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USAA: A full-service bank for veterans and their families

| Money Rates Columnist.

From its headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, bank USAA offers a full range of banking services to more than 11 million members. It's also earned a reputation for being a friend to the U.S. Military.

The only catch? This bank only serves members of the U.S. Military, military officers in training, their children and their spouses.

Unsurprisingly, given its membership, USAA focuses on providing assistance to U.S. Military members. According to the bank's website, USAA had hired more than 10,000 veterans and military spouses from 2006 through June 30 of 2015. Victory Media ranked USAA as one of the nation's top Military Friendly Employers for 2015, and has ranked the bank in its top-10 every year since starting the award in 2003.

Who is eligible to join USAA

USAA traces its roots to 1922. That's when 25 Army officers met in San Antonio and decided to insure each other's autos. William Garrison was soon elected USAA's first president, while Harold Dunton was hired as the organization's general manager. The bank's first member, Major Walter Moore, came the same year and purchased an auto insurance policy for $114.74.

Today, the bank boasts 11.4 million members and offers 47.2 million products. It employs more than 28,000 and, as of the end of 2015, had returned $1.7 billion to its members in 2015 in the form of dividends, distributions, bank rebates and rewards.

Membership in USAA is open to:

  • Active, retired or honorably discharged officers and enlisted personnel of the U.S. Military
  • Officer candidates in commissioning programs such as ROTC
  • Adult children of USAA members
  • Widows, widowers and former spouses of members who have established USAA membership while married

Free checking accounts at USAA

USAA does not charge its members monthly service fees for any of its checking accounts. It also offers a checking account that earns cash-back rewards for members.

Account holders will earn 10 cents on every debit card purchase of $1 or more with a USAA Cashback Rewards checking account. They can open this account with a minimum deposit of $25, and there is no requirement for any minimum balance once they open this checking account. This account, though, does not earn interest.

Customers can also open the bank's basic USAA Classic checking account, again with a minimum opening deposit of $25. This account does not require any minimum balance. You will earn interest on this account if your daily balance is $1,000 or more.

Those members who want to teach their children good financial habits, can sign their sons and daughters up for USAA's Youth Spending checking account. Again, there is no monthly service fee and no required minimum balance. This account earns interest at a rate of 0.01 percent when account holders have a daily balance of $1,000 or more. It comes with parental controls, so that parents can monitor and control how much money their children withdraw from it.

Free savings accounts at USAA

USAA offers two savings accounts for its members: its basic USAA Savings and its more feature-heavy USAA Performance First account.

Neither account charges a monthly service fee, and account holders can access more than 60,000 USAA-preferred ATMs at no charge. The bank will refund any fees account holders accrue by using another bank's ATM.

Members can open a USAA Savings account with an initial deposit of $25. Interest rates on this account range from 0.05 percent to 0.15 percent. Members can open a USAA Performance First savings account with a minimum opening deposit of $10,000. The interest rates are higher with this account, ranging from 0.05 percent to 0.30 percent.

USAA members can invest in a variety of CDs offered by the bank. The terms of these CDs range from 30 days to seven years, while the interest rates can range from 0.30 percent to 1.06 percent.

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