Best Military Credit Cards 2019

Brendan Harkness

Author

Brendan Harkness

Updated April 10, 2019

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Are you on active duty, or will you be soon? If so, you can use the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to get valuable credit card rewards and benefits at a very low cost (in many cases for free).

The SCRA is a federal law that applies to active duty servicemembers. It requires lenders, including credit card issuers, to provide special terms, like low interest rates, for loans and credit card balances accrued before active duty begins.

Many card issuers offer additional perks on top of the required SCRA benefits, like even lower interest rates and waiving some or all of the card fees. These could be great opportunities for active duty servicemembers.

You’ll find some expensive cards from American Express, Chase, and Citi in the list below, but don’t worry. All of those issuers will waive the annual fees for any eligible cards, making them incredible deals if you can get them.

American Express reps have told us that it’s “very likely” that the annual fees of its cards will be waived, but they can’t guarantee that this will occur. We recommend submitting an SCRA request to see if they’ll grant this benefit, as some Amex cards would be very lucrative without the annual fees. If you’re worried that you won’t get a fee waiver, consider going with a different issuer instead.

Most of the credit cards mentioned on this page aren’t designed specifically for members of the military and other servicemembers. Instead, they’re great cards to use in combination with the benefits you get from the SCRA.

So, in general these cards were picked assuming you’ll use your SCRA-eligibility to get better terms. If you won’t be going on active duty, check out USAA’s line of credit cards, specifically designed for members of the military and their families.

Remember that when your period of active duty ends your interest rates will go up and you’ll have to start paying fees again, including annual fees. You may want to close out your card at this time, or downgrade it to a card without an annual fee. We don’t usually recommend closing credit cards, but if you’re going to have to pay for a card you won’t use much this is a good reason to close the account.

Best Pick For

Gas

Why we picked this card

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card (Review) is one of the few credit cards that provide 5% cash back for gas all year round, although there’s a limit to how much you can earn at that rate.

The Ducks Unlimited Rewards Visa Signature® Card also offers 5% back, and has no limit, but that card won’t provide special military benefits like the USAA card (it will only provide the standard SCRA benefits).

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 5% cash back on the first $3,000 spent per year (then 1%) on:
    • Gas
    • Military base purchases, which include commissaries, exchanges, and shops on base
  • 2% cash back at Supermarkets, on the first $3,000 spent each year (then 1%)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

So you’ll only get the 5% back for the first $3,000 you spend in those categories each year. That’s a maximum of $150.

If you know you’ll be spending more than that on gas every year you’ll be better off with a different card, or you may want to pair this card with another one on the list.

Key Features & Terms

  • 4% APR on all balances for 12 months during deployment or permanent change of station (PCS)
  • Concierge Service: Call for non-emergency help whenever you need it, like assistance making travel or dining reservations.
  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Score 8 whenever you’d like, based on your Experian credit report.
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Including Price Protection, Extended Warranties, Rental Car Insurance, and more.
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card and the Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature®.

 

Runner Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 5% cash back at:
    • Gas stations
    • Sporting goods stores
  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Bankcard Score 9, which will probably be based on your Equifax credit report.
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Which may include Purchase Protection, Return Protection, Trip Delay Reimbursement, and others.
  • Annual fee: $0

Best Pick For

Groceries

Why we picked this card

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (Review) is currently the best card for buying groceries. It has a generous cash back rewards program, and usually comes with a $95 annual fee. But American Express will waive that fee as part of its SCRA benefits, making this card even better.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (then 1% back)
  • 3% cash back at
    • U.S. gas stations
    • select U.S. department stores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $200 statement credit for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening

6% is the best normal rate you’ll find for grocery purchases, compared to other cards. And with no annual fee to pay thanks to your military benefits from Amex, the cash back you earn will be all profit.

Key Features & Terms

  • Amex Offers: Find significant discounts at a changing selection of merchants and websites, like TurboTax, SamsClub.com, Etsy, and many more.
  • ShopRunner membership: ShopRunner provides free two-day shipping and returns at participating online retailers.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 months, then 15.24%–26.24% Variable (for transfers made during the first 60 days)
  • Annual fee: $95 (waived for SCRA-eligible members)
  • Fee waivers: Certain other fees are waived for SCRA-eligible members as well, like late and returned payment fees.

Read more in our Review of the American Express Blue Cash Everyday® and Blue Cash Preferred® Cards.

