Updated on Oct 4, 2018

Best Military Credit Cards of 2018

Many cards have military-friendly perks, but these stand out above the rest!
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As a member of the military, you and your family can take advantage of a number of credit-friendly perks, thanks to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). These include $0 foreign transaction fees and lower-than-average APR for active duty members. Check out the best military credit cards below, find the card that’s right for you, and apply online in minutes.

Summary

Best Military Credit Cards of 2018

The Simple Dollar’s top picks for best military credit cards of 2018

  • PenFed Promise Visa® Card APPLY NOW
    Best credit card for military service members new to credit PenFed Promise Visa® Card
    Apply Now on PenFed's secure website
  • Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card APPLY NOW
    Best rewards credit card for military Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card
    Apply Now on Navy Federal Credit Union's secure website
  • USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card APPLY NOW
    Best credit card for military service members living on base USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
    Apply Now on USAA's secure website
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express APPLY NOW
    Partner Offer
    Best luxury travel credit card for military The Platinum Card® from American Express
    Apply Now on American Express' secure website

Best credit card for military service members new to credit

PenFed Promise Visa® Card
Reward details No ongoing rewards program
Redeem for... Not applicable

Current Offer $100
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by PenFed Show Highlights
  • You must be a PenFed member to apply. Not yet a member? It's easy to join!
  • You may be eligible through your employment, association membership, and volunteerism, or by becoming a member of one of our nonprofit partner organizations.
  • Absolutely no fees - no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, no balance transfer fee, no cash advance fee, no late fee, no over credit limit fee, and no penalty fee.
  • Issuer: PenFed
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: None
  • Cash Advance APR: 9.24% - 17.99%
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 4.99%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 12 months
  • Ongoing APR: 9.24% - 17.99%

Our two cents

Who should get it

The PenFed Promise Visa® Card is the quintessential starter credit card for anyone in the military. If the idea of annual fees makes you nervous or you’re concerned about punishing late fees, don’t worry: As PenFed puts it, this card has “absolutely no fees.” There are no late fees, annual fees, balance transfer fees, or cash advance fees. On top of that, there are no foreign transaction fees, so it’s great to bring with you if you’re stationed overseas.

How to use it
  • Take advantage of zero foreign transaction fees outside the U.S.
  • Make the most of the 4.99% APR on balance transfers for 12 months.
  • Pay your balance in full and on time to build positive credit.
Consider this

There is no ongoing rewards program for this card (though you can earn a $100 statement credit if you spend $1,500 within the first 90 days). If rewards programs are important to you, consider the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card for a decent rewards percentage on gas and military purchases.

Why you'll love it

When you’re new to the world of credit, it can all seem a little overwhelming. As a servicemember, you have enough on your plate without worrying about fees and high interest rates. If you can relate, then the PenFed Promise Visa® Card will serve as a perfect means to building positive credit over time. A lack of fees and low APR on balance transfers makes this a great card to start with.

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Apply Now on Navy Federal Credit Union's secure website

Best rewards credit card for military

Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card
Reward details 2x points per every dollar spent
Redeem for... Travel; merchandise; gift cards; cash back

Current Offer Not applicable
Annual Fee $49
Highlights Provided by Navy Federal Credit Union Show Highlights
  • 2 points per net dollar spent
  • Rewards Expiration: Never
  • Rewards Limit: None
  • Start Redeeming: 1,000 points
  • Issuer: Navy Federal Credit Union
  • Annual Fee: $49
  • Cash Advance APR: 2% above your variable APR
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Ongoing APR: 10.74% to 18.0%
  • Penalty APR: 18%

Our two cents

Who should get it

Servicemembers looking for a simple card capable of earning competitive rewards need look no further than the Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card. All purchases made with this card will grant 2 points for every dollar spent. There is also no limit to the rewards you can earn, and they will never expire. This means you have plenty of flexibility in how many points you save up and when you want to redeem them. There is a small annual fee of $49.

