability to run through the entire home buying process through their iPhone. Don’t have an iPhone? the Blackberry version is in development, and there may be more smartphone apps in the near future – so keep reading. This app may be available to you sooner than you think!

USAA Home Circle – Home buying and renting made easy

USAA Home Circle

USAA Home Circle

Like Auto Circle, Home Circle is an easy way to put the home buying or renting process into one easy to use app. With Home Circle, you can buy, sell, finance, insure and even rent your home through one interface – making it easy to save you both time and money.

How USAA Home Circle Works:

  • Search for homes. USAA home Circle gives you the power to search nationwide MLS listings of homes for sale, plus a robust listing of rental properties, including apartments. You can search by city, zip code, military base, or even down to the neighborhood. Additional information includes details regarding area schools, crime rates and nearby amenities such as shops and restaurants.
  • Personalize your buying or renting experience. USA Home Circle allows you to save your preferences by bookmarking your favorite houses, searches, and neighborhoods, reducing your search time and making for a more easy comparison.  You can also map out driving routes, routes to home, work, school, and other attractions. You can also use your iPhone to take phots and save them with captions, which can be uploaded to your saved listings, making it easier to save details about your home search. I’m currently looking for a home, and after looking at 30+ homes in the last few days, I can see how this would be very beneficial! (now I just need the iPhone!).
  • Save with MoversAdvantage®. USAA MoversAdvantage is a unique real estate program that provides members with a local USAA MoversAdvantage Preferred Real Estate Agent, a USAA Real Estate Coordinator and, in most states, a cash bonus of up to $3,100 for buying and selling a home within the program. More on this program in another article, because my wife and I plan on using it during our home sale and purchase.

How to get the Home Circle Experience. Auto Circle launches today, August 4th. You can find it at, or by downloading the USAA – Mobile Banking. You will also need to be a USAA member to access all features.

About USAA. USAA provides insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services to 7.7 million members of the U.S. military and their families. USAA membership is open to all who are serving or have honorably served our nation in the U.S. military – and their families. For more information about USAA, check out this USAA review.

USAA Auto Circle – Car Buying Made Easy

USAA recently flew me and several other military bloggers out to their headquarters in San Antonio to get a first look at two new programs they recently developed as iPhone Apps (and a sneak peek at some other things they have in work – sorry, I can’t share everything!).

Before I get into the new USAA iPhone apps, I’d like to give them a big thanks for bringing me out there to see their headquarters and meet some great military bloggers. They run a top tier bank and insurance company (along with many other services they provide), they have a beautiful campus, and everyone I met was first rate. I truly enjoyed meeting everyone, and the fact that they care so much about military members and their families means a lot to me and millions of other people.

Now let’s take a look at what USAA is offering with their new iPhone apps, USAA Auto Circle and USAA Home Circle.

USAA Auto Circle – Car Buying Made Easy

USAA Auto Circle

USAA Auto Circle iPhone App

USAA Auto Circle is a new app for the iPhone that allows people to research, buy, and insure a car all in one stop. Really, you might ask? Yes, really. And it gets better. You can actually get a pre-negotiated price guaranty and compare the dealership price to the amount people actually paid, using the TureCar service.

USAA Auto Circle Experience:

  • Find. Compare cars and reviews from several major databases, including, Kelley Blue Book, and, then compare the price pre-negotiated by USAA to the prices people are actually paying.
  • Save. Buy a car at one of over 3,000 USAA certified dealerships and save an average of $4,508 off MSRP**.
  • Finance. Get a loan through USAA auto loans. You can apply for a loan and send the funds directly to the dealership through your iPhone.
  • Insure. Members who switch to USAA save $461 a year on average. You can get insurance quotes and update your policy directly from your iPhone.

How to get the Auto Circle Experience. Auto Circle launches today, August 4th. You can find it at, or by downloading the USAA – Mobile Banking. You will also need to be a USAA member to access all features.

About USAA. USAA provides insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services to 7.7 million members of the U.S. military and their families. USAA membership is open to all who are serving or have honorably served our nation in the U.S. military – and their families. For more information about USAA, check out this USAA review.

How to Build a CD Ladder

Investing in certificates of deposit is a good way for investors to minimize risks and keep a percentage of their income unaffected by changes in the stock market. While CDs offer financial security in that you aren’t going to lose the money you’ve added – you can miss out on interest rate increases if you save your money in CDs over a long period of time.

Using a CD ladder helps you beat the rate cycles and avoid missing out on interest rate increases. When you ladder CDs, you can obtain new CDs and take advantage of higher interest rates while still having access to your money.

How to Build a CD Ladder

You decide how many years you want to invest, and that becomes the length of your ladder. Each year you invest is like a “rung” on a ladder. Take the money you have to invest and divide it over the number of years you plan to invest – so if you have $25,000 and plan to invest over 5 years, you’ll invest $5,000 in 5 different CDs with increasing maturity dates. For example:

  • $5,000 invested in a 1-year CD
  • $5,000 invested in a 2-year CD
  • $5,000 invested in a 3-year CD
  • $5,000 invested in a 4-year CD
  • $5,000 invested in a 5-year CD

After your first year, the first rung of your ladder matures, and each of your other CDs take a step down on the ladder. The 2-year CD now has one more year to maturity, the 5-year CD now has four years left til maturity, etc.

