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Life in the military is challenging enough without having to worry about your finances. The right military credit card, however, can simplify a serviceperson's life by providing lucrative rewards that can bring excellent, and exclusive, benefits to members of the military.
ZDNet presents this year's list of best credit cards for members of the military, providing unique benefits and rewards designed for those who serve and defend our country.
The PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card offers a straightforward rewards structure that does not limit your earnings with a glass ceiling. Instead, cashback is unlimited without any caps. If you are a PenFed Honors Advantage Member, you can earn 2% on all of your purchases. Otherwise, the cashback rewards rate is 1.5% for all purchases you make.
An introductory offer includes a $100 bonus credit when you make at least $1,500 in purchases during the first 90 days. You also skip the interest on any balance transfers you make, thanks to a generous introductory APR, although a 3% transaction fee applies. Overall, the Power Cash Rewards Visa gives you a competitive APR with no annual or foreign transaction fees, making for an even more attractive offer.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a fantastic credit card that appears on many of our lists, like the best sign-up bonus and the best credit card for airport lounge access. The rewards start when you first sign up with 60,000 bonus points after $4,000 in purchases within the first three months. That alone is worth $900 in travel when you redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
You only have to spend $300 on travel before the rewards kick in for your road warrior lifestyle, giving you 5x the points on flights and 10x the points on hotels and car rentals annually. You get 3x the points on all other travel, plus 10x the points on Chase Dining purchases to help boost your trip. All other purchases earn one point per dollar.
Plus, every year, you receive a $300 annual travel credit. However, there is a high annual fee, plus you have to pay for each authorized user.
If you struggle with poor credit, the Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards® Secured Credit Card could be a great fit for you. Whether you are new to credit cards or rebuilding credit, any member of Navy Federal can apply for this card with an easy prequalification tool on the site. The APR is a flat rate that is surprisingly competitive, given the higher end of interest rates from other cards.
To help with that initial deposit, there are few fees with no annual fees, balance transfer fees, or foreign transaction fees. Once approved, all you need is a $200 minimum to get started, and Navy Federal will review your account twice a year to see if you are eligible for an upgrade to a secured card. In the meantime, you will earn rewards in the form of 1x the points per dollar spent.
The Platinum Card® from American Express has seemingly endless rewards, making it one of the best rewards credit cards out there. To start, you earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after spending $6,000 on purchases within your first six months of Card Membership. There are ongoing rewards, too, with up to $200 in hotel credit each year, up to $200 in Uber Cash, up to $200 in airline fee statement credit, up to $189 CLEAR® Plus credit, and up to a $300 Equinox credit. Go shopping with an up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit and a $155 Walmart+ credit.
You also receive up to a $240 digital entertainment credit each year that includes popular services like Audible, Disney+, Hulu, and SiriusXM. American Express also gives you access to its Global Lounge Collection to over 1,400 airport lounges in 650 cities and 140 countries for even greater flexibility. You receive 5x the points on flights (up to $500,000 in purchases per calender year) and 5x on prepaid hotels booked with American Express travel and 1x the points on all other purchases.
The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card starts with an introductory offer that includes a 0% intro APR lasting 15 months on your balance transfers and convenience checks within the first 90 days. In addition to the lowest starting APR on our list, this card also offers a military-friendly rewards structure, with 5% cashback on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases each year. You also receive 2% cashback on your first $3,000 in grocery purchases annually with unlimited 1% cashback on all other purchases.
It is also attractive because there are no annual or foreign transaction fees, saving you even more money each year. Travel benefits come included with the auto rental and travel accident coverage, as well as protections for trip cancellations and interruption coverage with baggage reimbursement.
Based on our extensive research, the best credit card for the military is the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card, offering a competitive APR with extra rewards. However, the other military credit cards on our list are also worthy of a second look, depending on what you are seeking.
Finding the best credit card for military life is not always the easiest. Based on our in-depth study, we offer our expert recommendations to help.
Choose this card...
PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card
Want cashback with extra rewards
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Want premium travel perks
Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card
Are rebuilding credit
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Luxury benefits and travel rewards
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
Want a card made for life on-base
Credit cards can seem like they are a dime a dozen, which is why we take our time studying each one to find the very best credit cards worthy of military life.
These are some of the factors we considered in our search:
APR: The APR on your credit card dictates how much interest you will pay for your purchases and balance transfers. The higher the APR, the more you will spend on interest.
Fees: Watch out for credit card fees that can quickly cost a ton of money, like annual fees, foreign transaction fees, and balance transfer fees.
Introductory offer: Many cards offer an intro offer when you first open a card. This could be in the form of a lower APR or a welcome bonus.
Rewards: Several credit cards on our list come with extra perks, like travel benefits and cashback.
Credit score: In order to qualify for a credit card, there may be a specific credit score you will need to apply. Be sure to check these requirements first so you don't risk harming your credit in the process.
Credit cards for the military vary based on the provider. For example, American Express does not require you to be in the service in order to get the Platinum card. On the other hand, credit card companies like USAA and Navy Federal specifically serve active-duty, disabled, and retired military members and their families.
The APR on our recommendations for the best military credit cards range significantly. The USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card has the lowest starting APR at 12.65%, but its rates are also among the highest, venturing up to 26.65%.
Some of the other military credit cards we considered in our study include:
Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
For more recommendations on credit cards, check out our expert picks for the best rewards credit cards, the best high-limit credit cards, and the best international travel credit cards.