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NerdWallet’s Best Military Banks and Credit Unions 2017

Banking, Banks & Credit Unions
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Best military bank
USAA
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at USAA
USAA

Best military credit unions
PenFed+Credit+Union
Read full review
on NerdWallet
Pentagon Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal
Read full review
on NerdWallet
Navy Federal Credit Union

Andrews+Federal+Credit+Union
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at Andrews FCU
Andrews Federal Credit Union

Security Service FCU
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at Security Service FCU
Security Service Federal Credit Union

Many banks and credit unions have a special focus on serving those who serve their country. Our favorites offer a combination of great products and services, competitive rates and fees, and broad eligibility to become a member or customer.

USAA

3.5 stars out of 5

USAA
Learn more
at USAA
Though best known for its life insurance products, USAA has a long history of serving military members and their families and has a reputation for great customer service. There are various ways to ask for help, including its website and its call center. USAA was ranked No. 1 for best customer service out of 300 big U.S. brands in a 2015 customer experience index by the research firm Forrester, with top rankings in previous years, too.

The bank has over 11 million members and a range of products from bank accounts to auto loans. Its military checking accounts have no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements. Plus, you get access to a fee-free network of 60,000 “USAA preferred” ATMs in the U.S. Outside of that network, USAA reimburses you up to $15 a month in ATM fees and doesn’t charge for the first 10 ATM transactions monthly. You also get access to an exceptionally well-designed money-management tool, modern technology including Apple Pay, and easy mobile check deposits.

To become a USAA customer, you must have some connection to the military, but it can be loose: If you have a parent or spouse who’s a USAA member and will give you his or her membership number, that’s good enough. Some of its banking offers are not available to civilians, though.
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Pentagon Federal Credit Union

3.5 stars out of 5

PenFed+Credit+Union
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Although it’s not the biggest military credit union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed, opens its arms to a wide group of people. You can qualify if you are or a family member is in the military or if you’re in a qualifying organization like the Department of Defense. If you don’t fall into those categories, 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.

PenFed has only one option each for checking and savings accounts, but both have consumer-friendly terms. Its checking account has an annual percentage yield of 0.20% for balances below $20,000 and a 0.50% APY for balances between $20,000 and $50,000. The regular savings account earns only 0.05% APY but has a minimum deposit of just $5.

If you need to do your banking at a physical location, PenFed offers free access to over 57,000 ATMs through the Allpoint Network, one 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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Navy Federal Credit Union

3.5 stars out of 5

Navy Federal
Read full review
on NerdWallet
With over 6.8 million members, Navy Federal is the biggest credit union in the U.S. Credit unions, even big ones, typically offer better rates than banks. Navy Fed’s rates include auto loans with annual percentage rates as low as 1.79%, 3% returns on 12-month Special EasyStart Certificates if basic requirements are met, and yields of 0.35% or more on one of its interest checking accounts with a $1,500 minimum balance.

Navy Federal has branches and ATMs around much of the world, with a strong presence on and near military installations in the U.S. and abroad. The credit union belongs to the Co-op Network, giving members fee-free access to tens of thousands of other credit unions’ ATMs in North America. Navy Federal also charges low fees — just a dollar per transaction, typically — when you use any of the more than 1.5 million overseas Visa/Plus ATMs.

It’s also relatively easy to join. The short version: If you are in the military or are an employee of the Department of Defense, or have a relative who is, you’re in.

Despite its perks, Navy Federal hasn’t been consumer friendly in its loan practices of late. In October 2016, federal regulators ordered the credit union to pay $28.5 million — including $23 million in compensation for thousands of consumers — for using misleading debt collection tactics and illegally cutting off account access to members who didn’t pay overdue loans between January 2013 and July 2015.
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Andrews Federal Credit Union

Andrews+Federal+Credit+Union
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at Andrews FCU
Andrews Federal Credit Union isn’t as well-known as our other picks, but its rates for deposit accounts and loans are noteworthy. If you can join, you’ll get one of the best savings rates for military banks and credit unions we came across, with a 0.31% APY earned on balances of $100 or more. You’ll also get even more competitive CD rates, with a 0.90% return on a 12-month certificate with a $1,000 minimum opening deposit, as well as auto loans with rates as low as 1.64% APR, which is better than most banks.

Andrews has most of its locations on bases and in military-heavy areas, like Washington, D.C., and surrounding communities, as well as in northern Europe. But like many credit unions, Andrews belongs to the Co-op Network, giving members no-fee access to thousands of third-party ATMs and low-fee access to many other credit union branches throughout the U.S.

The credit union does have somewhat tighter restrictions on who in the military is eligible to join, but it offers many other ways to qualify. You can join if you live or work in Washington, D.C., or, if all else fails, you can purchase a $15 lifetime membership to the nonprofit American Consumer Council to join.
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Security Service Federal Credit Union

Security Service FCU
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at Security Service FCU
Despite having branches in just three states, Security Service FCU belongs to a nationwide shared branch network. This means that outside of its 71 branches near military bases and neighboring areas in Texas, Colorado and Utah, you can visit one of 5,000 branches at other financial institutions that participate in the Co-op Network. This gives you the convenience of doing your banking when you travel around the country.

Security Service FCU has one of the more restrictive membership requirements. You can join if you’re an employee of the Department of Defense or the armed forces near a military base, or in other select areas in Texas, Colorado and Utah. Civilians who live or work in those areas can also qualify.
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If you’re affiliated with the military, it may be in your best interest to consider one of these as your next place to bank. From customer service to savings rates, these financial institutions make it a priority to serve you as a member of their community.

Spencer Tierney is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: spencer@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SpencerNerd. Devan Goldstein of NerdWallet contributed to this report.

Verified Feb 3, 2017.


Other options

Though we didn’t consider them for this review, many national and regional banks also have special programs and discounts for active duty, reserve and retired military. It may be worth your time to check out our other top picks.

Methodology

For this study, we built an initial comparison set of banks and credit unions that had customer and member eligibility restrictions that included military criteria. In choosing our favorites, we considered (in no particular order): breadth of membership field, preferring institutions without strong geographical restrictions, all else being equal; products, services and features, including fees, rates and technological offerings; customer experience and satisfaction (where such information was available); and branch and ATM availability.