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Best Credit Cards for Military Members

Best Credit Cards for Military Members

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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 Apply

Rates & Fees

  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Enjoy Uber 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.

Highlights
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small® in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • New! American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. Now there are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber 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.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on select Equinox memberships. Enrollment required.
  • $179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
  • $695 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 $695 annual fee, but according to American Express, “The SCRA limits the rate of interest that may be assessed on eligible loans and credit products to no more than 6%. “Interest” for SCRA purposes includes fees such as annual membership fees, late fees, and returned payment fees.” 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:

  • Military benefits
  • Access to more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries (enrollment required).
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and 5X Membership Rewards® points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel. Terms apply.
  • An annual airline fee credit of up to $200 (enrollment required).
  • 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
  • Extended warranty and purchase protection
  • Baggage insurance
  • Trip delay, cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Cellphone protection
  • Global Assist
  • Return protection

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. 3X points on dining out, 2X points on gas and groceries and 1X points on all other qualifying 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

  • Earn up to $350 in statement credits. Terms Apply.

  • 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, 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. Terms apply.

  • 0% on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then 13.99%-23.99% Variable

Highlights
  • Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back.
  • Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • 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, 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.
  • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
  • 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, 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. Terms apply. Cash back can be redeemed as a statement credit.

There’s normally a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $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.

Additional benefits include:

  • Military benefits
  • Extended warranty
  • Purchase and return protection
  • Cellphone protection
  • Global Assist
  • Trip delay, cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Car rental loss and protection insurance
  • Baggage insurance

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 6.90% - 23.90% 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. 1X points per dollar spent when using this card.

The Navy Federal nRewards® Secured Credit Card’s annual fee is $0.

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.

The information related to the USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card, the USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card, and the Navy Federal nRewards® Secured Credit Card has been independently collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuers of these cards prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.


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