 

Runner Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 4X Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at:
    • U.S. restaurants
    • U.S. supermarkets, on up to $25,000 per year in purchases (then 1X)
  • 3X Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on:
  • 35,000 Membership Rewards points for spending $2,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • $100 Annual Airline Fee Credit: Use this to pay for incidental airline fees, like baggage and in-flight food and drinks. Does not apply to flight tickets.
  • $120 Annual Dining Credit: Earn up to $10 in statement credits per month for purchases at eligible restaurants and food delivery services.
  • Point Transfer: To airline and hotel loyalty programs, like JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Marriott, and Hyatt.
  • The Hotel Collection: Provides up to $100 in credits for every eligible hotel stay of two nights or more.
  • Annual fee: $250 (waived for SCRA-eligible cardholders)
  • Fee waivers: Certain other fees are waived for SCRA-eligible cardholders as well, like late and returned payment fees.
  • Charge card: You must pay your balance in full each month.

Read more in our Review of the American Express® Gold Card.

We're currently unable to link directly to an application for this card.

Learn more about Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express »

Best Pick For

Flat-Rate Cash Back

Why we picked this card

If you want a way to earn decent cash back on every purchase, without worrying about bonus reward categories, the Citi® Double Cash Card (Review) should be on your radar.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 2% cash back for every purchase
    • 1% back when you make a purchase
    • 1% back when you pay for that purchase

That’s all there is to it. The Double Cash is an easy way to earn 2% back for everything you buy, rather than being more rewarding for certain purchases.

This makes it a good option to pair with a card that does have some bonus reward categories, like some of the others on this list. You’ll be able to earn more rewards in the bonus categories, while using the Double Cash to get 2% back on everything else.

Key Features & Terms

  • Citi Concierge: Call for non-emergency help whenever you need it, like assistance making travel reservations.
  • ShopRunner membership: Use ShopRunner to get free two-day shipping and returns at participating retailers.
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Including Price Rewind, Purchase Protection, Extended Warranties, and more.
  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Bankcard Score 8 for free, based on your Equifax credit report.
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 18 months, then 15.74%–25.74% Variable (for transfers made during the first four months)
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Fee waivers: There are no fees of any kind for SCRA-eligible cardholders.

Read more in our Review of the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 3% cash back for all purchases in the first year, up to $20,000 spent
  • 1.5% cash back for all purchases after that
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 17.24%–25.99% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Fee waivers: There are no fees of any kind for SCRA-eligible cardholders.

Read more in our Review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 1.5% cash back for all purchases
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Fee waivers: There are no fees of any kind for SCRA-eligible cardholders.

Read more in our Review of the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 1.5% cash back for all purchases
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Amex Offers: Find significant discounts at a changing selection of merchants and websites.
  • ShopRunner membership: ShopRunner provides free two-day shipping and returns at participating online retailers.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 15.24%–26.24% Variable (for transfers requested in the first 60 days)
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Fee waivers: Certain fees are waived for SCRA-eligible members, like late and returned payment fees.

Read more in our Review of the American Express Cash Magnet Card.

Best Pick For

Premium Travel Credit Card

Why we picked this card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve (Review) is a high-end travel credit card, normally meant only for frequent travelers. But Chase will waive the annual fee of any card eligible for SCRA benefits — in this case a $450 fee! So this card could be quite valuable even if you don’t travel very much.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on:
    • Travel (after using the full $300 travel credit)
    • Dining at restaurants
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent everywhere else
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $500–$1,000 (assuming 1–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 12.5–25%

This card is all about travel spending. And you’ll need to redeem your points for travel expenses too, if you want to get the best value for them.

When redeeming through Chase Ultimate Rewards you’ll get a 50% bonus, so your points will be worth 1.5 cents each. That means you’ll be getting the equivalent of 4.5% cash back when spending on travel and redeeming in that way.

You’ll also be able to transfer your points to several airline and hotel travel partners. You could find a better deal through one of them, and we’ve seen transfers that could provide the equivalent of about 6% cash back or more, when spending in the 3X categories.