How to use it
  • Stationed overseas? No worries. This card doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees.
  • Redeem your points for travel or gift cards.
  • Take advantage of travel and shopping discounts with this Visa Signature card.
Consider this

Many will appreciate the broader flexibility in earning rewards with this card. However, if you are looking for a credit card that offers the highest rewards rate for purchases made on base, there are alternatives. The USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card can offer active servicemembers 5% cash back on the first $3,000 spent annually on purchases made at the commissary on base. And, unlike the Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card, there is no annual fee.

Why you'll love it

Everyone loves earning rewards. The Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card makes it easy to earn points by offering 2X points for every dollar you spend on purchases, and these rewards never expire. There is also no foreign transaction fee, which means you can save up to 3% in fees per purchase you make overseas.

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Best credit card for military service members living on base

USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
Reward details Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military purchases annually on these categories combined; Earn 2% cash back on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year; Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Redeem for... Not applicable

Current Offer Not applicable
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by USAA Savings Bank Show Highlights
  • Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually on these categories combined
  • Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Issuer: USAA Savings Bank
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% on balance transfers and cash advances, $200 maximum.
  • Cash Advance APR: 13.65% - 27.65% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Ongoing APR: 13.65% - 27.65% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

Active-duty servicemembers living on base will find the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card most beneficial. The first $3,000 you spend at the commissary or shoppette locations on base each year will grant you 5% cash back. Those with some leave will be eligible for 2% cash back on the first $3,000 spent at any participating off base supermarkets. There is also no foreign transaction fee or annual fees to worry about.

How to use it
  • Make purchases at your base’s commissary for 5% cash back on up to $3,000 per year.
  • Gain 2% cash back on purchases made at any off base supermarkets, up to $3,000 per year.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Heading overseas? Bring this card — it has $0 foreign transaction fees.
Consider this

Anyone serving in the military who does not live on base will find the off base and travel rewards a little sparse. That’s why we recommend The Platinum Card® from American Express as an alternative for any servicemembers out there who do a lot of traveling. You’ll earn 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines and hotel reservations book through amextravel.com.

Why you'll love it

Sometimes it’s more convenient to do your shopping at the commissary when you are living on base. Thanks to the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card, you can now start earning your way to some nice cash back rewards when shopping on base.

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Partner Offer Apply Now on American Express' secure website

Best luxury travel credit card for military

The Platinum Card® from American Express
See Rates & Fees
Reward details 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. Terms Apply.
Redeem for... Travel; merchandise; hotel reservations

Current Offer 60,000
Annual Fee $550
Highlights Provided by American Express Show 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 Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 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. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 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®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Issuer: American Express
  • Annual Fee: $550 See Details
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A*
  • Cash Advance APR: N/A
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: See Details
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A*
  • Ongoing APR: N/A
  • Penalty APR: N/A

Our two cents

Who should get it

Anyone in the military who does a lot of traveling will appreciate the benefits and rewards of The Platinum Card® from American Express. Cardmembers of this premium travel rewards card will gain access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes international lounge locations. You will also receive $200 statement credit toward airline fees and 5X Membership Rewards® points on any flights booked directly with airlines. The latter also includes any hotels reservations booked through amextravel.com.

How to use it
  • Book directly with American Express Travel and get 5X points for flights and hotel reservations.
  • Take advantage of up to $200 in Uber Savings annually for smaller trips.
  • Enjoy elite status at participating hotels and car rental services.
Consider this

If you don’t do a lot of traveling, The Platinum Card® from American Express’s $550 annual fee may be difficult to justify. The Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card offers discounts on shopping and travel as well as 2X points for every dollar spent, with just a $49 annual fee.

Why you'll love it

For those in the military who like to travel in style, we can’t recommend The Platinum Card® from American Express enough. You’ll earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points when you make $5,000 worth of purchases with this card within the first 3 months. You can also enjoy hotel and air travel perks which, for frequent travelers, may more than justify the annual fee which.

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Best military credit cards (2018): summed up

Best for... Credit Card
Credit Card For Military Service Members New To Credit PenFed Promise Visa® Card Apply Now
Rewards Credit Card For Military Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card Apply Now
Credit Card For Military Service Members Living On Base USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card Apply Now
Luxury Travel Credit Card For Military
The Platinum Card® from American Express Partner Offer
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Apply Now

Are there credit cards for military with bad credit?

