How USAA membership eligibility has evolved

People often ask me how they or their family members can join USAA. 

While eligibility has changed over the years, the good news is that it’s gotten easier to answer that question, and – with some recent changes – to establish USAA membership. 

Right now, those eligible for membership include:

All men and women currently serving in the U.S. military (active duty and reserve).

  • Military retirees. 
  • Veterans who received honorable discharges.
  • Cadets and midshipmen at service academies, in advanced ROTC or on ROTC scholarship, and officer candidates within 24 months of commissioning. 
  • Members of certain federal agencies, such as the FBI.

Once membership is established, it can be passed on to the next generation.

However, one of the historic challenges of establishing USAA membership has always been the requirement to purchase some sort of a property insurance policy to lock in membership. That changed in November. Rather than having to buy an auto, renters, homeowners or Valuable Personal Property policy, now you can just call USAA or visit us online to establish eligibility and receive a member number, and at that point you’ve unlocked membership for your children and potentially for generations to come. 

November’s change inspired me to search the archives and review how the membership rules have evolved since 1922, when USAA was established to provide mutual self-insurance for Army officers.

Here are highlights of how the membership requirements have changed since then: 

  • In 1923, Navy and Marine Corps officers became eligible.  
  • In 1935, USAA added widows and widowers of members who have not remarried.
  • In 1948, USAA welcomed Air Force officers.
  • In 1997, noncommissioned officers became eligible for membership. This was a big first step in opening up membership to all those who serve and have served the United States in uniform. 

In perhaps the biggest move, in 2009 anyone who served honorably became eligible for USAA membership. In my mind, this change made a key element of USAA’s mission possible. Opening the door to more members paved the way for us to become “the provider of choice for the military community.”

I’ve been at USAA for about 14 years now, and it’s always been a great place to work. It’s an organization focused on facilitating the financial security of its members. It’s even better now that I can tell someone who is interested in joining to just visit or give us a call at (877) 699-2654 and sign up, no purchase required.  



J.J. Montanaro is a certified financial planner with USAA, The American Legion’s preferred provider of financial services. Submit questions for him online.