Best Credit Cards for Military Personnel and Families

Many people forget that the members of our armed forces are just normal people who are willing to sacrifice a lot more than the rest of us.

As normal people, it stands to reason they face normal, everyday problems — like putting their kids through college and paying for gas.

Thankfully, as a reward for their courage and sacrifice, many companies will reward military personnel and families with additional benefits or discounts. There’s also a little something from the government called the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA), but we’ll touch more on that in a minute.

All this adds up to mean that, although there are normal credit cards out there are specific circumstances that make finding the right credit card slightly different for military families when compared to civilian families.

For the full picture, keep on reading. Otherwise, you can jump straight to the cards:

What is the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

The SCRA was introduced in 2003 to prevent military personnel being taken advantage of when they are on duty overseas. It basically allows you to do things like cancel your cell phone contract, or prevents your landlord from evicting you, if your rent is lower than a certain amount.

However, in the context of credit cards, it limits the interest of all loans taken out before joining the military to 6%. This includes credit cards.

Point to note: There are specific eligibility criteria for SCRA. American Express does a good job of explaining what these are on their site.

Are there Providers Specifically Catered to Military Personnel?

There are some credit unions and banks that have been created specifically for military personnel. In order to enjoy the benefits of these institutions, there is often eligibility criteria, and you generally have to become a member (this occasionally results in a monthly or annual fee.)

Some of the most popular banks and credit unions for military personnel are:

What Constitutes A Military Family Or Personnel In The Eyes Of The Providers?

It’s up to each organization to define what they classify as ‘Military Personnel’, and they have the right to change this criteria as they wish. But, the qualification criteria from USAA acts as a good guide as to what you can expect:

  • Currently Serving: In the US Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, National Guards or Reserves at the moment.
  • Former Military: Those who have received an honorable discharge from the previously listed organizations.
  • Family: This is a bit more technical. It is children whose parents are or have been members of the USAA, or spouses, widows/ widowers who have not remarried.
  • Cadets or Midshipmen: Cadets or Midshipmen at US service academies.

These terms are more favorable than the terms of the SCRA.

Selection Criteria: What Makes A Great Military Credit Card?

As we’ve said before, military personnel face many of the same problems as the rest of us. So, the best card for buying gas is probably going to be the same card whether you’re in the military or not.

In this article, we’re going to highlight cards (or providers) that give additional benefits for military personnel that are not available to the general public.

Let’s dive right in.

5 Best Credit Cards for Military 

Required Credit Rating: Good

Headline: 2x Rewards Points on Dining and Gas


  • 2x rewards points on dining
  • 2x rewards points on gas
  • 1x rewards points on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 3% fees for cash advances

Intro APR:


Variable APR:

11.65% to 27.65%

Annual Fee:


Foreign Fees:



As with many of these cards, the name’s a bit of a giveaway. The USAA Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card is a rewards card.

So, this card is designed for spending, not for paying down debts. Whereas you often need an excellent credit rating for rewards cards, this one is a lot more accessible — requiring only a good credit score.

What’s Good About It?

The best thing about this card is the rewards points.

For every dollar spent in a restaurant or on gas, you get two points. On all other purchases, you get one point for each dollar you spend.

These rewards can either be redeemed for:

  • Cash rebates
  • Travel discounts
  • Gift cards
  • Merchandise (electronics, sports equipment, homeware and more)

As tend to be the case, the cash rewards give the lowest yield. To get $25 back, you need to earn 3,000 points.

Compare this to the travel discounts where you need 15,000 to get $150 value. So, these rewards are worth 20% more than the straight cash rewards.

Another advantage of the USAA Visa Rewards Signature Card is the lack of foreign transaction fees. This is obviously a bonus if you were to be stationed in a country like Japan, South Korea or Germany with the payment infrastructure to cope with these types of transactions.

Finally, we get into the military specific benefits. This applies to all USAA credit cards:

USAA give a better rate, 4%, under SCRA than required, 6%. Along the same lines, there’s also a Deployment/ PCS (Permanent Change of Station) Rate of 4%.

You get an interest rate of 4% for up to 12 months during deployment or permanent change of station with this rate.

These rates are significantly better than standard APR (11.65% to 27.65%). So, of you think you’re on the verge of being deployed it makes sense to take one of these cards and take the frozen rate.

