How You Can Join USAA (and Get One of Their 7 Amazing Services)

If you are eligible to join the USAA membership, here is what you can expect from this top-rated bank.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.

Get started with USAA

Last Edited: October 16, 2016 @ 3:58 pmThe content of ptmoney.com is for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Visitors to ptmoney.com should not act upon the content or information without first seeking appropriate professional advice. In accordance with the latest FTC guidelines, we declare that we have a financial relationship with every company mentioned on this site.
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, financial writer, FinCon CEO, and husband and father of three. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.

Comments

  1. I’ve been a USAA member for over 10 years now and I will likely be a lifelong member. If your dad served in the military, then he would have eligibility, and you could join through him later (adult children of USAA members are eligible to join). That said, anyone can use their banking and most investment services. The key difference between membership is the ability to purchase certain insurance products. It’s certainly worth looking into.

  2. lorakathleen says:

    I’ve been a member of USAA for just over a year (non-military) and I could not be happier, with just a checking and savings account. I tell everyone I know about them!

  3. I’ve had USAA for a year and half now, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I have no military affiliation but was pleased to find that I could still have a bank account with them. Now I recommend them to everyone, military affiliated or not.

  4. I don’t use USAA, but I know J$ has a bazzillion accounts with them.

  5. I am a USAA member through having served and as a spouse later. I admit to enjoying the benefits of being a member. I’ve always gotten great service through the automobile and life insurance dept.

  6. 30 years, so far so good. We got a great break on vehicle insurance when our daughter started driving. With three drivers on a policy yet only two cars, USAA insisted on classifying her as an “occasional driver”… even after full disclosure. It’s probably the equivalent of a couple years of free insurance.

  7. @AskJune_USAA Thanks for sharing my post, June! Happy Holidays!

  8. As the son of retired active duty military, I’ve been with them for 25 years. Fantastic service year upon year. They’re also technologically ahead of their time, with featured like Deposit@Home and Deposit@mobile, which let you scan checks and instantly have them appear as available funds. They’re a DREAM to deal with for anything related to insurance, and I’ve been able to cut through all the red tape and get simple answers to difficult questions numerous times. Not only that, but their user-friendliness takes the sting our filing claims. AWESOME company. Highly recommend.

  9. As the son of retired active duty military, I’ve been with them for 25 years. Fantastic service year upon year. They’re also technologically ahead of their time, with featured like Deposit@Home and Deposit@mobile, which let you scan checks and instantly have them appear as available funds. They’re a DREAM to deal with for anything related to insurance, and I’ve been able to cut through all the red tape and get simple answers to difficult questions numerous times. Not only that, but their user-friendliness takes the sting our filing claims. AWESOME company. Highly recommend.

  10. I’ve been getting these questions, too, Phil, so I went into more detail and added in NFCU & PenFed as well:

    http://the-military-guide.com/2012/01/04/joining-nfcu-penfed-and-usaa-part-2-of-2/

    • Philip Taylor says:

      Hey, Nords! That’s a great resource you have there for anyone considering either account. Way to go!

  11. ive been a member for 6 years now?  I was a member via my mom in the military and im still in it now.  so far the best bank ever. i actually left them for a bit and came back to them still the best.  USAA will probably be in my family for a long time

  12. Julian T says:

    This is probably a silly question, but is there a fee to join or an annual membership fee and if so, how much.
    Thanks

    • Julian T Not a silly question. No fees.

      • Julian T says:

        Philip Taylor Julian T Thank you for the response.  I am not sure if I am eligible or not. My husband is a MIA.  I do receive VA benefits and CHAMPVA medical coverage.  I always fall into one of those confusing categories.

        • Julian T Philip Taylor Their customer support is excellent. If you call that number above I’m sure the rep will be more than capable of helping you find out if you qualify. Good luck!

        • Julian T says:

          Philip Taylor Julian T Thank You.  I am glad I found your blog.

  13. I’ve been with USAA for 5 years. My ex husband was in the military when we got our divorce this past year. I can still keep USAA since I was already a member. My children will be able to bank through them since they were listed under a military member. I’ve talked to a lot of different people over the years and have always had great customer service. I recommend USAA to everyone. They were the cheapest for insurance as well so that makes it even better!! I love the free online app as well. I just love USAA all around!!

  14. I am a USAA member and served in the Marine corps. I love their services so much I told my grandparents about it because it’s so cost effective and they treat their members well, and my great grandfather served twenty years in the navy. So they appeared that they would qualify and be able to benefit here however they didn’t qualify to get the same benefits I do because her father wasn’t a member of the bank. I feel this should be modified but I assume they have their reasons for this.