American Express Waives All Card Holder Fees for Active Duty Military

Update Christmas 2013: American Express refunded Brian $2500 in fees! Check at the bottom of this article for his story.

American Express has offered me excellent customer service and credit card products since 2007. My first credit card was an AmEx Blue Cash, which I used all throughout college. I cancelled that card after graduating university (2010) in an effort to simplify my financial life. I also moved on to better reward program cards, like the Chase Freedom, with 1-5% cash back.

I recently “churned” two American Express cards for over 125,000 Delta Skymiles, allowing me to buy two round trip tickets across the country to Miami for $20. Both of the cards I applied for carry annual fees, which are waived for the first year. I am always willing to test out a credit card for free for a year and determine if it meets my needs. If not, I have no problem about cancelling it before the annual fee is charged.

While on a TDY recently, a buddy of mine mentioned that he had the American Express Platinum card that comes with a $495 annual fee. While he does get access to some airport lounges and $200 of airline fees reimbursed annual, the rewards program is weak and the other benefits don’t seem to justify an insanely high annual fee.

However, he mentioned to me that he wasn’t paying any annual fee because AMEX had waived the fee under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a law Congress passed 10 years ago in 2003. The SCRA has a long history dating back to the Civil War and it protects servicemembers’ from many legal and financial troubles that they could encounter while serving their nation both at home and overseas.

The SCRA has several sections covering taxes, lawsuits, and outstanding debt. Credit card companies are only legally required to keep your interest rate below 6% on any outstanding debt you have with them BEFORE you enter military service.

I had never heard of a credit card company waiving fees because of the SCRA so I had to investigate further. Plus I had recently become a cardholder (again) at AMEX and I would definitely remain a cardholder for much longer if I knew I wouldn’t have to pay annual fees.

American Express Credit Cards Military Discount

American Express Goes Above and Beyond

What I found was that yes, indeed, American Express waives annual membership fees for active duty military service personnel.

AMEX decided that they are going to be a true class act and go beyond their legal requirements. For the duration of your active duty military service, they will waive the following fees:

  • Annual membership fees ($200 savings for my two cards)
  • Overlimit fees
  • Late Payment fees
  • Returned Payment fees
  • Statement Copy Request fees

Here’s the email I received from AMEX once my active duty status had been verified:

Dear Spencer

To support the men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces, we are handling your account referenced above in accordance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides for a maximum annual interest rate of 6% per year on loans you received before starting active military duty. As of today, your account does not have a balance owed which generates interest charges so there is no eligible balance. However, we have waived the following fees on the account for the duration of your active military duty:

  • Annual Membership fees
  • Overlimit fees
  • Late Payment fees
  • Returned Payment fees
  • Statement Copy Request fees

This completes our review of this account, if there are any additional accounts you would like reviewed for Servicemembers Civil Relief Act benefits, please call us at 1-800-253-1720. If you’re outside the United States, call us collect at 1-336-393-1111.

We are grateful for the service and devotion you have shown to our country.

Sincerely,

American Express Customer Care

How to Get AMEX Military Discount

To have AMEX handle your account in accordance with the SCRA, simply call the number on the back of your card or 1-800-528-4800 and tell them you are serving on active duty military and had heard that AMEX offers to handle your account in accordance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

The first customer service representative I spoke to didn’t know about the program and had to ask her supervisor. You’ll be asked 5-10 questions about your situation, such as when you entered active duty and how long your commitment is. This information is then verified by AMEX before they approve your account for the fee waivers. The entire process took about 6 weeks for me, from phone call to receiving the secure message that my account had been approved.

AMEX SCRA Success Stories

Brian from the Army sent me this email on Christmas Eve, 2013:

Wanted to thank you for your posts about American Express’s unique support for SCRA. I called AMEX last month (Nov ’13) and applied to have my account associated with the program. Last week I received $2500 in returned fees (annual fees, interest charges, etc…), all paid to AMEX over the last 10 years as a Delta AMEX card member. Today I just applied for the AMEX Blue Preferred Card and according to customer service, the annual fee is waived.

Thank you again for sharing and for the support you’ve provided to all Servicemen.

So awesome to hear, Brian! There are some other tales of success in the comments. Anyone else had a massive refund payday like Brian?

