MILITARY STAR Card Review: Not Your Typical Military Credit Card

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Serving in the military comes with certain perks, one of which is the ability to qualify for credit cards designed specifically for members of the Armed Forces. Depending on which military credit card you choose, you may be able to earn valuable rewards in the form of cash back or points that you can later redeem for a statement credit, gift cards and more.

The MILITARY STAR card is one option available. If you’re on active duty or you’re retired from military service, keep reading to learn more about the card’s benefits and how it stacks up against other rewards card offerings.

MILITARY STAR card highlights

At a glance

Annual Fee:None
Foreign Transaction Fee:None
Rewards Program:Earn two points for every dollar you spend in qualifying net purchases at exchange facilities and Armed Forces Recreation Center resort hotels, as well as online at shopmyexchange.com, myNavyExchange.com and ShopCGX.com. You can also earn points at Army and Air Force Exchange Service food courts, Express® locations, mall vendors and more.
Bonus:Save 10% off your first day’s purchases upon card approval
Additional Notes:Restrictions and limitations apply
We think these folks may be interested:• Individuals who regularly shop with military exchanges
• Individuals who want to earn rewards with no annual fee
We think these folks should keep looking:• Individuals who prefer to earn miles or cash back in lieu of points
• Individuals who want more flexibility in redeeming their rewards
Verdict:For Military members and their families who want to save on military exchange purchases

MILITARY STAR card basics

The MILITARY STAR card is offered by the Exchange Credit Program (ECP). This program is operated and funded by the Army and Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES), which is a branch of the Department of Defense. The ECP operates the MILITARY STAR program on behalf of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines Corps and Coast Guard.

This line of credit is designed to assist military members with their financial needs whether it’s for everyday purchases or for something that’s unique to their military lifestyle, such as PCS, deployment or retirement. Card Members receive a personal dividend with the MILITARY STAR Rewards Program as a thank you for shopping the exchange. Unlike a bank-issued military credit card which can be used virtually anywhere, the MILITARY STAR card can only be used at the following locations:

      • Army and Air Force Exchange Service shopping facilities
      • Armed Forces Recreation Center resort hotels
      • Online at shopmyexchange.com
      • Online at myNavyExchange.com
      • Online at ShopCGX.com
      • Army and Air Force Exchange Service food courts

The MILITARY STAR credit card pays back military members by paying members rewards, which we’ll discuss a little later on, the Exchange Credit Program uses part of the earnings from the card program to fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Programs for service members and their families.

The MILITARY STAR card offers a variable Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for Retail Plan Purchases currently at 12.49% and this APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. There is a 0.00% purchase APR for Military Clothing Plan purchases.

Applying for a MILITARY STAR card

militarystarcard2You’ll need a MyECP account to apply for a MILITARY STAR credit card. To create a profile and complete the application, provide your name, date of birth, Social Security number, verification of your military credentials and correct answers to security questions. If you apply online through the ECP Military Star website, you save 10% on your first day’s purchases. Certain restrictions and limitations may apply.

You can also fill out a MILITARY STAR credit card application at your local exchange. You’ll need the same information outlined above to apply. If you have questions about your application or your account, you can follow up with MILITARY STAR customer service.

MILITARY STAR card vs. other rewards cards

To offer a little perspective here, we decided to compare the MILITARY STAR card to other rewards credit cards:

USAA Rewards™ Visa Signature® Credit Card

Annual fee: $0

Card highlights we want to feature:

  • Special Features for Military Members
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No penalty APR

The USAA Rewards™ Visa Signature® Credit Card offers 2X points whenever you’re dining out or buying gas. 1X point for every dollar spent on all other purchases with no limit on the amount of points you can earn. This card offers more flexibility in how you can use those rewards than the MILITARY STAR card. Redeem your points for cash, merchandise, gift cards, travel or donate to your favorite military affiliate group. Redemption values vary based on how and on what you redeem your points for.

You need to be a member of USAA to be considered for this card, currently USAA membership is open to U.S. active military, former military, eligible family members, or a cadet or midshipman. Please note, membership in USAA does not guarantee approval of this card or any other product, you still need to go through the application process for the specific product you are interested in.

One potential pitfall to watch out for is the higher range of the Annual Percentage Rate (APR). This card comes with a variable Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for purchases, balance transfers and cash advances ranging from 12.15% to 28.15%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors. This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.

Terms apply.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Annual fee: $95

Card highlights we want to feature:

  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide
  • Eligible new Cardmembers earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may be another option for military members who want to earn rewards towards travel purchases. This card offers2X points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. Those points can be transferred on a one-to-one basis to select leading airline and hotel loyalty programs.

When you redeem your points for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, you get 25% more value. The 60,000-point bonus, for example, is worth $750 in travel credit when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. One potential drawback is the $95 annual fee. That’s a significant cost difference compared to the MILITARY STAR card, however there is more flexibility as to where the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can be used, it can be used wherever Visa is accepted.

Terms apply.

Discover it® Cash Back

Annual fee: $0

Card highlights we want to feature:

  • You earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate
  • Plus, you earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – made with your Discover it® Cash Back card
  • There is an introductory offer: Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically – for new cardmembers only. There’s no signing up and no limit to how much is matched.
  • There are no foreign transaction fees

The Discover it® Cash Back card offers a tiered cash back rewards structure with a rewards rate that’s more than double that of the MILITARY STAR card. Cardmembers earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, automatically earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. If you shop at Amazon.com, use your Discover it® Cash Back rewards at Amazon.com checkout.

