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5 Best Military Banks and Credit Unions of 2019

Dec. 13, 2018
Banking, Banks & Credit Unions
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Serving people who serve their country is what military banks and credit unions do best. Our favorite financial institutions offer a combination of account options, competitive rates and low fees — as well as flexibility for families who face frequent moves or deployments.

Best military banks and credit unions

  • USAA: Stellar customer service.
  • Navy Federal Credit Union: Good rates on certificates and checking.
  • Pentagon Federal Credit Union: Access to more than 68,000 free ATMs.
  • Security Service Federal Credit Union: Competitive share certificates.
  • Service Credit Union: Promotional military rates.

 

Best military bank
USAA Federal Savings Bank

at USAA Federal Savings Bank,

Member, FDIC

USAA

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Best military credit unions

Navy Federal Credit Union

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Pentagon Federal Credit Union

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Security Service Federal Credit Union

at Security Service Federal Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Security Service Federal Credit Union

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Service Credit Union

at Service Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Service Credit Union

4.5 NerdWallet rating

 

» Other options: Though we didn’t consider them for this review, many national and regional banks have special programs and discounts for active duty, reservists and veterans. Check out our other top bank and credit union picks here.

USAA

4.0 NerdWallet rating

 

USAA Federal Savings Bank

at USAA Federal Savings Bank,

Member, FDIC

Best known for its insurance products, USAA Bank offers its more than 11 million members a range of bank accounts, highly rated customer service and more.

Eligibility: To open a bank account at USAA, you or a family member must have served in the military. In addition to banking benefits, such as one-day-early direct deposit, active-duty service members may get reduced rates on credit cards and other loan debt.

Customer service: USAA’s banking division received the highest score for customer experience out of 342 companies in a 2018 study by research firm Temkin Group, and it has been ranked first in similar studies in the past. There are various ways to ask for help, including highly rated mobile apps and a call center that is open six days a week.

Accounts and other products: Its checking accounts have no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements. The company also offers a range of products including savings accounts and auto loans. You also can use Apple Pay, deposit checks from your mobile device and access USAA’s online money-management tool. Read more about the bank’s offerings in NerdWallet’s USAA review.

ATMs: Members get free access to USAA Bank-owned ATMs as well as 10 free withdrawals each month at the bank’s wider network of 65,000 USAA-preferred ATMs in the U.S. In addition, some of USAA’s checking accounts reimburse you up to $15 per month in fees for out-of-network domestic ATMs.

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» Need to bank on the go? Check out our list of the best high-yield online savings accounts

Navy Federal Credit Union

4.0 NerdWallet rating

 

With more than eight million members, Navy Federal is the largest credit union in the world. But unlike the largest banks, it offers competitive rates on checking and certificates.

Eligibility: An applicant must be a member of the military, a veteran or an employee of the Defense Department, or have a relative who is.

Accounts and other products: Credit unions, even big ones, typically offer better rates than banks. Navy Federal’s rates include 3.50% returns on 12-month Special EasyStart Certificates and annual percentage yields of 0.35% or more on one of its interest checking accounts with a $1,500 average daily balance. It also offers low auto loan rates.

ATMs and branches: Navy Federal has a strong presence on and near military installations in the U.S. and abroad. The credit union also belongs to the Co-op network, giving members fee-free access to more than 30,000 ATMs throughout North America. When you use overseas Visa/PLUS ATMs, Navy Federal typically charges up to 1% and $1 per transaction.

Note: Despite its perks, Navy Federal’s loan practices haven’t always been consumer-friendly. In October 2016, federal regulators ordered the credit union to pay $28.5 million — including $23 million to thousands of consumers — saying the credit union had misleading debt collection tactics and illegally cut off account access to members who hadn’t paid overdue loans.

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Pentagon Federal Credit Union

4.0 NerdWallet rating

 

PenFed is the third largest credit union, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger U.S. network of ATMs. Its online savings also has a stellar rate.

