We’ve researched banks and credit unions that focus on current and past members of the military, as well as their family members, to determine their unique benefits, ranges of financial products and services, fee structures and customer service. Based on our research, these are the best military banks and credit unions available, and what they offer.
Best military banks and credit unions
|All around||USAA Federal Savings Bank|
|Extra military benefits||Navy Federal Credit Union|
|Checking accounts||America’s Credit Union|
|Savings accounts||Service Credit Union|
|Credit cards||Pentagon Federal Credit Union|
|Deployment services||Security Service Federal Credit Union|
Best all-around military bank or credit union: USAA Federal Savings Bank
Established by 25 Army officers in 1922, USAA Federal Savings Bank has a long history of serving members of the military. What started as a company offering auto insurance to officers has since evolved to a bank with a variety of products and services for military members ranging from insurance to bank accounts and mortgages. Many of the products are specifically designed to help customers who are on active duty. USAA has more than 13 million members.
Eligibility: Banking with USAA requires USAA membership. You can qualify for membership if you are current or former military (with an honorable discharge), a spouse or child of current or former military or a precommissioned officer.
Military benefits: If you set up direct deposit for your military paycheck with a USAA checking account, those funds will be made available at least one business day earlier than your actual payday. If you need to use an ATM, you get up to 10 free withdrawals per month and $15 in monthly rebates to cover ATM fees charged by other banks in the U.S. You’ll pay a 1% foreign transaction fee for withdrawals outside the country. The USAA app includes Zelle, a digital payment network that allows you to send up to $1,000 a day to anyone with a mobile number or email address — a helpful resource when you’re separated from family members.
Products and services: USAA offers its Classic Checking account with no monthly fees and 0.01% APY on balances of $1,000 or more. This checking account includes access to 60,000 in-network ATMs and refunds up to $15 per month to cover ATM fees from other banks.
USAA offers two savings accounts with different minimum opening requirements and interest rates. The USAA Savings Account requires a minimum of $25 to open and earns an APY of 0.01% on all balances. The USAA Performance First Savings Account requires a minimum of $10,000 to earn an APY of 0.01% to 0.2%, depending on your daily balance.
USAA also offers several retirement and investing accounts, including automated investing options, IRAs and rollovers and annuities.
Customer experience: USAA has nine office locations in the U.S. and three offices in Europe, along with a network of more than 60,000 USAA-preferred ATMs in the U.S. You can manage your accounts using USAA’s iOS and Android mobile apps, which have impressive average ratings of 4.8 and 4.5 stars, respectively.
Best for extra military benefits: Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union is another popular financial institution with more than 10 million military members, and despite its name, it isn't just for those in the Navy. Membership is open to current and former members of all branches of the U.S. military. Established in 1933, it is now the largest credit union in the world and a primary provider of banking products and services to the military.
Eligibility: Active duty members, veterans and retirees of any branch of the armed forces are eligible to join Navy FCU. A wide range of family members — including parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, spouses and other household members — are also eligible to join. Department of Defense personnel may join Navy FCU as well.
Military benefits: Some of the military benefits include free military checks and early military pay with direct deposit. Active duty and retired military members may also receive a 0.25 percentage point discount on select automobile and personal expense loans. Navy FCU also offers VA and Military Choice Home Loans.
Products and services: Navy FCU offers products including checking accounts, loans and credit cards. Notably, it has five different checking accounts to choose from. The main checking accounts are the Free Active Duty Checking account, Free Easy Checking account and the Free EveryDay account. The Free Active Duty account offers up to $240 per year ATM fee rebates, early access to pay with direct deposit and no monthly service fee with a qualifying direct deposit.
The Free Easy Checking account offers up to $120 a year in ATM fee rebates and has no monthly fee. Both accounts earn an APY of 0.05% on all balances. The Free EveryDay account does not reimburse ATM fees but has no monthly fee and no opening deposit or minimum balance requirements. It earns an 0.01% APY on all balances.
There is also a share savings account that earns 0.25% APY on all balances with a $5 minimum deposit, as well as money market savings accounts, auto and mortgage loans and credit cards.
Customer experience: Navy FCU has more than 340 branches worldwide, and more than 28,000 free ATMs through the CO-OP Network. Stateside customer service reps are available by phone 24/7. You can access and manage your accounts through mobile apps with Apple (average rating of 4.8 stars), Google Play (3.9 stars), Amazon (4.6 stars) or on Navy FCU’s website. Navy FCU also provides members free personal finance counseling to its members.
