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Military members have unique banking needs, and as a result, it can be important for them to find a bank or credit union with products tailored to them. Financial institutions dedicated to serving military members may have branches on or near bases, offer Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans, waive monthly fees for service members and have a specialized team dedicated to helping active and retired service members. Many of these institutions also participate in charity work and community service for military members.
Offerings for military members vary from institution to institution. Credit unions tend to have a focused history and may exclusively serve the military, but several banks also have military ties and products designed for active and retired members. Here are some of the top options to consider.
Best for accessibility: Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union was founded by seven Navy Department employees during the Great Recession. It has over 12 million members today, and to become a member, you or a relative must have ties to the armed forces, Department of Defense or National Guard.
With its military history and military-owned nature, Navy Federal is highly catered to military banking needs. Some of its military-focused offerings include VA loans and servicing, financial education presentations for military recruits, Active Duty military service pay for direct deposit and a free Active Duty checking account for active military members and veterans.
Accessible branch locations is an important factor for military members, since they may have limited time off base or may move frequently, including overseas. Navy Federal is top-notch in this regard: It has 166 branches on or near military bases, plus 26 international locations. Its free checking account also comes with up to $240 in ATM rebates per year.
Best for customer service: USAA
USAA Federal Savings Bank offers banking services to current and retired military members as well as their spouses and children. It was founded in 1922 by 25 Army officers to insure each other’s automobiles. Today, the bank’s services extend far beyond insurance, including deposit accounts, investments and loans.
Some banking benefits offered by USAA for military members include getting your military pay a day early and earning more cash back on military base purchases. Customers also get up to $10 in ATM refunds per month, and there are no monthly fees on any accounts.
USAA is committed to personalized service, which includes a team of professionals to help customers before, after and during deployment. Account holders get access to discounts and deals on things like hotels and theme parks. The USAA website also includes several advice columns with specialized advice for military members, covering topics such as how to plan for deployment and having a baby while on active duty.
Best for savings: Pentagon Federal Credit Union
Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) is the third largest credit union in the U.S. While the credit union was initially founded for military personnel, anyone can become a member today. Still, it has a focus on military needs. It has a Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program that provides veteran-owned companies with resources and capital, and in 2018, it launched a Military Employment Program to support active and retired military members in all stages of employment.
PenFed offers checking accounts, savings accounts, share certificates, loans and credit cards. Its online savings account stands out in particular. The savings rate offered is well above the national average, there’s no monthly fee and you only need $5 to open the account. Members can also get rewarded with highly competitive rates for committing their money to money market certificates.
Best for deployment loans: Security Service Federal Credit Union
Security Service Federal Credit Union was originally established in 1950 to serve members and families of the U.S. Air Force Security Service Command. Its membership today is open to military members of select bases in the credit union’s service area as well as anyone who lives or works in Texas, Colorado or Utah.
SSFCU offers several unique perks for military members, including military deployment loans, lowered vehicle insurance, early military direct deposit and a dedicated military phone line. The military deployment loans come in two forms: up to $500 to cover emergency costs related to deployment, or up to $2,500 to cover deployment-related costs, contingent on a credit check. No credit check is required to take out up to $500 for a deployment loan.
The credit union has branches in the San Antonio, Texas, area, but it’s also part of the Co-op Shared Branch network, allowing members to conduct business at over 5,000 credit union branches nationwide. Members additionally have surcharge-free access to almost 30,000 CO-OP ATMs as well as over 600 Stripes ATMs, which are located in convenience stores.
Best banking benefits: U.S. Bank
Among some of the biggest banks in the country, U.S. Bank has over 2,000 branches, primarily in the Western and Midwestern regions of the U.S. It also has a robust online banking system, with features such as bill pay, mobile check deposit, Zelle and the ability to add cards to digital wallets.
For military members, the bank offers VA home loans and benefits on various accounts. As a military member, you get to waive monthly fees on the Bank Smartly Checking account and are allowed four ATM transaction refunds per month. Some other benefits for military members include a waived fee for Standard Savings and Elite Money Market accounts, a 10 percent lift on the savings yield and a waiver on the IRA annual fee.
The bank also has a dedicated Military Service Center to help with military-specific financial needs.
Best for small business owners: Huntington Bank
Huntington Bank has branches in Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin, plus a suite of online banking tools. The bank offers a free personal checking account, and it has a 24-hour grace period for account holders to pay back overdrafts without incurring an overdraft fee.
Huntington Bank offers VA loans and limits closing costs to $500 or waives the appraisal fee on other mortgages. In addition to VA loans, Huntington Bank specializes in small business loans. It provides financial resources to help active service members and veterans who are small business owners obtain the financing they need.
The bank has three business checking accounts, one of which is designed for small businesses and has no monthly fee. The account allows for up to 100 free transactions per month, and it comes with a 120-day free trial of a fraud tool.
It’s important to find an institution that offers services for your specific needs. Some are more catered to active military members, by offering deployment loan benefits for those living on military bases, while others may be more suited for veterans, such as by providing resources for veteran-owned companies.
If you’re considering switching to a new financial institution, also make sure to compare fees and APYs before settling. It may also be worth having accounts at multiple institutions so you can take advantage of the benefits that each has to offer — so long as you’re careful to avoid excess fees.