Benefits Servicemembers Should Consider When Picking a Credit Card

Benefits Servicemembers Should Consider When Picking a Credit Card

I was surprised when a credit card my family used only for emergencies was recently canceled for lack of use. Rather than reinstate the same card, I thought I’d check to see whether a better card option was available.


As an accountant, I’m not really supposed to use the number “zillions,” but it sure seemed to fit when I started my research and found so many different credit cards available. The most popular are low-fee, no-fee, low-interest, zero-interest, secured, balance transfer, and of course, rewards cards.


Choosing a credit card that’s right for you should be based largely on your current spending habits. Ask yourself, “How will I use the card?” If you travel extensively, a travel rewards cards might be in order, but make sure it’s aligned with the airline, hotel chain, or gas station you frequent. Or opt for a simple cash-back rewards card where you’ll get a percentage, sometimes as high as 5 percent, back on all your purchases. Just make sure the benefits to you outweigh the costs.


All cards must adhere to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which eases the financial burden on active duty military members, like capping a card’s interest rate at 6 percent. But many cards go further and offer other valuable benefits to servicemembers, like the waiving of a normally high fee on a premium card.


Balance transfer cards allow you to transfer your balance from another card to the new card at zero or low interest for a specific period of time. There’s an upfront fee, but the savings can be substantial if you pay off the balance before the regular interest rate kicks in.

Fees and interest rates, which can vary widely, are partially determined by your credit score. If you have no or bad credit, your fees and interest rates likely will be higher or you might even be denied. The answer might be a secured credit card, which requires a cash deposit that becomes your credit line for that account. So why bother getting a card if you have to give them the money up front? Having a card helps you build or rebuild your credit. This is especially important for millennials who need a decent credit score for future large purchases like a house. (Make sure the card reports to the credit agencies or you won’t get credit for your good credit.)