8 Best Credit Cards for Military Personnel

8 Best Credit Cards for Military Personnel

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act caps interest at 6% for pre-military financial obligations, but what happens after you commit to serve your country? Military benefits are notoriously slow to kick in, and you may find yourself relying on credit cards often.

If that happens, you should ideally get a credit card with a low interest rate, no annual fee, and a generous rewards program. However, we realize sometimes bad credit limits your options. That’s why we’ve included several secured cards on our list of the best credit cards for military members.

And then there’s the fact that military life often requires relocations - sometimes in completely different countries. Because of this, we included as many cards as possible without foreign transaction fees.

Take a look at the best credit cards for military members to find the perfect addition to your wallet, whether you’re doing active duty overseas or enjoying life as a retired veteran in the Midwest. And thank you for your service!

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated October 11, 2019 but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.

Best Credit Cards for Military

  • 8. USAA Secured Visa Platinum Credit Card
  • 7. Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
  • 6. PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card
  • 5. Chase Freedom Unlimited®
  • 4. Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card
  • 3. Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
  • 2. The Platinum Card from American Express
  • 1. Chase Freedom®

Best Secured Card for Military Personnel

USAA Secured Visa Platinum Credit Card

Best Secured Card for Military Personnel: USAA Secured Visa Platinum Credit Card
Variable APR
11.74% to 17.99%
Cash Advance APR
11.74% to 17.99%
Rewards Rate
2% for Honors members, 1.5% for non-military members
Annual Fee
$0
Intro APR
0% promotional balance transfer rate for 12 Months on transfers made between October 1, 2018 - December 31, 2018
Bonus Offers
$100 Statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days
81 % Editor Score
80 % User Score

Why People Love it

 

  • Pays interest on your security deposit 
  • Accepted globally without foreign transaction fees 
  • Low to average APR

 

A reduced APR during deployment and up to one year after active duty helps you keep your finances in check. Extended one-year warranty protection on qualifying purchases.

You can’t graduate to an unsecured card. On a positive note, using this card regularly may help you boost your FICO enough to qualify for a regular credit card.

Expert Ratings

Application Process: The USAA secured Visa Platinum credit card isn’t for everyone. You must be a current or previous military member in good standing or the spouse or widow of someone with a military background.

To apply, you need to log into USAA.com and answer the questions on the application. You need at least $250 to fund your secured card, so wait to apply if you need some time to come up with the money.  

Features: We’re extremely impressed with the long list of features that the USAA secured Visa Platinum offers. A resolution service takes care of you if you become a victim of identity theft, and you aren’t responsible for any unauthorized purchases on the card. The company shows appreciation for dedicated military personnel by offering discounted APR rebates during certain events, which we’ll discuss more in the next section. 

This secured card also offers collision coverage if you get into an accident while driving a rental car. That’s a wonderful benefit we usually just find on unsecured cards. 

Bonus Offers: Like most secured credit cards, the USAA Visa Platinum doesn’t run promotions for bonus offers. However, we love that cardholders earn interest on their deposit as it sits in a 2-year CD. That’s something we haven’t seen anywhere else. 

Annual Fee: The USAA Visa Platinum secured card has a $35 annual fee, which is an average rate based on our research.

 

Details:USAA Secured Visa Platinum Credit Card »

Best for Families/Cash Back

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Best for Families/Cash Back: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Variable APR
14.74% - 25.74%
Cash Advance APR
26.99%
Rewards Rate
6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
Annual Fee
$95
Intro APR
0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months.
Bonus Offers
$200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.
89 % Editor Score
82 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Save on gas by racking up 3X cash back on related purchases
  • Earn on the groceries you already buy with 6X cash back at the supermarket
  • Redeem rewards as statement credits or gift cards—the specifics are up to you

  • The card offers super high rewards on grocery purchases
  • Pay no interest for a year
  • Charges an annual fee, which is uncommon for a cash-back credit card
  • American Express isn't widely accepted overseas
  • Doesn't offer bonus cash back on groceries at non-supermarkets
Expert Ratings

Application Process: Apply online and get a response within 60 seconds.

Rewards6% 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 services, and 1% back on other purchases.

Bonus Offers$200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.

Annual Fee: $95; not waived the first year.

Details:Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express »

Best Everyday Card for Military Members

PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card

Best Everyday Card for Military Members: PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card
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98 % Editor Score
85 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • No cash-back caps
  • Rewards on all purchases
  • No annual fee

Available for retired and honorably discharged military members as well as those on active duty and reserves. Low interest rates compared to other well-known military credit cards.

There’s a $1 fee for mailed paper statements, but you can avoid this by requesting electronic billing.

Application Process: Apply online and score a card after you verify prior or current military service. You can also qualify with an active PenFed Access America checking account.

Fees: There’s no annual fee and no monthly maintenance fee. However, you’ll have to shell out $1 a month for paper statements if you don’t request electronic statements.

Cash advances cost 5% of the requested amount, for a minimum of $5 per transaction.

Rewards: Get paid to shop, dine out, watch movies, buy clothes...you get the idea. You earn unlimited 2% cash back on all transactions except cash advances, balance transfers, and credit card checks.

