9 Best Military Banks and Credit Unions

Banking
Updated: 12th Oct 2020
Written by Drew Cheneler
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In this Article: Best Military Banks and Credit Unions.

With a loyal force of 2.87+ million service members and civilians, the Department of Defense is one of the largest employers in the United States. Undeniably, America’s service members have unique financial needs.

Members of the U.S. Military continuously move from one duty location to the next, work excruciating hours, endure strenuous operating environments, and are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

Their unpredictable schedules and financial needs make finding a reliable military bank or credit union difficult.

However, there is a growing list of military-friendly financial institutions that cater to the needs of America’s sons and daughters.

In fact, our list of the Best Military Banks and Credit Unions exclusively serve U.S. Military personnel and their extended families. They offer competitive rates, various financial products, robust educational resources, and low fees.

Above all, the top military banks and credit unions are flexible. They are ready to meet the financial needs of all service members, so they can continue to do their job – protect and defend citizens of the United States.

Without further ado, our selection of the best military banks and credit unions.

Quick Glance: Best Military Banks and Credit Unions

  1. USAA: Best Overall Military Bank
  2. Navy Federal Credit Union: Best for Families
  3. Pentagon Federal Credit Union: Best for DoD Civilian Employees
  4. Armed Forces Bank
  5. Air Force Credit Union
  6. Security Service Federal Credit Union
  7. Chase Bank
  8. Bank of America
  9. US Bank

Best Military Banks and Credit Unions

As a current or former military member, you have a lot of options when it comes to military friendly financial institutions. Fortunately, we did the research so you can cut through the noise and find the perfect bank to meet your financial needs.

1. USAA

Serving more than 13+ million military members, USAA is by far the best military bank. From low fees to standout customer service, and everything in between, USAA is deeply committed to America’s service members.

USAA is the best overall military bank.

Eligibility: USAA is open to active duty, reservists, national guard soldiers, retired members, cadets, midshipmen, and separated veterans who received an “honorable” discharge. Additionally, USAA offers membership to spouses, children, widows, widowers, and stepchildren.

Account Types:

USAA offers a diverse selection of financial products and accounts for its members.

  • Checking Accounts
  • Savings Accounts
  • Youth Banking
  • Credit Cards
  • Debit Cards
  • Insurance
  • Loans: Mortgages, Auto, Personal, and more.
  • Loan Refinancing
  • Certificate of Deposits
  • Roth and Traditional IRAs

While this is just a handful of financial products offered by USAA, this top military bank is also able to cater to individual needs as well. Fret not, with USAA your financial needs are covered.

Pros of USAA:

  • One-day early Direct Deposit
  • Reduced Loan Rates 😊
  • Superior Customer Service
  • No Monthly Fees
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Online financial tools to help you save money, budget, and invest.
  • Over 60,000+ USAA-preferred ATMs: USAA provides 10 complimentary FREE withdrawals per month.
  • 1,200+ USAA ATMs that are always FREE
  • $15 ATM fee refund per month
  • Known for offering the best insurance rates
  • Online Bill Pay
  • Mobile Check Deposit
  • Mobile App for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Tablets

Cons of USAA:

  • Only 19 Physical Branches
  • Checking Account APY is low

Final Thoughts:

Whether you are on the market for a new savings account, V.A. Loan, or premiere credit card, USAA has it all. As the best military bank, USAA is well-positioned to serve your financial needs. Join their 13 million members and receive the financial support you deserve.

2. Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU)

Boasting more than 9 million members, Navy Federal Credit Union offers customers competitive rates on their checking accounts, certificate of deposits, loans, and savings account.

With a prevalent physical presence on U.S. Military installations and in the surrounding area, NFCU is an excellent option for those who are eligible.

Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) is the best military credit union.

Eligibility: Here is where Navy Federal shines. NFCU is open to members of the military, National Guard, reserves, veterans, relatives, and all Department of Defense Employees. Once you are approved, you become a Navy Federal Credit Union member for life!

Account Types:

Like USAA, Navy Federal offers a robust selection of financial products for their members.

