Best Credit Cards for Military

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Service in America’s all-volunteer armed forces is a noble career undertaking that benefits all Americans. When it comes to financial management, servicemembers face a few unique challenges.

  • Military service is not always the highest-paying job available; some servicemembers forego a higher civilian salary in order to serve our country
  • Military families are often young and inexperienced in financial decision-making
  • Servicemembers are easy to locate and have a guaranteed stream of income, making them attractive to predatory creditors
  • Military families move frequently, and unfamiliarity with the community can lead to unforeseen costs [1]

What servicemembers need to know about credit cards and the SCRA

The federal government has enacted special laws to protect members of the military. The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA)[2] is one of them.

SCRA offers a variety of protections to people first entering military service, those called to active duty, those permanently changing station, and those deploying. In the context of debt, for servicemembers called to active duty or deployment, interest on existing balances is capped at 6 percent. The rate cap applies to credit card debt, mortgages and many other types of loans (but not student loans). The monthly payment during the covered time period must be lowered by at least the amount of interest saved, and the creditor may not retroactively charge a higher interest rate once the debtor’s military obligation ends.

The interest cap does not apply to new debt incurred after entering active duty or deployment, nor if the creditor can demonstrate that the cardholder’s ability to pay is not significantly affected by the military service.

The creditor cannot revoke credit, lower the credit limit, report derogatory data to the credit bureaus or close a servicemember’s account in retaliation.

SCRA benefits are not automatic. The servicemember must ask for them and provide supporting documentation to creditors. Current military members who didn’t know about the SCRA when they joined up are still eligible. To take advantage of the interest rate cap, the servicemember must give creditors a copy of his/her military orders within 180 days of the termination of the deployment or active duty.

Best credit cards for military

Some of the best cards on the market today are tailored to the military. They are competitive, come with low interest rates, good standard benefits, reward options and low or no annual fees.

A few issuers stand out for their dedication to servicemembers and the outstanding customer support they offer.

USAA

USAA is an outstanding bank for anyone with a military affiliation. (Many family members also qualify for membership; visit USAA to learn about eligibility.) Active duty servicemembers pay just 4 percent interest on existing balances, new purchases and cash advances for the period of active duty plus 12 months. PCSing and deployed members get the 4 percent rate for 12 months on all balances. In all cases, fees are waived. Furthermore, servicemembers who receive a qualifying campaign medal are eligible for a rebate of all interest accrued during their campaign.[3]

USAA offers several great credit cards, including:

USAA Rate Advantage Platinum MasterCard®. The lowest interest rate is 6.9 percent; no annual fee.

USAA Cash Rewards® Visa®. The lowest rate is 9.9 percent; no annual fee; cash rebate up to 1.25 percent of purchases.

USAA Rewards™ American Express®. The lowest rate is 9.9 percent; no annual fee; 2x points per dollar on gas and groceries (unlimited); 1x point per dollar on all other purchases.

Chase Bank

Chase charges servicemembers 4 percent interest during active duty and for one year afterward. Chase also refunds 100 percent of all fees and interest that accrue on its military credit cards during deployment.[4]

Chase Military Star® Rewards MasterCard. Interest rate is 10.24 percent; no annual fee; unlimited cash back up to 2 percent.

Capital One

Capital One charges eligible servicemembers 4 percent interest, and the benefit extends for one year after active duty ends.[5] All fees are waived, including the expedited card replacement fee and any application fees. The period of time to request SCRA benefits extends to one year (from the required 180 days). Servicemembers also have access to a dedicated toll-free hotline.

Capital One VentureOne® Rewards card. The lowest interest rate on this card is 11.9 percent; no annual fee; 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases (unlimited).

The bottom line

Members of the Armed Forces should pay attention to the credit products they accept, and strive to do business only with the handful of financial institutions that go far above and beyond what the law requires in their dedication to providing financial benefits to the military.

 

[1] http://www.consumerfinance.gov/servicemembers/

[2] http://www.military.com/benefits/military-legal-matters/scra/servicemembers-civil-relief-act-overview.html

http://www.saveandinvest.org/MilitaryCenter/DeploymentPCS/P124319

http://www.defense.gov/specials/Relief_Act_Revision/

http://www.justice.gov/crt/publications/servicemembers_booklet.pdf

[3] https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/bank_military_special_benefits?SearchRanking=1&SearchLinkPhrase=servicemembers%20civil%20relief%20act

[4] https://www.chase.com/online/military/military-custservices.htm

http://www.42fss.us/pdfs/Clubs/INS15415_PLS10845_Blue-Star-BRC.PDF

[5] http://www.capitalone.com/about/military/scra/?Log=1&EventType=Link&ComponentType=T&LOB=MTS::LCTMJBE8Z&SubLob=&PageName=Military%20overview&PortletLocation=4%3B4-12-col%3B2-3-2-1-1&ComponentName=scra+benefits+the+goal+of+the+servicemembers+civil+relief+act%3B15&ComponentStrategy=&ContentElement=1%3BLearn+More&TargetLob=MTS%3A%3ALCTMJBE8Z&TargetPageName=SCRA+scra&linkid=&email_delivery_id=&referer=https://www.capitalone.com/about/military&external_id=

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