Discover rewards you even further with an introductory offer: Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically – for new cardmembers only. There’s no signing up and there’s no limit to how much cash back is matched.

There’s no annual fee, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Terms apply.

Here are a couple more cards we want to add to the mix:

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Annual fee: $95

We think the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (American Express is a CreditSesame.com advertiser) offers an exceptionally generous cash back rewards structure. 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations. 1% Cash Back on other purchases.

In addition there are a couple of new categories for the potential to earn more on your everyday spending when using this card. NEW 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. NEW 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.

There is a $95 annual fee for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. Take a look at your spending patterns to determine if this card makes sense for you, meaning check if you spend enough so you earn enough cash back rewards to cover the annual fee and then some. The bottom line, you don’t want the annual fee to negate the cash back rewards you earn.

Terms Apply.

As a side note, you may want to take a look at the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (American Express is a CreditSesame.com advertiser), which has no annual fee and offers cash back rewards. 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.

Annual fee: $0

Terms Apply.

MILITARY STAR card rewards

miltarystarcard3

Now that you’ve seen what the competition has to offer, let’s take a look at the MILITARY STAR card’s rewards program. The rewards structure is fairly straightforward. Any time you use your card at one of the approved locations mentioned earlier, you’ll earn two points for every $1 in net purchases. You can use the card for Military Clothing plan purchases but you won’t earn points for those purchases.

Once you reach 2,000 points, you automatically earn a $20 MILITARY STAR Rewards Card. That means each point is worth one cent. That redemption value is comparable to what other rewards cards offer.

MILITARY STAR Rewards Cards can be redeemed for merchandise or services anywhere that exchange gift cards are accepted – which includes exchange facilities, shopmyexchange.com and myNavyExchange.com, exchange mall vendors and more. There’s no limit on how many gift cards you can earn in a year. If you spend $10,000 at the exchange annually, you’ll receive $100 back in rewards.

Your rewards points will not expire as long as you have purchase activity at least once every 12 months, however, rules are subject to change without prior notice. If you close your account or the ECP closes it for any reason, you forfeit any unused points.

Besides earning two points per $1 on qualifying purchases, you have other ways to save with the card. Some of the savings you can take advantage of include:

      • Free standard shipping on shopmyexchange.com and myNavyExchange.com purchases
      • Five cents off per gallon fuel when you fill up at Army and Air Force Exchange Service and participating facilities
      • 10% discount on Army and Air Force Exchange food court purchases at participating facilities

MILITARY STAR card pros

thumbsupThe MILITARY STAR card is an option for service members and their spouses who are looking for a card that can help them kick-start their credit history or enhance their credit score. This card can be used as a tool to help you grow your credit score over time. Be sure to clarify with the customer service representative if your transactions will be reported to the three major credit bureaus. Be sure to manage your account responsibly, pay at least the minimum due each month making sure your payment is received and posted on time, and keep your balance low in relation to your credit limit – to demonstrate consistent responsible use.

The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a fairly low variable rate of 12.49% for qualifying Retail Plan purchases made through a shopping exchange. A purchase APR of 0% applies to qualifying Military Clothing Plan purchases, so if you have to carry a balance, you won’t be gouged by high interest rate. You also don’t have to worry about paying an annual fee, or foreign transaction fees.

The Exchange Credit Program (ECP) makes special concessions for eligible Active Duty and Mobilized or Activated Reservists or National Guard Military Members who have valid orders to deploy to qualifying contingency locations and who provide proof of their deployment orders to ECP, and meet other criteria, such as an account that’s in good standing (no more than one payment past due). You may still make purchases with your card, however you’re not required to make monthly payments and your interest rate is reduced temporarily to 6% while you are deployed. After your deployment ends, your interest rate reverts to the rate in the current Exchange Credit Program Credit Agreement and you’re obligated to make monthly payments as long as your account still has a balance.

MILITARY STAR card cons

thumbsdownThe card’s biggest drawback is that it can only be used at exchange facilities or Military Clothing plan purchases. Other military-friendly credit cards, such as the USAA card, offer more flexibility as to where you may use your Card. Some may also come with more generous rewards structures and promotional offers for new Card Members.

The fact that you can only redeem rewards for military exchange purchases also limits its usefulness. If you want to be able to earn cash back, points or travel miles on non-exchange spending, you may want to consider pairing the MILITARY STAR card with another rewards card. You can look further into the rewards cards mentioned in this article or check out these options from our partners by clicking here.

Should you get the MILITARY STAR card?

If you’re in the military and you need a credit line or you do a lot of shopping through the exchange, the MILITARY STAR card may have the kind of benefits you’re looking for. Also, the fact that you can delay payments and reduce interest while on deployment is a mark in its favor. If you’re interested in using this card to raise your credit score, be sure to clarify with the customer service representative if your transactions will be reported to the three major credit bureaus.

When you’re weighing different military credit card options, take a look at how the rewards, interest rate and additional card benefits stack up. The more research you do beforehand, the better the odds of finding the card that’s the best fit for your spending style and your needs.


Independent Review Disclosure: All the information about the MILITARY STAR card, and the USAA Rewards™ Visa Signature® Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditSesame.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuers of these cards. The MILITARY STAR card, and the USAA Rewards™ Visa Signature® Credit Card are not available through CreditSesame.com.

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Published April 12, 2016
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