  • Checking Accounts
  • Savings Accounts
  • Certificate of Deposits (C.D.s) with competitive rates 😊
  • Loans: Auto, Mortgages, Student, Personal
  • Credit Cards
  • Debit Cards
  • Retirement Accounts and more
  • Investing Services

Pros of Navy Federal:

  • Over 55,000+ Free ATMs
  • No Monthly Fees!
  • $20 ATM Fee Refund per month
  • Mobile Check Deposit
  • 223 Physical Branch Locations Nationwide
  • Competitive Rates for C.D.s
  • Online financial calculators to help you save money, pay off debt, and invest.
  • Robust mobile app for Smartphone devices (iOS & Android) and tablets
  • Early Direct Deposit & Online Bill Pay
  • No-Fee Checking Account Earns Interest
  • Best One-Year CD Rates

Downsides of Navy Federal:

  • APY on Savings Account is low
  • $29 nonsufficient funds fee

Final Thoughts:

If you prefer to have immediate access to a physical location, then Navy Federal Credit Union is your best option.

It is important to note that most locations are in California, Maryland, and Virginia because these regions are notorious for employing millions of active duty and retired service members.

Furthermore, NFCU offers 24/7 phone support and online chat, so feel free to ask them questions at any time.

3. Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed)

Right behind NFCU is PenFed. As the nation’s third-largest federally insured credit union, PenFed has been in business since 1935.

With over 2 million members and $25 billion assets under management, this military-friendly credit union has a lot to offer.

PenFed offers military members low fees, competitive rates, and more.

Eligibility: PenFed is open to all military members and their families, DoD Employees, DHS Employees, American Red Cross employees and volunteers, members of a military association, and more.

Additionally, anyone can join PenFed if they make a qualifying donation to an affiliated charity. Click Here to view a full list of eligibility requirements.

Account Types:

  • Credit Cards
  • Savings Accounts
  • Checking Accounts
  • Loans: Mortgages, Auto, Personal, & Student Loan Refinancing
  • Certificate of Deposits
  • IRA Savings Accounts
  • Coverdell Education Certificates

Pros:

  • Competitive interest rates on loans, CDs, and checking accounts
  • Checking Account earns interest
  • Online Savings Account APY is High (1.60%) 😊
  • Access to over 68,000 FREE ATMs

Cons:

  • While it has physical branches, it does not have many. If you are stationed in a remote location, PenFed will not have a location. Furthermore, it is not a participant of shared branching.
  • Basic Savings Account has a 0.05% APY
  • $30 non-sufficient fund fee. Try to avoid overdraft fees at all cost.

Final Thoughts:

Pentagon Federal Credit Union is the best option if you are DoD/DHS civilian. As you can see, PenFed offers competitive interest rates on their loans, CDs, and checking accounts.

As a military-friendly credit union, PenFed has a lot to offer; however, it is not our top choice. Nonetheless, it is still an excellent opportunity for those who qualify.

4. Armed Forces Bank

Founded in 1907, Armed Forces bank has over $1.6 Billion in assets. This military-friendly financial institution offers a wide range of financial products and account types for qualifying members. From loans to credit cards, and everything in between, Armed Forces Bank has it all.

Armed Forces Bank is the best military friendly bank for basic training recruits.

Eligibility: Current or retired military members.

Account Types:

  • V.A. Home Loans
  • Credit Builder Card
  • Credit Cards
  • Savings Accounts
  • Checking Accounts
  • Certificate of Deposits (C.D.s)
  • Retirement IRAs
  • Student Savings Accounts

Pros:

  • Early Pay: Get Paid 1 Day early once you enroll in this program
  • Recruit Checking Account: Explicitly designed for brand new military members
  • A robust mobile app that sends you alerts
  • Credit Builder Card to help members establish a credit history and form good financial habits
  • Ample financial resources to help you learn the basics of personal finance, credit, loans, and more.

Cons:

  • Not many physical branches. Most are located on the West and East Coast.
  • Interest rates are a bit high. You can find better rates at USAA or NFCU.

Final Thoughts:

Although Armed Forces Bank offers a credit-builder card, there is not much else that makes this military-friendly bank stand out amongst its peers. You can find better rates and enjoy more financial products elsewhere.