Key Features & Terms

  • Point Transfer: Transfer your points at a 1:1 rate to a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs, like United, JetBlue, and Marriott.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit: A $300 travel credit every year that will be automatically applied toward a broad range of travel-related expenses charged to your card.
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership: Provides access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide plus a selection of restaurants. The cardholder and two guests can enter for free; additional guests cost $32 each.
  • Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: Provides complimentary services and benefits at participating hotels and resorts, including room upgrades, daily breakfast for two, and special gifts.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Credit: Get a statement credit to offset the cost of applying for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), once every four years.
  • Elite Hotel Benefits at Relais & Châteaux: Accelerated progress toward Club 5C member status with Relais & Châteaux luxury hotel and resort properties.
  • Annual fee: $450 (waived for SCRA-eligible members)
  • Fee waivers: Chase will waive all fees as part of its SCRA benefits, including foreign transaction fees, late fees, etc.

Read more in our Review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

 

Runner Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 5X ThankYou points per dollar spent on:
    • Air travel
    • Restaurants
  • 3X ThankYou points per dollar spent at:
    • Hotels
    • Cruise lines
  • 50,000 ThankYou points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Annual $250 Travel Credit: Applies to all travel purchases.
  • Complimentary 4th Night Stay: Get your fourth night free if you book four nights in a row through ThankYou.com or your Citi Concierge, and pay using your card, ThankYou points, or a combination of both. Starting September 2019, this perk is capped at two uses per year (uses before that date don’t count toward the cap).
  • Priority Pass Select membership: Access Priority Pass Select airport lounges and restaurants at no charge. Immediate family or up to two guests can enter for free; additional guests cost $32 each.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Credit: A statement credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), once every five years.
  • Annual fee: $495 (waived for SCRA-eligible cardholders)
  • Fee waivers: Citi will waive all fees as part of its SCRA benefits, including foreign transaction fees, late fees, etc.

Read more in our Review of the Citi Prestige® Card.

We're currently unable to link directly to an application for this card.

Learn more about Chase Sapphire Reserve »

Best Pick For

Premium Travel Charge Card

Why we picked this card

Another high-end travel card option is The Platinum Card® from American Express (Review). It has a $550 annual fee, but you won’t need to worry about that because American Express will usually waive annual fees as part of its SCRA benefits.

Unlike the Chase Sapphire Reserve above, the Platinum card is a charge card. That means you’ll generally need to pay off the balance in full each month, so take care not to charge more than you’ll be able to pay off by the billing due date.

Read how the Chase Sapphire Reserve card stacks up against the Amex Platinum card in every category to see which card is better for you in our versus battle.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 5X Membership Rewards points per dollar on:
    • Flights booked directly through airlines or through American Express Travel
    • Prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel
  • 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar on other eligible travel expenses booked through American Express Travel
  • 1X Membership Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 60,000 Membership Rewards points for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $600–$1,200 (assuming 1–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 12–24%

This card is focused mainly around spending through the American Express Travel service, although flights booked directly through airlines are included too.

That makes it a bit more restricted than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which isn’t limited to a single travel service. But this card provides more rewards on average, with a cash back equivalent of 5% when earning at the 5X rate and redeeming for 1 cent per point. That’s what you can get when redeeming for flights, which will provide the best regular value for your points.

But you can also find even better deals than that through point transfers, where we’ve seen the equivalent of over 10% cash back for certain transfers, when spending at the 5X rate.

Key Features & Terms

  • Global Lounge Collection: Complimentary access to Priority Pass, Centurion, American Express International, Delta Sky Club, Escape, Airspace, Lufthansa, and Plaza Premium Lounges.
  • $200 Annual Airline Fee Credit: Good for incidental costs like checked bags and inflight food (not flight tickets) at your selected airline.
  • $200 Annual Uber Credits: $15 in statement credits for Uber rides each month, except for December which gets $35.
  • $100 Annual Saks Credit: Up to $100 in statement credits each year for Saks Fifth Avenue: $50 from January through June, and $50 from July through December.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Credit: A statement credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100 every four years) or TSA PreCheck ($85 once every four and a half years).
  • The Hotel Collection: A $100 hotel credit and room upgrades when available for every eligible two-night stay.
  • Complimentary Elite Hotel statuses: Hilton Honors Gold status and Marriott Bonvoy Gold status.
  • Annual fee: $550 (waived for SCRA-eligible cardholders)
  • Fee waivers: Certain other fees are waived for SCRA-eligible cardholders as well, like late and returned payment fees.
  • Charge card: You must pay your balance in full each month.

Read more in our Review of The Platinum Card® from American Express: Is It Worth the $550 Annual Fee?

We're currently unable to link directly to an application for this card.