What’s Not So Great About It?

The first downside with this card is there is no introductory APR. This applies to both purchases and balance transfers.

This means the card isn’t great to pay down debts, or even make major purchases to pay off over an extended period of time.

Then again, that’s why it’s important to understand the purpose of each card. This is a rewards card, it’s not necessarily intended for that purpose.

Required Credit Rating: Good – Excellent

Headline: 0% APR on Balance Transfers for 12 months


  • 0% APR for 12 months on balance transfers
  • No balance transfer fee
  • Cell Phone Insurance Coverage
  • Collision Damage Waiver on Rental Cars
  • Travel and Emergency Assistance

Intro APR:

0% for 12 months

Variable APR:

7.49% to 18.0%

Annual Fee:


Foreign Fees:



Navy Federal Credit Union has been around since 1933. At the moment, they have more than 7 million members.

The Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Credit Card is just one of a number of credit cards they offer. I chose this as their best offering because it’s designed to help people pay down their debts.

Let’s look at how.

What’s Good About This Card?

As I teased there, the best thing about this card is the 0% introductory APR on balance transfers.

The introductory period lasts 12 months.

So, this means you can transfer the balance of your other credit cards to this card and pay no interest on this amount for 12 months. Basically, it gives you 12 months to pay off the entire debt before you start paying any interest.

Even better news: there is no fee for balance transfers.

Most companies charge up to 5% of the total balance for balance transfers. Navy Federal don’t do this, so it’s another chunk of cash you can put toward paying down those debts, and getting onto a better financial footing.

What’s Not So Great About This Card?

If you don’t have balance to transfer over the this card, there’s not a great deal of upside.

I definitely wouldn’t recommend using it for everyday spending. You’re not getting any rewards for spending through this card, so really you’re just eating into your balance transfer credit limit.

Having said that, I would probably pay my monthly cell phone bill with the card. This is because you get free cell phone insurance for doing so.

It’s worth keeping an eye out for these kinds of perks that can save you $30 or so per month for doing very little. I mean, I’m sure you were going to pay your cell phone bill with one card or another anyway. Why not use the one that gives you free stuff for doing so?

Required Credit Rating: Excellent

Headline: 5x Rewards Points on Gas


  • 5x rewards points on gas
  • 3x rewards points on groceries
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days
  • 0% APR on balance transfers for 12 months

Intro APR:

0% on balance transfers

Variable APR:

11.24% to 17.99%

Annual Fee:


Foreign Fees:



The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Credit Cards gives you options.

You have the choice to think of it as a rewards card, or a balance transfer card. Either way, it does a decent job, but it can’t be both at the same time.

What’s Good About It?

First, let’s take a look at the balance transfer side of things.

There’s an introductory APR of 0% for 12 months on balance transfers. So, this gives you 12 months to pay down your debt a bit without accruing interest.

Then we get onto the rewards.

With this card, there’s a real incentive to use it for everyday spending.

For every dollar you spend, you get:

  • 5 points for gas
  • 3 points for groceries
  • 1 point for all other purchases

That’s pretty huge.

You can then spend these reward points on gift cards, travel or shopping.

Oh, and don’t forget about the introductory offer. If you spend $1,500 on purchases within 90 days of opening your account, you get $100 in your account as a statement credit.

What’s Not So Great About It?

Now onto the downside.

With the balance transfer, there’s a 3% fee. That’s not nothing if you’re talking about a large amount of cash to begin with. Especially when there are other cards that waive the balance transfer fee and have an introductory APR offer.

Also, there’s no introductory APR on purchases. This means you have to pay your balance off in full each month. Otherwise, you’ll be subject to the 11.24% to 17.99% variable APR.

If you don’t pay the minimum balance within 60 days, a penalty APR applies. This rate is 17.99%.

That’s quite a chunky rate, so make sure to pay at least the minimum payment each month (but you should really be doing this anyway.)

Required Credit Rating: Excellent

Headline: 3x Rewards Points on Gas, Travel and Dining


  • 3x rewards points on gas
  • 3x rewards points on travel
  • 3x rewards points on dining
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points when you spend $500 in the first 90 days
  • 10% of earned points as a bonus each year
  • Includes travel perks

Intro APR:

0% for 6 months

Variable APR:

12.75% to 18.00%

Annual Fee:


Foreign Fees:



The Security Service Power Travel Rewards World Mastercard is an out and out rewards card.

