June 25, 2018
How to Qualify for USAA membership? And why you need to act NOW
I qualified and no one in my immediate family has served in the military. Get the scoop.
What is USAA?
The USAA is thought of as a financial service company for active duty military and veterans, but that’s not really correct. First of all, the name USAA stands for United Services Automobile Association, and it was started in 1922 by a group of twenty-five Army officers in San Antontio who couldn’t get car insurance for themselves or their troops. They banded together to self-insure, and within a few years, they had expanded to the Navy and Air Force as well. In the 1960’s, USAA also began offering home insurance, and today, they offer life insurance, investment brokerage services, mortgages, checking/savings accounts and more.
USAA is known as having some of the most competitive rates in the country – particularly for mortages. The company is an inter-insurance exchange rather than a corporation, meaning it returns its profits to its members. But who can qualify for membership?
I was always under the impression that it was only active duty military and veterans. And no one in my immediate family had ever served in the military.
I was wrong
As it turns out, the membership requirements have evolved over the years to include a larger & larger group – one that even includes me.
Who can qualify
The USAA doesn’t do a great job of making eligibility requirement clear. I found that the best eligibility info was on the USAA community section, but even that is a few years old. So I’ll summarize the important stuff.
- Membership for the USAA is extended to all living veterans (Reserves & Coast Guard included)
- AND any their spouse or any of their descendants
- AND those people’s spouse or descendants. Forever.
Meaning, if you had a great-grandfather who was in the USAA but died 20 years ago, any living spouse or immediate descendants (ie his kids) qualify. And once they qualify, any of their descendants qualify. And on and on. But if your great-grandfather has a daughter (your grandmother) and she never actually joined and is now deceased, you are out of luck. She would have had to have used her familial connection as the immediate family of a deceased veteran to qualify, and then one of your parents would need to join the USAA while she was alive. So you can get grand-fathered in (literally) to the USAA through any member, but you need to capitalize while your veteran/family member is still alive.
As it turns out, I had TWO family members that allowed me qualify. On my paternal side, I had a grandfather who was in the Navy Reserves and is still living. On the other side, my maternal grandfather served in Korea for a year – he has pretty bad dimentia, but he’s 92 and kicking. That said, neither of my grandfathers were USAA members. So, my mother talked to my grandfather who had served in Korea and did a conference call with him and the USAA rep. There was some paperwork required which she took care of, and then my grandfather became a USAA member. He has no intentions of ever using its services at this point, but his membership allowed my mother to join.
And since my mother is a member, that allows me to join.
I’m “in the club!” Meaning, my kids can join, and once they join, their kids can as well. I checked out their auto insurance rates and they weren’t any better than my current rate through GEICO. But when I buy a house next year, I’m definitely going to include USAA in the 2-3 lenders I shop against each other for rates. And if they give me a rate decrease for shifting some of my checking/savings over to them, I’d definitely be open to it. They refund up to $15 per month for ATM fees, which is big for me (savings rate APR is low though – so I’ll probably keep the bulk of my cash elsewhere).
So if you think you don’t qualify for USAA, take a closer look. And if you have an elderly relative who served in any capacity – or a young one for that matter – get them signed up for USAA. It is a great option for you and future generations to have.