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.
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.
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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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.
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.