02 Nov Best Military Banks and Credit Unions for Veterans & Active Military
Service members have unique banking needs, like living overseas, working irregular hours, and traveling frequently. All these factors can make banking quite tricky, especially if you’re not a member of military banks and credit unions.
In this article, we’ll share a side-by-side comparison of the best military banks so veterans and active military. That way, they can take advantage of the banking benefits and make the best choice for their situation.
Who Offers Military Banking?
Many banking institutions offer services to Veterans, active military, and family members. While it is almost impossible to list every military bank and credit union, here are some of the most popular organizations that offer the best services-
- USAA Federal Savings Bank
- Navy Federal Credit Union
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union
- Air Force Federal Credit Union
- Armed Forces Bank
- Chase Bank
- Wells Forgo Worldwide Military Banking
Bank vs. Credit Union vs. Online Bank: Which Is Better?
You may wonder which one is best for you- a credit union, bank, or an online bank? Here’s a breakdown of different financial institutions so you can analyze and make a better choice.
While credit unions, generally, tend to have lower interest rates and better customer service, they lack online features and a nationwide presence.
These are typically not-for-profit financial institutions that provide banking facilities at lower rates and flexible guidelines. Unlike banks, credit unions offer fewer services and limited investment products. Moreover, if you consider a mortgage, a credit union might be a good choice as they provide loans at lower interest rates and have easy eligibility criteria.
Many credit unions also have no minimum balance and no monthly charges policy that makes banking easy for most Veterans. Some credit unions might only be open to service members and their families, like USAA.
Banks are usually for-profit organizations owned by investors and are available to all. They tend to have strict policies and guidelines and might charge a higher interest rate.
However, banks have a nationwide presence, unlike a credit union, offer more services, and come with online facilities.
Though they offer various services and products, banks have higher fees and interest rates than credit unions. Larger banks might also lack good customer service.
Online banks, or also known as internet banks, usually lack presence in the non-virtual world. However, they work just like traditional banks and might also offer some additional services.
These banks offer lower fees but higher interest rates. Moreover, these banks have flexible guidelines. All you need to get started with the account is your social security number. These banks also offer many online features but have transaction limits, which can be troublesome sometimes. Also, internet banks can’t exchange international currencies.
Which One Is Right for You?
Credit unions might be your best shot if good customer service and flexible guidelines are your top priority.
You can also choose online banks if you are looking for online features. However, these banks won’t allow you to exchange US dollars into foreign currencies, which can be troublesome if deployed overseas.
Choosing a bank can offer you a variety of services and products, and you might be able to navigate your military benefits in a better way.
What Should Veterans Look For in a Bank?
One of the critical things Veterans should look for in a bank is whether it is military-friendly or not. There are several banks and credit unions that offer discounts and additional perks to service members. You can also choose a military bank which would be open only to service members and their families.
Moreover, search for a bank with online features, nationwide presence, product variety, and lower interest rates.
To search for the best military banks in 2021, make sure the bank offers VA loans at a lower interest rate and comes with flexible guidelines.
What Makes a Good Military Bank?
An excellent military bank should offer special incentives to service members and their families and help them navigate their benefits in a better way.
Moreover, the bank should make transactions and access to services easy for service members and should offer products that are military friendly.
Military banks and credit unions should also offer currency exchange features and must have a worldwide presence.
How Banking Can Help Veterans
Banking from the right place can bring financial security to Veterans and their families. Best military banks 2021 also provide additional perks to Veterans, service members, and families.
Finding a good military bank can also help service members understand the benefits they qualify for and get the most out of them.
Credit Unions & Best Banks for Military & Veterans
If you are a current/former military member, you might want to choose a financial institution sensitive to your needs. For example, you can select from military banks, credit unions, or military-friendly banks that offer special programs for military families.
Moreover, these financial institutions tend to have a more significant ATM and branch network, given that military families relocate a lot. While several institutions are offering unique benefits to Veterans and the active military, here are our top-rated military banks and credit unions that provide the best.
- Best overall military bank – USAA
- Best for extra military benefits – Bank of America, US Bank Military Banking
- Banks offering the best checking accounts – Chase Bank, Alliant Credit Union, and USAA
- Banks offering the best savings accounts – Alliant Credit Union
- Banks offering best credit card services- USAA, Penfed, Armed Forces Bank
Here is an overview of the most top-rated military banks and credit unions.
Known for its outstanding customer service and low fees, USAA is by far the best military bank offering the most benefits to service members and their families.
