Armed Forces Bank Review: Is It Worth It?

Banking
Updated: 8th Jul 2021
Written by Kim Pinnelli
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Banking
July 8, 2021
Written by Kim Pinnelli

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Armed Forces Bank has a military ring to it for a reason. It’s a bank that services military members and civilians with plenty of personal finance products. Is it the right and best military bank for you?

Check out our review on Armed Forces Bank below to find out.

What Is Armed Forces Bank?

Armed Forces Bank is a bank for military members and civilians and has been around for over 100 years. Armed Forces Bank offers a large selection of banking products, including checking accounts, saving accounts, personal loans, credit cards, mortgage loans, auto loans, and various CD rates.

Armed Forces Bank offers in-person and online banking. They also offer business banking, and they provide plenty of personal finance education to help everyone feel empowered and confident in their financial decisions.

Armed Forces Bank Checking Accounts

Armed Forces Bank offers two checking accounts – Access and Elite Checking.

Access Checking

Access Checking is your basic checking account. You won’t earn interest on your funds, but you’ll get free mobile check deposits, free money orders, free overdraft protection transfers, and unlimited free access to the 30,000+ MoneyPass ATMs.

Access Checking also offers:

  • Early access to your DFAS funds
  • Free e-statements
  • Free Visa debit card with chip technology
  • Locations throughout the country
  • Digital banking that includes bill pay

Elite Checking

If you have more money to deposit in your checking account and you want to earn interest, the Elite Checking account is a good choice.

The Elite Checking account has tiered interest rates based on your balance, starting at 0.02% and up to 0.05% currently.

The more money you have in your checking account, the higher APY you’ll earn.

In addition to interest on your balances, you’ll get everything included in the Access Checking account plus:

  • $250 off mortgage closing costs
  • Rate discounts on personal loans
  • Free paper statements (and e-statements)
  • Free incoming wires

Armed Forces Bank Savings Accounts

If you’re looking for a safe place to keep your money but don’t need regular access to it, Armed Forces Bank offers two savings accounts.

Student Savings Account

The Student Savings account is for students up to age 23. If you’re younger than age 17, your parent will have joint ownership.

With quarterly interest compounding and no service charge, it’s a safe and cheap place for students to keep their funds.

If you also have an Armed Forces Bank checking account, you can set your debit card to round up your purchases to the nearest dollar.

Armed Forces Bank will transfer the ‘change’ to your savings account to help you regularly contribute to your savings.

Other features of the Student Savings account include:

  • No minimum balance requirements (until age 23)
  • Free ATM card
  • Can be your overdraft protection account
  • Offers digital banking

Classic Savings Account

The Classic Savings Account earns a flat APY of 0.03%, and you can link it to your Armed Forces Bank checking account’s Visa card for roundups. All roundups get transferred to your savings account to help you save more money.

The Classic Savings account also offers savers many other helpful features, including:

  • Early access to DFAS pay
  • Digital banking
  • Free e-statements
  • Customized account alerts

Armed Forces Bank Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card

If you haven’t built up a credit score yet, the Armed Forces Bank Credit Builder Secured Visa will help. It works just like a Visa, except it’s tied to your savings account, which is the ‘secured’ part.

Unlike a traditional credit card without any collateral, the secured card uses your savings as ‘back up.’ Your credit line is equal to the amount in your account. You can increase it by increments of $50 and use the credit card for everyday purchases.

If you pay your bill off each month or at least make your minimum payment on time, it gets reported to the credit bureaus, helping you build a good credit score.

There’s no application fee and no annual fee, but it charges 25.99% APR and a $4.50 quarterly fee if you don’t opt into e-statements.

Armed Forces Bank Visa® Credit Card

The Armed Forces Bank Visa credit card is a traditional credit card without collateral. You can earn a credit limit of up to $10,000, and there’s never an annual fee. APRs start as low as 9.99%, and there’s no over-limit fee.

Credit cardholders get a 25-day grace period when no interest accumulates on purchases, and the card has EMV-chip technology for security. You can also take advantage of cash advances at a higher APR.

