You’ve served your country and now you’re ready to transition to a non-military life. But at the same time, you’re still eligible for certain perks due to your veteran status. In fact, many of the best credit cards are offered by credit unions to military members, military veterans and their family members.

How to choose a credit card for active and military veterans

For the most part, the credit card needs of military veterans will be similar to a civilian’s needs. If you have outstanding credit card debt, then you should be looking for a card with the lowest possible standard interest rate, or possibly a 0% intro APR balance transfer offer. But if you’re able to avoid interest charges by paying your balance off in full every month, then you should be trying to earn the most valuable rewards possible from your credit card.

 

The difference is that military veterans can access a wider selection of credit cards from credit unions that were created to serve both active duty and retired service members, and their families. As opposed to for-profit credit card issuers, the mission of these non-profit credit unions is to serve those who have served their country. As a result, these credit cards can have more competitive interest rates and terms than other cards offered by large banks.

Military Credit Cards

The simplest credit card for military veterans:

PenFed Promise

This credit card is offered by the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, also called PenFed and it’s unique. It has no late fees, foreign transaction fees, cash advance fees and of course, no annual fee. It also offers you a $100 statement credit after you spend $1,500 within 90 days of account opening. Finally, you could get a 4.99% promotional intro APR for your account’s first 12 months (subject to credit approval).

Low rate cards for military veterans:

USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card

It’s best not to carry a balance on your credit cards, but about half of all Americans do at least some of the time. If this sounds like you and you have a USAA membership, then you should consider the USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card, which offers interest rates of as low as 9.15% APR for the most qualified applicants, compared to the national average of about 15%. It also has no annual fee, no penalty APR and no foreign transaction fees.

Navy Federal Platinum card

This card from the Navy Federal Credit Union has a slightly lower rate of as low as 8.24% APR for the most qualified applicants, and comes with 0% intro APR promotional financing on balance transfers in the first year with no balance transfer fee. Other benefits include the ability to freeze and unfreeze your card, as well as access to your FICO credit score. It also has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Top rewards card for military veterans:

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card

This card is one of the rewards credit cards available with no annual fee, as it includes many features that are usually only available on premium reward cards that charge an annual fee. For example, this card offers you a rewards program with 3x points on all travel and commuting purchases, and 4x points if you become a PenFed Honors Advantage member by opening a no-fee checking account. Yet you could also earn 1.5x points on all other purchases.

 

Other benefits include both a $100 annual air travel credit and a $100 credit towards the application fee of either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, which includes PreCheck. New applicants could also receive 25,000 bonus points after spending $2,500 within 90 days of account opening. You also receive 12 months of 0% intro APR financing on balance transfers, with a 3% balance transfer fee. There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Top rebuilding credit option for military veterans:

nRewards Secured Credit Card from Navy Federal

When you have bad credit, it’s important to establish a new line of credit that you can manage responsibly to raise your credit score. At the same time, new card approval can be hard when you have a poor credit history. The nRewards Secured Credit Card from Navy Federal is different. It’s a secured credit card that requires you to make a refundable security deposit before you can open your account. The amount of your deposit determines the size of your credit line.

 

But once open, it works just like any other credit card. You can make charges normally, and you’ll receive a monthly statement. You will still have to pay your monthly statement, as the security deposit is only there in case of default. But with responsible use, many secured card holders are able to transition to a standard, unsecured card after a year of use. There’s no annual fee for this card and no fees for balance transfers, foreign transactions and cash advances. In fact, you could even earn 1x reward point per dollar spent.