Service members and their families have unique financial needs.
While most financial institutions might work just fine for you, military credit unions and banks go the extra mile.
They offer products and features tailored to service members and veterans, which may include anything from early access to military pay, to loans for deployment and reimbursement for international ATM withdrawals.
Here’s a look at some of the best options.
What are the Best Military Banks and Credit Unions?
Each of the institutions on our list was founded by or for members of the military.
Some of these banks and credit unions have special requirements for membership, but it’s worth checking to see if you’re eligible since membership could mean access to special financing, low rates and other unique benefits.
The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) was founded by army officers in 1922. Originally an auto insurance company, USAA still sells insurance, but also offers banking products, VA loans and more.
Auto loan rates are competitive at USAA, and members can get discounts when they do business with bank partners, like Budget Truck Rental and TurboTax. Customers shouldn’t expect much from savings, however, with two of three accounts earning just 0.01% APY.
USAA membership is open to the following groups:
- U.S. military members, veterans, and their spouses and children
- Pre-Commissioned officers
USAA has a mobile app for iPhone and Android users, but for those who like to bank in-person, branches are located throughout the U.S.
Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) is a member-owned, not-for-profit credit union that was founded by seven employees of the Department of the Navy in 1933. Today, it’s the largest credit union in the U.S.
NFCU has unique products for service members, including its Free Active Duty checking account, which comes with up to $240 in reimbursement for ATM fees per year.
The credit union offers VA home loans and a variety of other mortgage products, auto loans and auto refinancing at as low as 2.79% APR, and member services are available 24/7 by phone.
Membership is open to anyone who has ties to the armed forces, Department of Defense or National Guard, as well as those individuals’ family members and household members . Find out more about who’s eligible here.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union
Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed, is unique among credit unions in that anyone can become a member. That’s one of the reasons it’s the third-largest credit union in the U.S.
PenFed offers VA and FHA loans, and checking accounts with up to 0.35% APY. Members who use the PenFed Car Buying Service can also get a discount up to $2,000 when they buy cars from certain manufacturers.
For borrowers facing financial difficulties, the credit union offers a variety of hardship plans, including deferred payments and loan modification.
PenFed serves members throughout the U.S. and in Guam, Puerto Rico and Okinawa. The credit union has a large network of over 85,000 free ATMs and a mobile banking app for iPhone and Android .
Security Service Federal Credit Union
This member-owned financial cooperative was established 1956 as the United States Air Force Security Service Federal Credit Union. Today the credit union is known as SSFCU, or Security Service.
SSFCU has several standout products. Its Power Protected checking account comes with daily access to TransUnion credit scores and reports and includes identity-theft monitoring and recovery services.
In addition to FHA and VA loans, the credit union also offers Military Deployment Loans for $500 or $2,500 and has a Survivor Assistance Team to help family members settle accounts in the unfortunate event that a loved one dies.
The main drawback is that not everyone can become a member. You’re eligible if any of the following apply:
- You live, work or conduct other qualifying activities in Texas, Colorado, or Utah.
- You’re a member of select military branches/units or a Department of Defense employee at specific military bases.
- You’re a family member of an existing member or live in the same household.
While membership is geographically limited, members can conduct basic banking transactions at partner branches throughout the U.S., and a mobile banking app is available for iPhone and Android users.
Service Credit Union
Service Credit Union (SCU) is a not-for-profit financial cooperative that was founded in 1957 to support military personnel and their families.
The New Hampshire-based credit union provides a number of military-specific products, including banking services tailored to service members who are stationed overseas.
SCU’s Deployed Warrior savings account comes with an impressive 10% APY. The credit union also offers iBOT loans up to $50,000 for personal mobility devices, with rates as low as 4.94% APR, much lower than most personal loans.
SCU checking accounts come with identity-theft recovery services. Plus, account-holders get APR discounts of 0.50% or 0.75% on car loans and personal loans. The credit union also offers VA loans.
Membership is open to the following groups:
- Active duty military, veterans, and their families
- Current and former employees of the Department of Defense and their families
- Members or employees of various organizations affiliated with SCU
Service Credit Union has branches in only North Dakota, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and throughout Germany, but the banking app is available for iPhone and Android phones, and members have access to 24/7 phone assistance.
Other Military Banks and Credit Unions
We’ve listed some of the best financial institutions for military members, but there’s no shortage of other options. Here are some additional military credit unions:
- Air Force Federal Credit Union
- Andrews Federal Credit Union
- Armed Forces Bank
- Freestar Financial Credit Union
- Marine Federal Credit Union
You can also visit the Defense Credit Union Council’s website to see a list of domestic and international credit unions, and their locations.
Some banks also offer military products and services, including Armed Forces Bank, and larger institutions like Chase, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo. Service members and veterans may be able to access special rates or perks at these banks, like military loans or waived account fees.
Local and Regional Credit Unions
Some credit unions operate in smaller regions, so you may be able to find one that does business near your base or current residence. That’s especially important if you need a nearby branch where you can bank in-person.
To find a credit union near you, try getting a referral from financial services on your base or search online for a reputable financial institution that serves your state or your branch of the military.
How to Choose a Military Bank or Credit Union
Financial institutions are not one-size-fits-all. Before choosing where you want to take your business, be sure to compare the following features across a few military banks and credit unions:
- Membership requirements
- Branch locations and mobile banking access
- Account fees and minimum deposit requirements (for checking and savings accounts)
- Fees and interest rates for loans you may want, like auto loans and mortgages
- Other fees for transactions you regularly make (like ATM withdrawals)
- Rate discounts and membership perks
About The Author
Sarah Brady is a Personal Finance Writer and educator who's been helping people improve their financial wellness since 2013. Sarah writes for Experian, Investopedia and more, and she's been syndicated by Yahoo! News and MSN. She is a workshop facilitator and former consultant for the City of San Francisco's Affordable Home Buyer Programs, as well as a former Certified Housing & Credit Counselor (HUD, NFCC). Sarah can be contacted via sarahcbrady.com.
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