April 21, 2021

Best Banks for Military

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Active duty, retired, or about to join the military? You need a bank who understands the unique demands of a military career.

But not all military banking is the same.

In this guide, find the ideal military bank experience for you, your loved ones, and your future goals.

Best Bank Accounts for Military Members

Service members have the back of the nation, and they need a bank that has theirs. Fortunately, there are several national banks and credit unions that cater specifically to military members and their families.

PenFed Access America Checking - Best ATM Coverage

With more than 1.8 million members, the Pentagon Federal Credit Union (or PenFed) is the third-largest federal credit union in the country. Featuring 85,000+ no-fee ATMs across the country, their ATM coverage rivals that of even the largest banks.

They offer checking and savings accounts with all the standard bells and whistles (e.g., direct deposit, mobile check deposit and mobile banking) in addition to credit cards and a variety of home, auto, and student loans. Plus, their interest rates for checking accounts are some of the best we've seen anywhere.

Features

  • Checking earns 0.15% APY on the first $20K and 0.35% on daily balances between $20,000 to $50,000
  • Easy to avoid $10 monthly fee by maintaining $500 balance or $500 in monthly direct deposits
  • PenFed Honors Advantage - Military members with a checking account are eligible for this credit card offering 2% cash back

USAA Classic Checking & Federal Savings - Best for Hassle-Free, No Fees Banking

The USAA Federal Savings Bank was founded specifically to serve members of the U.S. Army and their families. Today, they offer their services to all branches of the military.

They have many fewer branches than PenFed, but they make up for this by offering one of the best, hassle-free checking accounts out there.

They also offer a large variety of financial services, including credit cards, loans, various insurance products, and basic investment services.

Features

  • No monthly service fees and no minimum balance requirements
  • Earn 0.01% APY on balances over $1K
  • 60,000+ no-fee ATMS across the country ($15/month in refunds for other banks' ATM fees)
  • USAA Money Manager Tool lets you view all your financial accounts (USAA and others) in one place and helps you budget accordingly

Is USSA a safe bank?
Yes, USSA's checking and savings accounts are provided by USSA Federal Savings Bank, which is FDIC-insured. This means in the unlikely event that USSA fails, your deposits (up to $250K per depositor) are guaranteed by the U.S. government.

Navy Federal Credit Union Free Active Duty Checking - Best for Active Duty or Retired Service Members

The Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) is one of the largest credit unions in the country. In addition to checking and savings accounts, they also offer credit cards and a variety of home, auto, and student loans.

You must be an active duty member, reservist, veteran, or retiree of the military to join, but active service members who set up a direct deposit of their paycheck will get the most out of NFCU's benefits.

Features

  • No monthly service fees and no minimum balance requirements (with military direct deposit)
  • Earn 0.05% APY on your deposits
  • Early military pay - access your military paycheck one day early
  • 28,000+ no-fee ATMS across the country ($20/month in refunds for other banks' ATM fees)

Is USAA or Navy Federal better?
If what you want is hassle-free checking and a full suite of banking services and products, USAA is probably your type of bank. If you are on active duty or retired military, you might enjoy NFCU's early access to your pay check and appreciate earning a bit more interest on your savings.

Air Force Federal Credit Union - Best for Texans

The Air Force Federal Credit Union (AFFCU) is one of the smaller credit unions with just six physical branches (they also offer some additional "shared" branches), all located in Texas.

AFFCU stands out for their Plus Checking account, which offers some unique perks that you won't find at the larger military banks. These include courtesy pay and cash back on most debit card transactions.

Features

  • $5 monthly service fee can be avoided by maintaining a balance of at least $750
  • 35,000+ no-fee ATMs across the country (no fees on foreign AFFCU ATMs)
  • Earn 0.05% APY on your deposits
  • Offers up to $750 in courtesy pay
  • Earn $0.12 cash back for every debit card transaction over $5

Don't forget to check out any local credit unions near where you live or are stationed. Some of the smaller credit unions offer some really great perks that you can't always find with the larger banks. Check out our guide to learn how to choose your ideal credit union.

Armed Forces Bank - Best for Simple, No-Frills Checking Accounts

The Armed Forces Bank is a full-service military bank that offers your standard checking and savings accounts. They also offer CDs, money market accounts, credit cards, VA loans, and more.

While they only have branches in just over a dozen U.S. states, their online access and network of ATMs cater to military members across the country.