Rewards are redeemable via statement credit, direct deposit to your PenFed checking account, or transfers to other financial institutions.

Bonus Offers: Two of them! Enjoy a 0% promo APR on balance transfers for the first 12 months, but watch out for the 3% fee added to each transaction.

Also, score a $100 statement credit when you spend at least $1,500 in the first 90 days.

Details:PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card »

Best Overall Cash Back Credit Card

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Best Overall Cash Back Credit Card: Chase Freedom Unlimited®
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Variable APR
16.24% - 24.99%
Cash Advance APR
26.24%
Rewards Rate
1.50%
Annual Fee
$0
Intro APR
0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months
Bonus Offers
Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
86 % Editor Score
87 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • If you have more than one Chase credit card, you can earn more by transferring points and splitting your spending between the two cards
  • Freedom and flexibility: the flat 1.5% cash back rate isn't limited to a specific category
  • The bonus offers are easily attainable and include a $150 bonus after spending $500 within 3 months after opening. Plus, you'll earn a $25 bonus after you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the same period.

There's a lot to love about the Chase Freedom Unlimited cash back credit card. It provides a high rewards rate with no nonsense in terms of rotating spending categories - just a flat 1.5% back on every purchase you make with the card. With responsible use, you won't have to pay a penny to use this card, as there's no annual fee. 

As far as actually getting the cash back you've earned, there's no minimum required for redemption, and cash back earnings can be redeemed for any amount (unlike the Chase Freedom card, which requires a minimum $20). On top of that, there's a relatively small minimum spend required to earn the lucrative account opening bonus.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card doesn't offer any specific bonus categories, due to its nature as a flat-rate cash back credit card. So those who know their high-spending categories (like groceries, for example) may want to opt instead for a cash back credit card that caters to their spending habits.

While going through this list, you'll also notice that it's not the highest flat-rate cash back card around. There's also a foreign transaction fee, so if you want a credit card specifically for international travel you should look into opening a credit card that caters specifically to travelers. 

Expert Ratings

Application Process: Online, over the phone, or at a branch. Online is the easiest method, but it's nice to know that you have options!

Annual Fee: No annual fee! How's that for maximizing the money in your pocket? Balance transfer fees are $5 or 5% of the transferred amount (whichever is greater).

APR: 0% for the first 15 months, then a variable APR of 16.24% to 24.99%. 

RewardsYou can redeem your rewards as cash back in the form of:

  • Bank account deposits
  • Statement credits

Or, you can also redeem rewards using the Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1 cent each and may be claimed through the Ultimate Rewards portal for:

  • General merchandise purchases made through the portal, or third-party retailers (such as Amazon)
  • Travel purchases 

Bonus Offers: Earn a $150 bonus after spending $500, within 3 months after opening a new account. Additionally, you can also earn $25 if you opt to add an authorized user of the card, and that person makes their first purchase within the 3 month period.

Details:Chase Freedom Unlimited® »

Best for Flat-Rate Cash Back

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card

Best for Flat-Rate Cash Back: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card
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Variable APR
24.99%
Cash Advance APR
24.99%
Rewards Rate
1.50%
Annual Fee
$39
Intro APR
n/a
Bonus Offers
n/a
82 % Editor Score
93 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Unlimited flat 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases
  • Easily obtainable bonus of $150 when you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months of account opening
  • Value Penguin calls it one of the best cashback cards for low spenders

Travelers will appreciate that there are no foreign transaction fees associated with this credit card. Everyone will appreciate that you don’t have to be purposeful to collect your rewards, as the Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card offers a flat, unlimited 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases.

If you’re new to the world of credit cards, this card might be your perfect match. But if you’re a little more of an experienced user, you can certainly find higher percent cash back credit cards for a small annual fee that will likely be more than justified. A related example? The Capital One Spark Cash for Business credit card. Additionally, you may be interested in using one of the best Capital One credit cards for balance transfers... until you find out that it comes with a 3% balance transfer fee.

Expert Ratings

Application Process: Apply online just as you would with the other best Capital One credit cards on this list.

Annual Fee: Absolutely no annual fees! Definitely a perk of this credit card.

Rewards and Redemption Options: It’s very simple: earn an unlimited flat rate of 1.5% cash back, which does not expire. You can redeem this cash back as a statement credit or cheque.

Bonus Offers: Just about anyone using this credit card will earn a $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases within 3 months of account opening.

Details:Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card »

Best for Excellent Credit

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Best for Excellent Credit: Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
Variable APR
17.49% - 24.49%
Cash Advance APR
26.49%
Rewards Rate
1 point per dollar
Annual Fee
$0 for the first year, then $95
Intro APR
n/a
Bonus Offers
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
98 % Editor Score
92 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Generous travel rewards
  • Large bonus for new cardholders
  • No foreign transaction fees

  • Requires good to excellent credit
  • $95 annual fee after your first year
Expert Ratings

Application Process: You know the drill: Input some general info online for a quick decision. If your FICO is below 650, you may want to hold off on applying for now. This card is geared toward people with excellent credit.

