Service personnel and their families tend to relocate periodically and spend long periods overseas. To identify the best checking account for these users, Money sought low out-of-network and foreign-transaction fees, plus other perks for active and former military. —Megan Leonhardt and Alicia Adamczyk
USAA Federal Savings Bank
WHY IT WINS: USAA outperforms other military offerings with a mix of benefits: no maintenance fee and easily waived ATM fees, plus discounts on student loans, a free credit score each month, and alerts for changes in your credit. The first 10 outside ATM withdrawals a month are free— particularly important for a service member deployed overseas, away from USAA’s ATM network—and USAA will reimburse up to $15 each month in outside ATM surcharges.
CAVEAT: Interest is below average for brick-and-mortar checking. There is just one branch, in San Antonio. If you’re not going to avail yourself of the loans or other perks, you can avoid foreign-transaction and ATM fees with our pick for Foreign Travelers, Capital One 360 Checking.
• Minimum to open: $25, waived for new recruits.
• Maintenance fee: $0
• Foreign-transaction fee: 1%
• Outside ATM fee: First 10 withdrawals per month free, then $2; up to $15 a month in other surcharges reimbursed.
• Interest: 0.01%