Are you an active duty member of the armed forces, a veteran, or a military family member? Then you know first-hand about the specific financial obstacles and needs that come from military service.
Personal finance is rarely simple, and it can become even more complicated for military families. Fortunately, there are a ton of great options out there to help you along the way.
In this article, you’ll read about the best military banks and credit unions for service members and their families. From huge national banks to credit unions open exclusively to members of the military, there’s a solid list of options.
5 Best Military Banks and Credit Unions
Here are five of the best banks and credit unions available for military members and families.
- USAA Bank
- Security Service Federal Credit Union
- Navy Federal Credit Union
- PenFed Credit Union
- Chase Military Banking
1. USAA Bank
- USAA Classic Checking
- USAA Performance First Savings
If you’re looking for a reliable banking option that’s solid from top to bottom, USAA Bank is a good bet.
You can open an account with USAA if you’re a military member or veteran, a recommissioned officer, or the spouse or children of either. As a USAA member, you’ll have access to both banking and insurance products and also cool perks like travel discounts and cashback shopping rewards.
In general, you can think of USAA as an online-only bank. It does have a handful of branches, both stateside and abroad. But for the most part, you manage your accounts online. With this in mind, you can count on a lot of the benefits that online banks typically offer, including fee-free checking accounts, out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements, and a top-rated mobile app.
2. Security Service Federal Credit Union
- Power Protected Checking
- 30-month Certificate of Deposit (CD)
Though its service area is fairly limited, Security Service Federal Credit Union is an attractive option for those who live in Texas, Utah, or Colorado. Accounts are available to both civilians and military members who live, work, or worship in any of those three states.
It offers branch and ATM access in all three states, but it also belongs to the Credit Union Co-Op network, so members can utilize more than 5,000 branches nationwide.
Security Service has a full suite of banking products, from deposit accounts to investment services. While its accounts do tend to come with monthly fees, these charges are significantly lower than most traditional banks.
Overall, Security Service is a good choice for those in the states that it serves who want a more traditional banking experience.
3. Navy Federal Credit Union
- Free Active Duty Checking
- Free EveryDay Checking
- Share Savings Account
Navy Federal Credit Union is based out of Virginia and is the largest retail credit union in the US. It has nearly 250 branches nationwide and over 11 million members. If you’re looking for a military bank with the widest in-person branch coverage, Navy Federal is probably the one for you. It has a ton of branches located on military bases, and its overall presence extends to four continents.
Navy Federal offers deposit accounts, credit cards, loans, and mortgages, among other financial services. Membership eligibility is available to active duty military members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, National Guard, Coast Guard, and Space Force. It’s also open to Department of Defense (DoD) employees, veterans, and retirees.
Plus, its accounts aren’t bad either. Navy Federal offers some of the highest savings rates among military-specific banking options, and it has a great money market account if you want both an APY and a debit card.
You also have access to more than 30,000 free ATMs in the US and Canada, and Navy Federal’s mobile banking platform is one of the best-rated financial apps out there.
4. Pentagon Federal Credit Union
- Free Checking
- Premium Online Savings
Pentagon Federal Credit Union, better known as PenFed, is the third-largest credit union in the US. It’s been around since 1935 and has a full-service online banking platform along with 50 in-person branches.
PenFed offers deposit accounts, home, auto, and personal loans, credit cards, and a wealth of financial guidance. Best of all, PenFed is open to everyone. Though it’s best known for providing accounts for service members and their families, PenFed has been open to the civilian population since 2018.
Top to bottom, PenFed might be the most well-rounded option on this list. It offers both brick-and-mortar and modern online features, and it draws out some of the best aspects of both.
Aside from a low minimum deposit at the opening, PenFed doesn’t have minimum balance requirements. It also steers clear of monthly maintenance fees and gives plenty of options for ATM transactions. Members can make fee-free withdrawals at any Allpoint or Co-Op ATM location.
PenFed also offers more flexibility when it comes to overdrafts. With a Free Checking account, you can open up a fee-free, fixed-interest line of credit if you need to.
While all of that is great, PenFed’s biggest selling point is its online savings account. With a 0.60% APY, a $5 minimum opening deposit, and no monthly fee, this account is as good as any you can find with an online-only bank.
