Review of USAA CD Rates

USAA CD rates
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Founded and based in San Antonio, USAA is an FDIC-insured bank, insurance and financial services company that serves current and former military members and their families. Started by 25 U.S. Army officers, USAA has since grown to more than 11 million members. Most of their products are only available to USAA members, who are military members or their families.

USAA won a number of awards in 2016, including the title World’s Most Ethical Company from the Ethisphere Institute. It scored top rankings in the bank, insurance, and credit card categories in the Temkin Customer Service Ratings from 2013 to 2016.

Looking beyond high customer service standards, USAA CD rates are pretty comparable to the national average, though with some products they are significantly lower. Minimum deposit requirements are lower than with many similar products, though there are CDs out there with better rates and lower minimum deposits than USAA’s CDs. If you’re a member of the military (or a family member of military member) and looking for a bank that offers a wide variety of products as well as excellent customer service, USAA could be a good bet if you’re will to make the tradeoff for lower CD rates.

USAA Fixed-Rate CDs

A USAA fixed-rate CD is for those who intend to make one deposit to get a guaranteed rate of return over the agreed-upon term. Once you make your initial deposit (which differs depending on the type of CD you choose), your interest rate is set for the duration of the CD term. You are not allowed to make any additional deposits into your CD account after the initial amount.

Interest accumulates daily, and you have the choice to keep any interest earned in the CD until it matures (the interest will compound monthly) or have it paid out monthly to an account of your choosing. The CD will not be renewed automatically once it matures, though you have the option to do so if you want. If not, all the money in the account will be paid into an investment account until you withdraw it or invest it in another type of account.

Early-withdrawal penalties apply depending on the term of your CD:

  • Terms of 30 days or less: 30 days’ worth of interest
  • 30 days to 364 days: 90 days’ interest
  • 365 days to five years: 180 days’ interest
  • Five years or more: 365 days’ interest

Also, if you make a withdrawal within six calendar days of a deposit or another withdrawal, you’ll have to pay at least seven days’ worth of interest.

Standard rates

A standard CD requires a minimum deposit of $1,000 and up to a maximum of $95,000. This type of account is best for those who do not have a large amount of money to invest and want a guaranteed rate for their savings.

CD Term

APY

91 days

0.30%

182 days

0.56%

7 months

0.56%

270 days

0.66%

1 year

0.71%

15 months

0.95%

18 months

0.76%

2 years

0.81%

30 months

1.26%

3 years

0.91%

4 years

1.46%

5 years

1.06%

7 years

1.06%

As of 1/3/2018

USAA fixed jumbo CD rates

Fixed jumbo CDs require a minimum deposit of $95,000 and a maximum amount up to $175,000.

CD Term

APY

30 days

0.22%

91 days

0.35%

120 days

0.45%

150 days

0.50%

182 days

0.61%

7 months

0.61%

270 days

0.71%

1 year

0.76%

15 months

1.00%

18 months

0.81%

2 years

0.86%

30 months

1.31%

3 years

0.96%

4 years

1.51%

5 years

1.11%

7 years

1.11%

As of 1/3/2018.

USAA fixed super jumbo CD rates

Fixed super jumbo CDs require a minimum deposit of at least $175,000 with no maximum amount. However, FDIC only insures up to $250,000.

CD Term

APY

30 days

0.22%

91 days

0.35%

120 days

0.45%

150 days

0.50%

182 days

0.61%

7 months

0.61%

270 days

0.71%

1 year

0.76%

15 months

1.06%

18 months

0.81%

2 years

0.86%

30 months

1.36%

3 years

0.96%

4 years

1.56%

5 years

1.11%

7 years

1.11%

As of 1/3/2018

USAA Adjustable-Rate CDs

Like the fixed-rate CDs, the interest rate is locked for the entirety of the agreed term with an adjustable-rate CD. All interest is compounded daily starting on your settlement date (the actual date when your deposit goes into your account) and the interest either paid out monthly or kept in the account until your CD matures. Your CD will not be automatically renewed. Instead the money will be put into an investment account until you decide to put it back into another CD account or withdraw the entire balance.

