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Best Credit Cards for Military Members

Best Credit Cards for Military Members

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Dec 16, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

If you’re a military service member on active duty or a military veteran, there are some credit cards that should be on your radar.

We’ve selected a variety of cards that are worth considering for everything from premium travel perks to rebuilding your credit from a bad score. We included credit cards listed on our site that are only available to military members and those with a military connection, as well as cards that are not exclusively affiliated with military service but still offer benefits for active duty military members. Criteria we considered include rewards and perks, low ongoing APR and lack of an annual fee (or if the annual fee is waived for service members).

Plus, we’ve included information on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, as well as USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union membership.

In this article:

What is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act?

“SCRA” stands for “Servicemembers Civil Relief Act,” which is a law providing financial and legal protections for active duty military members and their families. Protections include reduced interest rates (on debts incurred before you entered active duty) and the ability to terminate leases under certain circumstances. In addition to what the law requires, financial institutions may decide to enhance those  benefits — which American Express does, by waiving the annual fees on its cards when the cardholder is a military member who qualifies for SCRA benefits.

Are you eligible for USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union?

To apply for a card from either USAA or Navy Federal Credit Union, you’ll need to become a member of the relevant institution. Here are the details on who can join:

USAA

  • Active duty military members.
  • Veterans with an honorable discharge.
  • Eligible family members.
  • Cadets and midshipmen.

Navy Federal Credit Union

  • Active duty military members.
  • Veterans, retirees and annuitants.
  • Family and household of military members.
  • Department of Defense civilians.

Best for travel: The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Apply Now

on American Express's secure site

Terms and Conditions apply

Rates & Fees

  • 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.*

  • Up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees & more at one qualifying airline*

  • No foreign transaction fees & exclusive airport lounge access*

Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,000 properties. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for The Platinum Card® from American Express

More Info

The Platinum Card® from American Express is an expensive card to carry, sporting a $550 annual fee, but American Express will waive the annual fees on its credit cards for eligible, active duty military members. If you’re eligible, you can enjoy the extensive travel perks on The Platinum Card® from American Express for an annual fee of $0.

Here’s what the card offers:

  • Access to more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5X Membership Rewards® points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • An annual airline fee credit of up to $200.
  • An annual Uber credit of up to $200.
  • Receive one statement credit of $100 for Global Entry every 4 years or one $85 statement credit for TSA PreCheck every 4.5 years when you use The Platinum Card® from American Express

To see rates & fees for The Platinum Card® from American Express please click here.

Best for dining out: USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card

For military members who enjoy dining out, the USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card is a card that can reward that passion. Earn 3X points per dollar spent on dining, 2X points per dollar spent on gas and groceries, 1X point for every dollar spent on all other purchases.

The card’s annual fee is $0. And while the regular purchase APR is 11.40% - 27.40% variable, if you have a balance on the card when you enter active military duty, USAA will reduce your APR on that existing balance to 4%. That’s lower than the 6% required by the SCRA.

Best for grocery shopping: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Apply Now

on American Express's secure site

Terms and Conditions apply

Rates & Fees

  • $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.*

  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 1% Cash Back on other purchases.

  • 1% back on other purchases*

Highlights
  • Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
  • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more). 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 23.99%.
  • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee and no interest.
  • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
  • $95 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

More Info

This card offers the highest cashback rate on U.S. supermarket purchases of any credit card we’ve come across. Earn 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 1% Cash Back on other purchases. 3% Cash Back on U.S. gas stations and transit (e.g., taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).

There’s normally a $95 annual fee for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, but again, Amex will waive the annual fee for eligible, active duty military members. One downside to the card is a foreign transaction fee of 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars. So if you’re traveling outside the country, leave this card at home.

To see rates & fees for Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express please click here.

Best for low ongoing APR: USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card

We don’t recommend carrying a balance on your credit card, but if you are considering making an expensive purchase, a card with a 0% introductory APR on purchases can help you spread out payments without accruing interest charges. If you do carry a balance from time to time, the  USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card could be a great choice. Its APR range is 8.40% - 25.40% variable and if you’re approved for the lower end of that range, that makes rolling over a balance every now and then a little less expensive.

If you enter active duty and are carrying a balance on the USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card, USAA will reduce the APR on any existing balance to 4%. That’s better than the 6% APR required under the SCRA.

The card’s annual fee is $0.

Best for building credit: Navy Federal nRewards® Secured Credit Card

If you’re new to credit or are trying to rebuild a damaged credit score, the Navy Federal nRewards® Secured Credit Card can help you accomplish those goals. It’s a secured card, which means it requires a security deposit that becomes your credit limit. (Note that you still have to make payments on what you charge to the card — the deposit does not cover payments.) The minimum deposit on this card is $200 and after you’ve had the card for six months, Navy Federal will begin monthly reviews to see if you’re eligible to upgrade to an unsecured card.

Plus, it’s unusual for a secured credit card to offer rewards, and this one does. Earn 1 point for every $1 of net purchase when using this card.

The Navy Federal nRewards® Secured Credit Card’s annual fee is none.

Read: How to Build Credit with a Secured Card

The bottom line

For active duty military members, the chance to be approved for a premium American Express card with the hefty annual fee waived is a great opportunity. And for both current service members and veterans — and even family members of those who have served — the no-annual-fee cards from USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union that we’ve listed here have a lot to offer.


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