There are countless banks and many credit unions out there. But some are particularly good options for military members and their families. If you’re part of the military community and looking for a great place to bank, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve done the heavy lifting for you and compiled this handy list of the best banks and credit unions for military members. Most of the financial institutions we’ve highlighted offer special perks to help active-duty and retired service personnel meet their financial goals.
How Military Banks and Credit Unions Work
Some military banks and credit unions cater to the military community exclusively while others are open to anyone but provide special benefits to military members. No matter which financial institution you choose, be prepared to prove that you’re either part of the military or an eligible spouse or family member.
You might also need to submit documents, such as pay stubs, tax forms, bank account statements, and utility bills. Before you move forward with a particular bank or credit union, find out which documents are needed to open a bank account.
Military Banks vs. Credit Unions
Both military banks and credit unions offer financial services. But there are several noteworthy differences between the two. Banks are for profit institutions that are in the business of earning money. As a result, they tend to charge higher fees. The upside of banks, however, is they are usually up-to-date on technology and have many branches throughout the country.
Credit unions are non-profit institutions that are owned by their members. If you like the idea of personal service, a credit union might be a good fit. Keep in mind that you’ll have to meet certain eligibility criteria and join to take advantage of its offerings.
While you might enjoy lower fees, you may have to settle for a shorter lineup of products and services. Plus, you may miss out on tech features, such as online banking and mobile apps.
What to Consider When Shopping for a Military Bank or Credit Union
As you shop around and explore your options for a military bank or credit union, be sure to consider the following.
- Branch locations on bases: If you’re an active duty military member, it’s in your best interest to choose a financial institution on or near a military base. You’ll be able to pop in when you’re free and take care of your finances in-person if you prefer.
- Online and mobile services: With online services, you’ll find it easier to manage your finances. Depending on the bank or credit union you choose, you may be able to enroll in automatic bill payments and even set spending limits. Many financial institutions also offer mobile apps you can use to bank from just about anywhere. This can be very helpful if you’re often stationed away from home.
- Customer service: There’s a good chance you’ll have questions or need assistance at some point. For this reason, you should look for banks and credit unions with high ratings and positive customer reviews. As a military member or eligible spouse, you have unique financial needs and challenges that should be understood by your financial institution.
- Federal program experience: Fortunately, there are quite a few federal programs designed to help the military community. Opt for a financial institution that not only offers these programs but is highly knowledgeable about them. A few examples of these programs include VA loans with low down payment requirements and federal grants.
- Fees: You don’t want to end up banking somewhere that charges sky-high fees. That’s why you should choose one that is known for low fees or waives certain fees for military members. Hefty fees can easily interfere with your financial goals.
- Interest rates: APYs are important if you’d like your money to work for you. Try to find banks and credit unions that offer above average APYs on checking accounts, savings accounts, investment accounts, and more.
- ATM network: It shouldn’t be a hassle or high expense to withdraw or deposit cash. That’s why you should choose a bank with a large ATM network as well as one that allows for free withdrawals or reimburses you for withdrawing funds at out-of-network ATMs.
Best Military Banks and Credit Unions
Here’s our list of the best banks and credit unions for military members and their families.
1. Security Service Federal Credit Union
If you’re looking for a competitive interest rate and no monthly service fee, Security Service Federal Credit Union should be on your radar. This military credit union also offers a few other notable perks, such as a Mastercard credit card with 1.5% cash back and no annual fee, as well as CDs with flexible terms and special deployment loans.
While civilians can join as long as they qualify, Security Service Federal Credit Union does a fantastic job of accommodating military members. You can join if you’re a military member or work for the Department Defense at certain military bases.
USAA is a solid pick if digital banking is your top priority. You’re sure to appreciate its highly rated mobile app, complete with mobile bill pay, Zelle payments, an ATM locator, free budgeting tools, and more. Since it works with Siri, you can learn about your account balances or transactions in no time.
