American Express offers quite the money-saving perk to military personnel: the issuer waives the annual fees for its credit cards – even for The Platinum Card® from American Express , which comes with a $550 annual fee price tag. (American Express is a CardRatings advertiser. See Rates and Fees.)
This is largely an under-the-radar perk, but can be a huge money saver for American Express cardholders, especially if you're a service member who wants to enjoy the lucrative luxury perks that accompany The Platinum Card® from American Express, or the everyday practicality of the American Express® Gold Card, which might be a more suitable option for some credit card users during the current COVID-19 pandemic. As an added bonus, spouses of military personnel are also eligible for the annual-fee waiver.
Before you start crunching numbers only related to your annual fee savings, know this: The Servicemembers Civil Rights Act (SCRA) offers protections to active duty military personnel and their spouses when it comes to a number of financial situation and loan terms and those terms apply regardless of credit card issuer. Amex takes it a step further, however, with the annual-fee waiver. More on the SRCA below, but first, let's look at some of the top Amex cards military personnel should consider in light of this annual-fee waiver perk.
American Express cards for military personnel
So, now that you know you can get your American Express annual fee waived as an active service member or spouse of a service member, what are some American Express cards to check out? Here are some of our favorites:
The American Express® Gold Card $250 annual fee isn't horrendous, but don't think that means this card doesn't come packed full of benefits. It offers 3X Membership Rewards points® on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com and 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide (including delivery and takeout), but perhaps its most lucrative offer right now (as well as on an everyday basis) is its opportunity to earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). This means even if you're not traveling much at the moment, you can still benefit big by having this card in your wallet. And when you are ready to travel, feel free to take this card abroad with you as it does not charge foreign transacton fees.
New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points once making $4,000 worth of purchases in the first six months of card membership. This is one of the largest bonus offers we've seen with this card, and the fact that you have six months to earn it versus the standard three, makes the card even more attractive. You can 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/or Ruth's Chris Steak House (enrollment required). This is an annual savings of up to $120. Furthermore, cardholders are eligible for a $100 Airline Fee Credit per calendar year for incidental fees at one pre-selected qualifying airline (offer expires 2021), as well as a $100 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, when available, when you book a stay of at least two consecutive nights. That's a ton a value considering the fact that you won't have to pay an annual fee to carry this card.
The Platinum Card® from American Express is an excellent card to have when the card issuer waives the annual fee. Why? It has a $550 annual fee, but service members can benefit from the card's perks without paying the annual fee that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive.
This is a premium card, and you get a lot with it including a generous rewards program if you're a frequent flyer. The card offers a strong five-times the Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with the airlines or with American Express Travel (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) as well as on prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new card at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first six months of card membership. You can also earn a 75,000-point bonus when you spend $5,000 on your card in the first six months.
The card offers many travel-related perks, including access to hundreds of airport lounges through the Global Lounge Collection, 24/7 access to a Platinum Club Concierge who can help with travel arrangements, and a credit to cover your Global Entry or TSA Precheck™ application fee every five years. And, as you would expect with a card of this caliber, you won't be charged foreign transaction fees when you use your card while abroad.
The Platinum Card® also gives you up to $200 a year in statement credit to cover travel-related charges like baggage fees and in-flight refreshments that you charge on your card, when you select one qualifying airline.
Not too shabby when you consider you won't be paying an annual fee as a member of the military.
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express doesn't have an untouchable annual fee at just $95, but as a member of the military you don't even have to worry about it. So, while Blue Cash Preferred® probably isn't the first choice to come to mind because of the annual fee savings, depending on your spending habits, it could still deserve a spot in your wallet.
The reward categories for the Blue Cash Preferred® make it an excellent card for your everyday spending: you earn 6% cash back on the first $6,000 spent annually at U.S. supermarkets, 6% on select U.S. streaming services, 3% back on purchases at U.S. gas stations and on transit, and 1% 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% back when you buy gift cards at those supermarkets.
Since you, as a member of the military, are eligible for waived annual fees, consider carrying both the Blue Cash Preferred® for your everyday spending AND The Platinum Card® from American Express or the American Express® Gold Card with which you earn maximum rewards on your travel and enjoy those luxury travel perks described above.
There's really no reason not to carry two or more cards and those rewards you'll be racking up will come in handy down the road.
How to request a waived fee and SCRA benefits from American Express
If you already have an American Express card, you can call American Express at 1-800-253-1720. Tell the representative that you're an active duty military member and request a waiver of your card's annual fee as well as the SCRA protections for your card. Don't be deterred if the customer service rep isn't familiar with these benefits; just request to speak with a supervisor. You should also expect to answer a series of questions about your military service.
You can also contact American Express online. American Express allows you to log into your account and request SCRA benefits. Once you've made contact with American Express, you can also send a copy of documents with the account number to: American Express, Attn: Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, PO Box 981535, El Paso, TX 79998-1535. It's a good idea to contact the company before sending your documents, so Amex is aware that you're sending documentation its way.
Once American Express has 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. American Express will examine the provided documents and check the Department of Defense Manpower Data Center. Be aware that, depending on how long the verification process takes, you may have to pay the annual fee up-front before being reimbursed when your status is verified.
Even if you don't choose to take advantage of the annual fee waiver offered by American Express (but, really, why wouldn't you?) each credit card issuer has a similar process to verify your eligibility for SCRA benefits even though they don't necessarily waive the annual fee, so contact your card company by phone or online and it can start the verification process.
Speaking of the SCRA, just what are some of the benefits? Keep reading to find out.
American Express goes above and beyond with its annual-fee waiver, but there is federal legislation that caps interest rates for active servicemembers and their spouses and that law applies to credit cards beyond those issued by American Express.
Congress passed the Servicemembers Civil Rights Act (SCRA) in 2003, which expanded the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940. The SCRA protects the finances of military members (and their families) while they are on active duty. The provisions deal with rental agreements, security deposits, mortgage interest rates, health insurance, income tax payments, mortgage foreclosures, and yes, credit cards.
To be eligible, you must be a:
- A member of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty or a reserve component called to active duty,
- National Guard personnel under a call or order to active duty for more than 30 days,
- A Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissioned officer,
- 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
- The spouse of an active duty service member.
The SCRA caps active military members' interest rate at 6 percent for financial obligations incurred before military service. The servicemember must provide the creditor with a copy of his/her military orders and a written notice to take advantage of the interest rate cap, but that's not a bad hoop to jump through for an interest rate cap that could literally save you hundreds of dollars if you happen to have some credit card debt you're working to pay off.
The creditor must forgive interest greater than 6 percent. It can't defer it to later and must also forgive the interest retroactively. Military members have until 180 days after their end of service to send the required documents to the creditor.
>MORE: Click here to explore the options or apply for other credit cards for members of the military, including those issued by military- and government-affiliated issuers.
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 Platinum Card® from American Express (See Rates and Fees); Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees)