The United Services Automobile Association has expanded its eligibility guidelines, opening its services up to some 3 million former military members and their families.

Founded in 1922 by 25 Army officers in San Antonio, the company now has 6.4 million customers.

"USAA is financially stronger today than at any time in its 86-year history, which enables the association to offer the benefits of USAA membership to more people than ever before," said Michael Kelly, a company spokesman.

USAA provides more than 150 products and services, from insurance to investments, he said.

The expanded eligibility means USAA’s services are available to military retirees, personnel honorably discharged on or after Jan. 1, 1996, and widows or widowers of military personnel killed in action while eligible, according to a news release.

For Wylie Miller, president of the U.S. Military Retiree Association of Southern Italy, switching his car insurance to USAA means a savings of about $360 a year, without sacrificing any coverage.

"I think I’ll invest in the national Italian lottery," Miller joked.

There’s no estimate of how many of the 3 million newly eligible candidates might live overseas, Kelly said in an e-mail. "[H]owever, with the large number of government service and contract employees as well as expatriates, there are most likely many who would be eligible for membership."

Until now, the services were open only to active-duty servicemembers, former spouses and adult children of USAA members, Guard and Reserve members, and officer candidates in commissioning programs.

People interested in establishing membership with USAA can call (800) 531-USAA (8722) or visit the association online here.

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