Other perks of USAA include early direct deposit, a Visa credit card with 1.5% cash back, an American Express credit card with no fees and points on qualifying purchases, checking accounts, and savings accounts.
The downsides of USAA Federal Savings Bank are its limited branches that are only in five states, including Colorado, Maryland, New York and Texas as well as lower-than-average annual percentage yield or APY. Since USAA restricts membership to active, retired, and honorably discharged veterans and their families, you can feel confident the institution understands your unique circumstances.
3. Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union’s roots go back to 1933 when it was founded to support employees of the U.S. Navy. Today, it serves all military members and their families as well as Department of Defense employees and contractors.
Navy Federal’s lineup of products includes five interest-earning checking accounts, a share savings account, a few money market accounts, and share certificates, which are essentially certificates of deposit (CDs).
Other services you may enjoy are Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), auto loans, student loans, prepaid cards and gift cards, and retirement savings accounts. Plus there’s a mobile app with mobile deposits, online bill pay and transfers, digital and mobile wallets, digital security and fraud prevention, and more.
4. Air Force Federal Credit Union
Air Force Federal Credit Union made its debut in 1952. It serves active service members and veterans as well as military students as well as those that support the Airmen Heritage Foundation. As a member, you can choose from two checking accounts and five different savings accounts, including three traditional savings accounts, money market accounts, certificate accounts, and a Christmas club savings account.
The credit union also offers personal loans, vehicle loans, home equity loans, and individual retirement accounts, such as traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and IRA certificate accounts. It recently introduced a variety of digital banking features that let you pay your bills, make your loan payments, open new bank accounts, order checks, enroll in fraud alerts, and monitor your credit score for free.
Most of the physical branches are located throughout Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
5. Pentagon Federal Credit Union
Pentagon Federal Credit Union or PenFed came about in 1955 as a credit union for military and civilian government employees. Today, many others can join PenFed as long as they meet certain geographic requirements and open an account with a minimum $5 deposit.
If you do decide to take advantage of PenFed credit union, you can expect diverse offerings, such as checking accounts, savings accounts, share certificates or CDs, and money market accounts.
Other accounts and services you might want to consider include Coverdell Education Savings Certificates, IRAs, mortgages and home equity loans, auto loans, personal loans, student loans, and student loan refinancing. PenFed also offers a mobile app with mobile check deposit, bill pay, instant transfers, and ATM locator.
6. Andrews Federal Credit Union
Andrews Federal Credit Union is a black-owned financial institution with locations throughout the East Coast. Its core offerings include checking accounts, savings accounts, and share certificates.
Vehicle financing is also available for military members stationed in Europe. You can become a member if you’re part of the military, live or work in Washington DC, or join one of AFCU’s Employer Groups or the American Consumer Council.
Once you do, you’ll be able to access the credit union’s branches, Co-op network shared branches, and over 30,000 free ATMs. If you use out-of-network ATMs, you may be eligible for free rebates for military checking accounts.
When it comes to customer service, Andrews Federal Credit Union has call centers that are open seven days per week and a virtual chatbot you can use at any time to ask basic questions.
7. Chase Bank
Chase Bank honors the National Guard, military members and their families with numerous military benefits. If you’re part of the military community, you won’t have to pay any fees on any personal or business accounts.
Plus, you’ll enjoy lower interest rates, early termination of car leases, and foreclosure and repossession protection as Chase military banking adheres to the Servicemembers Civil Rights Act (SCRA).
We can’t forget the Survivor Program, which cancels any debt inherited by the spouses and dependents of Chase military customers that lose their lives in action, pass away due to wounds received in action, or die in combat operations. In addition, Chase has more than 4,700 branches across the U.S. so you can easily find a local branch for in-person service.
8. Service Credit Union
Service Credit Union has branches throughout New Hampshire as well as a branch in Falmouth, Massachusetts and on the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota. There’s also a branch in Germany.
