A military bank offers features and flexibility that are tailored to military life, whether you're a veteran, active-duty serviceman, or a member of the military family. Find out how to select the right military bank to meet your needs. You'll also learn how to open an account and what other banking options are available for military members, veterans, and their families.
What is the difference between a Military Bank account and a regular account?
Many military bank accounts have special features to help meet the needs of service members. Military bank accounts can offer you early access to your military pay, automated bill payment and protocols that protect your account while you are deployed.
Some military banks offer lower or waived maintenance fees for their service members. They also offer ATM reimbursements, reduced or no overdraft charges, and can save service members money, especially on deployment.
Military-affiliated institutions can offer other financial products to service members. These include home loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs and insurances such as auto insurances for dependents living overseas.
Kate Horrell is a financial counselor and military family expert. She says that the financial institutions are no different. Some banks actively market to the military community by offering perks and benefits to people who are affiliated with the military.
Horrell, for example, points out that USAA Bank credits military pay into servicemembers' accounts two days prior to the military payday.
Lacey Langford, a military money expert, says that mobile deposit is another feature of military banks that many military members find important. Langford explains that the ability to use a mobile phone to deposit a cheque while traveling overseas is a huge benefit.
Military bank accounts are also offered by traditional banks. Military banks offer specialized services that are tailored to meet the unique needs of military personnel.
What is the best military bank for you?
Military banks are no different from traditional banks. Your needs will determine which military bank is best for you. You may require a local branch to withdraw cash while on active duty abroad.
You'll want to choose a bank that you can use from anywhere if you are frequently moving and deploying. Veterans should prioritize a bank which can assist them in moving to the next phase of their lives with a VA loan.
Horrell said that it is common for active duty military personnel to have two banks. One large national institution, which can be moved with you wherever you are, and another bank or credit union close by, with a branch near your location. You could use the national bank to pay your bills and accept payments, while the local branch would be the one where you get cash and local currency.
Langford believes it is convenient to have local banks on site. She says that they can withdraw yen, instead of dollars, if needed.
Horrell and Langford suggest that you check with the Association of Military Banks of America (AMBA), a non-profit organization of military banks, when searching for banks. AMBA can provide recommendations for military banks that offer financial counseling and cater to service member's needs.
You should choose a bank which offers all the services you require, including checking and savings account, loans, and credit cards. Pay attention to the monthly fees, especially for the maintenance of the account. Some banks provide free accounts while others charge a fee for accounts which unlock additional benefits such as checking account that earns interest. If you do not have access to the ATMs of your bank, refunds for ATM fees may be your top priority.
Langford says that if you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, it is important to find a bank with a no minimum balance account. This will prevent you from paying fees for a low balance.
You may want to use overdraft protection if you are worried about mistakes in military pay and don't want to be charged for bounced checks.
If you are deployed, bill payment services can help you pay your bills automatically.
How to open a military bank account
It's almost the same as opening a regular bank account, unless you have to prove that you are a member of the military.
The procedures vary between financial institutions. However, you can expect to follow the following steps to open a bank account for military personnel:
Manage your account online with online banking.
Military Banks for Veterans
Some financial institutions are geared towards veterans. Others cater to active-duty military personnel. Veterans United Home Loans, for example, specializes in VA home loans for veterans and active duty service members.
You can continue to use military banking if you enjoyed it while you were on active duty. Horrell says that many veterans are unaware they can still access military-affiliated credit unions and banks. Don't think you aren't eligible for membership.
Veterans Benefits Banking Program is part of AMBA and offers financial and credit counseling to veterans. Direct deposit of VA benefits and stipends are also available.
Langford says that some veterans are using the PATRIOT Card as an alternative to traditional banks. It is a reloadable card with routing numbers. This card can be used worldwide and you can have your paychecks or benefits deposited onto it. Langford said that the caregiver cards of the Patriot Card are unique. They are physical or virtual cards issued by the cardholder, with limits and monitoring on how and where they can be used.
Additional Banking Options Available for Veterans and Military Personnel
Veterans and military members have many banking options, including banks that are not military-focused, such as USAA or Armed Forces Bank. Credit unions, like PenFed Credit Union Navy Federal Credit Union Service Credit Union are often used by military members.
There are also traditional banks that offer military-friendly services. For example, U.S. Bank offers a low-fee checking account for military personnel that allows them to earn rewards. Or Wells Fargo has Worldwide Military Banking, which doesn't charge Wells Fargo fees for ATM withdrawals made at non-Wells Fargo ATMs around the world.
Military personnel can choose from a variety of banking options. Find a military account that offers the features that you want, such as low fees, support and automation when you are deployed.
Horrell says that with so many options for banking, it is difficult to justify using a credit union or bank that charges fees other than cashier's check or overdrawn account.