Learn more about The Platinum Card® from American Express »

Best Pick For

Airline Rewards

Why we picked this card

There are many cards that are co-branded with certain airlines. Most of these cards are issued by American Express, Chase, and Citi.

Luckily for you, all three of these issuers will waive the annual fees of cards that are eligible for SCRA benefits. So a large swath of airline cards will have their annual fees waived, along with certain other fees depending on the issuer.

The right card for you will depend on which airline you spend the most time and money with. Check out our picks for the best airline credit cards and you’ll probably find a match. If you don’t fly often you could probably get more value out of a different type of card.

Let’s take a closer look at one airline card. The United MileagePlus® Club Card (Review) from Chase has a $450 annual fee, but if you’re getting it waived you might as well go big. It’s just one of several travel rewards cards designed for United Airlines enthusiasts.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 7X miles per dollar on tickets purchased from United
    • 2X miles per dollar from the Club Card
    • 5X miles per dollar for being a MileagePlus member
  • 1.5X miles per dollar on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $500–$750 (assuming 1–1.5 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 16.67–25%

A typical good redemption value would probably be around 1.5 cents per mile for United. That means you’ll be earning the equivalent of about 10.5% cash back when spending with United, and about 2.25% cash back on other purchases.

That might not seem like a whole lot for an expensive card like this, but the real value of many airline cards comes from their extra benefits.

Key Features & Terms

  • United Club membership: Complimentary membership to the United Club airport lounge, with free access for you and two guests.
  • Premier Access airport travel services: Includes priority check-in and security screening, and boarding/baggage handling privileges.
  • Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: Hotel perks like daily breakfast for two, complimentary WiFi, and room upgrades when available.
  • World of Hyatt Discoverist status: A 10% point bonus, room upgrades, and other benefits at Hyatt properties.
  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle Elite Status: Get a 25% point bonus, upgrades, and exclusive offers at Hertz.
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades on United award flights: MileagePlus Premier members can get award ticket upgrades when available.
  • Free first and second checked bags: For you and one traveling companion.
  • Annual fee: $450 (waived for SCRA-eligible members)
  • Fee waivers: Chase will waive all fees as part of its SCRA benefits, including foreign transaction fees, late fees, etc.

Read more in our Review of the United MileagePlus® Club Card.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 7X miles per dollar on tickets purchased from Delta
    • 2X miles per dollar from the card
    • 5X miles per dollar for being a Delta member
  • Delta Sky Club membership: Complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs, with up to two guests at $29 each.
  • Annual Companion Certificate: A certificate for a Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+, or Main Cabin round-trip flight.
  • Miles Boost tier 1: Spend $30,000 on purchases in a given year to earn 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs.
  • Miles Boost tier 2: Spend $60,000 on purchases in a given year to earn an additional 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs.
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights: For you and up to eight traveling companions.
  • Priority Boarding on Delta flights: Get on the plane more quickly with Zone 1 priority boarding.
  • Priority Checkpoint on Delta flights: Access the Sky Priority security lane at participating airports.
  • 20% in-flight discount on Delta flights: A 20% discount on eligible in-flight purchases, like food, beverages, movies, and audio headsets.
  • Annual fee: $450 (waived for SCRA-eligible members)
  • Fee waivers: Certain other fees are waived for SCRA-eligible cardholders as well, like late and returned payment fees.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 7X miles per dollar on tickets purchased from American Airlines
    • 2X miles per dollar from the card
    • 5X miles per dollar for being an AAdvantage member
  • Admirals Club membership: You and up to ten authorized users have access to the Admirals Club airport lounge.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Credit: Get a credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) once every five years.
  • Elite Qualifying Miles: Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after spending $40,000 on purchases in a given year.
  • Reduced Mileage Awards: Get discounted travel for round trip (7,500 miles off) and one-way flights (3,750 miles off).
  • Enhanced Airport Experience: Including priority check-in, screening, and boarding privileges.
  • 25% discount on in-flight purchases on AA flights: The 25% discount will be applied to in-flight purchases of food and beverages only.
  • First checked bag free on AA flights: For you and up to eight traveling companions.
  • Annual fee: $450 (waived for SCRA-eligible members)
  • Fee waivers: Citi will waive all fees as part of its SCRA benefits, including foreign transaction fees, late fees, etc.

