GOBankingRates ranked the best military financial institutions of 2015, and San Antonio-based USAA Federal Savings Bank came in at No. 6. With a state-of-the-art mobile app, online banking, and award-winning customer service, USAA makes banking easy for active and retired military service members as well as non-military customers.
USAA has an extremely high customer satisfaction rate, with 98 percent of members continuing to stay with the bank year after year. The bank offers extensive benefits to members, such as free nationwide ATMs, competitive mortgage and auto loan rates, competitive homeowner’s insurance and auto insurance rates, and guidance on retirement planning and investments.
While some products and services are available to customers with no military affiliation, USAA membership is only open to the following people:
- Active, retired or honorably discharged military service members
- Officer candidates within 24 months of commissioning
- Cadets and midshipmen at U.S. service academies
- Advanced ROTC and ROTC scholarship students
- Family members of military service members, including widows, widowers and former spouses who have not remarried
USAA’s Competitive Savings Account and Loan Rates
USAA offers free checking accounts and access to any ATM nationwide free of charge, as well as credit cards with variable rates as low as 9.90% APR. Savings accounts with rates from 0.10% to 0.20% APY are offered with a minimum opening deposit of $25. USAA also offers a variety of CDs with rates as high as 1.06% APY.
USAA also recognizes how important it is for members to have access to affordable insurance. Average annual savings on auto insurance through USAA is $409 per year for those who switch from a different provider. USAA offers competitive homeowner’s insurance coverage and renter’s insurance with rates as low as $12 per month. The bank also provides members with flood insurance, boat insurance, small business insurance, life insurance, health insurance and more, making it a one-stop shop for all insurance needs.
In addition to banking and insurance products, USAA provides guidance for people interested in investing and long-term financial planning. The bank assists members with mutual fund and stock products and offers 529 college savings accounts and annuities. Products also include brokerage accounts with 50 free trades and trading fees as low as $5.95 per trade; target retirement accounts that automatically adjust their asset allocations depending on how long until retirement; and managed portfolios with a minimum investment of $25,000. Members can reach a representative for help online, on the phone or in person.
Military Discounts and Other Perks
For service members who are deployed, USAA offers discounted rates on loans and vehicle storage, expedited policies that cover severe injury benefits during wartime and free ADT home security and monitoring.
Other unique perks that separate USAA from its competitors include a home improvement network to help find prescreened contractors as well as discounts on services and products such as but not limited to the following:
- Child care through Care.com
- FedEx shipping
- PODS for hassle-free moving
- Rental cars and travel insurance
- Flowers and jewelry
GOBankingRates’ Criteria for Rankings
Institution selection: In order to determine its “Best Military Financial Institution” rankings, GOBankingRates examined 36 military financial institutions offering retail bank services, including credit unions and banks. To be considered for ranking, banks had to be members of the Association of Military Banks of America (AMBA), and credit unions had to be listed as serving a military membership by the NCUA; from those, GOBankingRates selected the top military banks and credit unions for inclusion in its survey based on the following criteria.
Criteria for rankings: Financial institutions were scored from most to least favorable in the following categories. The categories given the most weight were (1) free checking account option and (2) low-fee or free ATM use, including reimbursing ATM fees. The next criteria were (3) savings account APY, (4) 12-month CD APY, (5) product and service offerings (including auto loans, VA mortgage loans, credit cards, insurance, and investment services), (6) a mobile app and remote deposit capability, and (7) financial education services. The criteria were rounded out by the financial institutions’ (8) BauerFinancial Star Ratings for overall financial strength, which were given a lesser weight.
Photo credit: Thomas Depenbusch