As I’ve mentioned many times before, one of the coolest benefits for military members are the credit card benefits given to us as required by the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which include waiving fees such as late payment, foreign transaction, and overdraft fees. There is not a requirement that credit card companies waive annual fees for rewards credit cards, but almost all of them do, which is great for us!

 

Here is a rundown of various companies credit card benefits, and then tomorrow I’ll be giving an updated list of my current favorite cards. As before, we don’t have any affiiliate links, we don’t get paid by any credit card companies, and these opinions are purely my own.

 

Also, in regard to COL Glenn’s article the other day about affiliated or non-affiliated credit cards, my personal opinion is that both are great since we don’t (usually) have to pay annual fees, but I only use hotel and airline cards for their signup bonuses, and bank-affiliated cards for everyday spend. There are 4 major bank programs with which you can transfer points to airlines or hotels – Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR), Amex Membership Rewards (MR), SPG points, and now, Citi Thank you (TY) points. These points are more flexible, because you can transfer them to the program of your choice, and in general these cards have better category bonuses, such as Chase Ink’s 5x points at office supply stores, Amex Gold’s 3x points on airfare, and Citi Thankyou Premier’s 3x points on dining and entertainment. For this reason, these are the points I primarily accumulate.

 

Ok, without further adieu, onto the list.

amex

American Express – In my and other reader’s experience, this has been the easiest to get annual fees waived for all servicemembers, as they don’t require you send in any documentation. They offer waived annual fees for all cards, including Platinums, and even the legendary Centurion card. Their MR program has some awesome redemption partners, and their customer service, in my opinion, is the best of all credit card companies.

boa

Bank of America – I don’t have any BoA cards, so don’t have any personal experience with this, but according to this post, they waive all applicable fees. BoA’s SCRA page.

bar

Barclaycard – This company has also been very lenient on waiving annual fees – I didn’t have to provide any documentation to them either. I use the Barclaycard Arrival for all non-category bonus and non-minimum spend spending, as it offers 2.2% back towards travel on all purchases and has no foreign transaction fees.

Capital one

Capital One – I have an old No Hassle Rewards card, but I honestly never use this or any other of their cards. That being said, they waived my fees without documentation, and like the above companies have great customer service. There is an offer for 40k miles on their Venture card floating around for those interested, and I think comes in at a solid 2nd place behind the Arrival card for everyday spend.

chase

Chase – Unfortunately they’ve been stingier to some of our readers on waiving fees and requiring documentation. Some have had their annual fee waiver refused, but others figured out ways to get them to do it. Chase Ink and Chase Freedom are two of my favorite cards for their category bonuses, and Chase Sapphire Preferred used to be, but with them taking away the 2x bonus on travel, I will be putting this card away. UR have awesome redemption partners, including into airlines in Star Alliance, OneWorld, and Skyteam, as well as some hotel and train programs.

Citi_Logo_365x400

Citi – They’ve been the stingiest of all the companies for getting fees waived, and have the most onerous documentation requirements, as well as the worst customer service in my opinion. That being said, they’ve got some great rewards cards, especially now that TY rewards are transferrable to several carriers including Singapore Airlines, which have great redemption options on Star Alliance carriers. (Check out this post for more info).

discover_hp

Discover – I do have the Discover It card, which has no annual fee, but only use it to have access to the ShopDiscover cashback shopping portal, which offers some really big cash back bonuses. According to Discover’s SCRA page, they fully comply with it, but make no mention of annual fees, although others have told me they will waive your annual fee.

usaa

USAA – They waive all fees for active duty members. They’ve got a cool World MC that is one of the few current Chip & PIN cards, but unfortunately none of their cards have great rewards associated with them.

usbanklogo

US Bank – They readily waive annual fees without too much hassle or documentation, and they’ve got some decent (but not great) rewards cards. I picked up the Lifemiles card when the signup bonus was 40k, the Club Carlson card is fantastic for rewards redemptions, and have had the REI card forever. (Here’s a primer on redeeming Lifemiles for Star Alliance Flights).

 

Sorry if I missed any credit card companies, I only used the major ones for these. Tomorrow, I’ll post an updated list of the top 10 credit cards for military members.

Posted by glenn | 10 Comments

10 Responses to “Credit Card Benefits for servicemembers – A master summary!”

  1. Jerry says:

    My experience with Chase was just terrible. For a company that offers “Blue Ribbon Benefits” I thought their whole approach for a deploying member was backwards.

    American Express has a customer for life in the way they treated me. If you happen to have a Citicard before you come into the service, they are very good about cutting you some slack in addition to the SCRA minimums, but the benefits taper off after a few years. Not an unreasonable approach.

  2. Charles says:

    I think it should be pointed out that under the SCRA, credit account protections technically only apply to accounts that were open PRIOR to active federal service. Yes, some of these companies are generous in applying the benefits to accounts opened after enlisting/commissioning and we certainly have the right to praise them and give them our business over those that don’t. But I think some people have the wrong attitude when they get outraged at companies that do not extend SCRA benefits to newly opened accounts when the service member was already in the military. At that point it is certainly an appreciated perk, which I would absolutely take advantage of. However, it is not a right, and I think it makes us service members look bad when some among us get bent out of shape when they don’t get something that legally doesn’t have to be given to us.

