The Exchange Credit Program offers the Military Star card to qualified, authorized military exchange patrons. Here are a few questions I've received about the program:
Is The Military Star Card A Credit Card or A Debit Card?
The Star card is a credit card.
Where Can I Use The Military Star Card?
The Military Star card can be used at any retail outlet that is run by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) or Navy Exchange (NEX). Depending on your location, this may include the regular exchange stores, gas stations, mini-marts/shoppettes/Class Six stores, food courts, and separate uniform shops. If you have a mini-mall, you may be able to use your Military Star card at some retailers, but be sure to ask because the details can vary a lot.
The Military Star card program used to include the option of a MasterCard branded Military Star card that could be used anywhere. The relationship between the Military Star card and the Chase Mastercard program ended in 2015.
Will My Command Be Notified If I'm Late With My Payment?
Possibly. The Military Star card is part of the military exchange program, and so it acts differently than regular credit cards. If you exceed your credit limit or do not pay your bill as required, your command may be notified, your pay may be garnished, and/or your income tax return may be seized.
In theory, none of these things would happen until the Exchange Credit Program had made a good faith effort to contact you, but I have heard numerous reports of these things happening over very small balances that the customer didn't even know they had.
Does The Military Star Card Have Deployment Benefits?
Yes. The Military Star card will suspend minimum monthly payments during your deployment, and lower your interest rate to 6%. Interest will continue to accrue during your deployment, so the suspended minimum monthly payments aren't really a very good idea, but the lower interest rate can help you pay off your balance.
This does not happen automatically. You must submit the appropriate paperwork and receive notification that your account has been put into deployment status. Do not assume it has happened without being notified, and always keep copies of all correspondence.
What Is The Interest Rate?
If you're making a regular purchase, the interest rate is 12.24 percent. Whether this is a good rate depends on your other options. It is exceptionally low for a store credit card, but just barely competitive compared to the many excellent Visa and MasterCard products offered by companies like USAA, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, and Navy Federal Credit Union. Special interest rates may apply to promotional sales.
One unique feature of the Military Star card is that it offers zero percent interest on eligible military clothing (uniform) purchases. Unfortunately, this option is only available to Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force patrons, and there may be restrictions.
If you do not comply with the terms of the card, you will be subject to the penalty interest rate of 20.24 percent.
Is It a Good Card?
Again, this depends on your other options. The Military Star card has some great benefits, such as the 0% interest rate on military clothing items. I like it because I can get 10% off my food court purchases. The interest rate isn't great, but it isn't terrible, either.
However, it has a pretty bad reputation for messing up payments, not putting in changes of address, and not trying to track down customers who haven't paid their bill. I discovered this first-hand last year. I thought I had paid my bill in full before a PCS move, only to discover that a gas fill-up hadn't posted before I paid the entire balance. I'd owed $47 for several months before I saw the balance on my credit report when I was trying to get a mortgage. Our change of address hadn't processed, and they didn't try to reach us by phone or email. I was a little frustrated, and who knows how long that debt would have sat on my account if I hadn't applied for a mortgage.
If you're just building credit, and can be disciplined to watch your bills carefully and make all your payments on time (or early), the Military Star card can be a tool to building your credit.
If you are at all disorganized, or have a habit of not paying your bills, the Military Star card can be a disaster. Your command could get involved, your pay could be garnished, or worse. Whether it's the right card for you is a decision that only you can make, but at least you have a lot of information about the program.