Credit Cards that Waive Annual Fees for Active Duty Military Personnel (Updated November 2018)

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Thanks to protections laid out in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), active-duty military personnel can access credit cards and other financial products with reduced interest rates and fees while serving under orders.

Financial institutions are required by law to provide fiscal relief to active-duty service members under SCRA, benefits that include capping interest rates on debt incurred prior to entering active duty, reducing associated minimum monthly repayments, and other protections relating to rental and lease agreements; phone, car, and instalment contracts; foreclosures and repossessions; judicial proceedings, taxes, and insurance.

us-army-personnel

Enacted in 2003, and revised several times since, the SCRA legislation helps mitigate the financial load placed on serving members of the armed forces during periods of active duty, reducing select civil responsibilities and allowing members of the armed forces to devote their full attention on their military and professional obligations.

While many financial institutions only provide the necessary protections laid out under SCRA legislation, select credit card companies and lending providers go above and beyond what is required by SCRA, waiving annual fees and fees related to late payments, over-limit fees, foreign transaction fees, and more.

What is SCRA and Who Qualifies?

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act was established in 2003, revising and expanding on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940. In the Department of Justice’s own words:

“The law’s purpose is to postpone, suspend, terminate, or reduce the amount of certain civil obligations so that members of the armed forces and certain other individuals can focus their full attention on their military or professional responsibilities without adverse consequences for themselves or their families.”

The Act provides financial and housing rights to servicemembers, recent veterans, and military family members when members of the armed forces enter active military service, limiting interest rates to 6% per annum on debts incurred before entering service, and providing a host of additional civil protections.

The SCRA legislation applies to:

  • Full-time active duty members of the five military branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard)
  • Reservists on federal active duty
  • Members of the National Guard on federal orders for a period of more than 30 days
  • Servicemembers absent from duty for a lawful cause or because of sickness, wounds or leave are covered by the SCRA
  • Commissioned officers in active service of the Public Health Service (PHS) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • A spouse, domestic partner or dependent of covered service members

SCRA Credit Card Annual Fee Policies by Provider

While there is no provision under the SCRA to waive credit card fees, including annual fees, there are plenty of credit card issuers who voluntarily waive credit card annual fees for serving members that qualify for SCRA benefits. In the list of providers below, we don't cover military focused credit unions such as NFCU, USAA, or PenFed, which already have strong ties to the armed forces community.

Instead, we’re highlighting the SCRA policies of the mainstream credit card providers such as Amex, Citi, and Chase, which generally offer higher-valued rewards and perks than their military counterparts.

We’ve made every effort to verify the info in the table below, but we’ve received conflicting reports for some of the SCRA benefits offered, even when speaking to CSRs from the financial institutions themselves. If you have a recent first-hand experience you can share for any of the card issuers listed below, please share it in the comments, and we will update the post accordingly.

 Fees WaivedInterest RateIncludes Cards Opened While Active Duty?Apply for SCRA Benefits
American Express• Annual Fee
• Overlimit fee
• Late fee
• Returned payment fee
• ATM fee
• Statement copy request fee
• 6% APR on balances accrued prior to active duty• YesCall 1-800-253-1720
Apply for SCRA online
Bank of America• None• 6% APR on balances accrued prior to active duty + 6 months after active duty ends• NoCall 1-877-345-0693
Instructions to apply for SCRA benefits
Barclays• All transaction fees• 0% APR on balances accrued prior to active duty• NoCall 1-866-918-5212
Capital One• All fees• 4% APR on balances accrued prior to active duty + 1 year after active duty ends• YesCall 1-855-227-1645
Apply for SCRA online
Chase• All fees• 4% APR on balances accrued prior to active duty• YesCall 1-877-469-0110
Instructions to apply for SCRA benefits
Citi• All fees• 0% APR on balances accrued prior to active duty• NoCall 1-877-804-1082
Instructions to apply for SCRA benefits
Discover• Late fees
• Overlimit fees
• 5.9% APR on balances accrued prior to active duty• YesCall 1-844-337-4645
Apply for SCRA online
U.S. Bank• All fees• 6% APR on balances accrued prior to active duty• NoCall 1-800-934-9555
Instructions to apply for SCRA benefits
Wells Fargo• None• 6% APR on balances accrued prior to active duty• NoCall 1-855-872-2932
Instructions to apply for SCRA benefits

Top Credit Cards for Active Military Personnel

At the top of the list, Amex is hands down our favorite rewards card issuer for active military personnel. Amex applies the standard APR of 6% as laid out in the SCRA legislation, but we see carrying a balance on rewards cards as the #2 faux pas in award travel (damaging your credit being #1), so it’s not a factor we give too much weight.

Amex-SCRA-Benefits
Active duty military personnel can save hundreds of dollars per year on credit card annual fees with Amex.