Service members including active duty, midshipmen, Veterans, national guard soldiers, reservists, cadets with an honorable discharge are eligible to become a member of USAA. Spouses, widows, widowers, children, and stepchildren can also get a membership with USAA.
The bank offers a variety of financial products to its members, including credit cards, debit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts, insurances, mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, refinancing loans, and youth banking.
Pros of USAA
- USAA offers lower loan rates.
- It is known for its customer service.
- There are no monthly fees.
- It provides a one-day early direct deposit.
- USAA offers several online features through the mobile app.
- USAA has a broad ATM network.
- The bank offers the best insurance rates.
- USAA offers services like online bill payment and mobile check deposits.
Cons of USAA
- USAA has a limited physical presence.
- The Annual Percentage Yield (APY) for checking accounts is low.
Offering a massive variety of products, USAA is currently serving more than 13 million members. The bank also provides additional benefits to service members and provides the services they deserve.
If having good customer service is your top priority, USAA might be a good pick.
Navy Federal Credit Union
With over 9 million members, Navy Federal Credit Union is America’s largest credit union offering financial services to Veterans, military members, and families.
To open a savings account, you would need a minimum balance of $5. The union offers an annual percentage yield of 0.25%, which is not that bad.
Pros of Navy Federal Credit Union
- There are no monthly fees.
- It has a strong ATM presence.
- The mobile app provides online features like mobile check deposits, online financial calculators, early direct deposit and online bill payment.
- Their no-fees checking account earns interest.
- The credit union offers competitive rates.
Cons of Navy Federal Credit Union
- Annual percentage yield is low on savings accounts.
Military members, veterans, national guard, reserves, and employees of the Department of Defense are eligible to become a member of the Navy Federal Credit Union, given your discharge was other than dishonor.
The credit union offers mortgages, student loans, auto loans, personal loans, checking accounts, savings accounts, debit cards, credit cards, retirement accounts, and investing services.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed)
If higher interest rates and unlimited access to accessible ATMs are your priorities, PenFed Credit Union is the best option you have. In business since 1935, PenFed has been the third-largest credit union in the country.
The credit union is open to all military members and offers a variety of services to its members. It provides a 0.45% annual percentage yield on an online savings account. Moreover, there are no monthly fees.
Pros of PenFed Credit Union
- It offers competitive rates on CDs, loans, and checking accounts.
- Members have access to over 68,000 free ATMs.
- The APY of an online savings account is relatively higher than USAA.
- You can earn interest on checking accounts.
Cons of PenFed Credit Union
- PenFed lacks much physical presence.
- Primary savings account APY is relatively lower.
- The non-sufficient fund’s fee is $30.
PenFed is a great option if you are an employee of the Department of Defence. While it might not be your best choice, it has a lot to offer, including competitive rates on CD and loans.
It offers IRA savings accounts, credit cards, refinancing loans, mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, student loans, checking accounts, and savings accounts.
Chase Military Banking
With over 16,000 ATMs and 4,900 branches, Chase Bank is the best option for service members looking for various financial products and who are willing to maintain a minimum daily balance.
The bank offers 24/7 access to bank accounts through their mobile apps. While the accounts have monthly service fees, they can be waived if you agree to maintain the balance.
Pros of Chase Bank
- The accounts do not have monthly fees.
- You get a $300 bonus for signing up for Chase Prime plus savings.
- There are no additional ATM fees.
Cons of Chase Bank
- The online site does not offer much transparency. You would have to get in touch with an agent to know more about specific military products.
Though Chase Bank is not a military bank, it offers a wide range of military-friendly financial products. Anyone, including active military members, veterans, reserves, and national guards, can open an account with Chase Bank.
The bank offers a checking account, savings account, auto loans, VA home loans, credit card, survivor programs, and business checking account.
Service Credit Union
Service Credit Union offers competitive rates on certificates, investment options, and loan facilities to its members. Headquartered in New Hampshire, the credit union also provides exclusive services to service members and their families.
Pros of Service Credit Union
- The credit union offers competitive rates on savings accounts, investment options, and share certificates.
- The union offers special military-friendly programs to service members and their families.
- The credit union participates in shared banking.
Cons of Service Credit Union
- Overdraft fees can be a little expensive as the credit union might charge them several times a day.
Service Credit Union is an amazing option if you are looking for competitive rates on savings accounts and investment options. While they offer special military-friendly programs, the credit union is open for all.
