Membership with USAA has its perks.
As one of America’s best and most trusted banks, USAA offers excellent customer service, a laundry list of competitive banking products, and cutting edge banking technology to members of the military and their families.
Taking care of military families has always been USAA’s primary concern, which is why civilians may only purchase a couple of products from the institution.
If you are eligible to join the USAA membership, here is what you can expect from this top-rated bank:
Who Is Eligible?
Eligibility for USAA can be a little confusing, particularly considering the fact that the bank opened its deposit-only banking products to civilians from 2009 to 2013. As of right now, full membership is available to:
- Active-duty service members
- Retired service members who have served honorably
- Spouses of active-duty and retired service members
- Adult children of active-duty and retired service members
If you are the child of a service member, your military parent will have to sign up for membership with USAA in order for you to be eligible for membership.
Civilians are not eligible for membership, but they can purchase life insurance and some types of investment accounts with USAA.
What USAA Is
USAA did not begin its life as a traditional bank. The United Services Automobile Association was originally formed in 1922 by a group of army officers in order to insure each other’s cars. Though the organization has grown both in size and offerings since then, it is still not exactly a bank.
USAA is an inter-insurance exchange, rather than a corporation, which means USAA members are actually insuring each other, and the members technically own the organization’s assets. That means that each member may receive distributions at the end of each year, if premiums have exceeded claims.
Unlike other large banks, USAA does not have a network of brick-and-mortar branches all across the country. USAA has only a few branches across 11 states, and all of them are in major military installations. However, USAA has a network of over 60,000 ATMs that members may use, as well as excellent mobile technology (more on that below) for remote banking.
What USAA Offers
USAA’s bank offerings aim to meet members’ needs. Specifically, they offer:
- Free checking, which includes no service fees, no minimum balances, and free bill pay and online transfers. USAA also refunds ATM fees up to $15 per month, and does not charge ATM fees for the first 10 withdrawals of each month
- Savings accounts
- Mortgages, auto loans, and personal loans—all with incredibly competitive rates.
- Credit cards. Their cards offer cash rewards, as well as special benefits for active-duty service members, including extremely low regular APRs
- Investments, including mutual funds for IRAs (both Roth and traditional), 529s, and standard brokerage accounts
- Insurance products, including renters, homeowners, automobile, personal property and life
- A car-buying service that helps members secure lower prices
On top of all of this, USAA has also always prided itself on exemplary customer service. Reviewers describe themselves as being in a better mood after getting off a phone call to USAA customer service than they were before they dialed.
Embracing Digital Banking
USAA was created to serve military service members, which means the organization has been on the forefront of much of the revolutionary banking technology over the years. After all, it can be tough to keep up with brick-and-mortar banking while you are deployed or receiving new orders every few years.
That’s why USAA offered remote deposit as far back as 2007, with Deposit@Home. (Prior to this, members had to mail checks to the USAA bank branch in San Antonio, Texas in order to make a deposit.) USAA also offered the iPhone app, DepositMobile, as of 2009.
In addition, members are also able to pay bills online, transfer funds and deposit checks with the mobile app, and track spending and monitor accounts with the USAA Money Manager. The organization also allows members to transfer funds to family and friends at any bank, with no fee.
Taking Care of Active-Duty Service Members
Since USAA was specifically created to help active-duty service members, it reserves some of its best perks for those who are currently serving, and those who are deployed. In particular, deployed service members receive 4% APR on credit cards during their deployment (which is 2% lower than the rates required by the Service Members Civil Relief Act).
In addition, service members who receive campaign medals will receive rebates on interest accrued during deployment, and any deployed or active-duty member will enjoy discounts on auto insurance rates while a their car is either garaged on base or kept in storage at home.
Excellent Rates For Every Member
Even though the best deals are reserved for active-duty service members, USAA offers incredibly low rates for loans for all of its members. 36-month car loans start with rates as low as 0.99% APY for new vehicles and 2.25% APY for used cars. These are similar rates to what you would get from a credit union, except you get the benefits of a big bank with USAA along with the tiny loans.
The Bottom Line
If you are in the military, a military spouse, or the child of a service member, I’d highly recommend you check out USAA for your insurance and banking needs. Even if you do not live on or near a major military installation, USAA can serve all of your banking needs if you are willing to embrace their digital banking. Otherwise, it can be a great place to get a low cost loan or comprehensive insurance for less.
Either way, members of USAA can enjoy the perks of belonging to one of the best banks in America.