After the TSP, I invest my money in Betterment and Vanguard. I track all of my investments with Personal Capital. I also wrote a short, 2 hour book summarizing this site. You can buy it here.
When used smartly, credit cards can be a great boost to your income, your travel opportunities, and can save you money through some of the benefits they offer. However, when used stupidly, you can incur fees, interest, and a bad credit score. Don’t use credit cards stupidly.
As a military servicemember, you are entitled to certain special credit card benefits under the Servicemember Civil Relief Act of 2003, or SCRA. Under the SCRA, American Express waives all annual cardholder fees. This can save you hundreds of dollars a year while still giving you access to some of the best credit cards in the world.
If you’re new to credit cards, make sure you read my guide on how credit cards work. When you’re just getting started using credit cards, some of the terms can be confusing. Don’t let your confusion equal fees and interest charges.
I have received:
- thousands of dollars in cash back bonuses
- dozens of free hotel stays
- free airline tickets
All from credit card reward programs. You can easily do this too, without any upfront costs. Everyone who’s interested in achieving financial independence should have at least one credit card to build credit and cash in on the rewards programs.
Best Everyday, 1%-5% Cash Back, No Annual Fee Credit Card
The Chase Freedom Visa card is the card I use most often when I’m CONUS. This card offers 1% on every purchase and up to 5% on quarterly rotating categories. For the past few years, gas has been a 5% category about half the year, so that’s paid huge dividends every time I fill up. When you combine the Chase Freedom with the no-foreign transaction fee Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (below), you can really get some awesome rewards points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. I’ve cashed in thousands of points and flown cross-country for free multiple times. This is my everyday, grocery and gas buying card and I think it should be yours as well.
Best Credit Card For Frequent Military Traveler
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – 2x points on dining and travel (great for TDYs/TADs). NO FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEES. This is the most important benefit right here. You definitely want a card that you can take anywhere in the world and never have to worry about getting screwed on the exchange rate. I’ve had this card now for over 2 years and used it in over 2 dozen countries.
With the new Chip-and-Signature technology embedded in it, you can now use it even more places around the world. While not quite as good as Chip-and-Pin, it is a step up. The CSP is also part of Chase’s awesome Ultimate Rewards program, which is the best credit card rewards program I’ve ever experienced and puts USAA’s program to shame.
Best AMEX with Annual Membership Fee Waived for Military
The Platinum Card® from American Express offers access to 700+ exclusive airport lounges around the globe. A $200 airline credit, good for in flight purchases or checked baggage, is also available to members. In addition, you can get a large sign up rewards bonus when you apply for this card and meet the spending restrictions. This card normally comes with a $450 annual fee but that fee is waived for US military members! What are you waiting for?! Get this card normally only available for $450/year for free today!
Best USAA Cash Rewards Credit Card
I’m a big fan of all things USAA. Their customer service is legendary and their banking innovations are the best in the industry. Besides offering excellent auto insurance for military personnel, they also offer an outstanding no annual fee USAA Cash Rewards® American Express®. This card gives you 2.25% cash back on gas and grocery purchases, which you know you’re going to be making anyways, so why not get paid back for them?
2 Websites I Use to Achieve Financial Independence Faster
I have investment accounts all over the place. To keep track of all of them in one place I use Personal Capital. It combines all of my accounts, shows me where I may be overpaying in fees, and provides beautiful charts showing my overall asset allocation and performance.
I use Personal Capital to track my Roth and Traditional TSP, Vanguard IRAs, banking accounts, SDP, and my Betterment taxable account, all in one place. It's free, secure and presents me with a one-stop dashboard so I can see all my money on one site.
Read my full review of Personal Capital and see how easy it can be to manage your investments in one place. Trust me, once you try it, you'll love it.
P.S. - If you have over $100,000 of assets and a 401k, you really need to run the Personal Capital 401k Fee Analyzer.
The best way I know to achieve financial independence is to keep your investments simple, diversified, automatic, and low-cost. Costs eat into your returns like you wouldn't believe! A 1% difference in expense ratios can mean $100,000s lost to fees over a lifetime of investing.
Even if you're a DIY (do-it-yourself) investor like I am, you need to check out Betterment. You can read my full review here, but the bottom line is for only $250 per $100,000 invested (0.25% expense ratio) you get simple, diversified, and automated investing. In addition every account now gets free Tax Loss Harvesting+ features, which should increase returns for the average investor more than the minuscule management fee.
If you're not a DIY investor or are just getting started with investing, then you definitely need to check out Betterment. It's what I recommend to my family and friends who aren't strong investors or don't care to learn about asset allocations, diversification, or rebalancing.