The whole point of this card is to accumulate points via everyday spending. So, it makes sense to use it that way.

Let’s get into pros and cons to explain it a bit more…

What’s Good About It?

The points are very generous with this card.

As standard, you get 1 point per dollar spent. But, for certain purchases, you get 3 points for every dollar spent. That’s when you buy gas at the gas station, spend money dining out, or spend money on travel.

Redeeming these points is also pretty good in my opinion. You can get the dollar equivalent of your rewards points to spend on:

  • Cash Back
  • Travel
  • Gift Cards
  • Merchandise
  • Charitable Contributions

There’s also a couple of cool schemes that earn you extra rewards points. For example, if you spend $500 in the first 90 days, you get 2,500 bonus rewards points. Also, at the end of each year, you’ll get 10% of the points you’ve earned that year added as a bonus.

As you can see, points can begin to add up pretty quickly.

The reason this card has travel in the name is the travel benefits that come with it. You get:

  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Global Cardholder Services
  • Concierge Services
  • Luxury Hotels & Resorts
  • Trip Cancellation Insurance
  • Travel Accident Insurance
  • Baggage Delay Insurance
  • World Car Rental Collision Damage Waiver

As with everything, there are terms and conditions that come with these perks. Make sure you check them out before diving in.

On top of all of this, there’s also an introductory APR of 0% for 6 months on purchases. However, that isn’t the best way to use this card. Really, you want to be spending through it each month, paying the balance off in full and collecting the rewards points.

What’s Not So Great About It?

I have to say I like this card, so I’m nitpicking a bit.

For me, it would be an even better card if groceries were included in the 3x points deal. Then, it would cover almost all of the major expenses, making it even easier to rack up the points. However, it’s understandable why it’s not included.

Required Credit Rating: Bad

Headline: Helps Those With Poor Credit Rebuild Their Score


  • Pay a deposit to secure a line of credit
  • Slowly build trust over time

Intro APR:


Variable APR:

11.65% to 21.65%

Annual Fee:


Foreign Fees:



So, this one is a bit out of left field.

But, it’s important that those with poor credit score (who don’t have access to the other cards listed above) can see a pathway towards a better credit score.

One way to do this, is through secured credit cards.

These aren’t particularly attractive offerings. You won’t get rewards points, you won’t get great introductory offers with 0% APR for 18 months. But, what you will get is the opportunity to prove to lenders that you can be trusted.

In turn, this can lead to an increased credit score, and access to better cards and better rates further down the line.

What’s Good About It?

It serves a purpose: to improve your credit score.

Basically, you put down a deposit. Say it’s $500. That means (to begin with at least) your credit limit is likely to be $500.

This removes the risk entirely from the lender. If you don’t pay back the money you use on time, they can simply keep your deposit as compensation.

But, if you do pay your bills on time each month, you can begin to build a relationship. After a while, you might request the lender to increase your credit limit without an additional deposit.

Really, this is a way into owning a credit card for someone who has a history of not being reliable.

What’s Not So Great About It?

You’re having to make a sizeable outlay up front, and you don’t get any of the benefits that people associate with credit cards.

You have all the downside of owning a credit card (plus a bit more in the form of the deposit) without any upside.

But, it’s what you have to power on through if you want to make up for your sins.

Which One Should You Pick?

In this case, we’ve presented a few different options for those looking for different things.

Personally, I like the Security Service Power Travel Rewards World Mastercard. The rewards are significant, and you get the added bonus of 0% APR on purchases for 6 months.

So, if I’m looking for a rewards card, I’m going for that.

If I want to pay down my debts, there’s not much between Penfed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card and Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Credit Card. The PenFed card probably just edges it for me, because it’s the better rewards card once the 12 month 0% APR balance transfer period is over.

But, it’s worth remembering there’s a 3% fee on the balance transfer here, whereas the Navy Federal Card has no balance transfer fee.

That’s worth thinking about.

Finally, no-one wants a secured credit card. But, if you don’t have any other option it’s worth checking out the USAA Secured Card Visa Platinum Credit Card.