Features

  • No minimum balance requirement and no monthly service fee (with direct deposit) for simple checking
  • 30,000+ no-fee ATMs nationwide
  • No interest on simple accounts; Elite checking accounts earn 0.02% to 0.05% APY but require $5K minimum balance
  • Early military pay - access your military paycheck one day early

Service Credit Union Savings Accounts - Best Interest Rates on Savings

Based out of New Hampshire, the Service Credit Union has hands-down one of the best interest rates we've seen in any savings account.

Your first $500 in deposits gets you a jaw-dropping 5% APY, and anything over that earns 0.25%, which is pretty good, too.

Membership is open to active duty military, veterans, current and former employees of the Defense Departments, and employees of select companies. Family members can also join.

Features

  • No monthly service fees and no minimum balance requirements (other than $5 to open the account)
  • 35,000+ no-fee ATMs in their network
  • Earn 5% APY on the first $500, and 0.25% on anything over this
  • Strong physical presence near U.S. bases in Germany

Service Credit Union has a few dozen branches in the U.S. as well as 14 placed near U.S. military bases in Germany.

Chase Military Banking

Chase is not a military bank, but they do offer a Chase Premier Plus Checking account with military benefits to service members. So, if you like the large network of a national bank like Chase, but still want military benefits, Chase might make sense for you.

You need to be an active, reserve, or National Guard service member or veteran to qualify for this account and its perks.

Features

  • No monthly service fees and no minimum balance requirements
  • 16,000+ no-fee Chase ATMs (and no Chase fees on the first four non-Chase ATM transactions each period)
  • Earn 0.01% on your Chase Premier Plus Checking account
  • Chase will also waive the rent on a 3"x5" safe deposit box (depending on branch availability)

U.S. Bank Military Banking - Best in the Midwest

Based in Minnesota, U.S. Bank is one of the nation's largest financial institutions. They are most popular in the Midwest and West, where most of their 3,000+ branches are located.

While they are not a military bank, they will waive the monthly fee and balance requirements for all current and former members of the military who sign up for a Platinum Checking Account.

U.S. Bank acquired the MoneyPass ATM Network in 2005 and offers widespread ATM coverage.

Features

  • No monthly service fees and no minimum balance requirements for military personnel
  • 60,000+ no-fee ATMs (plus U.S. Bank won't charge you a fee for ATMs outside of their network, but the other bank might)
  • Earn 0.01% on your Platinum Checking account
  • 50% off the cost of safe deposit box

Wells Fargo Worldwide Military Banking - Best for Global Banking Access

With more than 8,000 branches spread across 35 countries, Wells Fargo's footprint is truly global. They offer a complete lineup of banking products and services, from checking accounts to loans to investment services.

Wells Fargo isn't technically a military bank, but they do honor the service of military members with checking perks, such as fewer ATM fees.

Features

  • The $10 monthly service fee can be avoided by maintaining a $500 balance or setting up an equal amount in monthly direct deposits
  • 13,000+ no-fee ATMs plus Wells Fargo will waive up to 4 ATM fees/month for service members (a military direct deposit is required)
  • Everyday Checking account doesn't pay interest (a Preferred account does, but comes with higher balance or direct deposit requirements)

What to Look for in a Military Bank Account

When finding the right bank, consider the following factors to find the best fit for you.

Survivorship Benefits
Consider the survivorship benefits offered to your family by the military and military banks in the event of your death.

Most of the military credit unions will continue to offer the same perks (such as discounted loans and insurance) to the family even after a service member is deceased.

Military credit unions also usually have dedicated personnel who are familiar with military survivorship benefits that can be helpful in difficult times.

Fees
Although most banks charge a small monthly service fee, these are usually easy to avoid if you know your bank's rules. In most cases, you can skip fees if maintain a minimum checking balance or set up a qualifying direct deposit (Chase's service fees, for example, are easily avoidable).

You should also check for the bank's overdraft fee (these can be high) in case your spending ever exceeds your available balance. But it's even better if your bank offers overdraft protection, meaning they simply wouldn't let a transaction go through without sufficient funds.

ATMs
ATM availability is an important factor for most people, especially active duty service members. You need a bank that you'll have easy access to no matter where you're stationed. Luckily, most military banks and credit unions are part of

And if they don't offer good ATM coverage, you might want to consider one of the banks that will reimburse the fees charged for using other banks' ATMs (like Wells Fargo).

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that as a member of the military, your banking needs are going to be different than the average American's. More travel time and potential foreign tours mean you want to look for a bank that either has a global presence or a fee-friendly ATM policy for service members.

Most military credit unions also waive monthly checking fees, so you shouldn't have to settle for a bank that doesn't. And lastly, take full advantage of your military service and look for a credit union that offers discounted VA loans and insurance to veterans as well.

Write to Andrew Fitzgerald at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

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