Credit Cards
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Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page.

Advertiser Disclosure

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the card offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products.

Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone. For a full list of our advertisers, see our disclosure page.

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page.

Best Military Credit Cards: Top Picks for 2018

Certain credit cards, issued mainly by credit unions, are aimed specifically at the military community. We reviewed offers for dozens of such cards to find the best ones. Based on our research, the PenFed Power Cash Rewards is the best military credit card. It's a cash back credit card with above-average rewards in all spending categories. That said, we encourage readers to read through the list below for more specific recommendations based on individual needs.

Best Military Credit Cards For…

Top Credit Cards for Military Personnel & Their Families

There is no one-size-fits-all credit card that fulfils the needs of every military consumer. For that reason, we’ve segmented our picks of the best military credit cards into discrete categories.

Best Cash Back: PenFed Power Cash Rewards VISA Signature® Card

The PenFed Power Cash Rewards comes with one of the highest cash back rates of any card on the market—including both military and nonmilitary options. You get up to 2% cash back anywhere you shop. This flat-rate arrangement differs from most cash back credit cards, which are typically more rewarding at certain merchants than at others. To qualify for the flat rate, you must have PenFed Honors Advantage membership, which is available to active duty, reserve, honorably discharged, or retired military members. Those who have and maintain a PenFed Access America Checking account also qualify.

Even if you not in the PenFed Honors Advantage program, this card still provides decent cash back rates. Instead of 2% back, non-honors cardmembers get 1.5% across all spending categories. For the average consumer who spends about $1,430 per month, that translates to an extra $257 in their pocket each year. Currently, this card is also offering a decent bonus to all cardmembers. You'll get $100 when you spend at least $1,500 in the first 90 days of your account opening.

Highlights

  • Up to 2% cash back on all purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • You can qualify for PenFed if: You served in the U.S. military or Uniformed Services, are an employee of the U.S. government, or related to someone who is.

Best Travel Option: PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card is the best travel card for military members because it offers some of the highest travel rewards without charging an annual fee. The card awards 4 points per dollar on travel purchases to PenFed Honors Advantage members (3 points per dollar to everyone else) and 1.5 points on all purchases. All military members qualify as PenFed Honors Advantage members. Alternatively, you also qualify if you’ve been honorably discharged, are retired from military service, or have an existing or new PenFed Credit Union checking account product. What takes this card over the top is that it comes with features that are usually expected with high annual fee cards at no additional cost, such as the $100 annual travel fund and the Annual Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefit. While the value of your points is higher when redeemed for hotel stays versus flights, we consider the high number of points awarded for travel purchases and the wide variety of purchases that qualify as travel to be redeeming factors. Another major perk of the card is that it comes with a 0% intro APR offer for 12 months on balance transfers. Not many rewards cards double as decent balance transfer cards. Keep in mind that a 3% fee will apply to any balance transfer that is made.

Highlights

  • No annual fee.
  • Redeem points for travel, merchandise and gift cards.
  • You can qualify for PenFed if you served in the U.S. military or Uniformed Services, are an employee of the U.S. government, or related to someone who is.
  • 25,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 within 3 months of opening an account.

Best Balance Transfer/Low Interest Credit Card: Navy Federal Platinum Credit Card

If you have good-to-excellent credit, the Navy Federal Platinum Credit Card offers some of the lowest interest rates on the market. The card currently has a variable APR of between 6.99% and 18.0%. To put those figures into perspective, the average APR across all cards is currently about 14%. If you qualify for that 6.99% rate, then, you will be paying half of the national average. Also, while most credit cards charge their cardholders between 3% and 5% for each balance transfer to another card, the Navy Federal Platinum waives such charges. You can therefore refinance existing credit card debt through this card at no cost.

Know that you don't have to be a member of the United States Navy to qualify for a Navy Federal credit card. The credit union provides financial products to members of all branches of the armed forces, the Department of Defense, veterans and their families. The requirements are fairly loose. If the Navy Federal Platinum Card is right for you, but you're unsure of whether you qualify, we recommend checking out the credit union's eligibility page for more information.