Eligibility: You’re eligible to apply if you’re in the military or a family member is, or if you’re an employee of the U.S. government or a qualifying organization, such as the American Red Cross or certain government contractors. Otherwise, you can become eligible by joining one of two charities: Voices for America’s Troops or the National Military Family Association; both ask for a $17 donation.

Accounts: Its checking and savings accounts have consumer-friendly terms. The rate on its online savings account is a stellar 2.00% APY. Its checking account has an APY starting at 0.20% for balances below $20,000. The regular savings account earns only 0.05% APY but has a minimum deposit of just $5.

ATMs and branches: PenFed offers free access to over 68,000 ATMs through the Allpoint and Co-op networks, some of the largest fee-free ATM networks in the U.S. But to visit a branch, you need to be in the Washington, D.C., area or near select military bases in the U.S. and abroad.

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Security Service Federal Credit Union

4.0 NerdWallet rating

 

Security Service Federal Credit Union

at Security Service Federal Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Although membership is mostly limited to regions in three states, Security Service offers its members high certificate rates and nationwide ATM access.

Eligibility: You’re eligible to apply for Security Service if you’re an employee of the Defense Department or the armed forces near a select military base or work in certain areas of Texas, Colorado and Utah. Family members and civilians who live or work in those states can also qualify.

Accounts: The Security Service Power Checking account has no minimum balance, monthly fee or direct deposit requirement, though it also doesn’t earn any returns. To earn interest, you’d have to upgrade to the Security Service Power Protected account, which requires a hefty average monthly balance of $50,000 to avoid the $6 monthly fee.

Its basic savings minimum to open is $5, and you need a minimum balance of $100 across Security Service accounts, or to have a loan, checking or other account at the credit union, to avoid a $3 monthly fee. The savings account earns 0.10% APY.

Security Service shines brighter with its competitive share certificates; its standard one-year certificates earn at least 1.90% APY, depending on the deposit balance and the location. The minimum deposit is $500.

ATMs and branches: Security Select belongs to the Co-op network of shared branches and ATMs. This means members can visit one of 5,000 branches of other financial institutions and over 30,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide.

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Service Credit Union

4.5 NerdWallet rating

 

Service Credit Union

at Service Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

This credit union’s savings rates shine, especially for those in the military. Non-military membership is limited to areas in two states.

Eligibility: Service Credit Union membership is open to active-duty military and veterans, current and former Defense Department employees, and people who live or work in New Hampshire and select areas of Massachusetts. Family members of those eligible can also qualify for membership.

Accounts: Service’s military checking account doesn’t charge monthly fees or have a minimum balance requirement. Its basic checking doesn’t charge overdraft fees. Its savings and share certificate accounts have promotional rates for active-duty military and certain other members, along with low minimum balances. Even without the special rates, Service Federal Credit Union’s one-year certificates are above average.

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If you’re affiliated with the military, it may be in your best interest to consider one of these financial institutions as your next place to bank.

Online alternatives

Although not technically military banks, the following financial institutions have excellent savings accounts that can help members of the armed forces, veterans and their families save more money:

Goldman Sachs Bank USA

at Goldman Sachs Bank USA,

Member, FDIC

NerdWallet bank rating:
4.0 NerdWallet rating
NerdWallet bank rating:
4.0 NerdWallet rating
Discover

at Discover,

Member, FDIC

NerdWallet bank rating:
4.5 NerdWallet rating

APY

2.25%





Monthly fees

$0





Bonus features

Excellent CD options



APY

2.25%





Monthly fees

$0





Bonus features

Large ATM network



APY

2.10%





Monthly fees

$0





Bonus features

Solid CD options



See more high-yield savings accounts

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Best military banks and credit unions of 2019

Financial institutionInterest rate on savingsMinimum deposit to open
USAA Bank0.09%-0.15%, depending on balance$25
Navy Federal Credit Union0.25%$5
Pentagon Federal Credit Union2.00%$5
Security Service Federal Credit Union0.10%$5
Service Credit Union0.20%$5

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