Unlike with the fixed-rate CD, however, you can adjust your rate once during your CD term as well as make one other deposit when you request a rate adjustment. If rates go up, you can make an adjustment up to a 2 percent increase. The additional deposit needs to be a minimum of $25.

Early-withdrawal penalties are the same as with the fixed-rate CD:

  • Terms of 30 days or less: 30 days’ worth of interest
  • 30 days to 364 days: 90 days’ interest
  • 365 days to five years: 180 days’ interest
  • Five years or more: 365 days’ interest

In addition, you will be required to pay at least seven days’ worth of interest if you withdrawal money within six calendar days of either a deposit or another withdrawal from your account.

Standard rates

The minimum opening deposit for an adjustable standard CD account is $1,000. You’re allowed up to a maximum of $95,000. Otherwise, you will need to open an adjustable jumbo CD account.

CD Term

APY

3 years

0.12%

4 years

0.31%

5 years

0.43%

7 years

0.43%

As of 1/3/2018

Jumbo rates

Adjustable Jumbo CDs need a $95,000 minimum deposit and rates are applicable up to $175,000.

CD Term

APY

3 years

0.17%

4 years

0.36%

5 years

0.48%

7 years

0.48%

As of 1/3/2018

Super jumbo rates

Adjustable super jumbo CDs have a minimum deposit of $175,000 with no limits on how much you can keep in your account. Keep in mind that FDIC insures up to $250,000 in your account.

CD Term

APY

3 years

0.17%

4 years

0.36%

5 years

0.48%

7 years

0.48%

As of 1/3/2018

USAA variable-rate CDs

This type of CD account is best suited to those who want the ability to make more than one deposit any time they choose. The rate tends to be lower than the other CDs of the same term length, but you are allowed to make as many additional deposits as you like without extending the maturity date, as long it’s $25 or more each time. This could help you earn more on your deposits than you would with a traditional savings account, though there are better rates to be had among those products, as well.

Unlike the fixed- and adjustable-rate CDs, the interest rate on a variable-rate CD may fluctuate daily so earnings may be affected. However, interest is compounded daily and just like the other CD accounts and you can either keep earned interest with the CD balance and allow the interest to compound, or you can have it paid out to another account every month.

There are also early-withdrawal penalties with a variable rate CD. You’ll be charged 30 days’ worth of interest if you take your money out before the maturity date.

CD Term

APY

Minimum Deposit Amount

182 days

0.46%

$250

1 year

0.46%

$250

As of 1/3/2018

Overall review on USAA’s CD rates

Above all, it’s important to remember that only USAA members can get its products, so if you’re not eligible formembership, USAA CDs aren’t an option for you.USAA’s CD rates are not as competitive as other institutions’ products (you can see the best CD rates in our monthly roundup). While the $1,000 minimum deposit requirement is lower than some other banks that offer higher APYs on their CDs, you can get a better CD rate on accounts with deposit requirements as low as $500. While the rates for jumbo and super jumbo CDs are better than its standard offers, you can find better rates.

One of the main advantages of opening a CD with USAA is the ability to bump up your rate with an adjustable-rate CD, as other banks don’t always offer this option.. It’s important to note that a rate increase is not guaranteed. However, you are given an opportunity to make another deposit into your account before maturity.

As for USAA’s variable-rate CD, you may be better off opening a high-interest savings account if you’re looking for an account with a good APY and some liquidity.

Overall, if you want a bank with excellent customer service and the ability to choose from a wide variety of services, USAA is a good option. USAA may be your best choice if you want your CDs at a bank that understands needs specific to military members and their families. But if high yields are your priority, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

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6 Money Issues I Wish I Had Considered When I Joined the Military

A financial coach shares the money skills she learned in the U.S. Air Force.

Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back on your life, there will always be areas you wish you had handled differently.

By joining the US Air Force, I had many opportunities to start my financial future off right. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the time to understand or find out about some of those opportunities.

These are the six things I wish I’d known about money and the military from day one.

1. Allotments for Saving

I’d wish I’d known to start making my savings automatic by using allotments.

An allotment is a distribution of a set amount of your pay to the person or account you determine through MyPay. A great advantage of using allotments is that you can set up a certain amount to be automatically sent to your savings account each month. By doing this, you can adjust to not having that money to spend each month while you build your savings.