Various Loan Options through Armed Forces Bank

  • VA Loans: A VA loan provides 100% financing and no mortgage insurance. It has flexible underwriting guidelines and offers fixed-rate and adjustable-rate options.
  • FHA Loans: FHA loans are great options for civilian borrowers with less-than-perfect credit. Borrowers need just 3.5% down on the home and proof they’ll occupy the property as their primary residence. With just a 580-credit score, you can secure mortgage financing but will pay mortgage insurance for the life of the loan.
  • Mortgages: If you have good credit, stable income, and only a few debts, a conventional mortgage may be a good option. Armed Forces Bank offers great rates on their conventional loans, and if you put down at least 20%, you won’t pay Private Mortgage Insurance. If you do, you can cancel the PMI once you owe less than 80% of the home’s value.
  • Hero Loans: If you’re a first responder, Armed Forces Bank offers $0 down payment mortgages to make owning a home easier. First responders include firefighters, EMTs, nurses, paramedics, EMF, ATI, and FBI.
  • Refinance: Whether you’re trying to unlock some of your home’s equity, lower your current mortgage payment, or secure a lower rate, Armed Forces Bank offers a variety of options to refinance your loan. They have dedicated mortgage advisors who can help you decide which loan is right for your situation to help you reach your financial goals.
  • Auto Loans: Armed Forces Bank offers great programs for auto loans. If you don’t want dealer financing or want to shop around to see what options you have, Armed Forces Bank is a good option. They offer flexible financing options and low interest rates, giving you the funds, you need to make a ‘cash’ offer at the dealer.
  • Specialty Vehicle Loans: Armed Forces Bank offers financing for vehicles other than cars. Their competitive rates and simple underwriting guidelines make it easy to get the money you need for your boat, motorcycle, or RV.
  • CD Term Loans: If you have CDs at Armed Forces Bank, you can borrow against them, using the CD as collateral. There’s little underwriting involved in this loan because you put your CD up should you default. They offer low APRs and give you access to the funds you need.

Armed Forces Bank Certificate of Deposits

Armed Forces Bank offers CDs in a variety of terms. The longer you keep your money in a CD, the higher APY it earns.

Armed Forces offers them in increments of 30 days to 5 years with many options in between.

If you choose a CD of 12 months or longer, interest compounds quarterly. All shorter-term CDs receive their interest at maturity. All CDs require just a $500 deposit.

Who Qualifies to Use Armed Forces Bank?

Armed Forces Bank is for both military members and civilians, but military members may enjoy a few more benefits, including VA loans and early Military Pay (DFAS).

Armed Forces Bank Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Offers a large selection of personal finance products
  • Military members get great rates and benefits
  • The credit builder credit card is a great (and safe) way to build credit
  • You can round up your purchases to save even your spare change
  • No account minimum balances (except for CDs)

Cons:

  • ATM access may be harder to find
  • Mobile deposit isn’t available on all accounts
  • APYs are low

How Does Armed Forces Bank Compare to Other Military Banks?

#1. Armed Forces Bank vs. USAA

Military members and their families can open USAA accounts which offers early access to direct deposits from your employer and ATM fee reimbursements.

Only military members or their families are eligible, and active-duty members get reduced rates on loans and credit cards.

USAA checking accounts don’t have minimum balance requirements or monthly fees. USAA offers a slew of personal finance products, including loans and credit cards, and all clients get 10-free ATM reimbursements if they use a non-network ATM.

#2. Navy Federal vs. Armed Forces Bank

Navy Federal is a military-inspired credit union. Only military members, veterans, or employees of the Department of Defense are eligible. Navy Federal offers APYs much higher than most banks and lower APRs on its auto loans.

Navy Federal has branches at most military bases, and they also network with a network giving members more access to free ATMs.

#3. Chime Bank vs. Armed Forces Bank

Chime is an online finance company that anyone can use – not just veterans.

Chime partners with two banks that offer checking and savings accounts, both of which are FDIC insured.

Chime doesn’t charge any monthly fees. They offer early access (2 days) to your direct deposit funds, and they have a decent ATM network.

Because it’s an online-only bank, you don’t have branches to visit, so you must do all banking online or via mail. Because they don’t have overhead, Chime Bank offers great APYs for clients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Armed Forces Bank Better than USAA?

Armed Forces Bank and USAA are quite similar. They have similar programs, are available to both military members and their families, and have a good ATM network. Neither has minimum balance requirements or charges monthly fees on its bank accounts.

Is Armed Forces Bank Better than Navy Federal Credit Union?

Navy Federal offers interest rates much higher than Armed Forces, but you must be a military member, veteran, or employee of the Department of Defense to qualify.

Navy Federal has fewer branches but has a larger ATM network because of its co-op with other banks. If you’re still in the military, USAA may be more convenient, but if you’re out and want your family members to use the bank too, Armed Forces may be better.

Does Armed Forces Bank Charge ATM Fees?

Armed Forces Bank offers free unlimited use of its 30,000+ ATM network. If you stick within the network, you won’t pay ATM fees.

Is Armed Forces a Good Bank?

Armed Forces Bank is FDIC insured, offers low APRs on loans, and average APYs on interest-bearing accounts.

They offer many great programs that help you build credit, invest, or buy a house or car. They are a full-service bank that offers everything military members and veterans could need.

Bottom Line: Armed Forces Bank Review

If you’re a veteran, in the military, or have family in it, the Armed Forces Bank may be a great option for you.

With FDIC insurance and attractive rates, it’s easy to see why people trust Armed Forces with their money.

If you’re in the market for a mortgage or car loan, they are a great resource as well, helping you make the most of your purchase without going broke.

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Kim Pinnelli
Kim Pinnelli
Kim is a personal finance expert with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has been freelance writing for 13 years for a number of large publications. Kim thoroughly enjoys helping people take charge of their personal finances.