Best Banks and Credit Unions for the Military

Written by: Sarah Brady

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The unique circumstances of military life for both members and their families require financial institutions that understand these circumstances.

Military banks and credit unions are set up specifically to meet the unique financial needs of members, their families and veterans. 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.

“Military banks and credit unions know and understand the military and veteran community,” said Andia Dinesen, executive vice president for communications and operations at the Association of Military Banks of America. “In the case of military banks, some have been serving the military community on installations for more than 100 years. They understand the lifestyle, the deployments, TDYs, training, PCSs, transitions, ‘geo-bacheloring’ and other unique and, many times, challenging parts of military life. Military banks remain flexible and leverage technology to work with their customers world-wide.”

There also may be civilian banks that have specific programs, policies or even separate divisions for military members.

A July 2022 report found that with banks and credit unions on military bases, those located nearby and the wide range of online banking options, every military base in the United States has adequate financial services for those who live and work there.

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What Is a Military Bank?

Military banks and credit unions are not part of the U.S. Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs. They operate independently.

Some military banks and credit unions accept only customers who are members of the military, or the spouse or dependents of a member. Other banks serve the general population, but have features or banking divisions exclusively for military customers.

All U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps bases in the U.S. have banks and/or credit unions on-base to serve the needs of those who live and work there. Financial institutions located on military bases are approved by the Department of Defense and are federally insured.

If there are no banks or credit unions voluntarily willing to serve a military base, the U.S. Department of Treasury designates one. These are known as military banking facilities (MFB) and perform “depository and financial obligations for the U.S. government.” No U.S. base has an MFB, but there are several at overseas bases. Many of the larger U.S. bases have at least three banks and/or credit unions, with more outside the gates. For instance, Fort Bliss, Tex., has a Wells Fargo bank branch, an Armed Forces Bank branch and a First Light Federal Credit Union branch.

Military banks and credit unions are found not only on bases but also close to military bases. Some don’t have any on-base branches, but have offices near bases that cater to the needs of military members.

USAA bank, for instance, exclusively serves active duty, National Guard, Reserves, veterans, cadets and midshipmen, as well as spouses and dependents of bank members. Its headquarters is in San Antonio, Tex., and it has offices in Utah, Colorado and Arizona, and overseas, near military bases, though it doesn’t have any on-base branches.

Military banks, both on-base and off, are listed on the website of the Association of Military Banks of American (AMBAHQ). Military credit unions can be found at Defense Credit Union Council, a trade association for military credit unions.

Military Banks vs. Military Credit Unions

Credit unions are member-owned nonprofits. Members are required to have a share (savings) account, with a minimum deposit. Membership may be restricted to a geographic region with a military credit union. Because they’re member-owned and nonprofit, fees and other costs are lower.  Banks tend to have more services, offerings and cutting-edge technology than credit unions.

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.

Armed Forces Bank

Armed Forces Bank can be found in 50 states and on 14 U.S. military bases, as well as in Germany and Korea, and is open to members of the military, retired military, veterans and civilians.

Chase Military Banking

Chase Military Banking is a division of JP Morgan Chase that’s open to active-duty military, veterans, Reservists and National Guard. Notable for its Survivor Program, which cancels the debt of military customers who were killed in action or died of wounds received in action after Jan. 1, 2011, this includes mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and other consumer or business debt.

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
  • AmeriCU
  • 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.

What Are the Requirements for Opening a Military Bank Account?

Each bank and credit union has its own requirements. Some require that you be a member of the military, or a military spouse or dependent. Some also allow retired military and veterans to be members, and some allow those who work for the Department of Defense to be members.

There are also financial requirements.

“This varies by financial institution; however, most banks and credit unions will open a low-to-no fee checking account for customers who bring a monthly direct deposit to the bank/credit union,” Dinesen said.

Credit unions also have membership fees, though Dinesen said these are usually $5 or lower. Members also have to open share accounts, similar to a savings account, with a small deposit. Military credit unions also may have regional restrictions, requiring members to live in states where the credit union has branches.

The AMBAHQ and DCUC websites have links to military banks and credit unions, so those considering where to put their money can compare features, rates and more.

Do Military Banks Allow Better Access to VA Loans and Benefits?

Military banks and credit unions have the same regulatory requirements that all other banks do when it comes to applying for a VA mortgage loan or accessing other military benefits.

That said, they also understand the rules and regulations and are adept and guiding customers through the process efficiently.

Dinesen pointed out that developing a banking relationship can be an important, trust-building part of the loan process. “Having a bank that understands your lifestyle and unique needs can deepen that relationship,” she said. “As the relationship between the bank and the customer deepens, the process of lending to the customer may become quicker and smoother.”

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

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


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