For members of the U.S. Armed Forces, getting the right card can help you rack up meaningful rewards and also get some perks if you’re ever deployed. While there are some widely available credit cards that do that, there are also military credit cards that only military members and their families qualify for. These are the best military credit cards available in 2018.
To help you narrow down the credit card selection for veterans, reserves, and active-duty service members, we’ve put together a list of the top five.
The 5 best military credit cards
Depending on your spending habits, personal preferences, and credit score, the best credit card for you may be different than what’s best for the people around you.
For the most part, these military credit cards are targeted to people with good or excellent credit. There is, however, also a good card for people who are looking to build or rebuild their credit history.
Best for cash back: USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express
If you’re looking to maximize your cash-back rewards, the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express is a solid choice.
- 5% cash back on your first $3,000 spent on gas and military purchases combined each year.
- 2% cash back on your first $3,000 spent at supermarkets each year.
- 1% cash back everywhere else.
The APR on the card is above average, but if you’re deployed or enter active military duty, you’ll get a special 4% interest rate for up to a year after you complete active duty. This card also has no annual fee or foreign transaction fee, but keep in mind that American Express is not widely accepted overseas.
Best for travel: Platinum Card from American Express
For most people, the Platinum Card from American Express is out of reach. Its steep annual fee would make it difficult for non-military members to afford. But if you’re active duty, American Express waives the fee.
Here’s just a handful of the card’s premium perks in addition to its big sign-up bonus:
- Earn 5 points per dollar spent on airline and hotel purchases made through American Express Travel, plus 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
- Get a $200 airline fee credit each year.
- Get $200 worth of Uber credits each year.
- Visit any of American Express’ Global Lounge Collection in airports all over the world.
- Get elite status with several hotel chains and car-rental companies.
That’s not bad if you can get the fee waived.
Best for flat-rate rewards: USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature
If you prefer the simplicity of a flat rewards rate and no annual fee all the time, the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature is your best bet.
There is no annual fee or foreign transaction fees. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all your purchases with no limits. You’ll also get the same interest rate break as the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express. It’s as simple as that.
Best for no fees whatsoever: PenFed Promise Visa
Quite possibly the only credit card in the U.S. with no fees at all, the PenFed Promise Visa is a great choice if you don’t care about ongoing rewards. But as of January 2018, it does offer a sign-up bonus.
This card is great if you need a no-frills card and want to avoid any of the fees that come with other credit cards, like foreign transaction fees, annual fees, balance transfer fees, and cash advance fees.
Best for bad credit: USAA Secured Card Visa Platinum
If you’re new to credit or need to rebuild your credit history after making some mistakes, the USAA Secured Card Visa Platinum is the perfect solution. As secured cards go, the APR on the card is decent.
And while you’re required to put up a security deposit equal to your desired credit limit, the deposit gets placed in an interest-bearing certificate of deposit (CD). You’ll also get the same interest rate break as with the other USAA cards listed. You’ll get your deposit back when you close the account.
How to pick the right credit card
There are several military credit cards out there that offer special perks and rewards to members of the Armed Forces. The trick is to take a look at your spending, personal preferences, and credit score to determine which one is best for you.
Compare these and other credit cards to make sure you’re getting the best offer that you qualify for.
Natasha Rachel Smith, personal finance expert at TopCashback, recommends looking specifically at each card’s fees, rewards, and APR. “Don’t be tempted by credit cards promotions that might end up costing you more in fees than you get in return,” she says. “Reward programs are a great added bonus, so take advantage of them by ensuring the rewards are easily earned and redeemed.”
As you do your due diligence, you’ll be in a much better position to get long-term value out of your new credit card. Also, remember that this likely won’t be your card forever. As your spending habits, personal preferences, and credit score changes, you may have opportunities, later on, to apply for credit cards that are better suited to your needs as they change.