Wells Fargo Bank
With most branches in Minnesota, California, New Jersey, and New Mexico, Wells Fargo was founded in 1852. The bank offers a wide range of services, including checking accounts, savings accounts, mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, student loans, money market accounts, and CDs.
Pros of Wells Fargo
- The bank has an extensive ATM and branch network, with almost 5,437 banks and 13,000 ATMs, making it a bank with the most significant physical presence in the country.
- The bank has customer-friendly overdraft services that can improve the flow of credit and debt.
- You can avoid the fees on checking accounts.
Cons of Wells Fargo
- APY on checking accounts and CDs is usually low.
- The bank charges a higher monthly fee for money market accounts, especially if you are unwilling to maintain a certain balance.
- They charge out-of-network ATM fees for customers with checking accounts.
To open a savings account at Wells Fargo, you need a $25 initial deposit and a $5 monthly fee. However, you can avoid this fee if you are willing to maintain the daily balance of $300.
The bank might not be a good choice if getting excellent customer service is on your mind.
Bank of America
With easy access to bank accounts and several online features, Bank of America is one of many national banks that offers military-friendly financial products to service members and their families.
This bank is best for someone who values an extensive ATM and branch network.
Pros of Bank of America
- SCRA protects any reductions/limits on interest rates.
- The bank offers online banking and several other online features.
Cons of Bank of America
- Compared to other military banks and credit unions listed here, this might not be the best choice.
The bank offers special perks like reduced interest rates and low fees to Veterans, active military, and families. Active duty in the air force, navy, marine corps, public health service, army, and coast guard can become a member of Bank of America and avail special military discounts.
Bank of America offers checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, VA mortgages, personal loans, auto loans, and investment services.
Security Service Federal Credit Union
With main branches operating in Utah, Colorado, and Texas, Security Service Federal Union was founded with the primary aim to help Veterans and service members through various financial products.
The credit union has 66 physical branches and more than 30,000 ATMs.
Pros of Security Federal Credit Union
- Most bank accounts do not require a minimum balance.
- You can access more than 30,000 free ATMs.
- The credit union offers checking accounts with no monthly fees.
- It offers competitive rates on loans and share certificates.
- Members can also access 30,000 branches of other financial institutions.
Cons of Security Federal Credit Union
- Most services are available only in Utah, Texas, and Colorado.
- The checking account does not earn any interest.
- You can find better rates from other institutions listed above.
Security Federal Credit Union is a wise choice if you live in Utah, Texas, or Colorado. You can also earn a 0.40% APY, depending upon the type of account.
To become a member of the Security Federal Credit Union, you must be a member of the Department of Defense of the military. The credit union provides individual retirement accounts, checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, different types of loans, investment services, and personal insurance.
Armed Forces Bank
Armed Forces Bank offers personal finance products to civilians and service members. They also offer a wide variety of products to veterans and their families.
Pros of Armed Forces Bank
- Members can get one-day early pay under some programs.
- The Recruit checking account is designed especially for new military members.
- The bank helps you learn more about loans, accounts, and personal finance.
- Their credit builder card can improve your credit score.
- The bank has a mobile app that offers several online features.
Cons of Armed Forces Bank
- The bank lacks much physical presence.
- Interest rates offered on loans are a bit higher.
Armed Forces Bank provides a variety of services like credit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts, VA mortgages, student loans, auto loans, personal loans, CDs, and credit builder cards.
However, apart from the credit builder card, the bank does not offer many choices to customers as compared to other organizations like USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union.
US Bank is a wise choice if you want anything else except USAA or Navy Federal Credit Union. It offers lower interest rates, a free checking account, and financial education resources.
Pros of US Bank
- The bank does not charge overdraft fees.
- There are more than 4,700 ATMs and 2,900 physical branches of US Bank.
- You can get a free checking account.
- No monthly fees are charged on family member accounts.
- An online bill payment facility is available.
- You can earn interest through a checking account.
- Checking accounts have no monthly maintenance fees.
Cons of US Bank
- APY available on CD is relatively low.
- A $10 monthly fee is charged on the elite money market account.
US Bank provides financial services like checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, VA home loans, investment services, CDs, financial education resources, and money market account.
All current service members, Veterans with an honorable discharge, and their families are eligible to become a member of the US Bank.
The Bottom Line
Finding the best military banks for you doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re a military veteran or active service member and want to get the most out of your banking account without having to worry about changing banks every time you change location, we hope this article was helpful. We’ve highlighted some of the best options for military members that will help them with their specific needs.