Fees: Unfortunately this card has a $95 annual fee after your first 12 months; prior to that, there’s no fee. However, many customers feel the card’s perks justify the annual fee.

Balance transfers cost $5 or 5% of each transfer amount, whichever is greater. Cash advances will set you back $10 or 5% of each transaction amount, whichever is greater.

There are no foreign transaction fees, which makes this card popular with frequent travelers.

Late payment fees work a little differently than most credit cards - Chase considers your balance rather than charging the same amount for everyone. You’ll pay up to $15 if the balance is less than $100, up to $27 if the balance is $100 to less than $250, and up to $37 if the balance is $250 or more.

Returned payments typically carry a $37 fee.

Rewards: Collect at least 1 point for every dollar you spend with this Chase credit card. Travel-related purchases and purchases at restaurants are worth 2 points per dollar.

Points transfer with a 1:1 value to many popular airline and hotel loyalty programs, which makes customers happy. Maximize your rewards by redeeming them through Chase Ultimate Rewards for 25% more value. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 through this portal.

Chase Ultimate Rewards takes care of its members. There are no blackout dates or other restrictions, so you can travel when you want as long as seats are available on your preferred flight.

Bonus Offers: Earn a whopping 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases during your first 3 months as a cardholder. You can also collect 5,000 bonus points when you add an authorized user to your account and make a purchase during the first 3 months as a cardholder.

Details:Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card »

Best Travel Card for Excellent Credit

The Platinum Card from American Express

Best Travel Card for Excellent Credit: The Platinum Card from American Express
Variable APR
n/a
Cash Advance APR
n/a
Rewards Rate
1 point for every dollar
Annual Fee
$550
Intro APR
n/a
Bonus Offers
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms apply.
83 % Editor Score
95 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Premier travel rewards card
  • Lengthy list of perks
  • Widely accepted around the world

Enjoy VIP status when you whip out your Platinum AmEx at participating airports, restaurants, and hotels. No foreign transaction fees.

Hefty annual fee - but it’s worth it if you’re a frequent traveler. The card’s benefits are incredible.

Expert Ratings

Application Process: Find out whether you need to clear a spot in your wallet for this Platinum American Express in just 30 seconds. The online app is super simple.

Bonus Offers: Want an easy 60,000 points? Just charge $5,000 in the first 3 months with your Platinum AmEx. This impressive bonus offer basically knocks out the annual fee that some people gripe about paying (more on that later).

Rewards: Wow, where do we even begin? You can rack up more rewards with this credit card than any other card on this list. Here are some perks that cardholders love:

  • Gold Status from Hilton and Starwood Properties
  • $200 airline fee credit
  • Save up to $200 per year on Uber rides
  • 5X Membership Rewards Points on qualifying hotels and flights
  • Fee credit for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry
  • Elite Status with participating rental car companies
  • Complimentary access to upscale airline lounges

APR: You don’t pay interest on your purchases because you aren’t allowed to carry a balance. You have to pay off this card in full each month.

Annual Fee: At $550, the annual fee is the highest on our list (and some folks gripe about it). Most cardholders feel the fee is reasonable, though, since you get an insane amount of benefits with this Platinum AmEx.

Details:The Platinum Card from American Express »

Best Promotional APR Credit Card for Cash Back Rewards

Chase Freedom®

Best Promotional APR Credit Card for Cash Back Rewards: Chase Freedom®
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318 Clicks
Variable APR
16.24% - 24.99%
Cash Advance APR
26.24%
Rewards Rate
1.5%
Annual Fee
$0
Intro APR
0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
Bonus Offers
Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
85 % Editor Score
97 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Unlimited cash-back rewards for qualifying purchases
  • Promotional APR for 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers
  • No annual fee

  • Earn up to 5% cash back on everyday purchases
  • Offers a decent sign-up bonus
  • Charges a high balance transfer fee
  • The card's rewards program is somewhat complex
Expert Ratings

Application Process: Apply online and get a response within 60 seconds.

Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate; unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Bonus Offers: Score a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases during your first 3 months as a cardholder. Get $25 more when an authorized user makes their first purchase in the same 3 month period.

Annual fee: None.

Details:Chase Freedom® »

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Article Staff

Missy Nolan is a single mom who is too sleep-deprived to come up with a clever bio at the moment. She has been a professional writer for more than 10 years and loves staying home with her 3 kids. Well, most of the time. Missy rocks at parenting, baking, cooking, saving cute outfits she'll never wear on Pinterest, and sipping her beloved secret-menu Starbucks Pink Drink while strolling through Target.

She's your go-to girl for advice or feedback on any of the things listed above, as well as tips on healthy living, bargain hunting, marketing, and finances. Connect with Missy here or at MakeItWithMissy.com, a food blog that features healthy recipes and grocery deals.

You can also find Missy on Legit Lender, Health.com, The Nest, Catalogs.com, and OneSpace.

Editor Jenna Holtz
Researcher Ronnie Langston
Art Director Cherry Barbacena

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8 Best Credit Cards for Military Personnel

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