2. Thrift Savings Plan and Blended Retirement System

I wish I’d known there was a way to start saving for retirement the day I joined.

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is the government version of a 401(k). It allows you to save money for retirement within a tax-advantaged account. If I had started my retirement savings at 18 or even 20 years old, I would have had a great head start. The Department of Defense (DoD) is doing something else to help qualified new recruits save for their future as well. It’s called the Blended Retirement System (BRS), and it does just what it sounds like—it blends the old retirement system with the TSP. There will still be a pension after 20 years of service, but it will be a reduced amount. To adjust for this, the DoD will now match member contributions to their TSP up to 5%.

3. Extra Pay

I wish I’d known to make a plan for what to do when I received extra money.

When you’re serving, you may have to go on a temporary duty (TDY) assignment or a deployment that will increase your pay. Promotions will also increase your income. When you receive increases in income, you should make a plan for what to do with that extra cash. For example, you might take half the money you receive from a promotion to increase your savings and the other half to increase your quality of life. By having a plan for increases in income, you’ll reach your financial goals faster and easier.

4. Frivolous Spending

I wish I’d known that I would have nothing to show for all my frivolous spending.

When you’re 19, you have no idea how unimportant some of your spending can be. All the clothes, club cover charges, and gas money add up quick. When you look back, you’ll wish you put a larger portion of your money in savings instead of spending it on things that won’t last or be relevant 20 years from now. Spending money on experiences can be a rewarding part of life, but you’ll want to think critically about which experiences you decide to spend your money on when it could impact your quality of life later on.

5. Free Credit Reports

I wish I’d known what the heck a credit report was and why it was important to my financial future.

Your credit report is your good name. Having negative information on it will lead to lenders charging you more to borrow money or, even worse, not loaning you money at all. Many servicemembers don’t realize the significance of on-time payments and not taking on too much debt until they’re already in the thick of it. And an issue with your credit report can be an even bigger problem when you are a servicemember. An excessive amount of debt can result in the loss of your security clearance—or never being able to obtain one in the first place. Take the time to gain basic knowledge of your credit report and get a copy every four to six months to make sure everything is accurate. You can check your credit report for free on Credit.com.

6. Leave and Earnings Statements

I wish I’d known to check my LES for errors every month.

We all know mistakes happen. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that mistakes happen on servicemembers’ leave and earning statements (LES) too. Whatever the mistake, it’s compounded when it isn’t caught in a timely manner. If you don’t pay attention and you’re paid more than you’re due, the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) will take that money back in the next pay period. If you’ve spent the money, you’ll still be expected to pay it back even though it was a mistake. If your leave balance is higher than what you’ve actually earned, you may find out you don’t have enough leave when you try to take a vacation. Check your LES every month to ensure all the information is accurate.

These are six things I wish I would have known about since my first day in the military. Hopefully, you can learn from my experience and use them to achieve your financial goals. For even more tips and tricks, visit Credit.com’s Personal Finance Learning Center.

Image: asiseeit 

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4 Things You Must Know About Money & the Military

Money might not seem like a priority when it comes to the military, but it plays a much bigger role than you might think.

A lot goes into managing your military career. Whether it’s meeting physical fitness standards or testing to make rank, you’re responsible for keeping everything on track. One area that’s necessary for a successful military career but doesn’t receive as much attention are your finances. When your finances are running smoothly, they don’t play a part in your military career, but when they’re not, then it is a problem for your job.

Knowing these four things about money and the military can keep your military career on track and help you avoid future financial problems.

1. Security Clearances & Your Finances

Many service members are required to have a security clearance for their job in the military. The Department of Defense uses a set of guidelines to determine a person’s eligibility for clearance. One of the 13 guidelines covers finances. It’s Guideline F, and it says, “An individual who is financially overextended is at risk of having to engage in illegal acts to generate funds. Unexplained affluence is often linked to proceeds from financially profitable criminal acts.”

The guideline is saying when you’re in debt, you may be tempted to compromise information or technology you have access to in exchange for money. Guideline F doesn’t just apply to an initial application for clearance. It also applies to individuals being reinvestigated. This is where people serving can run into problems with their military career.