Best Pick For

Hotel Rewards

Why we picked this card

Just like with airline cards, many hotel credit cards are issued by American Express, Chase, and Citi. These issuers all waive the annual fees for cards that are eligible for SCRA benefits, making them good picks if you stay at hotels often.

The right hotel card for you will depend on where you like to stay. If you prefer Hilton, there’s a card for that. If you like Marriott, Hyatt, or IHG, there are co-branded cards for them too. See our picks for the best hotel credit cards to find the right card for any particular hotel brand.

One option you might like would be the Hilton Honors Aspire Card. Its $450 annual fee will be waived by Amex, so you can use its rewards and benefits for free under the SCRA (as long as you avoid interest charges).

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 34X points per dollar or more at Hilton properties
    • 14X Bonus points per dollar from the card
    • 20X Base points per dollar or more for being a Hilton Honors Diamond member
  • 7X Bonus points per dollar at:
    • U.S. restaurants
    • Select car rentals
    • Flights booked directly with airlines
  • 3X Bonus points per dollar for all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 150,000 Bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $600–$1,500 (assuming 0.4–1 cent per point)
    • Return on spend: 15–37.5%

This card is very rewarding, offering plenty of Hilton Honors points when you spend with Hilton. You’ll get those additional 20X Base Points because this card comes with automatic Hilton Honors Diamond status, which is the highest possible elite membership tier.

That means when you spend with Hilton you’ll be able to earn the equivalent of 13.6–34% cash back, depending on how you redeem those points. This is an excellent value, especially considering that you won’t have an annual fee to pay.

That’s a lot of cash back, but you’ll also get benefits and statement credits that can be worth hundreds of dollars every year.

Key Features & Terms

  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status: Includes a 100% bonus on Base points earned, room upgrades to suites when available, executive lounge access, a 48-hour room guarantee, and more.
  • Annual Free Weekend Night Award: One free weekend night every year, and earn another free weekend night by spending $60,000 in a calendar year.
  • $100 Hilton On-property Credit: Good for every eligible stay of two nights or more, valid for incidental fees only.
  • Annual $250 Hilton Resort statement credit: For incidental fees only.
  • Annual $250 Airline Fee statement credit: For incidental fees only.
  • Priority Pass Select membership: Complimentary access to Priority Pass Select airport lounges and restaurants.
  • Annual fee: $450 (waived for SCRA-eligible members)
  • Fee waivers: Certain other fees are waived for SCRA-eligible cardholders as well, like late and returned payment fees.

 

Runner Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 18.5X points per dollar at Marriott Bonvoy properties
    • 6X Bonus points per dollar from the card
    • 12.5X Base points per dollar for being a Marriott Bonvoy member
  • 3X Bonus points per dollar:
    • For flights booked directly from airlines
    • At U.S. restaurants
  • 75,000 Bonus points for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • $300 Annual Marriott/SPG Hotel Credit: Up to $300 in statement credits for eligible purchases.
  • Free Night Award: Every year after your account anniversary you’ll get a Free Night Award, good for redemption values of 50,000 points or less.
  • Priority Pass Select membership: Free access to Priority Pass airport lounges and restaurants for you and up to two guests.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Credit: A statement credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre✓ ($85), once every four years.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite hotel status: Includes perks like a 25% bonus on base points, 2 p.m. late checkout, and more
  • 15 Elite Night Credits: Each year you’ll get 15 Elite Night Credits towards a higher member status.
  • Annual fee: $450 (waived for SCRA-eligible members)
  • Fee waivers: Certain other fees are waived for SCRA-eligible cardholders as well, like late and returned payment fees.

Read more in our Review of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.

Best Pick For

Balance Transfers

Why we picked this card

If you’re carrying a large balance at a high interest rate, you may be able to transfer that balance to a card with a 0% interest rate. That will give you time to pay it off without accruing extra interest as you go, potentially saving you thousands of dollars.

The Citi Simplicity® Card (Review) currently has the best offer you’ll find, at 0% APR for 21 months for balance transfers. There’s a fee of 5% for transfers. That gives you almost two years to pay off a balance at no interest. Purchases will get 12 months at 0% APR.

After the introductory rates expire, you’ll get a regular APR of 16.24%–26.24% Variable.

Check out the runners up below for some balance transfer cards without balance transfer fees (but their introductory periods are a bit shorter).

Citi provides a 0% APR for existing balances as part of its SCRA benefits. This means you’ll get that 0% rate for as long as you qualify for the SCRA, and that could give you some extra time to pay off a balance. Citi also waives all fees associated with its cards, including that transfer fee.