You can join Service Credit Union if you’re an active military member, veteran, or a family member. You’re also eligible if you’re a current or former employee of the Department of Defense, work for a Select Employer Group, or are a member of the American Consumer Council.
As a member, you’ll have access to more than 5,000 shared branches and 24/7 excellent customer service. Additionally, you can reap the benefits of free checking and savings accounts as well money market accounts, and share certificates with high savings rates.
The credit union also offers special rates if you’re an active-duty service member that has been deployed to combat zones and discounted rates on loans if you get paid by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).
9. Tyndall Federal Credit Union
Headquartered in Panama City, Florida, Tyndall Federal Credit Union serves people in the Florida Panhandle and Southern Alabama. It’s insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and gives back to the community through grants that support the armed forces, education, and social services. You can join if you’re stationed at the Tyndall Air Force Base or meet other membership requirements.
In addition to checking accounts and saving accounts, Tyndall Federal Credit Union offers home loans with low mortgage closing costs, auto loans, and personal loans. The credit union will also reward you with one point for every dollar you spend with your credit card and one point for every $5 you spend with your debit card. Best of all, there are no fees and you can redeem your points for cash back, gift cards, merchandise, vacations, and more.
10. Ally Bank
Ally Bank, which is part of Ally Financial, is an online only bank that can be a solid pick for anyone, including active military members and retired military members who prefer a bank with online and mobile access. It stands out because it doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees or have a minimum balance requirement on checking accounts, savings accounts, and CDs.
Even though there are no physical branches, you can withdraw or deposit funds at over 43,000 free ATMs. Plus, you don’t have to worry about overdraft fees and may score an above-average interest rate on your savings account.
If you open an online checking account or online savings account with Ally, you can manage it on the go with the highly rated Ally mobile app. Once you download the app, you’ll be able to check balances, transfer funds, find ATMs, pay bills, deposit checks, and send money with Zelle. Ally also offers Ally Skill for Alexa, which lets you bank via voice commands.
11. Wells Fargo Bank
Founded in 1852, Wells Fargo is one of the oldest financial institutions and national banks out there. It offers more than 4,700 bank branches and 12,000 ATMs as well as no shortage of services that can benefit military personnel and their families.
You can open the Wells Fargo Everyday Checking, which is the free checking account, Wells Fargo Clear Access Banking digital checking account, or interest bearing Wells Fargo Premier Checking account.
The two primary savings accounts both require a $25 minimum deposit and include Wells Fargo Way2Save Savings and the Wells Fargo Platinum Savings. In addition, the bank provides credit cards, loans, investing and wealth management, and business accounts. For on the go account access, there’s the Wells Fargo app.
As you search for military banks and credit unions, you’ll find that they’re not all created equal. Each option has its own strengths and weaknesses. That’s why it’s a good idea to weigh each financial institution and determine which one is best for your unique situation. Best of luck!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best checking accounts for active duty military members and military families?
The ideal checking account depends on your particular needs and preferences. However, our top picks include PenFed Free Checking, USAA Classic Checking, Navy Federal Credit Union Free Active Duty Checking, and Chase Premier Plus Checking.
How should I choose a military bank or credit union?
There are several factors you should consider as you look for a military bank or credit union. These include membership requirements, branch locations, online and mobile banking access, account fees, minimum deposit requirements or minimum balance requirements, fees and interest for loans, rate discounts, and membership perks.
Do any banks waive fees for the military?
It’s not uncommon for banks and other military financial institutions to waive fees, like monthly fees, monthly service fees, ATM fees, and overdrafts fees for military customers. A few examples of banks that offer this perk include Chase and US Bank. If you’re interested in a certain bank and they don’t advertise fee waivers for the military, simply ask them if they’ll do this for you.
What is better for active duty members and other military personnel: USAA or Navy Federal Credit Union?
It all depends on your personal finance and what’s important to you. If a basic savings account is your priority, for example, you’ll find better options at Navy Federal. But if you’re looking for a good checking account, you may have more luck with USAA. Both options are reputable military credit unions.