dcsimg

Waived annual fees, zero interest and more credit card perks for active-duty military

By , CardRatings contributor

Our credit card articles, reviews and ratings maintain strict editorial integrity; however we may be compensated when you click on or are approved for offers from our partners. How we make money.

As a way to say "thank you," both the country and credit card companies offer special benefits for active-duty military members and, in some cases, their spouses.

No matter your credit card, active-duty military members and their spouses are eligible for benefits related to the Servicemembers Civil Rights Act (SCRA). The SCRA provides financial help to active-duty military personnel and their spouses (more on these benefits below); however, many credit card issuers go above and beyond the SCRA and offer additional benefits, such as waiving annual fees or even lowering interest rates beyond what the law requires.

Let's start with some of the best cards for members of the military whether you're interested in a personal or business card. After that we'll delve a little more into the SCRA, four additional military credit card benefits, and how to request those benefits.

Best cards for military members

All credit cards will give you the benefits that are part of the SCRA, and some cards will provide added benefits. If you're ready to start taking advantage of these benefits available to you, keep reading for some of the top cards from issuers offering special military benefits.

Before you apply, however, remember that being active duty military doesn't automatically mean you'll be approved for a credit card; your credit history and score will still be factors in whether you're approved. 

*Please note, each issuer has specific policies regarding waivers, interest rates and offers for members of the military. In some cases, you must open the card BEFORE going on active duty; in other cases, special features/waivers apply only for cards opened after a certain date. We've done our best to offer general guidance on these offers. If you attempt to take advantage of these offers and encounter an issue, please let us know by emailing editor@cardratings.com so that we can update this article accordingly. In all cases, if you see a card you like, be sure to speak with a customer service representative to ensure you understand the full scope of benefits available to you as a member of the military.

If you don’t know your credit score, sign up for a free credit score, credit report card, as well as a personal credit analysis with our preferred partner, Credit Sesame.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Annual fee: $550 (waived when on active duty).* American Express is a CardRatings.com advertiser. Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

Rewards: Cardholders get five times Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. You also get 60,000 bonus rewards when you spend $5,000 in the first three months. Terms apply.

Luxury perks: This card is meant for regular travelers. You get access to hundreds of airport lounges through the Global Lounge Collection, 24/7 access to the Platinum Club Concierge, which can help with travel arrangements, and a credit to cover your Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee every five years. You also get $200 a year in a statement credit to cover travel-related charges like baggage fees and in-flight refreshments that you charge on your card with a pre-selected airline. Terms apply.

Active military perks: American Express waives the annual fee and even late fees when you're on active duty.

Foreign transaction fees: None

Credit needed: Good, Excellent


Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Annual fee: $95 (waived when on active duty).* Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

Rewards: Earn 6 percent back on the first $6,000 spent annually at U.S. supermarkets, 6 percent on select U.S. streaming services, 3 percent back on purchases at U.S. gas stations and on transit, and 1 percent back on all your other purchases. By the way, most supermarkets these days sell a host of gift cards and, yes, you can earn 6 percent back when you buy gift cards at those supermarkets. Plus, you can earn $250 cash back by spending just $1,000 on your card in the first three months. Terms apply.

Active military perks: Once again, American Express waives the annual fee and late fees when you're on active duty; that's in addition to the perks you're due under the SCRA. Terms apply.

Foreign transaction fees: None for active-duty military (for everyone else, 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.). Terms apply.

Credit needed: Good, Excellent


American Express® Gold Card

Annual fee: $250 (waived for active-duty military).* Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

Rewards: This card offers 3X Membership Rewards points® on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com and Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). The card also gives you 35,000 bonus points when you use the card for $2,000 worth of purchases in the first three months. You also earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with your card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Boxed, participating Shake Shack locations, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required. Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more. Terms apply. 

Luxury perks: $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one pre-selected qualifying airline. Terms apply.

Active military perks: Same as mentioned above: American Express waives the annual fee and late fees when you're on active duty. Terms apply.