However, remember that the special SCRA 0% rate will only apply to balances that exist before you enter active duty. So if you transfer a balance after entering active duty it will be subject to the regular APR, even though you’ll get the fee waived.

That’s about all there is to the Simplicity card, especially if you just want it for balance transfers. After transferring a balance, you should aim to pay it off by the time your 0% intro rate ends. An easy way to do this is to divide your balance by the number of months you have to pay it. That will tell you how much to pay each month to pay it all off in time (consider dividing by one less than the number of months, to pay it off early).

Key Features & Terms

  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Score 8 whenever you’d like, based on your Equifax credit report.
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Including Price Rewind, Extended Warranties, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waivers, and more.
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 21 months, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable (for transfers made during the first four months)
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 15 months, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Fee waivers: There are no fees of any kind for SCRA-eligible cardholders.

Read more in our Review of the Citi Simplicity® Mastercard.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 2X Membership Rewards points at U.S. Supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1X)
  • 10,000 Membership Rewards points for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • 20% point bonus for making 20 or more purchases in a billing period
  • Amex Offers: Discounts or extra points at specific merchants, like Starbucks, Wall Street Journal, Hulu, and many more.
  • Complimentary ShopRunner membership: Register with ShopRunner for free two-day shipping and returns at select online retailers.
  • Entertainment Access: Exclusive discounts to concerts, sporting events, and shows.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months (for transfers made in the first 60 days), then 15.24%–26.24% Variable
  • No balance transfer fee
  • Annual fee: $0 (waived for SCRA-eligible members)
  • Fee waivers: Certain fees are waived for SCRA-eligible members, like late and returned payment fees.

Read more in our Review of the Amex EveryDay and Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Cards.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Score 8 for free, based on your Experian credit report.
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Like Purchase Protection, Roadside Dispatch, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waivers, and others.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 17.24%–25.99% Variable
  • No balance transfer fee: For transfers made in the first 60 days
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Fee waivers: There are no fees of any kind for SCRA-eligible cardholders.

Read more in our Review of the Chase Slate Credit Card: A Way Out Of Debt.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Score 8 for free, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 15.24%–25.24% Variable (for transfers made in the first 60 days)
  • No balance transfer fee: For transfers made in the first 60 days
  • Annual fee: $0

Best Pick For

Fair Credit

Why we picked this card

If you have fair or average credit (a FICO 8 score of about 660–699), you may not be able to qualify for the most rewarding cards on the market. But you don’t have to go with a secured card either.

Our top pick for people with fair credit is the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card (Review). It’s advertised as being designed for average credit, unlike most cards which don’t tell you what credit level they’re made for.

You can build up your credit over time by using this card responsibly. Eventually, as your credit improves, you can get approved for better cards with more rewarding bonus categories.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 1.5% cash back for every purchase

It’s as simple as that. The QuicksilverOne doesn’t have a very strong rewards program, but you should expect this with cards meant for fair or average credit.

Key Features & Terms

  • Higher Credit Line: Access a higher credit line after making your first five monthly payments on time.
  • CreditWise: Use the CreditWise tool to monitor your TransUnion credit report, and your VantageScore 3.0 based on that report.
  • Annual fee: $39 (waived for SCRA-eligible members)
  • Fee waivers: Capital One will waive all fees as part of its SCRA benefits, including foreign transaction fees, late fees, etc.

Read more in our Review of the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

 

Runner Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 3% cash back on the first $500 spent per billing period in combined purchases (then 1%), on:
    • Travel
    • Entertainment
  • 2% cash back at restaurants (excludes bars)
  • One-year Priority Pass Select membership for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • Lemonade Insurance Rebate: Get a one-time $10 statement credit after making three consecutive payments for Lemonade Renters and Home Insurance.
  • Feather Furniture Rental Rebate: Receive a $100 discount on your first month’s rental from Feather by using promo code “DESERVE100”.
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Deserve Pro Mastercard.

Take note that Deserve will need to connect to your bank account to check the balance. If you’re concerned about privacy or security this may not be up your alley. This may seem a bit odd, but it seems logical since Deserve bases its decision on more than just an applicant’s credit history.

We're currently unable to link directly to an application for this card.

