Top Military Banks and Credit Unions of 2023

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Contributor, Benzinga
December 28, 2022

The top military banks and credit unions of 2023 offer special features for military members and their families, such as free ATM access, no-fee accounts, low-interest loans with extended repayment plans, and flexible overdraft options. Since these specialized banks and credit unions are designed to meet the financial needs of active-duty and retired service personnel, they're an ideal choice. But with several to choose from, how do you know which is the best? Read on to learn what makes a top-rated military financial institution so you can make an informed decision about where you want to put your hard-earned money.

What to know about military banks and credit unions

Some military banks and credit unions are exclusively available to military households and veterans, while other financial institutions are open to the public but offer special perks to military members. 

To open an account, you'll need your active duty orders and proof of service in the form of a government-issued military photo ID. If you're an eligible spouse or qualifying veteran, you'll need additional documents like a marriage certificate and discharge paperwork. 

The bank may require other documents such as payment stubs, official letters, and utility bills. Check with your specific bank to find out which documents it requires since each may have unique policies. 

Military banks vs. credit unions

Banks and credit unions seem very similar. Both offer the same types of financial services, but the main difference is that banks are for-profit, and credit unions are not-for-profit. Since banks are in the business of making money, the fees are typically higher, but banks are usually more technologically advanced than credit unions. Another difference is that banks usually have branches throughout the country, whereas credit unions are often limited to their specific city or town so have fewer branches. 

The right choice for your military banking needs depends on what you’re looking for in a financial institution. If you want a smaller, more personal banking experience, opt for a credit union. If you’re wanting the latest technology and security features, a big bank may be a better fit.

In terms of military perks for members, banks and credit unions typically offer the same benefits. 

What military members and families should look for in a bank

When choosing a military bank or credit union, a few key factors are worth considering.

  • Convenience
  • Flexibility in terms of loan repayment options
  • Competitive interest rates 
  • Fees associated with certain services
  • Discounts on home loans or auto insurance rates
  • Financial services, such as retirement planning

It’s also important to look for security measures such as fraud protection that keep your money safe from theft or unauthorized activity. Many institutions also offer special programs designed for U.S. service members including discounted interest rates on home loans or zero fees when using their debit cards overseas. 

In addition to traditional banking services offered by military banks and credit unions, many offer exclusive savings accounts with higher-than-average interest rates along with special incentive programs like reward points or cash-back bonuses when you use their debit card. For those looking for investment opportunities that align with their personal risk tolerance level, some institutions allow customers to explore various portfolio options tailored specifically toward veterans’ interests. 

Best military banks and credit unions 

With so many options, it’s tough to know where to even begin researching. Benzinga compiled a list of the best military banks and credit unions to help you narrow down your options.

Best Military-Exclusive Bank — USAA

USAA membership is open to active, retired, and separated veterans from the U.S. military with a discharge type of "Honorable" or "General Under Honorable Conditions," as well as their eligible family members, which include spouses and children if certain conditions are met. 

Members of USAA Bank are entitled to special benefits, including discounts on shopping, health care, entertainment, home services, and travel. They'll also receive discounts from major companies like Hertz, FTD, and ADT Home Security. More than 60,000 ATMs nationwide and personalized assistance for deployed service members make this bank incredibly convenient. Another key benefit is that members can receive their military pay one day early.

Best for Rewards — Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union is open to all branches of the military and their immediate family members.  

Military personnel who open a Smartly Checking account automatically get upgraded to the bank's Smart Rewards Plus tier. This feature includes free cashier's checks and money orders, a 50% discount on personal checks and safe deposit boxes, a discount on mortgage closing costs, and other benefits. 

NFCU charges no monthly fees and requires no minimum balance. 

Best for Easy To Join — PenFed Credit Union

Although membership was previously restricted to people with military or government ties, it's now open to all citizens and permanent residents of the United States. PenFed Credit Union is one of the easiest financial institutions to join.

PenFed Credit Union is ideal for customers looking for high-yielding accounts with low minimum deposit requirements and low fees.

Access America Checking is the only checking account offered by PenFed, as of 2022. Depending on your daily balance, this dividend-paying checking account offers two tiers of annual percentage yields (APYs). 

To open an account, a minimum deposit of $25 is required. With a daily balance of $500 or direct deposits totaling at least $500 per month, the monthly fee of $10 is waived.

Best for Deployment Benefits — Security Service Federal Credit Union

Eligibility is open to members of select military branches and units and Department of Defense employees at military bases within its service areas of Texas, Colorado, and Utah. 

A full selection of accounts, loans, insurance and other financial products are provided by Security Service. The only monthly fee associated with its basic checking account is for paper statements. 

Military personnel serving overseas are eligible for special benefits from Security Service Federal Credit Union. A program that will lower insurance costs for storing a car or arrange for the car to be shipped overseas is available to members, as well as loans with a low fixed APR of 3.99% to assist with financial needs related to the deployment process. Military personnel can also call a special customer service line.

Best for 24-Hour Customer Support — Service Credit Union

Service Credit Union membership is open to active duty military, veterans, and their families. 

It offers great rates and even better bonus rates for members who are deployed. A primary savings account will earn a 5% APY on the first $500. 

Although there's a monthly fee for checking accounts, it's easy to avoid it by maintaining a minimum balance or having a direct deposit. It offers 24-hour customer care, ensuring you can always get help when you need it. 

Choosing a financial institution that meets your needs

When it comes to military banking, you can choose between banks and credit unions as well as institutions that are open to the public or exclusive to service members. Some of the best features are low fees and high yields, but you can find some that offer additional perks like travel discounts and specialized loans to help with deployment. The most important thing is to choose an institution that meets your specific financial needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions


What banks offer free checking for veterans?


Some banks exclusively reserved for active duty service members and veterans offer free checking, such as USAA Bank and Navy Federal Credit Union. Other banks open to the general public, like Chase and Ally, offer free checking to military members.


What documents do veterans need to apply for credit unions?


To apply for credit unions, you’ll need your government-issued ID or driver’s license, military ID and military discharge paperwork if applicable.


What are the best credit unions for disabled veterans?


Most military banks accept disabled veterans as members and offer the same perks to them as other customers. They’ll receive low-interest loans, high yield-savings and other benefits.