If you need to establish or rebuild credit, it can feel like you have a lot of hurdles to jump over, but there are a number of credit cards for military with bad credit to help you out. If your credit is good, but not great, you might want to consider the PenFed Promise Visa® Card. The card’s straightforward approach to credit makes it a great starter card.

If your credit score falls more into the fair or bad range, then you might want to start with one of the best secured credit cards. With secured credit cards, you’ll put down a security deposit that is equal to your credit limit (minus fees). As you use the card responsibly and build credit, you may qualify to receive a deposit refund after several months. Secured credit card options for military members specifically, like the USAA® Secured Card Visa Platinum® Card, still offer military-friendly perks such as no foreign transaction fees while building credit.

What are the best credit cards for veterans?

While a few credit cards for veterans do exist — such as the AMVETS USAA Rewards™ credit card from both American Express® and Visa Signature® — in most cases, veterans may be able to join military-specific credit unions. USAA, Navy Federal Credit Union, and PenFed may accept your membership application as a veteran. As a member, you could take advantage of their products, like military-specific credit cards with low interest and no foreign transaction fees, or veteran-specific benefits and cards.

What’s the difference between military credit cards and low-interest credit cards?

Military credit cards will offer military-specific perks — such as $0 foreign transaction fees and lower-than-average APR for active duty members — whereas the best low-interest credit cards offer super-low or 0% interest for a fixed period of time. While low-interest credits cards may have better interest rates, they are usually only for 12 to 18 months. Some low-interest cards also come with the opportunity to earn cash back. With one of the best military credit cards, you’ll have a low interest rate for everyday purchases and then an even lower rate during active duty. You’ll also get more military-specific perks, such as no late fees, $0 foreign transaction fees, miles that don’t expire, and cash back programs that include your base’s commissary or post exchange.

Credit card issuers that focus on service members

While the SCRA applies to all credit card issuers, some service members have reported difficulty working with their banks to properly apply their benefits. As a result, some prefer to use credit cards that have the same benefits built right into the card, or work with a credit union focused on military members and their families. If you’re looking for a financial organization with a military focus, then these three are the best:

USAA

USAA is one of the largest companies that provide banking services designed for service members, and credit cards are just one of its numerous options, which also include many insurance products, home buying services, and a travel agency. It offers a full range of credit cards that are part of either the Visa or the American Express payment networks. To apply for any of these cards, you must be a member of USAA. Membership is available to active, retired, and honorably separated officers and enlisted personnel of the US military. Adult children of USAA members who have or had a USAA auto or property insurance policy are also eligible, as are officer candidates in commissioning programs. Membership is also available to widows and widowers of USAA members.

Navy Federal Credit Union

With nearly 6.4 million members, Navy Federal Credit Union is the largest credit union in the United States. It also has 223 physical branches, which is far more than USAA or PenFed. It offers six different credit cards ranging from cash rewards cards to a secured card. All of its products feature no annual fee, no balance transfer fee, no cash advance fee, and no foreign transaction fee. Membership is available to active and retired service members, civilian DoD employees and retirees, and household or family members of existing members.

PenFed

PenFed, or the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, was created to offer financial services to active-duty and retired military members and their families. It offers a range of credit cards including simple cards, reward cards, and cards specifically offered to active-duty and retired service members. Membership is open to members of the military and uniformed services, employees of many different defense-related organizations, their family members, and even members of the same household of an eligible person. One of the differences between PenFed and other military credit unions is that it’s open to people who aren’t active or retired military. Anyone can qualify for membership by joining a military support organization for a small one-time fee.

The bottom line

Members of the military have myriad responsibilities without having to worry about their credit cards, and the SCRA gives them and their families a much-needed break. By waiving all interest charges and fees, most credit card issuers will go above and beyond the requirements of the law, so long as you let them know that you are eligible for SCRA benefits.

Best military credit cards for 2018

  • PenFed Promise Visa® Card
  • Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card
  • USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express

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