The money from your 1-year CD that just matured can be re-invested into the open rung of your ladder, which in this example is your 5-year rung, by purchasing a new 5-year CD. If you need to use the money for something else, you can, which is why the CD ladder is more liquid than simply putting the full $25,000 into a single CD for a long period of time. Each year, you have access to money and can make investment decisions based on the market, and your own unique financial needs at that time.

If interest rates increase, each time your CD’s mature, you have the opportunity to re-invest in a new CD to take advantage of that higher rate. Because you’re always replacing the highest “rung” of your ladder (the CD with the longest maturity date), you’ll always be taking advantage of the highest interest rates available at the time you’re investing. Alternatively, if they decrease, you still have money invested in CDs with the previously higher interest rates, minimizing the amount of money you’re investing in lower interest certificates.

In addition to the benefit of taking advantage of interest rates with secure investments like certificates of deposits, by setting up multiple certificates that mature annually, you’ll always have access to some of your money in case something unexpected should occur. You don’t want to withdraw money from certificates of deposits before their maturity date because of the penalties and loss of earnings involved.

Where to open CD Ladders

You can start CDs at almost any bank, but you should start by looking at banks that offer the highest interest rates so you can earn the best return on your investment. Here are some of the best online high interest savings accounts, and some of the highest interest rates. Always be sure to shop around.

PerkStreet Financial – Best Rewards Debit Card Program Anywhere

Are you looking for a new debit reward card program?

Many people I know, myself included, prefer not to carry a lot of cash when they go shopping. For some it is the convenience of plastic, and for others it’s the rewards programs. For me, it is a little of both. I currently use my credit card for almost all purchases, and pay it off in full each month. But I know there are many people who have had bad experiences with credit cards and exclusively use cash or debit cards for their purchases. If you are in that last group, or even in the credit card rewards programs camp, then you should take a few minutes to look at PerkStreet FinancialSM, a new online financial services company that currently offers 2% cash back on debit card purchases – better than any other bank I have been able to find.

2% cash back is only the start. The current offer is 2% cash back program on all purchases, and up to 5% cash back on purchases in popular categories.

PerkStreet Financial – Best Debit Rewards Card

PerkStreet Financial is a relatively new company, but they are making waves with this offer. They are able to offer a much better debit reward card program than most other banks because they are entirely online and don’t have to pay for maintenance and care for hundreds or even thousands of branches.

The PerkStreet Financial Offer

PerkStreet offers a free online checking account with no account minimums, no minimum monthly balance requirements, a wide network of free ATMs, and more. PerkStreet Financial also offers free overnight shipping for checks deposits, which will be available the next day. (Simply take your check to a UPS store or MailBox, Etc. and you can use PerkStreet’s account to ship your deposit overnight).

Sound good? Check out these details about PerkStreet Financial:

  • The PerkStreet FinancialSM Debit MasterCard® gives you awesome rewards: 10x the average debit card**
  • $25 deposit and 5 minutes to open
  • Free checks
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • No monthly fees when you use your account
  • Nation’s largest surcharge-free ATM network
  • Free online banking and bill pay

PerkStreet Financial Debit Rewards Program Details

1%-2% cash back program (5% for special categories). The PerkStreet debit card rewards program offers 2% cash back rewards for the first 6 months, and 1% thereafter. However, you will receive the full 2% cash back if you maintain a balance of at least $5,000.

You can also earn up to 5% cash back for spending in select categories. The bonus spending categories during the remainder of June and through July include ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, Culvers, Dairy Queen and Cold Stone Creamery; home improvement goods from Lowes, Home Depot and Menards; and gas paid for at the pump. Match that with your Home Depot and Lowe’s Military Discount and you can get some serious savings!

Here is the fine print:

“When your Account Balance at the start of the day is $5,000 or more, you’ll earn 2% cash back for all non-PIN debit card purchases you make on that day. When your Account Balance at the start of the day is less than $5,000, you’ll earn 1% cash back on all non-PIN debit card purchases you make on that day. To determine your starting Account Balance, we use your closing balance after all settled transactions from the previous business day. Pending purchases and funds from deposited items that are not yet available are not included in your Account Balance. There is no limit to the total amount you can earn, unless otherwise specified in specific category bonus terms and conditions.”


Receiving your rewards. You can redeem your rewards for cash, a gift card, or gift cards from popular stores such as Amazon, Target, Best Buy, and more.

Open a PerkStreet Financial Account to take advantage of this cash reward program! Opening a PerkStreet Financial Account is free and easy (it takes about 5 minutes).

Who Should Take Advantage of the PerkStreet Offer

PerkStreet Financial is great for anyone who doesn’t like to carry large amounts of cash and doesn’t use credit cards. If you are already a debit card user, then PerkStreet could end up putting a lot of your hard earned money back in your wallet.