Who wouldn’t like to earn something back for every purchase made? Rewards programs are nothing new to debit and credit cards, however, finding one specific to U.S. Armed Force members has not always been easy.
There is an option exclusive to military personnel known as the Military Star Card. It provides a line of credit for your needs as well as a rewards program for you and military family members.
What Is The Military Star Card?
The Military Star Card is only available to U.S. Armed Force members which is what separates it from your typical rewards program credit card or debit card.
Understanding that military personnel (as well as their families) have specific needs helps make the program unique. The card offers a line of credit to help with routine day-to-day purchases, as well as those specific to a military lifestyle.
The number of benefits featured with the Military Star Card is what helps separate it from other credit cards designed partially, or exclusively, for military personnel.
Cardholders are also acknowledged by a personal dividend through each purchase made.
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The Military Star Card is operated through the Exchange Credit Program (ECP). The ECP is funded and managed by the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force. The program was established to protect service members from predatory lending through reasonable credit solutions.
ECP currently serves members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. It also supports eligible family members. The ECP reports that approximately two million U.S. Armed Forces members take advantage of the card.
How Does The Military Star Card Work?
The Military Star Card is comparable to signing up for another line of credit. There is an application process designed to confirm eligibility. Once this information is acquired the ECP then gets back to you with a line of credit being offered.
Of course the major exception to the Military Star Card compared to other credit cards is that you must represent a member of the U.S. Military. ECP has stated that its mission is to become the one card solution for all purchases after credit is received.
The rewards program of the Military Star Card is pretty cool. It provides two points for every $1 spent out of your own pocket. Every 2000 points acquired equals a $20 rewards card. Furthermore, the points start accumulating immediately which is a nice feature compared to some credit cards that require you to wait or set other restrictions.
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The flexible terms of the credit is designed to help military personnel and family members safely build credit. The multiple discounts and benefits also featured through the card is outstanding.
The ECP provides all cardholders with 24/7 access to the Exchange Contact Center. The customer service line has been established to help serve the unique needs of U.S. Armed Forces members.
Military members are allowed to authorize additional users of the card. The eligibility of this opportunity is limited to dependents (as defined by the Department of Defense, not IRS), at least 18 years old, and with current Exchange privileges.
Adding authorized users not only enables family members to fully use the card, but they can also make payments on your behalf while you are overseas.
Please note that the rewards program is only available to accounts that remain in good standing. Cardholders are responsible for payment of any outstanding balance, even after canceling an account.
Benefits of The Military Star Card
There are three primary benefits to the Military Star Card. 1) It provides a reasonable interest rate. 2) There are exclusive benefits designed specifically for military families. 3) The rewards points.
Cardholders begin earning points the moment the account gets opened and do not expire so long as you have purchase activity at least once every 12 months. The rewards system offers a 2% cash back by providing two points for every $1 spent.
Once 2,000 points is reached members of the ECP program automatically receive a $20 rewards card. The card can get redeemed for merchandise or services anywhere the gift card is accepted.
While it would be nice if the rewards program gave the option of redeeming points for cash or applying it to monthly installment payments – the program is still a really great feature.
The Military Star Card does not come with a lot of strings attached. The credit line currently features 0% promotional interest and fair rates thereafter. Furthermore, ECP claims that while your credit score will influence whether or not you are eligible – it does not effect your interest rate one way or another.
The interest rate for all borrowers is fixed and within reason. If you are eligible for the card you will find that the interest rate is lower than many other creditors.
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Additionally, it is an opportunity to build good credit for active members of the military since payment history is reported to all major credit bureaus. If you have never had a credit card before it can help qualify for later loans including a new car or home.
The number of discounts and promotional offers exclusive to military families is diverse. For example, any purchase at NavyExchange.com or shopmyexchange.com includes free shipping. Families also benefit from the $0.05 per gallon discount on gas. Food court discounts are 10 percent daily.
Military Clothing Plan purchases feature a 0% APR. It applies to eligible clothing up to $500. Unfortunately, military clothing and equipment offered through other vendors does not qualify for the special interest rate waiver.
Military Star Card Reviews – What are people saying about it? Any complaints?
Overall, the feedback regarding the Military Star Card is positive. Satisfied customers report that they like the low interest rate and generous amount of rewards provided.
Though there is some criticism over the eligibility standards (as the credit card does not accept all military members), the cons are fairly limited.
Current cardholders cite that they appreciate the direct attention it gives to military personnel and families. For example, the automatic lowered interest rate during employment is a terrific feature. They also like the 0% APR on approved clothing expenses.
The ECP also does not assess a lot of the other fees a traditional credit card would like an annual fee or late payment fee. If anything it does the opposite. On the first day of purchases new card members are rewarded with a 10 percent discount.
And of course the rewards program is a nice feature. Anything helps so the 2% cash back gives much deserving Armed Forces members a little extra spending money. There are other exclusive military benefits too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I use it?
The Military Star Card is available to use at any qualified, authorized veterans with Exchange access location. It can get accepted on not only on-base exchanges and commissaries, but also qualifying gas stations and mini marts.
The full list includes:
- Army and Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES)
- Navy Exchange (NEX)
- Marine Corps Exchange (MCX)
- Coast Guard Exchange (CGX)
- Base Exchange (BX)
- Post Exchange (PX)
- Uniform shops
- Lodging for service members including Armed Forces Recreation Center resorts.
- Services for Army members including welfare, morale, and recreation.
- Other services including Boingo Wi-Fi and Armed Forces Network equipment needed to rent.
In addition to these military assigned posts certain gas stations, mini-marts, food courts, Class Six stores, and mini-mall retailers may also take the Military Star Card.