Best for savings accounts: Service Credit Union
Service Credit Union started in 1957 at what is now Pease Air National Guard Base and has since become the largest credit union in New Hampshire. Service Credit Union has more than 320,000 members worldwide and offers benefits for military members and their families. This is one of the few credit unions for military members that also allows customers from other groups to become members.
Eligibility: You can become a member if you are active duty military or a veteran — family members are eligible too. Department of Defense workers and their families also qualify, as well as members of hundreds of select employer groups. Last, if you become a member of the American Consumer Council (it’s free with the promo code "Service"), you too can become a member.
Military benefits: Service Credit Union offers special savings rates to armed forces members, veterans and their families. It also allows military members to potentially receive paychecks two days earlier than scheduled and get a 0.75 percentage point discount on select automobile, motorcycle and personal loans if they meet certain requirements. Military and civilian personnel who receive relocation or deployment orders can also consider Service CU’s Military Relocation Loan, which helps with moving expenses and bills.
Products and services: Service CU offers various types of bank accounts, loans and investment and insurance options. The Everyday Checking account has three levels: Basic, Direct Deposit and Direct Deposit +. For the two top tiers (Direct Deposit and Direct Deposit +), you can receive, respectively, up to $15 in monthly ATM fee reimbursements and loan discounts of 0.50% APR, or up to $30 in monthly ATM fee reimbursements and loan discounts of 0.75% APR. Dividend Checking offers an APY of 0.15% on all balances, but there’s a monthly fee of $10 unless you maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance.
Like other credit unions, Service CU offers various savings accounts. However, unlike many others, you could qualify for a military savings account, which can pay higher dividends than other savings accounts. The Primary Savings Account pays a 5% APY on your first $500 and 0.25% APY on amounts over $500. The Deployed Warrior Savings Account is for active-duty members serving in combat zones and pays a 10% APY on balances up to $10,000.
In addition to checking and savings accounts, Service CU offers insurance, loans, international services and investment opportunities.
Customer experience: You can contact Service CU customer service by phone 24/7 or via online chat. There are also 50 walk-in locations throughout New Hampshire, North Dakota, Massachusetts and Germany. Members can use more than free 85,000 ATMs through the CO-OP and Allpoint networks, and bank through their mobile iOS (average rating of 4.8 stars) or Android (4.7 stars) apps or on their website.
Best for credit cards: Pentagon Federal Credit Union
Pentagon Federal Credit Union has been around since 1935 and has more than 2 million members worldwide. This credit union’s original members included civilian employees of the War Department. Since 2001, Pentagon Federal Credit Union has provided more than $38.5 million in financial support to military families.
Eligibility: Anyone can join PenFed with a $5 initial deposit into a savings account.
Military benefits: PenFed is primarily known for its credit cards that offer higher rewards than other rewards cards, especially when compared with those designed for military members. Its Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card, for instance, rewards 2% cash back on all purchases made with the card if you’re a PenFed Honors Advantage Member (which you can join by being a military service member or having a PenFed Access America Checking account). It also has no annual fee and includes a $100 bonus when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days. PenFed also offers benefits such as discounts on health and auto insurance.
Products and services: PenFed offers checking and savings accounts, as well as auto loans and home mortgages. There is only one checking account — Access America Checking — which charges a $10 monthly fee that can be waived if you set up a monthly direct deposit of at least $500 or maintain a daily balance of $500. You will earn 0.15% APY on balances below $20,000 and 0.35% APY on balances between $20,000 and $50,000.
PenFed also has four different savings accounts. However, the main account, the Premium Online Savings Account, has a low $5 minimum to open and an APY of 0.5% on all balances. In addition, PenFed also offers auto insurance, home mortgages, IRAs and credit cards.
Customer experience: PenFed has 46 branches and includes a network of 85,000 ATMs, including many located in stores like CVS, Target and Walgreens. You can contact customer service by phone during normal standard hours or manage your accounts online or through PenFed’s iOS or Android mobile apps, with respective average ratings of 4.2 stars and 4.4 stars.
Best for checking accounts: America’s Credit Union
America’s Credit Union was founded in 1954 and originally intended for members who were civilian federal employees at Washington state’s Fort Lewis. The credit union later opened to military personnel and then civilians. Although membership has expanded, America’s Credit Union continues to offer military benefits to more than 39,000 members.
Eligibility: You can join ACU if you live in the Pacific Northwest, are a member of the Pacific Northwest Consumer Council; a member of the armed forces (including active, retired and reservists), civilian personnel or someone related to a member of these groups; or a member of the Association of the United States Army.
Military benefits: Benefits include free organizational accounts to military unit organizations to open military fund accounts such as the Family Readiness Group. The credit union also offers resources to help military members in financial need through JBLM Financial Resources, and provides relocation and deployment assistance.
