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

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    ABOUT SCRA | 4 ADDITIONAL BENEFITS | REQUESTING BENEFITS | TOP CREDIT CARDS

    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 take a look at the SCRA, five additional military credit card benefits, how to request those benefits and some top cards for active military personnel.

    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 CardName, 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.

    American Express isn't the only issuer to waive annual fees for active duty military. Chase, Capital One and Citi 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.

    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.

    Top 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. 

    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

    The Platinum Card® from American Express

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    Annual fee: $550 (waived when on active duty). 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.

    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.

    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: Excellent, Good


    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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    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, 3 percent back on purchases at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores 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 $200 bonus cash back by spending just $1,000 on your card in the first three months.

    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.

    Foreign transaction fees: None for active-duty military.

    Credit needed: Excellent, Good


    Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

    Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

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    Annual fee: $195 (waived for the first year and waived continually for active-duty military). Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

    Rewards: This card offers three times the points for flights booked directly with airlines; two points per $1 spent at U.S. restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets; and one point per $1 for all other purchases. The card also gives you 25,000 points when you use the card for $2,000 worth of purchases in the first three months.

    Luxury perks: Cardholders are eligible for a $100 airline fee credit to cover baggage fees at one pre-selected airline and a $75 hotel credit and room upgrades through The Hotel Collection.

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

    Foreign transaction fees: None

    Credit needed: Excellent, Good


    Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

    Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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    Annual fee: $95 (waived for the first year for everyone, but waived completely 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 50,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, worth $625 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 50,000 bonus points are worth $625 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: None

    Credit needed: Excellent/Good


    Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

    Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

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    Annual fee: $95 (waived for the first year and on an ongoing basis 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: 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® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

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    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 the first three months. Then, if you spend $40,000 in a year, you'll earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (MQMs).

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

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

    Foreign transaction fee: None

    Credit needed: Excellent


    Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

    Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

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    Annual fee: $0

    Rewards: You get 1 percent cash back when you make purchases and another 1 percent cash back when you pay for the purchases.

    Perks: You get complimentary concierge service, auto rental insurance and fraud protection.

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

    Foreign transaction fee: None

    Credit needed: Excellent, Good

    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 database for more options and information.

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