Best Credit Cards for Military in 2020

Military members can qualify for special credit card benefits — like greater rewards rates and lower interest rates.
Last updated Sep 15, 2020 | By Laura Bostwick

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Credit cards can be a great tool to earn rewards for your family’s necessary spending. And, when you face gaps or variations in income, credit cards can help you manage cash flow issues.

Because military members qualify for special benefits, like greater rewards rates and lower interest rates, credit cards can be even more beneficial for military members than they are for civilians. The right credit card will help you manage your family’s finances and reach your financial goals.

Best credit cards for military in 2020

What makes a credit card good for military members?

There are plenty of credit card options for military members, and the card that’s best for you will depend on your spending habits, credit score, and unique financial situation. If you need to build credit or pay off debt, there are options for you. And if you simply want to earn rewards for your everyday purchases, you’ll find a good selection of credit cards that will meet your needs as well.

Military families spend on gas and groceries just like civilians, and credit cards with high rewards rates in these categories can help families get cash back for spending or saving for the future. If you’re a servicemember who travels frequently, you may also consider a travel rewards credit card.

And if you’re just looking to have access to credit with the lowest possible interest rate, you’ll find some great options offered specifically to military members — especially if you’re currently deployed, and thanks to something known as the SCRA.

What is the SCRA?

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was enacted to ease military members’ financial responsibilities during times of service. It affects things like rental agreements, income tax payments, interest rates, and more.

One of the most important benefits under the SCRA is the requirement that lenders charge no more than 6% APR, including most fees, to servicemembers during periods of service. That means if you provide a creditor with proof of your military service within 180 days of the end of service, the creditor will have to retroactively forgive any interest above 6% APR.

While 6% is the maximum you’ll be charged on a credit card during deployment, some cards offer even lower interest rates.

Our list of the best credit cards for military members

To help you decide on the right credit card for you, we’ve compiled a list of the best credit cards for military members based on a variety of financial needs and goals. Whether you’re staying on-base or traveling, earning rewards or paying off debt, there’s something for everyone on our list, even servicemembers with bad credit.

Our favorite credit cards for military members are organized below into categories, so you can easily choose a card that will be a good fit for you. You should choose a card that you’ll likely qualify for based on your credit score and history and pick a card with rewards that reflect your spending habits.

Best general cash back rewards card

PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature

Who Should Get It: The PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card offers higher-than-average cash back as an exclusive benefit to military members. While cash advances, credit card checks, and balance transfers do not earn cash back, there are no other purchasing limitations for the cash back benefit. Plus, it’s a no foreign transaction fee credit card, so you won’t be charged an extra fee when making international purchases.

Why We Like It:

  • 2% cash back on all purchases for PenFed Honors Advantage Members; 1.5% cash back on all purchases for other cardmembers

  • $100 bonus after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days

  • 0% intro APR for 12 months on transfers made between now and September 30, 2020

  • $0 annual fee
  • No foreign transactions fees

Drawbacks to Consider: The introductory 0% APR for on balance transfers is generous but does incur a 3% fee on each transfer. Also, cardholders who prefer paper statements will be charged $1 per month for them, but electronic statements are free.

Best for: Service members who often shop with their PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card can earn more cash back than with other cards, and there are no limitations on what you can purchase to earn rewards since each purchase is eligible.

PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card

PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card

PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card

Benefits

  • $100 statement credit welcome offer
  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 12 months
  • Additional cash back for PenFed Honors Advantage Members


Best credit card for military members who travel frequently

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Who Should Get It: Service members who frequently travel can benefit from the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card’s high points earnings on both travel and dining purchases, along with several travel-related perks. All other purchases also qualify to earn points, but the main highlights are specific benefits toward travel expenses and dining.

Why We Like It:

  • 10X points on Lyft rides, 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit), 3X points at restaurants, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else
  • Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Redeem points for travel at a higher rate – points are worth 50% more when used towards travel
  • Access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide with Priority Pass Select

Drawbacks to Consider: The Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $550 , making it one of the more expensive travel rewards cards available, but cardholders who travel regularly can easily take advantage of the annual travel credit to help ease the cost.

Best for: Service members who travel often and want the conveniences of traveling with ease. The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card helps cardholders earn cash and points back that can be applied towards future travel plans. In addition, it’s a fantastic option for those who dine out often as well.