Reinvestigation can be at 5, 10 or 15 years after your initial clearance is obtained depending on if it’s top secret, secret or confidential. Losing your clearance can mean losing your job or being separated from the military if your job requires a security clearance. The F guideline says “a history of not meeting financial obligations” may be a disqualifying factor in obtaining a security clearance. If you’re in the habit of not paying your bills and have debt in collections you may be putting your military career in jeopardy. It’s important to pay your bills on time to keep your credit report and therefore your security clearance in good standing.

2. Government Travel Credit Card (GTCC)

In the course of your military service, you may be required to use a GTCC during a temporary duty for official expenses you incur for travel. The credit card is provided through the Government Travel Charge Card Program and has detailed regulations on its use. (To qualify you must have a qualifying credit score of at least 660. You can check two of your credit scores for free with Credit.com.) Making a poor choice with this credit card can lead to serious problems in your military career.

Service members are required to sign a Statement of Understanding to ensure they know all directions from the DOD for the use of the credit card. One direction that gets military members in the most trouble is the requirement to file a travel voucher within five business days after completing their trip. By not submitting a travel voucher on time, your reimbursement will be late, and you will not have the funds you need to make the payment on your GTCC. If there are any unauthorized charges, they’ll be the cardholder’s responsibility, which will increase the amount of money you personally owe. It may be a credit card you can only use for official expenses, but it’s still in your name. The repercussions of a late payment start with notification to your leadership that you have not paid your bill. Once nonpayment hits 61 days, the card will be suspended. Not paying your GTCC can affect your personal credit or worse could cause you to be separated from the military. Use your GTCC for official expenses and pay the bill on time to avoid the GTCC affecting your credit or military career negatively.

3. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

The TSP is similar to an employer 401K but for military personnel and government employees. It’s available to help them save money for retirement at a relatively low cost. One common mistake that can become a financial problem is if a person signed up for the TSP before Sept. 5, 2015, the money they contributed to the TSP was automatically invested into the Government Securities Investment Fund (G Fund), unless they selected otherwise. Many people never go back into their TSP account and change their investments.

The problem with that is, over a person’s 20-year military career the G Fund is at risk to earn less than inflation.To have a TSP account balance with low or no return comes as a shock to many nearing retirement. To avoid this mistake, review your TSP investment allocation to ensure you have investments selected that align with your risk tolerance.

4. The Savings Deposit Program (SDP)

Being in the military has its financial perks, and one of them is the SDP. This program allows members of the armed forces serving in a combat zone to save up to $10,000 on each deployment. The SDP earns up to 10% annually. It’s not a requirement to use, but it’s a great resource to help service members get ahead on their savings and improve their finances.

Once you’re in the combat zone 30 days, you can start the SDP with your finance office via cash, check or direct deposit. The limit you can deposit at one time is equivalent to the amount you earn in basic pay. For example, if you make $1,000 per month in basic pay, that is the max you can deposit at on time. If you earn $7,000 basic pay in a month, you can write a check to begin your SDP with $7,000 and then set up allotments each month to continuing saving until you return or reach $10,000. Building a surplus in savings prepares you for financial problems that may pop up in the future.

Image: Catherine Lane

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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5 Financial Lessons I Learned in the Military That Anyone Can Benefit From

A financial coach shares the money skills she learned in the U.S. Air Force.

When I first joined the U.S. Air Force, I was scared out of my mind. I had just committed four years of my life to something I wasn’t 100% sure I could do. Not to mention, I was getting yelled at and working harder than I ever had in my 19 years of life. There was a lot to process. Through it all, I learned many life lessons.

It wasn’t just life skills I picked up in the military. I also learned financial lessons. Today I’m a financial coach helping others with money. My service in the military laid the foundation for my financial career. Some of the lessons I learned there were harder than others, but each contributed to how I handle money today. Here are the financial lessons I learned while serving in the military.

1. Have Control of Your Money at All Times

Physical money management is taught early on in basic training. Every bit of cash you have needs to be accounted for and neatly organized. Our instructors asked us to write down the serial number of every dollar you earn. This reduces theft and teaches the habit of keeping track of the money you earn and spend. Not everyone keeps the serial number of all their bills, but you should know where your money is and how it’s being spent, saved or invested. If you don’t have a handle on your money, who will? You are the one in charge of your money, not anyone else.

