To enlist in the United States Army, you must show you’re in good health – and not just physically. Financial fitness is also a factor. A low credit score alone is not enough to make a recruiter say no way, but it could work in echelon to make the Army reconsider your potential.
As of January 2013, the Army has no minimum credit score requirements for enlistment. That being said, having a low credit score may affect your ability to advance within the military, especially to top posts with a high level of security clearance. Think of it this way: a lower credit score won't keep you from basic training, but it could keep you from getting Green Beret status. According to the Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals, about 50 percent of clearance denials involved “financial considerations." Those negative considerations include bad credit, bankruptcy and unpaid child support.
Financial Health Check
The Army takes your personal history pretty seriously, and that's why many recruits are subjected to a mandatory financial background check. This detailed financial review applies to all recruits over age 23 or anyone with dependents. The Army wants to be sure you're not using the service as a debt dodge, and that your salary can cover your expenses. Though there aren't any hard-and-fast rules on credit score, it's one item considered in the background check, along with outstanding debts, bankruptcy or financial fraud issues.
A low credit score can also affect your life within the military. A major incentive for many recruits is a Veterans Affairs housing loan, which offers special funding exclusive to active military members. However, serving alone doesn't guarantee you'll qualify for a VA loan. Private lenders make these deals, so a low credit score will definitely affect your loan approval and rate.
Improving Credit Score
If you have a serious criminal past, the Army isn't going to take you. It's far more forgiving on financial issues. Still, it can't hurt to take some steps to improve your credit rating before you enlist. Bad marks on your credit report stay there for seven years, but the score can dramatically improve if you establish a new credit history where all payments are on time.
Stephanie Rutherford-Scott has more than 10 years of experience in print and multimedia journalism for Booth and Gannett Corp. Her work has been published by the Associated Press and Gannett News Service in news publications throughout Michigan and the United States. She received her Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and journalism from Western Michigan University.