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The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) was founded in 1922 by Army officers to help self-insure each other at a time when military officers were viewed as high risk for auto insurance. Today, the organization offers everything from life and homeowners insurance to brokerage services and credit cards to qualifying members.
Many of USAA’s credit cards are some of the best available, but you must be a USAA member to qualify. Today I want to show you how you can determine your eligibility.
USAA Eligibility Requirements
USAA has strict eligibility requirements you need to meet to be eligible for membership, and thus its credit cards, banking, insurance, and other services.
Up until 1996, USAA membership was actually restricted to commissioned officers in the United States armed forces, midshipmen and cadets at service academies eligible for a personal vehicle, college and university students in the Navy AVROC or Marine Corps PLC programs, and a few others. Membership eligibility has since been expanded.
Here are the current eligibility guidelines for USAA:
- Active, retired, honorably separated officers and enlisted personnel of the military
- Officer candidates in a commissioning program like ROTC or Academy
- Adult children who have an eligible parent who has or had a USAA auto or property insurance policy
- Widows and widowers of USAA members who have or had a USAA property or auto policy
- Children under 18 can be listed as a family member on a parent’s auto policy. After 18, children must be eligible for membership in their own name.
The USAA website has a self-guided interview you can complete to help establish your eligibility before you apply.
What is Full vs Partial USAA Membership?
Many people are unaware that you can be a full or partial member of USAA, depending on your qualifications.
Only full USAA members are eligible for insurance products and most services, while partial members are eligible for checking/savings accounts, some insurance discounts, and some credit cards.
Partial USAA members can get some USAA credit cards, but not all of them. Partial USAA members in Georgia are not eligible for credit cards.
Some of the rewards cards, or at least the American Express cards, are reserved for full members. As a partial member, you will not get the best interest rates or promotions. Once you become a member, you will be able to see which cards you qualify for.
While there’s no way to know for sure, it seems that full members usually have an easier credit card approval process and a higher credit limit. USAA also seems to tie a full member’s overall relationship with the organization (or the number of products used) with credit decisions.