Aw nerds! It looks like this page is out of date. Please visit NerdWallet’s Best Credit Cards page for updated info.
Military credit cards don’t always offer the best rewards programs, but they do come with favorable terms and genuinely have their consumers’ best interest at heart. In addition to extended grace periods and flexibility for overseas deployment, military cards offer some of the lowest interest rates in the credit card world, sometimes falling under 10%. The requirements for each card is different. Some are offered exclusively to people who serve at a specific base. Others are open to anyone who works for the Department of Defense. We’ll show you the best military credit cards that are offered to a range of military families.
Navy Federal Flagship Rewards
Navy Federal Credit Union offers an excellent product for travelers. Before applying for the card, you’ll have to join the credit union. The Navy Federal Credit Union is open to members and veterans of the Army, Marines and Air Force as well. Though there are a multitude of financial benefits to joining, this credit card may be the only reason you need to sign up. All purchases earn rewards at a solid 2% rate–impressive by any standard. You can redeem for flights with any airline with no earning caps. The annual fee is $49, there is no balance transfer fee and you have access to a suite of Visa Signature perks like travel upgrades, special savings on entertainment and a 24-hour concierge service.
USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card
The USAA offers a number of cards to military members and their families. To apply for a USAA card, you must first become a member of the USAA. The following people are qualified to join the organization:
- Active, retired and honorably separated officers and enlisted personnel of the U.S. military.
- Officer candidates in commissioning programs (Academy, ROTC, OCS/OTS).
- Adult children whose eligible parents have or had a USAA auto or property insurance product.
- Widows and widowers of USAA members who have or had a USAA auto or property insurance policy.
Cash Rewards® Visa Signature® Card
While it can’t quite keep up the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card, some consumers will value the versatility of the Cash Rewards® Visa Signature® Card. Visa is the most universally accepted credit card issuer in the world, giving you spending power in a greater number of destinations. Rewards accumulate at a MAXIMUM 1.25% rate on all purchases. Your rewards rate is dictated by how much you charge to your card on an annual basis. Here’s how it works:
|If your annual net purchases are:||Your Cash Rewards Rebate will be:|
|$0 to $5,000||0.45% of all Annual Net Purchases|
|$5,000 to $10,000||$22.50 plus 0.85% of Annual Net Purchases over $5,000|
|$10,000 to $17,000||$65 plus 1% of Annual Net Purchases over $10,000|
|$17,000 or more||$135 plus 1.25% of Annual Net Purchases over $17,000|
If you’re not going to spend at least $17,000 with this card, there’s probably a better option for you–even if it means going with a non-military option. Again, there are no earning caps, and you get rebates every January. The annual fee is $0, so it may be a worthwhile card if you can qualify for the 1.25% cashback rate.
USAA Affiliate Cards
The USAA affiliate options carry the same rewards program as the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card. The difference is the affiliate cards are tied to specific military branches and divisions. There are options for the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy and veterans. Some are offered to big groups like the Air Force Association while others, like the 82nd Airborne Division card, are much more specific. With these cards, you earn 2% back on gas and groceries and 1% on everything else. You are eligible for additional benefits like car rental insurance, travel insurance, extended warranty protection and purchase assurance coverage.
PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card
PenFed is one of the largest credit unions in the United States with over 1.2 million members. As such, they’re able to offer their members a pretty nice travel rewards card. Cardholders earn 5% back on airfare purchases and 1% back on everything else. While not as impressive of some of the cards we’ve encountered, the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card’s annual fee is $0 and it doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. Foreign transaction fees usually mean you’re paying an extra 3% on every out-of-country purchase. Having a card that waives this fee is essential when traveling abroad. The card also comes with a slew of ancillary perks like 2 free airport lounge club visits a year, travel and car rental insurance, a 24-hour concierge service and exclusive travel discounts.