2. If You’re on Time, You’re Late

In the service, you quickly learn you need to be ahead of schedule for everything. Being late is not acceptable. If you’re late, it could affect an entire mission. Planning to complete tasks early ensures you’ll be on time even if something unexpected happens. This applies to paying bills and saving as well — something could come up to make you late. Instead of waiting until late on the day your bill is due, take care of it in advance to ensure that even if problems come up, your financial life stays on schedule. Even better? Consider automated payments so you don’t have to worry about being late.

3. Save Money From Every Paycheck

Every supervisor I had while serving made it clear to me: Living paycheck to paycheck was not the way to live. For most young folks joining the military, it’s their first time away from home and their first time earning a paycheck. The sudden influx of money and freedom can lead to crazy spending and zero saving. (Even if you don’t serve, this is a common experience for recent graduates starting their first job and receiving their first salary.) Each supervisor I had encouraged me to live within my means and save part of each of my paychecks. By saving money from each check, you’ll build up money for when the unexpected happens.

4. Use Your Resources

As a new Air Force recruit, I didn’t know all the resources available to me. Fortunately, I had supervisors who mentored me through some of my early financial mistakes, like charging all new things for my apartment instead of borrowing household items from the lending closet on base. I could have used the borrowed items and bought the things I needed as I was paid instead of running up my credit card debt. The lesson here? Take advantage of any free resources you have before spending money unnecessarily. Asking for help to find the free resources available can save you money. (Use this free credit report summary to your advantage to see how your spending habits are affecting your credit.)

5. Learn From Your Mistakes

When you make a mistake in the military, your supervisor, drill sergeant or peers will call you out on them immediately. Mistakes will happen — they’re part of learning and growing. In the military, I learned not to try to hide or forget my mistakes but to review them to figure out ways to avoid them in the future. That way I don’t make the same mistakes over and over. When it comes to finances, this applies in several ways. For example, charging a bunch of household goods on my credit card was a mistake, but I learned ways to avoid making that mistake in the future by using free resources or only spending what I had saved for.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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6 Solid Tips for Veterans in Need of a Loan

Veterans are faced with some unique money challenges. Fortunately, there are ways for them to get an affordable loan.

U.S. military members transitioning out of service can find themselves facing many unique money challenges. After all, duty to one’s country can understandably push personal money management to the back burner. Fortunately, there are steps veterans can take to secure the funding they need to achieve their financial goals.

Here are some tips for veterans looking to secure a mortgage, small business loan or other types of financing.

1. Know What Federal Benefits Are Available …

There are programs out there designed to help veterans and their families overcome the various money challenges that can arise when a family member is on active duty. For instance, veterans are eligible for VA home loans, which often feature no down payment, no mortgage insurance and flexible underwriting requirements. And there are various grants, loans and business development programs backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration that can help former military members and budding entrepreneurs.

Veterans can get acquainted with the general benefits available to them on the Veterans Benefits Administration website. Prospective entrepreneurs can begin looking into business financing by checking out the Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development online.

2. Research All of Your Options

That’s not to say veterans should limit themselves to federal loan programs. For instance, when it comes to mortgages, “to be sure, VA loans aren’t the right fit for every veteran,” Chris Birk, a Credit.com contributor and director of education for Veterans United, a VA loan lender, said. “Understanding all of your mortgage options is also key to getting the best deal possible. Even veterans with sterling credit and a 20% down payment would benefit from comparison shopping between conventional and VA loans.”

3. Consider Financial Institutions That Cater to Vets …

If you do decide to go for a VA loan to buy a home, consider finding a mortgage lender who knows the ins and outs of that type of financing.

“VA loan market share has soared over the last decade, but it’s still a niche product for many lenders and real estate professionals,” Birk said. “Working with companies and professionals who know the ins and outs of VA loans can help ensure veterans get the most from this benefit.”

Similarly, you can look into finding a credit card issuer or bank that caters to former and current military members. (We’ve got a list of some of the better military credit cards here to help you get you started on your search.)

And there are several startups, venture capitalist funds and, even, angel investors out there that offer small business financing exclusively to veterans and military members that may prove worthwhile, depending on your financial situation.

