Best Credit Cards for Military Members

There are thousands of credit cards on the market and these are aimed at everyone from premium travelers and big-spending businesses to students and no credit borrowers. Some of the best credit cards, however, are aimed at service members and their families.

Often known simply as “military credit cards”, these cards are either targeted exclusively to military members and their families or use something known as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), to offer benefits and perks for active-duty service members and their families.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at this act and those benefits, before highlighting the very best military credit cards based on SCRA benefits, cash rewards, fees, interest rates, and more.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was first enacted in 2003, with the goal of making life easier for service members and their families. It requires credit card issuers to provide military members with several benefits, including reduced fees and an interest rate that is less than 6% APR.

These rates apply to balances accrued prior to active duty and when you consider how hefty some fees can be and how high interest rates are, this is a massive relief for people with large amounts of debt.

To qualify for SCRA benefits you need to be one of the following

  • Active-duty member of the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Coast Guard or Air Force.
  • Activated reservist.
  • Officer of the Public Health Service or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
  • Children or spouses of active-duty servicemembers.

Best Credit Cards for Military Personnel

SCRA benefits mean that most top credit cards can be included on a list of the best military cards. In that sense, it’s just a top list like any other. However, with this list of the best unsecured SCRA cards we’ve tried to emphasize the ones that specifically target members of the military, including those that offer rewards points for military base purchases, as well as the ones with the biggest SCRA benefits.

Military STAR Card

The Military STAR credit card is one of the best cards aimed at members of the military, but it can only be used at specific locations, including military bases, and it is only offered to military members and their families.

There is no annual fee and members can benefit from a 0% APR on all military clothing purchases. They can also secure regular discounts on clothing, gas, and other purchases, with a 10% flat discount for all purchases made on the first day of use.

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 12.24% Variable APR (0% for military clothing)
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A
  • Rewards Program: 2x points per dollar on all purchases; discounts on military purchases
  • Signup Bonus: 10% on all purchases during the first day of use

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus Credit Card

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus card has a few benefits for cardholders in the military and their family members. There is no welcome offer, but that’s one of the few downsides. 

You can secure a cash back rate of 5% every time you use the card at military bases or cash stations (up to $3,000), along with 2% for all supermarket purchases (up to $3,000) and 1% for everything else.

There are no foreign transaction fees or annual fees, but there is a balance transfer fee and a cash advance fee, both charged at 3%.

  • Credit Card Issuer: USAA (American Express)
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 13.4% to 27.4% Variable APR
  • Intro APR: 4% fixed APR for 12 months when deployed
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Rewards Program: Earn 5% cash back on all purchases at military bases and gas stations; 2% at supermarkets; 1% elsewhere
  • Signup Bonus: N/A

American Express Platinum Card

The American Express Platinum Card is a premium credit card that has featured on many of our top lists, often with a warning that it has a high annual fee and you will need to spend a lot of money to offset that fee. So, what’s it doing on this list?

Well, thanks to the SCRA, active-duty military members don’t need to worry about that annual fee, and that’s a good thing, because it’s $550! 

The American Express Platinum Card offers stacks of reward points every time you use your card and these points can be used on travel purchases, saving you huge sums of money if you travel a lot.

With the Platinum card, cardholders can also benefit from stacks of other premium travel rewards benefits, including GlobalEntry and TSA Precheck credits, access to VIP airport lounge access, Uber credits, and more. It’s the ultimate rewards card and one that gets even better with military service.

  • Credit Card Issuer: American Express
  • Annual Fee: $550 (Waived with SCRA)
  • Regular APR: 17.49% to 24.49% Variable APR (reduced with SCRA)
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 5%
  • Rewards Program: Earn reward points when you use the card, including 5x on qualifying flights
  • Signup Bonus: Secure 60,000 bonus points when you spend more than $5,000 within three months of account opening

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is another travel card that comes with a high annual fee (which can be waived) and a host of benefits. It is often voted one of the best travel rewards card on the market and offers perks relating to car rentals, travel credit, and more.

You can earn up to 3x membership rewards points when using the Chase Sapphire Reserve on travel and dining purchases and there is also an annual travel credit of $300, which is paid as a reimbursement.

In addition, cardholders will be given $100 TSA Precheck or GlobalEntry credit in addition to a free Lyft membership and access to over 1,000 airport lounges around the world. 

Another great benefit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is that you can transfer all of the points you earn to another program with a 1:1 transfer rate, which means you won’t lose out.

  • Credit Card Issuer: American Express
  • Annual Fee: $550 (Waived with SCRA)
  • Regular APR: 18.49% to 25.49% Variable APR (reduced with SCRA)
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 5%
  • Rewards Program: Earn up to 3x when you use your card for qualifying all purchases
  • Signup Bonus: Secure 50,000 bonus points when you spend more than $4,000 in three months of account opening

Finding the Best Card for You

Just because you’re a member of the military and can benefit from SCRA, doesn’t mean you can get any card that you want. There are still credit card requirements to consider and you also need to make sure the card you choose will actually benefit you.

For instance:

Credit Score Requirements

Credit card companies have their own criteria when it comes to credit scores. Many require a score in the high 600s at least, but credit unions tend to be less demanding and even if you have bad credit or no credit there are still options.

If you’re being refused now, look at ways that you can increase your credit score and then try again. For example, you can sign up for a secured credit card or a credit builder loan. The former will give you a convenient card you can use to make everyday purchases while building credit, the latter is all about improving your credit score.

Reward Points

Rather than focusing on the number of reward points that a particular credit card offers, look at where those points come from. If the highest rates are limited to bonus categories that you don’t use, then maybe the card isn’t for you. 

Some of them will allow you to secure big rewards at supermarkets and grocery stores, where most users spend their money, but others reserve their biggest rates for rideshares, transit, and travel.

Signup Offers

The AmEx Platinum and the Chase Sapphire rewards credit cards are great if you can meet the terms of the welcome offer, but if you’re not spending enough to meet those terms, you could be missing out. Not only will the bonus pass you by, but you could be missing the chance of securing a smaller (but still lucrative) bonus elsewhere.

Redemption

The American Express travel rewards program is a great example of why you need to be careful when choosing a rewards card. It offers fantastic redemption rates when using your points to book flights and accommodation, but if you’re using them for statement credit and not airline fee credit, you could be significantly reducing the value.

Redemption options are just as important as reward rates, so pay close attention to how your points can be redeemed.

Perks

Credit card offers are very vocal when it comes to signup bonuses and reward rates, but they tend to hide some of their “lesser” rewards and perks, even though some of these can be just as impressive.

Many premium reward cards are guilty of this, as they offer so many perks that they can’t fit all of them into a compact offer, which means benefits relating to travel credits, VIP lounges, gift cards, insurance, and purchase protection are often overlooked.

Fees

Last but not least, don’t forget about the fees and how these might impact you. These are less of a concern for military members, but they still exist and can include cash advance fees, late fees, penalty APRs, and foreign transaction fees.

Bottom Line

The above list covers just a small selection of the great credit cards available for military members and their families. There are many more credit card offers out there, from programs like the Chase Ultimate Rewards to the Discover It and more. All of these provide a wealth of benefits when you’re in the US military, so apply now and take advantage of those benefits.