Highlights

  • Variable APR between 6.99% and 18.0%
  • No balance transfer fees.
  • No annual fee.
  • You can qualify for Navy Federal if: Are an active duty member of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Navy, National Guard, Delayed Entry Program, DoD, or veteran.

Best for Bad Credit: nRewards® Secured Credit Card

The Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit Card is one of the few credit cards for bad credit to hit a trifecta—there’s no annual fee, it offers a rewards program and it has low interest rates. Ordinary nonmilitary credit cards never offer all such benefits to consumers who are rebuilding their credit. Typically, secured credit cards like this one gouge consumers on either their interest rate or have annual fees that are well above the market average. We recommending the nRewards® Secured Credit Card because it bucks these negative trends.

The Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit Card awards 1 point per dollar spent. These points can later be redeemed for gift cards with various merchants, including Applebee's, Best Buy, and The Home Depot. We recommend against redeeming your points at restaurants, since this leads to a significantly lower rewards rate. You can also use the points you earn to receive statement credit to help pay off the card bill. The points you earn expire after 4 years.

Highlights

  • 1% rewards rate on all purchases.
  • Variable APR between 9.99% and 18.0%.
  • No annual fee.
  • You can qualify for Navy Federal if: Are an active duty member of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Navy, National Guard, Delayed Entry Program, DoD, or veteran.

Summary of the Top Military Credit Cards

In case you wanted another quick look at all the cards that made our list, and where each excels, consult the table below.

Card

IssuerBest For…
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express CardPenFedTravel
PenFed Power Cash RewardsPenFedCash Back
Navy Federal Platinum Credit CardNavy FederalBalance Transfers & Low Interest
Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit CardNavy FederalBad Credit

Additionally, here are a few other military credit cards that didn't quite make the cut. These are all very good options, and are worth considering if any of our above recommendations aren't exactly what you were looking for. All are available to military members, including veterans, and their immediate families.

Runner-Ups

CardIssuerWhy it's worth highlighting
Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® CardUSAA1.5% cash back on every purchase.
Navy Federal More Rewards American Express® CardNavy Federal3% rewards rate at supermarkets and gas stations, and 2% rewards rate at restaurants.
PenFed Platinum Rewards VISA Signature® CardPenFed0% promotional balance transfer rate for 12 months on transfers.

What Active Duty Members of the Armed Forces Should Know About Credit Cards

Active duty service members enjoy special financial benefits and protections. Some of these are mandated by federal law, while others are offered by the credit card issuers themselves. Because the latter are not enforced by law, the extra benefits they provide are subject to change.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) includes provisions that provide financial relief to those who are currently in active duty. While deployed, SCRA limits interest rates on outstanding balances to 6% for the duration of your active duty. Additionally, overlimit, late payment, returned payment and statement-copy request fees must be waived. According to MilitaryBenefits.info, to qualify for SCRA benefits you generally must be:

  • A member of the U.S. Armed Forces (any military branch) serving on active duty.
  • A member of a reserve component called to active duty.
  • A National Guard member under a call or order to active duty for more than 30 consecutive days.
  • A Commissioned Officer for the Public Health Service or NOAA.
  • A U.S. citizen serving with the forces of a nation with which U.S. is allied in war or military action.
  • A spouse of active duty, where credit is extended to a Service member and spouse jointly.

As mentioned, credit card issuers offer their own extension of SCRA benefits. The most notable issuers include the following:

Credit Card IssuerActive Duty Military Benefits
American ExpressAnnual fees waived on all cards.
DiscoverAllowed to retroactively apply for SCRA coverage.
Capital OneLimits interest rate at 4%.
ChaseLimits interest rates at 2%.

Comments and Questions

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

Info about the following cards: American Express® Gold Card, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, and American Express Cash Magnet℠ Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program. 

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.