4. … But Be Sure to Assess Your Finances Holistically

We say “depending on your financial situation” because it’s important to consider factors beyond your status as a veteran when making money decisions. Take credit cards as an example. Ultimately, the right one for you will be influenced by your current financial situation or goals. For instance, if you’re trying to pay a lot of debt, you might want to look into a balance-transfer credit card. 

The same thing applies when exploring other financing opportunities — just because you’re a veteran doesn’t mean products designed for veterans are going to be the ones that best need your financing needs.

5. Watch Out for Scams

Due to the money challenges some veterans face (often related to spending extended periods of time out of the country or relocating frequently), they often find themselves on a scammer’s radar. That’s why it’s a good idea to vet any business you’re thinking of getting a loan from before filling out applications. You can start by conducting a thorough search online or checking a company’s status with the Better Business Bureau.

6. Brush Up Your Credit

A good credit score can make all types of financing more affordable, so it’s a good idea to see where you stand before applying for a loan. You can get a free credit report snapshot, along with two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com. You can also pull your free credit reports from each of the major consumer credit reporting agencies each year at AnnualCreditReport.com.  

If you need to build credit, you can look into credit-builder loans or secured credit cards, which help people with thin files establish a history of using credit wisely. If you need to improve your credit, you can focus on paying down high credit card balances, disputing credit report errors and limiting applications for new credit, all of which can hurt your credit score.

Image: Wavebreakmedia

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How to Maintain Good Credit While Serving in the Military

Budgeting during deployment or transfer to a new assignment might be on the mind of many military service members. What might not be are credit scores and how they could impact the costs for everything from a credit card’s annual percentage rate, or APR, to a new mortgage.

Here are four tips for how to maintain good credit while serving in the military.

1. Save When You Can

Whether you’re on active duty, in the reserves or are returning from tour, keeping a savings account may help you avoid going into debt now or down the road in an emergency. (Consider these five mistakes to avoid when you start saving.) 

“The best advice is to make savings a priority while avoiding unnecessary spending,” Bruce McClary, the vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, said in an email. “Adequate savings will help avoid financial emergencies that would otherwise lead to unmanageable debt. Savings also helps during periods of transition from military to civilian life.” 

While you’re serving can be a good time to save, as some of your expenses may be covered by the military. This can help you save for emergencies or hefty future expenses, like raising a family or buying a home. (Though some veterans can qualify for 0% down VA home loans.)

2. Communicate With Those Back Home

If you are sharing an account with someone at home, it’s a good idea to discuss payment plans and spending before you leave so everyone’s on the same page. But the communication shouldn’t end there.

“Staying in touch with joint account users, such as spouses, can help avoid any surprises while keeping accounts paid as agreed,” McClary said. “At the same time, you should use all means available to monitor account activity online whenever possible.”

3. Use Online Resources to Your Advantage

Depending where you are deployed, you may or may not have frequent internet access. However, if you do, there are several online tools to help you maintain good financial habits while serving in the military, like online banking and budgeting tools.

“Those serving on active duty can set alerts that help them keep a closer eye on how an account is being used, giving them instant access to charges and balances,” McClary said. “Payment due date reminders can also be helpful, along with automatic payments.”

Having a late payment can subject you to late fees, and missing one altogether can potentially harm your credit score. So even if you have automatic payments set up, it’s a good idea to monitor those and ensure they go through as scheduled.

“If automated payments have been arranged, set a schedule where you can check to see if they were processed correctly,” McClary said.

If you don’t have internet access while overseas, consider having a trusted family member check your accounts to make sure any automatic payments are processed correctly and on time.

4. Keep an Eye on Your Credit

“Credit reports should also be monitored on a regular basis,” McClary said. If you have internet access, you can get your free credit reports once a year on AnnualCreditReport.com, and you can view your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com. Should you find any inaccurate information, you can dispute the errors on your credit reports with the credit reporting agency or agencies that have it wrong.

Members of the military who are deployed can also consider placing an active duty alert on their credit reports.