Foreign transaction fees: None

Credit needed: Good, Excellent


Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Annual fee: $450 (waived completely under certain circumstances for active duty military)*

Rewards: Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points after making $4,000 in purchases the first three months. Those bonus points are worth up to $750 in travel since Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders' points are worth 50 percent more when redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards®. You'll earn three points per $1 spent on dining and on travel (after earning the $300 annual travel statement credit reimbursement) and one point per $1 on everything else.

Perks: Your points are transferable to a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 rate or you can redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® for 50 percent more value. You'll receive up to $300 in statement credit each account anniversary year to cover travel expenses and you'll enjoy access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. Cardholders are also protected with travel cancellation/interruption insurance and an auto rental collision damage waiver.

Active military perks: No annual fee and Chase waives late fees during active service. *Subject to terms.

Foreign transaction fee: $0

Credit needed: Excellent


Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Annual fee: $95, waived for active duty military*

Rewards: You get double points on travel and dining and one point per $1 on all other purchases. New cardholders receive 60,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, worth $750 in travel, when you make at least $4,000 in purchases the first three months.

Perks: You can transfer your points to the card's airline partners and hotel travel partners, making these incredibly flexible reward points. Furthermore, if you redeem your points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program, those points are worth 25 percent more. That means the 60,000 bonus points are worth $750 in travel. Cardholders also enjoy travel cancellation/interruption insurance and an auto rental collision damage waiver.

Active military perks: No annual fee and Chase waives late fees during active service.

Foreign transaction fee: $0

Credit needed: Excellent, Good


Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that (waived for active duty military).*

Rewards: Double miles on all purchases. Plus, 50,000 bonus miles, worth $500 in travel, when you spend $3,000 within the first three months.

Perks: You can fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime and not have to worry about blackout dates. In addition, you can transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs. Use your miles to receive statement credits for travel-related purchases. Plus, there's fraud coverage, complimentary concierge services and auto rental collision damage waiver.

Active military perks: Capital One wipes out all fees, including annual fee, late fees and balance transfer fees during active service. The company also caps the APR at 4 percent for active duty military.

Foreign transaction fee: None

Credit needed: Excellent, Good


Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

(Citi is a CardRatings.com advertiser)

Annual fee: $450 (waived for active duty military).*

Rewards: Earn two AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and one mile for every $1 spent elsewhere. Plus, earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first three months. Then, if you spend $40,000 in a year, you'll earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs).

Luxury perks: This is another luxury card, so you get luxury treatment: Access to the Admirals Club® airport lounges, free first checked bags for you and eight traveling companions traveling with you on the same domestic reservation* and more.

Active military perks: Citi cuts the APR to 0 percent during active duty plus waives the fees.

Foreign transaction fee: 0%

Credit needed: Excellent


Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Annual fee: $0**

Rewards: You get 1 percent cash back when you make purchases and another 1 percent cash back when you pay at least the minimum balance due on your bill on time. 

Perks: Complimentary concierge service and fraud protection.

Active military perks: Citi cuts APR to 0 percent during active duty time.

Foreign transaction fee: 3% (waived for service members)

Credit needed: Excellent, Good

Top business credit cards for members of the military

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Annual fee: $595 (waived when on active duty).* Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

Rewards: Cardholders get five times Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel. You can also get up to 75,000 bonus rewards. Spend $10,000 to earn the first 50,000 points and earn the next 25,000 points after spending another $10,000 all in the first three months. That intro bonus alone could be worth more than $1,000 when redeemed for certain flights. Terms apply. 

Luxury perks: This card is meant for regular business travelers. You have access to more than 1,100 airport lounges around the globe; 24/7 access to the Platinum Club Concierge, which can help with travel arrangements, arrange business lunches or even procure tickets to entertain clients; and a credit to cover your Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee every four years for the primary cardholder as well as all other cardholders on the account. You also get $200 a year in a statement credit to cover airline-related charges like baggage fees and in-flight refreshments that you charge on your card with a pre-selected airline. Terms apply.

When it comes time to redeem your rewards, you'll receive 35 percent of your points back when you redeem through American Express Travel for a first or business class ticket on any airline or any class ticket with your pre-selected airline (up to 500,000 points back each year). Terms apply. 