5. Air Force Credit Union

Founded in 1952, at Lackland Air Force Base, Air Force Credit Union serves over 52,000 members nationwide. Embracing small-town values, AFCU is committed to providing its customers with the best experience.

Air Force Credit Union is a great bank for those who qualify.

Eligibility: To open an account with AFCU, you must be an active duty service member, reservist, DoD civilian, DoD contractor, or willing to join The Airman Heritage Foundation. Family members are eligible to join.

Account Types:

  • Credit Cards
  • VA Loans
  • Certificate of Deposits (C.D.s)
  • Money Market Accounts
  • Savings Account
  • Checking Account
  • Online Financial Calculators

Pros:

  • Get paid 1-day early if your direct deposit is synced to one of their financial accounts
  • Share Certificate Rewards – More family members that bank with AFCU improves your rate
  • Checking Account touts a High APY
  • Shared Branching – Get access to 5,000 participating branches
  • Access to 30,000+ Fee-Free ATMs

Cons:

  • Not a lot of physical branches
  • Checking Account does not earn interest
  • Loan rates are better elsewhere

Final Thoughts:

Air Force Credit Union is a straightforward banking option for those who are eligible. If you can sign up your children and spouse, then their share certificate rewards program is worth considering. However, you can still find better rates at USAA or NFCU.

6. Security Service Federal Credit Union

Primarily located in Colorado, Utah, and Texas, Security Service offers their qualified members competitive rates, 66 physical branch locations, and 30,000+ nationwide ATM access.

Security Service Federal Credit Union is the best bank for DoD and DHS Civilians.

Eligibility: To open an account with Security Service Federal Credit Union, you need to be a member of the military or a Department of Defense Employee within their service area. Furthermore, anyone in Texas, Colorado, or Utah can join. Family members are eligible to join.

Account Types:

  • Checking Accounts
  • Savings Account
  • Certificates of Deposits
  • Individual Retirement Accounts
  • Loans: Student, Personal, Auto, & Mortgages
  • Credit Cards
  • Business Banking and Insurance Services
  • Personal Insurance
  • Investment Services

Pros:

  • No minimum balance required
  • Competitive rates on their share certificates and Loans
  • Multiple Checking Account with no monthly fee
  • Access to a 30,000+ Fee-Free network of ATMs
  • Shared Branch Participant: Members get access to 5,000 branches of other financial institutions

Cons:

  • Limited to Texas, Utah, or Colorado
  • Checking Account does not earn interest
  • Can find better rates at other financial institutions and military-friendly banks.

Final Thoughts:

Security Service Federal Credit Union is a fine place to bank with if you reside in Utah, Colorado, or Texas. Depending on the opening balance and deposit, the SSFCU share certificate earns a 0.40% APY at a minimum.

However, it is important to note that this credit union is gridlocked to a specific region, so if you plan on moving then you are best to look elsewhere.

7. Chase Bank Military Offerings

While Chase Bank is not classified as a “military bank,” they are hands down one of the best financial institutions that cater to active and retired military members.

Chase Bank is a bank that offers military members great perks.

Eligibility: Anyone can join! However, their military banking features are only open to those who are active duty, retired, a reservist, or serving in the National Guard.

Account Types:

  • Chase Premier Plus CheckingSM
  • Chase Private Client SavingsSM
  • Credit Cards
  • Business Checking and Bank Account
  • VA Loans
  • Auto Financing
  • Chase Military Survivor Program

Pros:

Cons:

  • Details about each specific military product they offer are hard to find on Chase’s Website

Final Thoughts:

As you can see, Chase Bank goes the extra mile when serving Active and Retired military members. Chase’s military initiatives deserve recognition.

If you are looking to compliment your USAA or NFCU Bank Account, then Chase should be at the top of your list. From low fees to competitive rates, and everything in between, Chase Bank is on a mission to help current and former service members.

8. Bank of America

Bank of America proudly services U.S. Military Members. From low fees to reduced interest rates, it is safe to say they offer quite a few nifty perks for military members.