Waiving annual fees, however, particularly when Amex includes cards applied for while you are active duty, can provide massive savings. This allows you to acquire some of the best premium rewards cards available to points and miles fans without paying any annual fees.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Obtaining the Amex Platinum during active duty will save you $550 in annual fees (Rates & Fees)! The card offers a substantial 60,000-point welcome bonus after meeting minimum spend requirements, provides a $200 annual airline credit, monthly Uber credits up to $200 per year, the best lounge access perks of any card we’ve reviewed, Global Entry/TSA fee credit, elite status benefits across a bunch of hotel and car rental loyalty programs, plus lots more perks.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Another Amex card that offers top perks is the Hilton Aspire. Active duty military can have the $450 annual fee waived on this card which offers a 150,000-point welcome offer after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, provides complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status, Priority Pass Select membership, a $250 annual Hilton Resort credit, $250 annual airline incidentals credit, an anniversary free weekend night certificate, and a second free weekend night certificate when you spend $60K on the card each year.

Final Thoughts

Outside of Amex, Capital One, and Discover, all credit card issuers we researched require serving military personnel to open credit card accounts before entering active duty to qualify for SCRA protections and benefits.

If you already have cards open from providers such as Citi, Chase, or U.S. Bank, you can apply to have the annual fees waived as soon as you enter active service, including premium cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Citi Prestige® Card, reducing the out of pocket expense for holding these cards while receiving all the perks and benefits.

If you’re active duty and just starting out on your award travel journey, you can get all the perks without the out of pocket expense by focusing on select credit card providers like Amex and Capital One, just be sure to factor in application restrictions like Chase’s 5/24 policy when planning your rewards card portfolio.

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)

Credit Cards that Waive Annual Fees for Active Duty Military Personnel (Updated November 2018)
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Comments

  • This is an incredible perk and thank you to those that serve in the military. Aside from military discounts at some hotels, and priority boarding and sometimes lounge access at airports, what other travel perks are there for military personnel? I am not sure many people know about them all.

    • baggage waivers can be significant as well.

    • Very true, there are many benefits that don’t get widely publicized. However, there are several bloggers that focus on maximizing travel & finance from the perspective of an enlisted person, such as themilitaryfrequentflyer.com and derpreport.com.

  • Thanks for the list. While it doesn’t impact me, it’s good to pass on to some friends.

  • Very nice, they are doing the right thing.

  • I am very thankful that credit card companies do this.

  • Bernard Say says:

    Best of luck to our military personnel. This is just one small benefit.

  • ron_vaughn@hotmail.com says:

    nice for those that serve, well deserved!

  • Jacqueline says:

    It’s great that more and more companies are supporting military personnel like this.

  • This is a great perk for military serving personnel, however I feel it a little unfair that some companies require application before serving to gain the benefits.

  • Bertrand Say says:

    Its the least we can do. Actually since they are in the military, they would not be able to use their credit cards anyway.

  • This post is very timely for me as I am a traditional Guardsman who was just notified of some orders where I will qualify. I love my Amex Business Platinum and my Sapphire Reserve and I’ll love them even more if the fees are waived!

    A benefit that a lot of military people don’t know is that the lounges from several of the US airlines will allow service members in free of charge if they are traveling on orders and on that airline. Each has their own policy and some are extremely restrictive to the point that almost no one qualifies (United) but I always tell my troops to ask politely at the front desk with their military ID and boarding pass. If they say they aren’t eligible, it’s no loss. (I have my memberships but most young troops can’t afford that.)

  • I agree. Military workers give of themselves and are not highly compensated. I try to support companies that support military families. They deserve a big “thank you” for all they do to protect us and our freedom!

  • What an interesting article. I was aware of several military perks but I’d never given thought before to the kinds of benefits described here.

  • These benefits should be for life for those who serve

  • Tim cathcart says:

    Does not benefit me at all. But this is great to see.!!!

  • Another great way to thank those who serve are country.

  • Air Flyer says:

    Are there any that do it for ex-military personel? 🙂

  • Alice Chen says:

    This is a wonderful perk!

  • This is a great service but after my time. Can’t remember if I even owned a credit card when I was in the service.

  • Good to know

  • thank you for this wonder info. our son is in the Coast Guard and we will forward this to him.

  • I don’t get why more companies don’t offer benefits to our men and women in the military.

  • Good to see some benefits for our military families that sacrifice so much for us.

  • These are wonderful perks…but not well advertised. I shall try to pass along this information to my friends who serve. Thanks to all that do.

  • I agree that these benefits for should be for life for those who serve!

  • My son just got the Amex platinum and he gets all the full benefits with it, including the $200.00 annual airline credit, Saks $100.00 annual credit and anything else for zero annual fee. What a great deal for members of our military.

  • Had no idea this benefit existed. Even though it doesn’t help me directly, I’m inclined to say it’s a nominee for “most helpful/revealing blog post in some time!” Will immediately share with friends and family who can benefit and even more broadly!

  • Is there any way to be promote yourself to be targeted for a higher sign on bonus for the AMEX platinum card as an active duty military member? (or any tricks at all to get the higher sign up bonus?)

  • This article needs to be updated. Chase definitely waives the free for cards opened while already active duty. In fact they even automatically issue the SCRA benefits without the need to apply. On the two cards I was approved for, they mailed me my notification of SCRA benefits a few days before I received the actual cards.

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