Should I Get the AAFES Military Star Card or Rewards MasterCard?

The AAFES Military Star Card (login required) is offered through the Exchange Credit Program, part of the Exchange, NEX, MCX, and Coast Guard Exchange brand of services offered on most military installations.

The Military Star Card has two main products: the Military Star Rewards MasterCard, offered by Chase Bank, and the regular Military Star Card.

Military Star Rewards MasterCardMilitary Star Card
military-aafes-military-star-credit-card-rewardsmilitary-star-card
AcceptedMillions of MasterCard LocationsOnly at on base and online Exchanges
Reward Points2 points on base 1 point off basenone
Annual Fees$0$0
Foreign Transaction Fees0%Not accepted outside of Exchange
First Day Bonus10% off everything you buy in the Exchange10% off everything you buy in the Exchange
APRWho Cares?Who Cares?

As you can see, the Military Star Rewards MasterCard (MSRM) is a traditional credit card while the Military Star Card is more like a line of credit within the military Exchange system.

Based on the two offering, the Rewards MasterCard is definitely the superior product. It’s accepted more places and has a decent rewards program as well.

Both cards should show up on your credit report and factor into your credit score. By using these cards smartly, you could build an excellent credit history early on in your military career which could pay nice dividends later in life. For instance, with a excellent credit score you could have access to better rewards credit cards, churning opportunities, and lower mortgage rates some day.

Military Star Rewards MasterCard Rewards Point Program

The Rewards Program for the MSRM is not the greatest, but certainly not the worst either. One point is issued for every dollar spent, except at Exchange locations (including gas pumps), where 2 points per dollar is given.

These points can then be cashed out for a variety of rewards including:

  • Cash back (100 points = $1)
  • Exchange Rewards
  • Gift Cards
  • Airfare
  • Hotels

Not as good a program as Chase Ultimate Rewards (especially if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred), but not bad either. If you do a lot of your shopping on base, this could be a good option for you, when used responsibly (I.E., paying in full every month).

Would I recommend either of these cards?

No, unless you have never had a credit card before. Because these are available exclusively to those with Exchange access, you shouldn’t have much of a problem being approved for this card with a poor or nonexistent credit history.

If you have a good to excellent credit score, there are much better options available to you, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom, or any American Express cards that offer massive sign up bonuses and much better rewards programs.

Military Star Card as a First Credit Card

If you have no credit history, the MSRM could be an excellent first card to begin building your credit history. With no annual fees, a decent points program (100 points = $1), MasterCard global acceptance, and no foreign transaction fees, you could certainly do a lot worse for a credit card. If you’re deciding between the MSRM and a secured card that has an annual fee, definitely go with the MSRM.

The Rewards MasterCard version of the Military Star Card would make a great first credit card. You could use it just to make gas purchases, wait for your statement to post, and then pay the statement in full. Do this for a few months and you’ll rapidly see an increasing credit score (which you can check for free on CreditKarma).

Just remember these cardinal rules of credit cards:

  1. Pay your statement balance in full every time you receive a statement
  2. Never charge more than you have in your accounts
  3. Consider setting up a “bills account” so you’re not surprised when the credit card bill comes in

After 6-12 months, you’ll probably be eligible for much better credit cards. Since the Military Star Card has no annual fee, it’s an excellent card to cut up or throw into a drawer and never use again. That way your average age of accounts will continue to increase and you’ll keep your oldest line of credit almost forever.

You’ll probably have to use it once every 5 years or so to keep it active.

My 4 Recommendations for Achieving Financial Independence

1. Track your growing investments using Personal Capital. In order to get where you want to go, you have to know where you are. Personal Capital is like Mint.com for investors. While Mint is good for tracking your expenses and getting out of debt, PC is good for seeing your wealth and investments accumulate and grow. Track your Roth TSP, Roth IRA, banking accounts, SDP, and the myriad of other accounts you have all in one place with Personal Capital. It's free and presents a beautiful graphical view of your financial situation. Join today to get the most complete picture of your finances. Read my full review of Personal Capital and see how easy it can be to manage your investments in one place.

2. Use a cashback credit card, like the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard. How does a $440 sign up bonus, NO foreign transaction fees, and 2.2% cashback on every purchase sound? Read my review to see why I love this new card.

3. Check your credit score with Credit Sesame. If it's too low, start changing your life now to fix it and save thousands on interest rates, get the best credit cards, and keep your security clearance! Credit Sesame is a free service provided by Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus in the US. After you get your score, check your credit report three times a year for free to ensure the bureaus have accurate data on you.

4. Bank with a military friendly bank, like USAA. I've been a proud member of USAA for 6 years now and have never had a better customer experience with any other bank. They charge no BS fees, refund ATM fees, and have the best auto insurance prices for military servicemembers.

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7 Responses to Should I Get the AAFES Military Star Card or Rewards MasterCard?

  1. The star card was my first credit card. It allowed me to by essentials like a TV and CD player when I got out of basic training. The interest rate is very good and I still use the card for military clothing purchases with a 0% interest rate.

  2. Justin says:

    The military star card is probably one of the main reasons why I have a decent credit score today. When I first got it, my credit limit was a measly $500. Over the years I’ve gotten the limit to a generous $8,200. While the card isn’t AMAZING, I still recommend that military members use the card. You get 5 cents off per gallon of gas on military installations and it sometimes goes as high as 15 cents off per gallon. It’s perfect when Chase Freedom and DiscoverIT aren’t offering anything good for gas. Also, you can get 10% off dining on post these days and on certain holidays it goes up to 20%. They will also throw in some decent coupons every now and again if you use the card to make a certain purchase.

    • Spencer says:

      For a newly enlisted servicemember or commissioned officer, the Star Card could be the perfect way to start building credit history and get approved for a low limit credit card early on in their career. The longer you keep the card, the higher your average age of accounts, which should result in an even better credit score. I like the idea of using it when Chase Freedom or Discover it aren’t offering cash back on gas. However, if gas gets back up to above $4/gallon, it might be worth using another card like the Barclaycard Arrival, which offers 2.2% back on all purchases.

  3. Jay says:

    Justin,

    I have the Military Star Rewards MasterCard, how do I know I’m getting the 5 cents off at the pump on the military base? Does the savings reflect on the price display at the pump? I have not seen any credit on my Chase statement, either. What’s the deal? Thanks.

    • Mark says:

      5 cents off applies at the pump. After you slide your Star Card, you will see the price-per-gallon decrease by 5 cents. As for the credit on your Chase statement, see my post below regarding the separate bills for Chase vs Star Card.

  4. Mark says:

    One thing to note as a caution is the Chase Military Star card has two separate lines of credit. As you can make out on the image above, there are two credit card numbers associated with the account, a Chase MasterCard and a Military Star card. While I do not claim to be an expert, I consider myself somewhat personal finance-savvy. Still, when I received my card, I did not realize I had two separate accounts. Two accounts, with two different bill cycles, and two different websites to pay the bill online.

    I paid the first bill I received and thought nothing of it for the rest of the month. Therefore, I did not pay off the second bill, incurring an interest charge. As soon as I realized my mistake, I set up the separate online bill pay and have had no problems since.

    The 10% off first day’s purchase is nice, and why I got the card. It’s also nice for 5 cents off of gas and most food courts offer 10% off meal purchases. For those reasons I still keep my account. However, I was not impressed with the fact that when signing up, it was not made clear that there would be two separate bills. There is actually a third line, specifically for uniform sales, which I believe has no interest for a period of time (I think six months), but I have never investigated further because I do not need another line of credit on that card.

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