3 of the Best Credit Cards for Military Members (2021 Edition)
Financial literacy isn’t a strength for all of us. But we are still out here making money moves, so let’s talk about getting the most from using our credit cards. Go from Googling “What is a credit card” to learning the basics, reaping the rewards, and saving on fees and interest with the best credit cards for military members.
If you know the answer to that Google query and how to check your credit score, you may want to skip ahead to our list of the best credit cards for military members.
What Is a Credit Score?
A credit score rates your credit risk to help creditors determine whether to approve your credit application, the terms of the offer and the interest rate that will apply.
A low credit score can significantly affect your life. Your ability to get a loan approved, rent an apartment, earn clearance for employment and get a lower insurance rate can depend on your credit score.
Did you know as of 2019 the average score in America was 703, which is on the lower end of the “good” range?
What Affects Your Credit Score?
Your credit score comes from your credit report’s info about:
- History of on-time payments
- Money owed
- Credit history length
- The number of recent credit applications
- Types of active credit accounts
Did you know that around 55% of Americans are in credit card debt? And if you find yourself also in credit card debt it could be affecting your credit score. Explore how to raise it quickly with Rock the Score in our blog!
How to Check Your Credit Score
Did you know that you can have several different credit scores? The number used by a car dealership could be slightly different than the number used by a department store when evaluating your credit application. Score calculations happen at different times and in different ways.
Request Your Free Credit Report
By Phone: 1 (877) 322-8228
Stay up-to-date with your credit report with AnnualCreditReport.com and know your score before you apply for a credit card.
What Is a Credit Card?
Credit cards pay for purchases over time, similar to a loan. You pay your credit card company back monthly (or per their terms and agreements and often with interest) for everything you charge. You might be asking yourself, is there a difference between credit cards and debit cards? Yes, a debit card purchase is automatically pulled from your account since the card is linked to your checking account.
How Do Credit Cards Work?
When you receive a credit card, the card will come with specific terms and perks:
- Credit limit (how much you can spend)
- Rewards programs (if applicable)
- Interest rate
- Fees (late fees, membership charges, etc.)
Your credit card interest and limit can be affected by your credit score. It boils down to this – the higher your credit score the lower your interest rate can be and the higher your credit limit often is.
Besides helping to pay for the things you need, credit cards are great for building credit history.
Did you know? There are 10,000 worldwide credit card transactions every second.
How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?
Americans have three credit cards on average, according to Experian. To find the right number for you, consider how you use credit cards and how you will avoid letting them lead to overspending.
On the flip side – a perk of using more than one card is collecting different rewards – travel, cashback, and making purchases on base.
Did you know? The first universal credit card was introduced by the Diners’ Club, Inc. in 1950.
What Is a Good APR for a Credit Card?
The lower the APR, the less interest you will pay on credit card purchases. It’s that simple. A low ongoing APR is likely better than the 0% APR introductory rate for you to carry a balance.
A 0% APR introductory rate credit card may be useful to finance a big purchase if you know you pay it off before the initial rate expires. Be aware that the APR often increases when the intro promo is over so hold off on buying that Porsche or private jet.
Did you know? The first digit of your credit card tells what industry issued the card.
How to Get a Credit Card?
After you review our list of the top credit cards for military members below, select a card that works for you and complete an application online or by phone if looking at a direct mail promotion.
Don’t worry if you don’t see one on this list that you like, there are so many different cards out there.
- You will need to provide your:
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Gross annual income
- Type of housing
- Time at your current home
Did you know? Each American household receives about 6 credit card offers a month.
What to Look for in a Credit Card?
Find the best credit card for you:
1. Decide How You Will Use the Card
Be realistic about whether you will pay it off each month or carry a balance and pay interest. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, about 60 percent of Americans with credit cards carry a balance. If you are likely to, consider credit cards that have the lowest APRs.
2. Shop Local
If you have an existing bank or credit union relationship, start your search there. Then compare with offers you received at home or online.
3. Crunch the Numbers
Compare APR, APR for balance transfers, penalty APR and fees on a credit card offer.
4. What Are the Perks?
Focus on finding a card with a robust rewards program if you will not carry a balance on your credit card. It will be more valuable than a low APR.
5. Schedule a Consultation
Make an appointment with a Military OneSource financial counselor to learn about the Military Lending Act and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. You can also call 1 (800) 342-9647 if you prefer to speak to a representative.
Best Credit Cards for Military Members
To start your search for the best credit cards for military members, we’ve combined expert opinions in finance, consumer advocacy and travel into our Making Money Moves Tic Tac Toe. Explore the board’s links to find the credit card that works best for you and your family.
|Travel Rewards||Cash Back||Low Interest|
|⚬ Platinum Card from American Express||⚬ Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express||⚬ USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum Card|
|Pay Off Debt||“Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems”||Build Credit|
|⚬ Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Credit Card
|The Notorious B.I.G.||⚬ Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit Card
|Base Rewards||Low APR||SCRA/MLA Fees Waiver|
|⚬ USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card||⚬ USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum Card||⚬ Platinum Card from American Express|
The board’s basis is:
- Best Credit Cards for Active-Duty Military from NerdWallet’s number crunchers.
- Best Military Credit Cards of March 2021 by the consumer advocates at US News.
- The 5 best credit cards for military personnel for 2021 from the credit experts at CreditKarma.
- The best credit cards for active duty military by the travel specialists at PointsGuy.
Winner! Winner! Winner!
An assessment of the board’s overlapping x’s and o’s reveals “3 of the Best Military Credit Cards.”
Its base rewards earned recognition from two of the four expert sources. Why?
- 5% cash back on the first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases every year.
- 1% cash back on purchases at commissaries, exchanges and shopettes for charges from $3,001 and up.
- No annual fee or foreign transaction fees.
A low APR and interest caught the eye of half the experts on our board. Why?
- No annual fee or foreign transaction fees.
- 4% APR for existing balance during active duty, including deployment and PCS.
Its travel benefits scored more than one place on the board. Why?
- $550 annual fee waiver under SCRA or MLA.
These are just a small sampling of credit cards and rewards programs available to savvy credit consumers. You will need to do your due diligence to make the best financial decisions for you and your family — no one will do a better job of looking out for your money!
What are you looking for in a credit card? Which one is your favorite – is it missing from our list? Let us know in the comments below!