  3. Eric says:

    I recently got my fees waived from Chase. I really think it’s the individual that’s reviewing the documentation. But I do agree that other banks are really lenient about the SCRA and should not be taken for granted!

  4. Jerry says:

    My qualm is not with Chase, or for any other credit card company, for just doing their part to follow the law–they all do (or, after several multi-million dollar lawsuits, they all do). Its when they say that they’ll go above and beyond, and I rely on that to my detriment, that I am upset.

    Chase, a company which has an entire system for deploying members for their cards, “Blue Star Program” made it so hard on me to acquire benefits through a program that they offer. That’s poor customer service and that is why I recommend you look the other way.

    https://www.chase.com/online/military/military-bluestar.htm

  5. Harry says:

    PLEASE again be accurate with your terminology of such terms as “military members” and “all servicemembers” and “servicemembers”. As with my more extensive comments on your August 5 “Guide to military hotel benefits” post, please be accurate in differentiating perks available to “Active Duty” personnel as compared to “Reserve” personnel. Particularly for credit card benefits based on the SCRA, there are wide variations for Active Duty and Reserve personnel.

    One data point, mostly nice, with Chase and SCRA benefits. After I sent them a partially redacted copy of my orders in the few months prior to my mobilization they sent me letters waiving annual fees on all 5 of my existing Chase CCs. I closed 4 of those accounts prior to mobilization. A few months after I got home from mobilization, I asked them to waive the annual fee on ONE card (the UA Club card at $395 per year) I obtained after mobilization. I told them that would still be less “costly” than waiving the fees on the 4 closed accounts they had offered prior to mobilization. They told me (no pun intended) to pound sand as SCRA benefits were only applicable to those accounts opened (? by reservists) prior to active duty. On the upside, Chase did extend to me SCRA benefits for almost 3 years after the end of my mobilization on all accounts opened prior to mobilization which is highly appreciated for the one Chase account which I do keep open (a CC with a significant annual fee which is no longer offered which has a specific savings benefit). And just recently when I called Chase to tell them I would be using 1 or 2 of their CCs for upcoming international travel, the agent reminded me that I would NOT be charged a foreign transaction fee on the card I thought I would as it was still covered under the SCRA. Overall, my experiences with Chase have been outstanding.

    Specifically for CCs and SCRA, it would be very helpful to know what’s available to Reservists. Not sure if “lobbying” is part of your mission, but this is one situation (SCRA benefits for Reservists after mobilization) where those sorts of efforts could be very productive and would be very highly appreciated.

    Thanks again for the great work gentlemen.
    V/R,

    • glenn says:

      @ Harry – We appreciate your comments about the distinction between Reserve and Active. For the record, I (Glenn) am a Army Reserve officer. Here is the problem – most companies who grant these benefits do not always understand the difference. Thus, when you call, they give inconsistent answers. For Reservists, there is the additional distinction between being activated and not. Most civilians do not understand our system, so some look at all military being the same, some look at Reservists as not being in the military at all. As with the advice given for calling an airline, if you don’t get the answer you want, call again and a different agent will answer and might give you the answer you want!

  6. […] Military Frequent Flyer has an excellent post on Credit Card Benefits for servicemembers. It list companies that waive annual fees, even for cards that offer excellent bonuses. […]

  7. Andy says:

    @Harry – I absolutely agree w/ COL Glenn. I have several reservist friends who have had CC’s get their fees waived, so I truely do not know what database each company uses. You’re right, I should’ve disclaimed beforehand in the article that it’s 100% applicable for active duty members who had cards open before becoming active duty, but the companies are so variable in how they enforce these rules.

  8. Charles says:

    The takeaway here is active federal service – if you’re active duty, it applies to credit accounts opened prior to joining the military, for the duration of your active duty service. If you’re Reserve Component (Reserve or National Guard) by law the benefits only apply to the periods that you are on active duty (mobilized/activated/on orders). The intent of the SCRA is to shield service members during the times they were on active duty status because it is assumed it will be harder for them to keep up with paying credit account bills during that period, as well as respond to civil court proceedings and other issues covered in the law. The intent is not to give us freebies just because we volunteered to serve. However as myself and others have pointed out, some companies are more generous than the law requires, which is great. And as others have also pointed out, some companies or at least their representatives have a hard time understanding the difference between Active and Reserve Component service.

  9. Harry says:

    Thank you COL and LCDR. Of course any self-respecting FF loyalist should know to HUCA (hang up call again) when dealing with Customer (Non)Service Reps.
    BREAK
    Charles, you are absolutely correct regarding the intent of the SCRA. However, for those of us who are less likely to actually need those benefits, it’s easy to think of it as being similar to the benefits (discount) many companies offer military personnel and that’s where we might think there should be less differentiation between Active and Reserve components. Yet another way of looking at it is that the SCRA doesn’t differentiate at all between AC and RC; the SCRA covers service members while on active duty, including some financial obligations from prior to active duty, regardless of the duration of that active duty, be it 6 or 9 months or 20 or 30 years!

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