#1 Premium Travel Credit Card

Benefits

  • 50,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 10X points on select streaming services (up to $1,500) from July 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020
  • 5X points with Instacart (up to $3,000), and at gas stations (up to $1,500) from July 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020
  • 3X points on travel and at restaurants
  • $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2020 and 2021
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access

Best credit card for military members for general travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Who Should Get It: Military members and civilians alike can earn generous rewards to put towards travel using the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Plus, earn 5X points for every dollar spent on Lyft rides and 2X for eligible dining and travel purchases. Other perks, like shopping discounts, DoorDash benefits, and extended warranty protection, also help save additional money.

Why We Like It:

  • 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Trip cancellation insurance, Baggage delay insurance, Primary coverage for auto rental collision damage
  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks to Consider: While the Chase Sapphire Preferred does incur an annual fee of $95, cardholders who are able to take advantage of the card’s ample benefits can ultimately save more than the annual fee.

Best for: Service members who travel regularly enough to utilize a travel credit card and can take advantage of the rewards. While not the main highlight of the card, the generous earnings rate on both dining and travel-related purchases is excellent for everyday use.

#1 Travel Rewards Card

Benefits

  • 80,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on select streaming services (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
  • 3X points with Instacart (up to $3,000), and at gas stations (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Best credit card for military members on base

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card

Who Should Get It: For service members who live on base, a comprehensive credit card rewards structure for military base purchases is a huge perk with the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card. Gas, groceries, and other on-base purchases earn maximum cash back without penalty APRs or over-limit fees.

Why We Like It:

  • 5% cash back on gas and at military bases (combined first $3,000 annually), 2% cash back on groceries (first $3,000 annually), and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • 4% APR on all balances for up to 12-months during deployments or PCS
  • $0 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks to Consider: Cash back earning categories are capped at $3,000 per category, per year, which can be a drawback if you’re a big spender.

Best for: Service members eligible for USAA cards who either live on or spend time regularly on base, and can take advantage of this no-fee card and it’s generous cash back benefits.

Cash Back on Military Bases

Benefits

  • Up to 5% cash back on qualifying purchases
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee
  • Terms apply

Best overall no-annual fee card

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

Who Should Get It: The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express is an excellent option for service members looking for a card with no annual fee to use on everyday spending. The 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases is another generous benefit, as many other cards offer a shorter promotional period.

Why We Like It:

  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 a year, 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, 1% cash back on other purchases
  • Earn $150 cash back after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • $0 annual fee

Drawbacks to Consider: While not necessarily a drawback to everyone, cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

Best for: Service members with good or excellent credit looking for a cashback card will appreciate the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express for its high cashback earnings potential and long introductory APR period.

A Simple Cashback Card for Day-to-Day

Benefits

  • $150 welcome bonus
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets
  • Terms apply

Best credit card for dining

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit card

Who Should Get It: The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card perfectly caters to those interested in earning high cash back rewards on dining and entertainment. It shines even further by offering other generous lifestyle rewards with cash back on groceries and other purchases made using the card.

Why We Like It:

  • 8% cash back on tickets purchased through Vivid Seats (through January 2022), 4% unlimited cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores (excludes superstores like Walmart and Target), and 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Earn $300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • $95 annual fee

Drawbacks to Consider: While this card does have an annual fee, cardholders who spend regularly on dining and entertainment can easily make up the difference in cash back savings.

Best for: Service members who dine out often and/or enjoy entertainment purchases on a regular basis will appreciate the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card. It’s easy-to-use, doesn’t require cardholders to sign-up for bonus categories or keep tabs on rotating categories, and offers great rewards in return.

Top Cash Back

Benefits

  • $300 cash back welcome offer
  • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment
  • No foreign transaction fees

Best low-interest credit card

USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa Credit Card

Who Should Get It: Service members looking for a credit card with low interest will find the USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa Card’s low APR hard to beat, especially as these perks are not available to the general public.

Why We Like It:

  • Enjoy the lowest APR of any major bank in the U.S.
  • Same low rate on purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances
  • $0 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No penalty APR

Drawbacks to Consider: While praised for being straightforward and simple, the USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa is not one of the best rewards credit cards because it doesn't offer rewards like points or cash back; it’s main value is its low interest rate.

Best for: Service members eligible for USAA cards looking for a basic credit card with low interest rates and no annual fee.

Low Interest for Military Members

USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card

USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card

USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card

Benefits

  • Low interest rate
  • Special features for military members
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee

Best credit card for paying off debt

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Who Should Get It: Service members looking for a generous introductory APR period will appreciate the benefits of the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card. Plus, cardholders can earn a one-time cash bonus and unlimited cash back on every purchase, every day.

Why We Like It:

  • 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase, every day
  • Earn a $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months
  • $0 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks to Consider: The introductory APR period is among the best available and beneficial for those looking to pay off debt, but if cashback rewards are more important, there are better rewards cards available.

Best for: Service members who are working on paying down debt and can benefit from the long intro APR period offered by the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card. Even after the lengthy promotional period ends, cardholders enjoy an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, without the worry of paying an annual fee.

No-Frills Cash Back

Benefits

  • $150 early spend bonus
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months
  • 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

Best credit card for building credit

USAA Secured Platinum Visa Card

Who Should Get It: Service members with limited or fair credit who are rebuilding or just starting to establish credit can benefit from the USAA Secured Card from American Express. The card automatically connects to a CD that grows while your account stays open, helping you earn interest and establish credit simultaneously.

Why We Like It:

  • Easy to choose your own credit limit
  • Special features available for military recruits
  • Free credit score reports
  • Excellent, standard features for those new to credit or rebuilding credit

Drawbacks to Consider: While the USAA Secured Card does help rebuilding and establish credit, it does have a small annual fee.

Best for: Service members eligible for USAA cards looking for assistance with establishing or rebuilding credit.

Best credit card for fair or bad credit

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Who Should Get It: For service members who have lower credit, fair or below, the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Card offers cash back rewards and can help improve your credit score. By making on-time payments for at least five consecutive months, you could become eligible for a higher credit limit on the card.

Why We Like It:

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • Earn a higher credit line by making the first 5 payments on-time
  • Free credit score reports and tools to monitor your credit profile
  • Rewards never expire

Drawbacks to Consider: The ongoing APR for the QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Card is higher than some other available options, however, those with lower credit can get access to cash back rewards savings better than other programs. There is also a $39 annual fee.

Best for: Service members who find it challenging to get approved for lower interest rate cards. This card can help you steadily increase your credit score while earning rewards along the way.

Easy cash back rewards

Benefits

  • 1.5% unlimited cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Consideration for a higher credit line as quickly as 6 months after account opening
  • CreditWise to monitor your credit score

Frequently asked questions

What are the best credit cards for military members with bad credit?

The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Card isn’t just for military members, but it’s one of the best options currently on the market for anyone with average or bad credit.

While there are a variety of factors that go into whether or not you’ll be approved, the credit criteria for this card is average, giving military members with lower credit access to an increased credit limit plus credit management tools.

These credit management tools and education play a big part in why we think it’s one of the best choices available for military personnel who want more guidance towards improving their credit.

What are the best credit cards for veterans?

The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express is another card that isn’t specifically for military members but offers a slew of valuable benefits. It has no annual fee and allows members to earn cash back on a variety of purchases.

Another good choice for veterans is also the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card, which offers a higher cash back program rate for retired and honorably discharged military members.

What are the best credit cards for military spouses?

For military spouses, a USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card can help families earn cash back on on-base purchases like groceries, gas, and more.

As an added bonus, this card has no annual fee and the lack of penalty APR can help military spouses manage any debt more easily.

What’s the difference between military credit cards and low-interest credit cards?

While there is some crossover between military and low-interest credit cards, the best credit cards for military personnel grant military members lower APR percent rates than civilians.

Whether you’re active duty, military reserve, or a veteran, applying for a military credit card can help you lock in a lower interest rate than standard low-interest cards. Military members also benefit from guaranteed APR rates during active duty due to SCRA.


Methodology

We select the best credit cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Some of the factors we evaluate include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and signup bonuses. For rewards credit cards, we also consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options, and redemption difficulty. Cards are eligible to be chosen in multiple categories.

How to choose the best credit card for you

To choose the best credit card for you, consider what you’ll use it for:

  • If your main concern is building credit, you’ll want to choose a card that’s easy to qualify for and simple to use.
  • If you’re trying to pay off debt, choose a card with a low APR.
  • If you’re wondering which rewards cards to choose, calculate your monthly spending in categories like gas, groceries, and travel to maximize your rewards earnings.

Remember that your individual financial situation will dictate which credit card is right for you, and the best fit for you might not be the same card your peers would choose.

We’ve hand-selected these credit cards because we believe you deserve to have access to the best financial opportunities out there. Thank you for your service!

Earn Cash Back Twice

Citi Double Cash Card

Citi Double Cash Card

Citi Double Cash Card

Benefits

  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months
  • 2% cash back on all purchases - 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay
  • No annual fee