Military Credit Unions and Banks
The first thing you’ll notice when searching for military banks and credit unions online is that many finance-related blogs and websites tend to lump civilian-oriented banks into the lists simply because they have military-friendly banking options.
This article does not include these financial institutions; it focuses on lenders who require military affiliation to use their services. A lender with a specific set of services aimed at the military community may have more for you than a civilian financial institution that counts veterans amongst a much larger customer base. That is not always true, but the differences may make you think twice when it is true.
Military Banks and Credit Unions
There are several options when searching for military-specific lending, banking, and financial planning services. They include:
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union
- Navy Federal Credit Union
- Andrews Federal Credit Union
- Security Service Federal Credit Union
- Armed Forces Bank
- Air Force Federal Credit Union
Some of these institutions began as military-only lenders but have since expanded their eligibility categories to include other options.
These lenders are different from other banks often included in military credit union reviews, but that are not specifically military banks. Such “civilian” lenders include:
- Capital One
- Bank of America
- Chase Bank
- Wells Fargo
These lenders may offer military-friendly options, but unlike PenFed or Navy Federal, civilian banks don’t have the same requirements for military membership or affiliation the way USAA or others do.
Related: Veteran Tax Benefits
Joining a Military Bank or Credit Union
Signing up online or in person will require you to provide a government photo ID plus documentation showing your military status as a service member, spouse, or dependent child. Other issues to be aware of:
- Military ID is one form of acceptable photo identification for starting an account, but you will likely also need your driver’s license number and Social Security Number to get started.
- Some may also be required to show proof of enlistment or commission with documents that show the start and dates of the military commitment. This is typically required when a military member wants to buy a home with a VA mortgage and is signing up for a new account as part of that process.
- A participating VA lender, military bank or not, is required to determine how much time in service remains on the current contract and that the military member is in good standing with their unit.
- When signing up for Direct Deposit, you must provide your new bank account and routing numbers. Some may have their initial Basic Pay deposited in a civilian account and open a military bank account later on.
- In such cases, you must apply for a change in your Direct Deposit information and add the new military account number and routing number. This is true UNLESS you do not wish to transfer the Direct Deposit to your military bank account.
Related: Military Allowances Guide
What Military Banks and Credit Unions are Known For
Early deposit of military paychecks is one perk common across many of the military banks and lenders discussed here. Not all offer this, but many do.
Some banks may offer incentives such as interest-bearing accounts for military members and exclusive-to-the-military credit builder accounts such as secured credit cards. Some may offer special interest rates or other perks to military-affiliated account holders.
Some military lenders may offer auto loans with special provisions to help those deployed or sent on temporary duty; you may be able to negotiate delayed payments or other options when called to active duty or deployed into a combat zone.
When Researching Your Military Bank Options
When searching for these financial institutions, you’ll find a variety of websites reviewing the options. What should you know about some of these financial blogs (especially those that claim to provide you with “curated recommendations” about lenders, including military banks?
They are often written by people with little to no experience living in military communities. Your priorities and theirs (in writing the review) may differ significantly. You’ll want to read the reviews to get a general sense of what may be offered, but for best results, don’t trust these indivual reviews on the finance blogs without comparing options on the lender’s official site.
Some of these financial blogs go a long time between updates and you’ll want to know the must current options and perks, not the ones current when the reviewer looked at them three months ago.
- What’s important to you? A 12-month share certificate? Or interest checking? Those are the priorities for one such website offering reviews of military lenders, but your concerns may be a lot closer to financing a car you purchased at an overseas military assignment, a VA mortgage for a home you wish to purchase stateside, or a checking account that offers protections against identity theft or fraud on your accounts.
- Be sure to search the lender’s official site for the specific features you need from your military bank account. If your priority is investing and saving, a more full-service lender like USAA may be for you.
- If you simply need an account for your military pay Direct Deposit, search for a military lender or credit union that provides the best terms, ATM availability, and be sure to explore your options for the overseas use of the ATM card and accounts in case you are given a new duty assignment outside CONUS.
What to Look for From a Military Bank or Credit Union
- Ease of use where you are likely to be stationed stateside or overseas. How many ATMS can you access and where? Is there a fee for using the bank’s ATM outside CONUS? You’ll need to know.
- If you are sent overseas, can you access most lender services online?
- Are there added fees for using your ATM card at non-lender machines?
- Does the lender offer military-specific services such as payment arrangements for deployments or new assignments?
- Ask about lender-specific perks you may qualify for thanks to your military service/.
- No-fee or low-fee checking: Check fees are bad enough for those assigned stateside, but when dealing with the expense of living overseas, the exchange rate, Cost-of-Living adjustments, and other issues, cutting your costs in every conceivable way–including check fees–is a great idea.
Related: Blended Retirement System: An Overview
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.