Learn more about Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card »

Best Pick For

Bad Credit

Why we picked this card

With bad or limited credit (a FICO 8 score of less than about 660), you’ll have a hard time being approved for most credit cards. But some cards are designed for bad credit, including secured credit cards. A secured card requires a refundable security deposit when you’re approved, which will fund the credit limit.

If you’re in this situation, we recommend using the Discover it® Secured Card (Review). While some secured cards seem almost like a punishment for having bad credit, this card stands out for actually having a pretty good rewards program. It’s on par with (or perhaps better than, given your spending habits) the QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards above, which is meant for average credit.

Use this card responsibly. That means paying your bills on time, but we also recommend always paying off your balance in full each month. This will be good for your credit utilization and it will also prevent any interest from accruing on purchases, helping you avoid credit card debt.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 2% cash back, on up to $1,000 in spending per quarter (then 1%), at:
    • Restaurants
    • Gas stations
  • 1% cash back for all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • Cashback Match: Get double the cash back in your first year, awarded at the end of the first year

You’ll normally get 2% back for those common purchases, but Discover’s Cashback Match will double all the rewards you earn in your first year. So you’ll be getting 4% cash back in the reward categories and 2% cash back for all other purchases.

That’s an excellent offer to find because most other secured cards don’t offer any rewards at all. Compared to them the Discover it Secured seems very generous, especially given the Cashback Match.

Key Features & Terms

  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Score 8 for free, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Fee waivers: Discover will waive late and overlimit fees for SCRA-eligible cards
  • Security deposit: $200 to $2,500

Read more in our Review of the Discover it® Secured Credit Card.

Is A Military Credit Card Right For You?

Servicemembers have two opportunities to take advantage of when it comes to credit cards: SCRA benefits and terms, and USAA membership.

SCRA benefits are legally required for every credit card, no matter the issuer. So you can get better terms on any card while on active duty.

USAA offers a line of credit cards that are specifically designed for servicemembers and their families. These cards generally have pretty good terms and interest rates, although the reward rates and benefits aren’t very competitive in most cases.

You can jump to USAA membership requirements below. And we’ll keep discussing the SCRA here.

Active-duty servicemembers of several kinds are able to get reduced interest rates on credit cards and other loans under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. These apply only to active-duty servicemembers, to avoid punishing you with high interest and fees while serving your country.

The main benefits of the SCRA that relate to credit cards are:

  • A cap of 6% APR for any credit card debts owed before entering active-duty service (debts incurred after beginning active duty are subject to the regular APR)
  • Credit card issuers are barred from reducing credit limits or dropping customers as a result of entering active-duty service

These terms only apply to accounts that were opened before beginning active duty. If you get a credit card while on active duty, these terms will not apply to it.

So, for example, if you had debt with an interest rate of 20% when you began active duty, that previous balance would get a new APR of 6%. But any new purchases you made after beginning active duty would be subject to the regular 20% rate.

Some credit card issuers have also taken it upon themselves to provide extra benefits, like waiving the annual fees on their cards. You can find some extremely valuable deals by getting the annual fee waived on a premium credit card, for example. We’ll show you some of the best of them below. And you can check the bottom of this page for more on the specific benefits offered by each issuer.

Another way to further utilize your SCRA benefits is by adding authorized users to your card account. Authorized users will share the same SCRA benefits you get with your card, which could mean having the annual fee waived, depending on the issuer. That means you can get an extra copy of your Amex Platinum Card for your spouse totally for free, for example (or any other Amex card for that matter).

Take note that you’ll need to apply for SCRA benefits, you won’t get them automatically. You can also apply to have SCRA benefits retroactively applied to your account, to cover the period when you were on active duty. If you do so, any eligible fees you paid will be reimbursed.

Consider a military credit card if you:

Selection Criteria: What Makes A Great Military Card?

Whether you’re a military member considering a USAA military-specific card or not, look for the following features when you’re shopping around for a credit card.

  • Fits your lifestyle: You want a card that matches your spending and general habits; travel cards are for people who like to travel, etc.
  • More than SCRA benefits: All credit card issuers must abide by the terms of the SCRA, but some companies will provide even better terms.
  • No annual fee: Some card issuers will waive the annual fee as part of their SCRA benefits, even for very expensive cards.
  • Rewards: It’s great to have a card that will provide points or cash back for purchases you make quite often.
  • Card perks and benefits: The more extra features to make shopping and traveling easier and cheaper, the better.
  • 0% introductory APRs: If you’re looking for a card to pay off purchases over time or for a balance transfer, you’ll want a card with a 0% intro APR.
  • No foreign transaction fees: You don’t want pay extra when you use your card while on duty outside the U.S.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

If you’re on or will be going on active duty, you can use these SCRA benefits to get an exceptionally good deal on certain credit cards.