Products and services: ACU offers numerous checking accounts with competitive APYs and impressive perks — in addition to savings accounts, insurance, mortgages and other loans. The no-fee Affinity Basic checking account pays 2.02% APY on the first $1,000 deposited — then 0.1% APY on balances between $1,000.01 – $15,000 and 0.25% APY on balances above $15,000 — and has no monthly fee or required minimum deposit.
However, if you want ATM fee reimbursements of up to $10 a month, you’ll need the Affinity Plus account, which pays up to 0.75% APY up to $25,000. This account also offers 10 cents back each time you use your debit card with a $5 minimum. Though it has a monthly fee of $7, it also has some decent additional benefits like cell phone insurance and identity theft support.
Customer experience: ACU is part of a network of credit unions that includes nationwide access to 5,300 branches and 30,000 free ATMs. You can also bank online or through the iOS app, which has an average rating of 4.7 stars, or the Android mobile app, which has an average of 4.6 stars.
Best for deployment services: Security Service Federal Credit Union
Established in 1956, the Security Service Federal Credit Union initially provided banking options for members and family members of the U.S. Air Force Security Service Command. Since then, it has grown to include 500,000 members.
Eligibility: You can join SSFCU if you live, work, worship, go to school in or have a business in Texas, Colorado or Utah. Members of select military branches and employees of the Department of Defense at select military bases are also eligible for membership. If you are a family or household member of an existing member, you’ll also qualify.
Military benefits: Benefits include military deployment loans with low rates to help pay for expenses when you’re deployed, as well as other services such as assistance with shipping your vehicle overseas. The credit union will also help you lower your auto insurance during deployment if you need to store your vehicle. Expedited direct deposit allows you access to your military Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) direct deposits one to three days before the posting date.
Products and services: SSFCU offers a variety of banking options, loans, credit cards, insurance and investments. The Security Service Power Checking account is the basic free account, and there are three savings accounts. Among them is the Basic Savings account, which requires $5 to open and has a 0.05% APY on all balances. There is no monthly fee as long as you maintain a balance of at least $100 across accounts or have a Security Service Power Checking account.
Customer experience: SSFCU is part of a network of more than 5,000 branches nationwide and more than 30,000 free ATMs. Customer service is available by phone during normal hours, though there is a 24/7 virtual assistant available. You can also manage your accounts online or through the iOS (average rating of 2.8 stars) and Android mobile (average rating of 3.3 stars) apps.
How to find the best military bank or credit union for you
The best military bank or credit union for you will depend on your individual situation. Many service members open accounts at more than one financial institution, as they often offer no-fee or low-fee accounts. For example, you might choose a checking account with USAA, but apply for an auto loan at Navy Federal Credit Union and a credit card at PenFed.
To determine the best bank or credit union for you, you’ll need to look at the terms of each financial product you’re considering. Which ones offer the lowest loan rates? Where can you find the best checking account for the fewest fees? While it might be easier to keep all of your accounts at one bank or credit union and stick to a single mobile app to manage everything, you might find better deals on different products with other banks. However, depending on your needs, it may be possible to get everything you need from one particular financial institution.
Non-military options are also possible, which might be an option if you won’t benefit from any of the extra military benefits offered. Online, non-military banks also usually offer higher interest rates for savings accounts.
Methodology for determining best military banks and credit unions
To find the best military banks and credit unions, ValuePenguin looked at military financial institutions that are available nationwide, from small community banks and credit unions to traditional brick-and-mortar banks and online banks. We update our list on a regular basis to ensure we’re providing readers with the most up-to-date information.
We determined our list and rankings by considering the following factors:
- Eligibility: We did not consider military banks or credit unions that were limited to one branch of the military or one group. The banks and credit unions included have the fewest restrictions for eligibility.
- Military benefits: The most heavily weighted feature of the best military banks and credit unions are the benefits, features or perks offered specifically to military personnel, veterans, members of qualifying institutions and their families.
- Financial products and services: Each bank or credit union offers a variety of products and services including checking and savings accounts, investments, loans and/or mortgages. Banks with free accounts are ranked higher than those that offer products with monthly or maintenance fees.
- ATMs and ATM fees: Because those serving in the military might be in several different locations, it’s important that they are able to access ATMs and avoid ATM fees. We prioritized banks and credit unions with a large ATM network and/or minimal or waived ATM fees.
- Accessibility: It is crucial for consumers to be able to access not only the bank or credit union for banking purposes but also customer service when there are questions or assistance is needed. We considered only banks and credit unions that are available nationwide with branches and/or mobile banking or 24/7 customer service.