Foreign transaction fees: None 

Active military perks: American Express waives the annual fee and even late fees when you're on active duty. Terms apply. 

Credit needed: Good, Excellent


What is the SRCA and how does it help military members?

The SCRA protects the finances of military members (and their families) while they are on active duty. Congress passed the SCRA, which expanded the Soldier's and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940, in 2003.

The SCRA caps active military members' interest rate at 6 percent for financial obligations incurred before military service. The creditor must forgive interest greater than 6 percent. It can't defer it to later and it must also forgive the interest retroactively.

SCRA deals with rental agreements, security deposits, mortgage interest rates, health insurance, income tax payments, mortgage foreclosures and, yes, credit cards.

Military members have until 180 days after their end of service to notify creditors and provide the necessary documents to benefit from the 6 percent APR cap.

To be eligible, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Be a member of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty or a reserve component called to active duty,
  • Be National Guard personnel under a call or order to active duty for more than 30 days,
  • Be a Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissioned officer,
  • Be a U.S. citizen servicing with another nation, which is allied with the U.S. "in the prosecution of a war or military action," or
  • Be the spouse of an active duty service member.

The SCRA helps those in the active military with a number of financial situations, but let's look at how credit cards go beyond that.

4 additional credit card perks for military members

From waiving fees to cutting the APR, credit card companies thank active service members in multiple ways. Here are a few of the ways credit card companies say "thank you" to military members.

Annual fee waivers

This is largely an under-the-radar perk but can be a huge money saver, especially for cards with hefty annual fees like the The Platinum Card® from American Express, which offers lucrative luxury perks but comes with a $550 annual fee (read more about this card below). If you're active-duty military, however, you don't have to worry about the $550 fee. Furthermore, American Express waives the fee for members of the military for its business cards as well, which means you might want to consider The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (normally it carries a $595 annual fee) if you happen to be a small or medium-sized business owner (more about this card above, as well).

American Express isn't the only issuer to waive annual fees for active duty military. Chase, Capital One and Citi (Citi is a CardRatings.com advertiser) all waive annual fees for active military members (and, yes, you must be active duty to qualify for the fee waivers).

Lower APR

The SCRA requires creditors cap their APR at 6 percent for active service members; however, some card issuers drop it even further.

Citi completely removes the APR during active duty time. USAA and Capital One lower the APR to 4 percent. USAA even goes beyond that and extends the 4 percent APR until a year after active duty ends. 

No late fees

American Express, Capital One, USAA and Chase will waive late fees for active military members.

A word of caution -- late payment information will still go to credit bureaus, which can affect your credit score. So, it's not a good idea to miss a payment even if your card may waive the fee. Terms apply. 

Wipe out all fees

Some credit card companies remove all fees while you're on active duty. For instance, Capital One and USAA cut foreign transaction, balance transfer, cash advance and all other card-related fees.

How to request SCRA, additional military-based benefits

Now that you know about all of these benefits let's talk about how you notify credit cards about being an active military member.

You must provide the creditor with a copy of your military orders. Contact your credit card company either via phone or online. Don't be deterred if the customer service representative isn't familiar with these benefits. Just request to speak to a supervisor. You should also expect to answer a series of questions about your military service.

Once your creditor receives your information, it will review your SCRA eligibility to confirm you are an active duty military member or the spouse of an active service member. The creditor will examine the provided documents and check the Department of Defense Manpower Data Center.

Each credit card has a similar process to verify SCRA benefits and to get other active military-related card benefits.

Remember, whenever you choose a credit card, you should make sure the card matches your interests and lifestyle. Multiple companies offer benefits to active service members, so you should be able to find the right card for you. Compare each card's rewards and special offers and figure out which one matches your situation and interests. If you don't see something above that fits your credit history and needs, check out our full list of offers for more options and information.