Bank of America Military Member Perks

Eligibility: Currently offered to those who are active duty in the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army, Air Force, NOAA Corps, and Public Health Service. They also extend eligibility to all spouses, dependents, and those called onto active duty from the National Guard or Reserves.

Account Types:

  • Credit Cards
  • Checking Accounts
  • Savings Accounts
  • VA Loans
  • Loans: Personal, Auto, and Home
  • Investing Services with Merrill Edge

Pros:

  • Reduction or Limits on Interest Rates as protected under the SCRA
  • Online and Mobile Banking

Cons:

  • More exclusive than the other military banks we reviewed

Final Thoughts:

Bank of America continues to adapt and expand their offerings for military members. Following Chase’s lead, BoA will continue to serve military members as they deploy and transition out of service.

9. US Bank Military Banking

Over the past few years, U.S. Bank has bolstered its banking services for military members. Currently, they offer members low fees, a free checking account, financial education resources, competitive rates, and more.

US Bank is a great choice for Military Members.

Eligibility: Open to all current and former active duty military members and their families.

Account Types:

  • Credit Cards
  • Free Checking Account
  • Savings Accounts
  • VA Loans
  • Financial Education Resource
  • Credit Building Support
  • Certificate of Deposits (CDs)
  • Money Market Account
  • Investment Services

Pros:

  • No overdraft fees
  • Remote Check Deposit – Free DepositPoint™
  • Unlimited Fee-Free transactions on ATMs outside of the U.S. Bank Network
  • Online Bill Pay
  • Easily sign up for an Easy Checking Account that has no monthly maintenance fees
  • Checking Account Earns Interest
  • Family Member Accounts also have no monthly fees
  • 4,700+ U.S. Bank ATMs & 2,900 Physical Branch Locations

Cons:

  • APY on CDs is low. You can find better rates elsewhere.
  • $10 Monthly Fee on their Elite Money Market Account

Final Thoughts:

U.S. Bank is making significant progress towards serving current and former active-duty military members. However, you can find better interest rates elsewhere, and they do not offer an early pay option, which is a bummer. Nevertheless, U.S. Bank is an excellent option if you want another bank besides NFCU or USAA. But remember, Chase Bank is better.

How to Choose the Best Military Bank and Credit Union

Active Duty military members need flexibility and ease from their bank or credit union. Here are three factors all military members need to consider.

Location

First and foremost, military members need a financial institution they can access. USAA and Navy Federal have locations on military installations, overseas, and in the surrounding community, so they are a safe bet.

But, if you are not satisfied with either of those two, then double-check and make sure your financial institution is easy to get to.

The military is notorious for last-minute scheduling changes, and the last thing you want to deal with is not having access to your bank or credit union.

Online Services and Capabilities

Between transferring duty locations, traveling, and training, military members, need a bank that has robust mobile and online capabilities.

From their mobile device, active-duty members and veterans should be able to deposit checks, transfer money, and check their account at a minimum.

Vast ATM Network

As you can imagine, military members are constantly traveling overseas and within the continental United States. They need a vast ATM network to support their financial needs as they pay for goods, food, and other services.

Wrapping Up: Best Military Banks and Credit Unions

Ultimately, finding the best military bank boils down to your individual financial needs. Most will recommend USAA, NFCU, or PenFed; however, we all have different needs and varying financial goals.

It is not uncommon for military families to have multiple accounts, especially when most fees are waived. Most military families enjoy USAA for their insurance products but prefer NFCU due to their lucrative rewards credit card.

Before you open a bank account with a military-friendly financial institution or credit union, explore your options.

Especially in our day and age, it is advantageous to compare rates and shop around. Doing upfront research will help you avoid financial headaches and potential problems in the future.

Drew Cheneler
Drew Cheneler
Drew is a recognized Credit, Small Business, and Personal Finance Expert. He has been quoted in CNBC, Fox Business News Section, The Huffington Post, Business.com, Moneyunder30, US Chamber of Commerce, and more. He is known for breaking down complex personal finance topics into action-oriented advice, so you can make the most of your hard-earned money.