The Military Star Card is also accepted at online versions of the above exchanges for all branches of service.
NOTE: Chase did previously offer a Military Star Card through Mastercard yet that option was discontinued in 2015. Now the only available type of Military Star Card is through the ECP.
What can I use the points for?
Cardholders receive two points for every $1 spent. Once 2,000 points are earned a $20 gift card is automatically provided to the service member.
Cards can get redeemed at a number of merchandisers or services. You will need to check with the individual retailer in order to confirm eligibility. A popular option is to redeem points at places like myNavyExchange.com, shopmyexchange.com, and shopCGX.com.
There is no set limit to the number of cards a military family can earn in a year. However, reward points cannot get directly credited into an account, applied to a previous purchase, used to purchase another type of gift card, or redeemed for cash.
Do I have to be on Active Duty to have the card?
Not necessarily. Though active duty members are the primary recipients the ECP does consider veterans (with Exchange access) and reservists.
The primary method of determining eligibility is any service member past or present with current Exchange shopping privileges. The next determining factor is the credit score of the individual applying.
If accepted service members may add additional users. It is common for individuals to include spouses as well as dependents (according to the Department of Defense).
Once another eligible individual receives permission he or she can use the card to make full purchases. They also have the ability to pay monthly installments if necessary.
What do I need to know about interest rate and other fees?
The Military Star Card is a relatively straightforward credit card with thankfully no hidden fees. However, it is still a credit card so there are some expenses you should make yourself aware of before deciding it is the right card for you and your family.
The card has recently been reported with an APR of 12.24 percent. The same fixed rate applies to all cardholders, regardless of credit score. However, the APR is variable and does change based on adjustments regarding the Prime Rate.
One of the best features of the Military Star Card is that it rewards service members that have just been deployed. Any U.S. Military member receiving deployment also receives a lower APR as a result.
Then at the end of the activation or deployment the interest changes back to the previous rate, or current assigned rate.
Furthermore, all eligible military clothing expenses (under $500) paid through the Military Clothing Plan receives 0% APR.
Due dates for monthly payments of the Military Star Card is currently listed at 25 days after the conclusion of each billing cycle. There is absolutely no annual fee, late fee, or over-limit fee according to the terms and conditions.
However, any monthly installment that turns back unpaid due to insufficient funds receives a $25 fee. The penalty rate is 20.24 percent. It applies to any monthly installment not paid to at least the minimum due.
How do I apply?
Are you interested in the Military Star Card? You can apply by visiting the official website of the Exchange Credit Program.
The website also includes an official disclosure of the crediting agency, your privacy rights, FAQ, as well as terms and conditions.
Please allow some time for the ECP to review your application. Personal information and additional documentation is needed to submit an online application.
Then, the agency will determine your military status, review any dependents you wish to include with the card, as well as your credit score history. Military confirmation and credit score are the two most important determining factors. Verification of income, employment, and other related information is done so via a third party.
While a less than stellar credit score can prevent you from getting accepted it will not dictate your interest rate as that number is fixed among all cardholders.
How can I get a credit line increase?
After getting accepted for a new account the ECP will provide you with a credit line. It will also include details about the interest rate and other crucial information.
During this time the applicant can contact the ECP if they would like to request a higher credit limit. It is up to the judgement of the ECP and does not necessary mean you will receive a counter offer.
If that is the case stay patient. Over time as you build up a good rapport by paying Military Star Card payments on time and keeping a reasonable balance, the agency may pursue you directly for a credit line increase.
How do I cancel my Military Star Card?
In order to cancel your Military Star Card please contact 1-877-891-7827. There are additional contact numbers listed for service members located outside the United States.
The Exchange Credit Program can also handle inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Standard mail inquiries can go through:
Exchange Credit Program
PO Box 650410
Dallas, TX 75265-0410
NOTE: In some instances the privilege to use a Military Star Card may get disallowed if the active duty soldier leaves the military and no longer has Exchange status rights.
Pros of Having a Military Star Card
There are numerous advantages to having a Military Star Card. Some of the highlights:
- Lower interest rate compared to many other major credit cards.
- The rewards program features the equivalent of 2% cash back on all purchases.
- No annual fee.
- No late fees or over-limit fees assessed.
- New cardholders automatically get a 10% discount on purchases the first day used.
- Promotional 0% interest rate offers.
- The fixed interest rate means that a less than stellar credit score does not impact the rate.
- New borrowers can help build up credit leading to future loans like a new car or home.
- Service members receive an interest rate reduction while deployed.
- The number of discounts on fuel, food, and clothing is exceptional.
Cons of Having a Military Star Card
No matter how well it is advertised every credit card has some drawbacks. Let’s take a look at some of the cons:
- The Military Star Card is only available to active duty members and their families. It is terminated once the individual leaves the U.S. Military.
- Approval for the card is not automatic, even if enlisted in the military. Eligibility is based on credit score.
- No cash redemption offered for reward points.
- The rewards points that are accumulated are not available at all retailers or services.
- Not every purchase qualifies for reward points.
It is worth noting that is the case with any credit card there is a risk of borrowing money you do not currently have in your account. High credit card debt and late payments affect your credit score negatively. It can impact how or if you receive a loan in the future.
So good judgement and responsibility is highly advised. Try to set a calendar reminder each month a few days before the payment is due to make sure you have the necessary funds and pay in time. You also may be able to setup automatic monthly payments.
The Military Star Card is a good option for active duty military personnel. It not only helps service members, but qualifying family members through low interest rates, reward points, exclusive discounts, and other promotional offers.
It would be nice to see the ECP extend qualification to veterans too. Yet for now the benefits of the Military Star Card definitely outweigh the cons.