To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: American Express® Gold Card (See Rates and Fees); The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees); The Platinum Card® from American Express (See Rates and Fees); Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees)

8 Comments

  1. Dave May 13, 2018 - 10:15 pm
    Brian is right. The article is incorrect. Citibank could care less if you are on active duty and want to apply for a card. They will only waive the annual fees if you had the card prior to joining the military. AMEX does it because they care about the military and are going beyond what the law requires.
      Reply »  
    1. Brooklyn Lowery May 14, 2018 - 8:32 pm
      Thanks for the feedback. As noted in the response to Brian and in the editor's note (see the *) within the article, there are nuances to these fee waivers and each issuer makes its own decisions beyond what is required by SCRA. The article is correct that Citi offers fee waivers to active duty military, though it appears that most people are finding you must already have the card before going on active duty in order to secure the waiver. Thanks again for commenting!
        Reply »  
  2. Ben May 10, 2018 - 2:12 pm
    Greetings, I am an Army Reservist that goes on active duty for several periods throughout the year. Are their any fee waiver programs in place for the reserve and National Guard communities?
      Reply »  
    1. Brooklyn Lowery May 14, 2018 - 8:06 pm
      Greetings, I am an Army Reservist that goes on active duty for several periods throughout the year. Are their any fee waiver programs in place for the reserve and National Guard communities?Thanks for your question. My understanding of these programs is that they are for active duty military, so I suppose active duty reservists would qualify. HOWEVER, there are varied and complex rules around these fee waivers and they differ by card issuer. I would definitely take the time to reach out to the specific issuer and speak with a customer service rep specializing in the card's military benefits.
        Reply »  
  3. Brian February 26, 2018 - 2:54 pm
    CITI has informed me they have NO waivers for annual fees unless you are new to the military under SCRA. They would not offer me an Executive World Elite card without a fee as I am on active duty and have been for 23 years. Does anyone else have a different experience?
      Reply »  
    1. Brooklyn Lowery February 26, 2018 - 4:35 pm
      Hi there. Sorry to hear you've hit a wall with the fee waiver. Couple of things: The fee waiver is separate and apart from SCRA. SCRA doesn't require credit card companies to waive the annual fees -- that's something companies can decide to do in addition to what they are required to do/offer under SCRA. Additionally, SCRA applies whether you are new to the military or not. It shouldn't be a matter of needing to be grandfathered in or getting it as a new member. Those benefits are yours whether you're a 23-year veteran or a new recruit.The annual fee situation, however, is up the individual companies. I have seen some reports of people who have had trouble getting Citi to waive fees for NEW credit cards. If you had the card before you became active duty, there seems to be no problem getting the fee waived once you go on active duty; if you apply AFTER becoming active duty, there are people who have had trouble. However, I also see plenty of stories of people who were able to get the fee waiver for new cards applied for after they were already military.All this to say, I can understand your frustration. You might try calling back and speaking with a different customer service rep. If nothing else, you should talk with someone who can clearly explain the benefits you're due under the SCRA. Hopefully that person can also explain anything Citi does above and beyond what is required, but if you don't feel like you're getting an accurate response or the full description of benefits, ask to speak with a manager. Good luck and please keep us posted on how things turn out. I'm going to update the article to reflect your experience. Thank you for reaching out.
        Reply »  
  4. Thomas January 26, 2018 - 4:34 pm
    Citi Double Cash is not very helpful when trying to get interest waived on one time mistakes.
      Reply »  
    1. Brooklyn Lowery January 29, 2018 - 6:57 pm
      Sorry to hear you had a negative experience. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, for sure. I, in fact, had to pay a bit of interest recently after my husband and I had a miscommunication about who was paying the credit card bill that month. It was frustrating, and I did contact my company just to see what they could/would do for me. In the end, I just had to pay the interest.In my experience, credit card issuers are unlikely to waive the interest charges once they've hit an account. What you CAN occasionally get overturned/waived are late payment fees or perhaps a penalty APR kicking in -- it's always worth asking if it happens to you. Of course, in both those instances the better your payment history and track record with your card, the more likely you are to receive some grace should you need it.Again, I'm sure your experience was frustrating -- especially if you're someone who ALWAYS pays off your balance on time. If it's any consolation, I've been there!
        Reply »  

Start Here

Search. Compare. Apply.

Featured Partner Cards

loading