5. Chase Military Banking
- Chase Premier Plus Checking
- Chase Premier Savings
Chances are you’ve heard of Chase Bank, but did you know Chase offers special perks for members of the military? Service members have access to the same accounts as civilians, along with a few extra benefits.
The main draw to Chase is its nationwide presence. With branches in 48 states, more than 15,000 ATMs, and some of the best rewards credit cards available, it’s hard to find a more accessible bank.
With Chase, you can count on all the benefits of a big, traditional bank, like tons of account options and plenty of support. But Chase has also developed an impressive online presence, so you can count on its mobile app for account maintenance and bill pay.
The biggest downside of Chase, like most big banks, is the fees. The good news is that with Chase Military Banking, most of those fees are taken care of. You won’t pay any monthly service fees or out-of-network ATM fees, and some service members qualify for free wire transfers, too.
Chase also has a great reputation for its consistent bank account bonuses for new members. For example, you can earn $100 right now with a new Chase Secure Banking account — all you have to do is set up a direct deposit and make 10 qualifying transactions, and the free cash is yours.
Which Bank Is Best For Military Members?
As you search for the perfect bank for you and your family, you probably have a lot on your mind. Military families face a variety of unique challenges, and your bank shouldn’t add to that.
With that in mind, there are several important things to look out for as you weigh your options.
How To Choose a Military Bank
Focus on these aspects of any bank or credit union, and the best option for you will feel a lot easier to pin down.
The first thing to consider is the same thing that anyone, not just military members, should look at in a bank: the fee schedule.
Banking fees are one of the easier ways to narrow down your search. If a bank or credit union tends to nickel and dime you with monthly service fees or ATM charges, you can probably do better elsewhere.
The reality is that these days, there are too many fee-free options to justify paying traditional banking fees. As a military member, the last thing you want is to let these charges chip away at your hard-earned balance.
If you’re on active duty and tend to spend a lot of time traveling overseas, you want to make sure your money is growing while you’re away. By prioritizing a bank that offers a high annual percentage yield (APY) with its savings accounts, you can do just that.
Fortunately, most of the options covered here do pretty well in this area. While big, traditional banks tend to offer the bare minimum savings rates, military banks have a much better reputation when it comes to APYs.
Of course, this one depends on your current level of involvement, but there’s a good chance you will need a fairly flexible bank or credit union. This means access wherever you are when you need it and the assurance that your family has everything they need while you’re deployed.
Here, it’s important to make a personal list of what you need out of your banking partner. If you’re overseas, you’ll want to make sure your debit card doesn’t charge transaction fees. You’ll also want to make sure you have 24/7 access to your funds, and that the online platform you’re interacting with is top-notch.
Fortunately for you, many banks offer special perks for military members (e.g., discounted rates on home loans and auto loans). However, the military benefits offer vary from bank to bank, so it pays to shop around.
Frequently Asked Questions
What bank is best for military members?
It all depends on the individual. In the same way that every civilian’s needs are a little different, so are those of military members and their families. Make a list of what you need out of a bank or credit union, and you should be able to narrow it down. Any of the providers mentioned above should do just fine.
What banks waive fees for the military?
Chase is best known waiving fees, but there are plenty of others. US Bank also offers a sold military program that’s worth looking into.
Plus, even if you don’t see fee waivers advertised, just ask. There’s a good chance that whatever bank you’re considering has something to offer.
Which bank is better than USAA?
In terms of military-specific banks, USAA is one of the best. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s the only leader in its pack. Other options, like PenFed and Navy Federal, also serve military members exceedingly well.
Can you use any bank for the military?
Yes, service members and veterans are free to open accounts with any bank they choose. However, military-specific banks come with a lot of convenient benefits, such as proximity to bases, waived fees, and special perks.
Which Military Bank is Right For You?
As you think about which bank or credit union is right for you, weigh the pros and cons. Maybe nearby branch access is important. Maybe you just want the highest possible savings rate.
Whatever it is, there’s a military bank that can help you hit the goals that you set for yourself.
Now that you know where to start your search, you’re off in the right direction. Here’s to finding the best bank that let’s you focus on what matters most.