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Top 6 Credit Cards for Veterans

Some offers for vets can be bogus, but there are cards that offer military members more

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Photo Illustration: Chris O'Riley; (Source: Getty Images (2))
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You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

There are a number of credit cards available only to members of the military community — including veterans. While you can find plenty of articles online claiming to have insight into the best credit cards for veterans, they usually just list credit cards that are good for everybody.

Cards issued by military-associated lenders such as USAA, Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) and Navy Federal Credit Union typically have low rates, good terms and special benefits for the military community. Here are six worth looking at.

USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

This card excels because it comes with no annual fee and allows users to earn cash back in various ways, including shopping at military bases. Cardholders get 5 percent cash back on their first $3,000 in combined annual purchases from gas stations and military bases, 2 percent cash back on their first $3,000 in annual grocery purchases and 1 percent off all other purchases. Annual percentage interest rates (APR) range from 16.15% to 30.15%.

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PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

special benefit of this card: military members, including vets, get 2 percent cash back on all purchases (as opposed to 1.5 percent that other users get). The card is attractive due to having no annual fee and 17.99 percent variable APR. You might qualify for special offers: 0 percent intro balance transfer APR for 12 months and a $100 credit when new cardholders spend $1,500 in the first 90 days.

Navy Federal Credit Union More Rewards American Express® Credit Card

The absence of fees — including no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee — is the biggest draw for this card. It also allows you to rack up rewards points: three times points on food purchases and three times points on gas and transit. Other benefits include up to 25 percent off car rentals, hotel discounts and roadside assistance, and relatively low APRs between 13.40 percent and 18.00 percent.

USAA® Rate Advantage Visa Platinum® Card

While it doesn’t offer cash back benefits, this card comes with lower APRs, ranging from 11.15 percent to 28.15 percent. There is also no annual fee. You can qualify for lowered interest rates if you carry a balance month after month. You might also qualify for a special offer of an introductory 0 percent APR for 15 months on balance transfers and convenience checks. 

PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Veterans who love to travel will be attracted to this card. The $95 annual fee is waived for veterans. And members of the military community earn four times points on all travel purchases. Other attractive aspects: 50,000 bonus points on spending $3,000 in the first 90 days and a 0 percent introductory balance transfer APR for 12 months.

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Navy Federal Credit Union cashRewards Credit Card

No fees and APRs of 13.40 percent to 18.00 percent make this card a solid bet. But its focus on cash back rewards instead of points is the major attraction. Cardholders get up to 1.75 percent cash back on all purchases and there is no limit on cash back rewards — they never expire as long as the card is open. An added benefit is Collision Damage Waiver coverage for rental cars. The card comes in two flavors: Visa Signature or World Mastercard.

The bottom line

Shop around and if a credit card company claims that they’re offering a deal for veterans, check the small print. A realistic assessment of how you spend and what matters to you most will help you choose the right card for you.

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

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