My Top Three Recommendations for Achieving Financial Independence While You Serve


1. Bank with a military friendly bank, like USAA. I've been a proud member of USAA for 6 years now and have never had a better customer experience with any other bank. They charge no BS fees, refund ATM fees, and have the best auto insurance prices for military servicemembers.

2. Use a cashback credit card, like the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard. How does a $440 sign up bonus, NO foreign transaction fees, and 2.2% cashback on every purchase sound? Read my review to see why I love this new card.

3. Track your growing investments using Personal Capital. In order to get where you want to go, you have to know where you are. Personal Capital is like Mint.com for investors. While Mint is good for tracking your expenses and getting out of debt, PC is good for seeing your wealth and investments accumulate and grow. Track your Roth TSP, Roth IRA, banking accounts, SDP, and the myriad of other accounts you have all in one place with Personal Capital. It's free and presents a beautiful graphical view of your financial situation. Join today to get the most complete picture of your finances. Read my full review here.

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47 Responses to American Express Waives All Card Holder Fees for Active Duty Military

  1. Pingback: How to Get Your Annual Fees Waived on American Express - The Military Frequent Flyer

  2. Shannon says:

    Do you know if spouse’s card fees are waived too? I pay a fortune in Amx fees! :)

    • Spencer says:

      Hey Shannon! Based on what I’ve been told by AMEX, this only applies if the account holder is active duty military. If your spouse is the account holder and you are an authorized user, then yes, you’re fees will be waived.

  3. Charles says:

    How do they verify military service? Would I send a copy of my military ID (which as I understand is technically not legal) or would they verify via my .mil email address or a copy of my enlistment contract?

    • Spencer says:

      Hi Charles. They actually don’t require any verification from you. AMEX verifies your service with a few questions over the phone and I believe they contact the DoD to confirm your service as well. It takes a few weeks for them to confirm your active duty status. Hope that helps! (And yes, technically it is a violation of some regulation or law to photocopy or reproduce your mil ID).

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  5. J.C. says:

    I just thought I’d add a little bit to the discussion about American Express waiving membership fees for active duty military personnel.

    First of all, the SCRA does not obligate American Express to do that. My guess is that they do it for the goodwill and / or PR value. There’s also the distinct possibility they do it in an overadundance of caution to avoid unintentional noncompliance with the Act. It has been mentioned that the primary objective of the SCRA relates to financial obligations incurred prior to active military service. The Act also deals with obligations incurred while on active duty and carry over to a period in which the service member is deployed. Rather than monitor their military cardmembers for eventual deployment or to have to deal with such issues after the fact, it may be easier for them just to give a blanket fee exemption to all service members.

    Although not all card issuers will offer fee waivers to military personnel, American Express isn’t the only one who does. Capital One and Chase are also pretty good to us.

    I am not sure how American Express goes about actually verifying active military service. Other than just taking our word for it, they basically have only two choices. One would be using a publicly available online function that verifies TRICARE enrollment. However, this shouldn’t take them more than a few minutes much less 6 weeks. Also, it would result in an extremely high number of false positives. Most likely is they send a form letter to the DOD and wait for written confirmation.

    I’ve a number of American Express cards with fee waivers and they even waive the fee for additional cardmembers. They have even offered to waive the fee on my wife’s personal card and also my son’s.

    • Spencer says:

      Thanks for the insight, J.C. I think you are spot on with your points on the SCRA and how AMEX actually verifies the card holders status. Personally I think it’s probably a form letter that they send to the DoD regarding SCRA compliance.

    • Jaimr says:

      That is correct. The way SCRA works is; “if” you are deployed and incurred said debt before joining the military, then your interest is capped at 6%. Also, you do not have to pay any late charges and no collection acts can be made against you. AMEX is going above and beyond. Also, they probably verify it through a website. When I worked in banking (and handled SCRA requests) there was a website you could go to and enter the persons name and SSN and it would tell you there enlistment date. :)

  6. Tiff says:

    Does this also apply to active reservists or do they have to be activated?

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  8. Bobby says:

    I just contacted them and they said they were going to fill out a form and send it to my house that then i would need to fill out and send back to them. Did anyone else have this experience? Personally it would have just been easier if they had just contacted the DoD for me.

    Should I call back and request that they contact the DoD? I’m in the reserves and I go on and off of active duty throughout the year. I am on active duty until Sept 27th so I would like to get this done before i go off again.