“An active duty alert remains on the report for one year,” Rod Griffin, Experian’s director of public education, said in an email. While the alert only lasts a year, it can be renewed. “It notifies creditors that you are a member of the U.S. military and that you are currently on active duty,” he said. “An active duty alert does not require a lender to contact you directly to get your approval before granting credit in your name, but it does enable them to take appropriate action to protect your identity.”

[Offer: If you need help fixing errors on your credit report, Lexington Law could help you meet your goals. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

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5 Options for Enlisting in the Military to Pay for College

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Lacey Langford was taking classes at a local community college when she realized she’d rather work full-time to save money for school. “My father was an Army officer, and I decided I wanted to join like him,” says Langford, now 38, who lives in Summerfield, NC. “He convinced me to at least talk to the Air Force recruiter. That was it. I realized it would be better for me and I committed to the Air Force.”

Three years into her active duty, Langford started taking classes at night, using the Air Force’s Tuition Assistance program and the GI Bill. She later separated from the Air Force and completed her degree at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She estimates that the GI Bill paid for 100 percent of her tuition, 85 percent of her books, and about 40 percent of her room and board expenses. “I am happy with the way it worked out, walking out of school with zero student loan debt,” says Langford, who today is a financial planner. “I also gained valuable work experience and discipline. The discipline alone has reaped major rewards.”

With the average 2015 graduate coming out of school with more than $35,000 in student loans, being able to get a degree without all the debt is appealing, to say the least. Langford’s path to tuition coverage is one way to do it, but the military offers a variety of ways to pay for schooling or even to pay back student loans. Here are a few options:

1. ROTC Scholarships

Some schools offer the opportunity to apply for a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program that could pay for nearly all of your tuition, fees and books charges for four years of school, in exchange for a commitment to enter the service as a commissioned officer when you graduate. You generally promise to serve for at least four years post-graduation. There are also two- and three-year scholarships available, depending on how many years you have left in school. Each branch of the military has their own information and program.

2. Montgomery GI Bill

During basic training, recruits get the chance to sign up for this GI Bill plan, paying for it with $100 a month during their first year in the service. Once enrolled, however, eligible members can receive a monthly stipend while attending classes, based on their active duty status and how long they’ve served. For instance, effective October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016, those who have completed an enlistment of three years or more and enrolled in full-time school qualify for a monthly stipend of $1,789. Rates generally go up every year.

3. 9/11 GI Bill

Any veteran with at least 90 days of active duty after September 11, 2001, with an honorable discharge, is eligible to take advantage of this benefit. The biggest benefit goes to those with at least three years of active duty service. For those with three years of active duty service and attending a public school, the 9/11 GI Bill will pay up to 100% of tuition and fee payments for an in-state student. For private or foreign school attendees, payment is up to $21,970.46 per academic year.

4. Tuition Assistance

Each branch of the military also offers its own tuition assistance program, in which active duty members can get money toward tuition and fees for qualified programs. The Air Force, Army and Marines offer up to $4,500 per fiscal year with caps on credit hour costs, and the Navy offers up to $250 per semester credit hour or $166 per quarter credit hour. The Coast Guard offers up to $3,375 per fiscal year. This may also be an option for you if you belong to one of the service’s Reserve units.

5. Student Loan Repayment

If you’ve already incurred student loans, you may be able to enlist in the military and have them paid off over time. Each branch offers its own program for this. The Army and Navy, for example, will repay up to $65,000 of a soldier’s qualifying student loans, and the Air Force will repay up to $10,000. Generally, after each year of completed active duty, your service will pay 33-1/3 percent or $1,500, whichever is greater, of your total unpaid balance.

There are other programs that may assist with school costs or loan repayment, depending on your position, active duty status and career field. You can get more information on all programs at military.com/education, or find specific information from the military branch you’re interested in.

A word of caution

Although these are all valid pathways to an education without massive student loan debt—or any debt at all in some cases—experts advise that students shouldn’t join the military for the tuition assistance alone. “There are people for whom the military is great, but for some people, the military is just not for them,” says Ryan Guina, founder of TheMilitaryWallet.com, who used the military’s Tuition Assistance program to get his degree while on active duty with the Air Force. “If you’re going to join for a specific benefit, make sure all the other aspects are in line with your values and what you’re looking for out of life. I encourage people to look at the military as a whole and not just a means to an end.”

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