SCRA Benefits Eligibility

  • Any member of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) or a reserve component called to active duty (Reserve, National Guard, and Air National Guard).
  • National Guard personnel under a call or order to active duty for more than 30 consecutive days (for purposes of responding to a national emergency declared by the President and supported by federal funds).
  • Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officers.
  • U.S. citizens serving with the forces of a nation with which U.S. is allied in the prosecution of a war or military action.
  • Spouses of active duty servicemembers listed above where credit is extended to a servicemember and spouse jointly.

Take note that full-time National Guard duty is not considered to be active duty.

SCRA eligibility will begin on the date that active duty begins. It will end when the period of active duty ends, although some card issuers may extend the SCRA benefits for longer than that.

There are quite a few other SCRA financial benefits that aren’t related to credit cards. If you’re eligible, consider taking advantage of these if possible. And if you’re a veteran, learn more about the financial opportunities that may be available to you.

USAA Credit Cards

USAA offers a line of credit cards designed specifically for members of the military, other servicemembers, and their families. As such, they have special terms and benefits favorable to servicemembers.

This could make them better picks if you won’t be going on active duty, depending on why you want a credit card. SCRA benefits will apply to them as well.

USAA membership is free, but only certain people are eligible to join. If you or a member of your immediate family has been a USAA member or in a branch of the military, there’s a good chance you’ll be eligible.

Once you’re a USAA member, you’ll be able to apply for any of its credit cards. You’ll also enjoy access to its other financial services, like banking and insurance.

USAA Membership Eligibility

USAA membership is open to:

  • Active Military: Individuals who are currently serving in the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, or Navy.
  • Former Military: Those who have retired or separated from the U.S. military with a discharge type of Honorable.
  • Family: Widows, widowers, un-remarried former spouses of USAA members who joined USAA prior to or during the marriage, and individuals whose parents joined USAA.
  • Cadets and Midshipmen: Cadets and midshipmen at U.S. service academies, in advanced ROTC or on ROTC scholarship, and officer candidates within 24 months of commissioning.

Military Benefits by Credit Card Issuer

All credit card issuers must abide by the basic terms of the SCRA. But some issuers go above and beyond those requirements to provide even better terms to their eligible cardholders.

The following table shows the SCRA benefits that each issuer will apply to eligible accounts. In some cases you’ll see that the issuer only provides the basic SCRA terms, while other will go further by waiving annual fees or other fees, and providing interest rates even lower than 6%.

Take note: American Express has told us that it’s “very likely” that the annual fees of its cards will be waived, but they can’t guarantee that this will occur. We recommend submitting an SCRA request to see if they will grant this benefit, as some Amex cards would be very lucrative without the annual fees. If you’re worried that you won’t get a fee waiver, go with a different issuer instead.

Remember that credit card issuers will usually only apply these benefits to accounts opened before active duty begins.

Issuer Interest Rates Fees Waived How to Apply for SCRA Benefits
American Express 6% APR for eligible balances before active duty begins
  • Annual fee
  • Late and returned payment fees
  • ATM fee
  • Statement copy request fee
Bank of America 6% APR for eligible balances before active duty begins
  • None
Barclaycard 0% APR for eligible balances before active duty begins
  • All transaction fees (e.g., foreign transaction fees)
  • Call customer support and ask to apply for SCRA benefits
  • Call the military benefits line: 1-866-918-5212
Capital One 4% APR for eligible balances before active duty begins
  • All fees
Chase 4% APR for eligible balances before active duty begins
  • All fees
  • Online instructions provided by Chase
  • Call 1-877-469-0110
  • Outside the U.S., call collect 1-318-340-3308
Citi 0% APR for eligible balances before active duty begins
  • All fees
  • Email general inquiries to: [email protected]
  • Call 1-877-804-1082
  • Outside the U.S., call collect 1-605-335-2222
Discover 5.9% APR for eligible balances before active duty begins
  • Late fees
  • Overlimit fees
USAA 4% APR for eligible balances before active duty begins
  • None

Looking for other rewarding cards to use with your military benefits? Check out our picks for the Best Cash Back Credit Cards.

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