Our team of experts uses a methodology to identify the credit cards most likely to fit your needs. We examine annual percentage rates, annual fees, issuer satisfaction ratings and other factors to determine what cards come out ahead. Learn more»
How Do Military Credit Cards Work?
The SCRA caps the interest rate charged to active-duty service members at 6% per year on pre-service credit card debts and forgives fees.
SCRA benefits are available from any credit card issuer, and many issuers go beyond the requirements, says Doug Nordman, author of “The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement” and founder of financial blog The Military Guide.
Capital One, for example, limits interest to 4% on eligible loans and credit products owned and serviced by the bank and charges no fees except for bona fide insurance. You will need to request this rate within one year of leaving or completing active duty.
How to Choose a Military Credit Card
The right military card will match your credit profile and fit your spending habits and financial goals. These tips can help you choose a military card:
Ask the issuer whether any SCRA benefits apply to a new account. Contact the credit card issuer directly by phone or online for an answer if you’re an active-duty service member thinking about opening an account. But SCRA benefits apply to pre-service debts, so the issuer is not obligated to provide them when you are opening an account.
Look at all card features. Consider rewards, credit monitoring tools, travel perks and purchase protections.
When shopping for a credit card, “military members should be sure the card suits their lifestyle,” says military finance coach Kate Horrell. “If they travel a lot overseas, they definitely want a card with no foreign transaction fees.”
Compare bonuses and introductory rates. Which card has the biggest sign-up bonus with an easily attainable spending requirement, and which card has the longest 0% introductory APR period for purchases and balance transfers?
Once you’ve weighed interest rates and fees into your decision, you can shop around for the best offers and apply for one. If you are worried about card approval, check whether you can prequalify to indicate your chances with no credit damage.
Now you will want to focus on using your credit card responsibly. Unpaid debt can affect security clearances, Nordman says.
Set limits for credit card spending and automate payments to avoid disruptions if you’re deployed, he adds.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Military Credit Cards?
There are definite perks that can come from a military credit card, but beware of some of the drawbacks, as well.
- Qualify for a lower interest rate. Although the SCRA applies to debt accrued before active-duty status, a credit card for military may match that rate or at least offer a lower rate than other cards.
- Get additional perks. Some credit cards may offer additional perks beyond a lower interest rate, such as waiving fees, so be sure to ask when considering your options.
- New cards may not qualify. Because SCRA benefits apply to pre-service debts, the issuer is not obligated to provide that interest rate when you are opening an account. Be sure to ask.
- Your interest rate may change. Once you’re no longer considered active duty, your interest rate may go up, depending on your card.
U.S. News reviewed hundreds of credit cards to identify those that offer the most value to members of the military, considering factors including rates, SCRA policies, rewards and fees. Each card has its own strengths and drawbacks, so there is no single card that’s ideal for all military members. U.S. News’ selections reflect the best card in each category that may be a good fit for your needs.