USAA, which provides financial services to military personnel, has expanded eligibility requirements to allow another 3 million Americans to gain access to its insurance and banking products.

The member-owned group said Monday that it will now allow all retirees, service members who were discharged after 1995 and their immediate families to join. Widows of those killed in action, as well as spouses and children of any USAA member, are also eligible.

USAA is also offering its life, investment and retirement products to members' extended families who are not eligible for USAA membership.

The move comes as USAA has strengthened its finances and improved operational capacity. President and CEO Joe Robles says the group is now "stronger than at any time in our 86-year history." The group noted that its products may be especially important as economic headwinds cause banks to raise fees and interest rates on loans, while offering lower returns on investment products.

USAA offers insurance, bank accounts, CDs, mortgages, credit cards, investment products and financial counseling to its members. Many of its products have competitive rates, because unlike other financial-services firms, it is member-owned and shares profits with customers through rebates, refunds and dividends.

The group started as an officer-only association in 1922 before opening to all enlisted personnel in 1996. It now serves 6.4 million Americans.

Active duty, retirees and those honorably separated from service after 1995 in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, as well as those in the Selected Reserve or National Guard, are eligible for membership.

Cadets, midshipmen, officers or warrant officer candidates in government-sponsored programs are also eligible, as are family members, adult children, widows, widowers and former spouses who have not remarried.

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