    • Spencer says:

      Calling them back certainly couldn’t hurt. I think if you explain that, while you’re in the Reserves, you are frequently called to active duty, they may give the same benefit to you. Good luck, let me know how it goes.

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  12. kyle says:

    This news about military having the annual fee waived is amazing. I have 3 amex that I planned to cnx in 9 months but im going to make this call first! And maybe get some more!

  13. Doug says:

    It worked. All we did was call and although we had to elevate to a supervisor, they immediately knew what we were asking for and after giving info on entry date and end of service date and other basic info they said they would start the process , to include previous held and cancelled AMEX cards during active duty. Money for active card reimbursed, still waiting for cancelled cards to hit. Thanks for the info.

  14. Matt says:

    Does anyone know if this applies to business cards? I’m the sole proprietor, and the only card is in my name.

    • Matt says:

      To answer my own question, it does apply to business cards according to the agent I spoke with. I’m currently under a first year free on the card, but she told spoke with a supervisor and told me to call back when the annual fee posts on my statement.

      • John Bimsen says:

        So I have had the AMEX platinum card for 6 months and it has SCRA benefits applyed to it. I just applied for the AMEX Platinum Business Card and was accepted. Will the benefits automatically apply or will I have to send in my military info again?

        Thanks

        • Spencer says:

          I would definitely call the customer service number on the back of the card to confirm that your SCRA benefits will extend to your new card. You shouldn’t have to resubmit your paperwork (as they already have it on file), but it won’t hurt to remind them to apply it to the new card.

  15. Kristin says:

    Does this only apply to cards issued directly from AMEX? I had an AMEX card through Citibank and asked about SCRA benefits but they said they would only apply them to cards I had before I entered active duty. Is there a way to contact AMEX directly instead? Or only cards without another bank on them too?

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  17. Marianna says:

    Thank you for the info! I just called, and they are submitting my request! This is for the Delta Skymiles card. I wonder if I will still get my free yearly companion ticket, though..

  18. Dana says:

    I just called to get the AMEX Platinum card with the waived annual fee (im AD military) and the rep told me that this was a rumor and they dont waive the annual fees for this particular card. Should I call back and speak with someone else? is there a good 800 # where people are more knowledgable on this?

    • Spencer says:

      Try calling back and asking to speak to a supervisor about having your account handled in accordance with the SCRA or Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

  19. Steve says:

    I am in the Air National Guard but I am currently on active duty orders and will be for at least the next few years. Do you think that they will accept that?

    • Spencer says:

      I believe they will. When I went through the process they asked me how long I was going to be on active duty orders. You should be able to at least get the fees waived for the length of your active duty orders.

  20. Ron M. says:

    Quick feedback: I already have a AMEX Costco card and I have a call to AMEX to see about applying for the Platinum and waiving the fees. They told me I had to apply first. So I took the plunge and did. They approved both my wife and I for the cards… however;

    IMPORTANT: for those in FPO/APO – make sure that they send your cards via USPS. Otherwise, they will try to send via UPS and they will be RTS. My cards haven’t even arrived yet (and it’s been over a month).

    Anyways, beside all that, I called and requested the AD fee waiver and the operator knew EXACTLY what I was talking about. She took all my info and added my new cards and existing card. I DID have to pay the $625 annual fee (another gamble), but I was told that it would be credited back to my account.

    So, that all being said, I’m still awaiting the official email and the credit in my account. I will provide feedback if this is successful. Some times “to good to be true” is very accurate. Hopefully, this doesn’t turn out to be one of those cases, but I thought it worth the time to pass this on to other AD folks. If it does work out, this will be a tremendous benefit, especially for those of us stationed overseas and who travel a lot.

    • Jim says:

      Does the Costco AMEX card apply for this also? I know technically there is no annual fee with a paid membership but would the SCRA benefits pay for the annual membership?

      • Spencer says:

        Jim, I’m not sure, I don’t have a Costco AMEX. It definitely would not hurt to call them and ask. Other branded credit cards, like Delta, are included in the SCRA benefits and have no annual fees. Let us know what you find out!

  21. Rick says:

    My wife and I are both active duty and have had the AMEX Platinum for many years. If you travel a lot, you can’t beat the perks. We called AMEX over the summer and asked about having the fee’s waived. It took two months, but we were credited $5,515, which covered all of our past membership fees. Way to go AMEX!

  22. Ron M. says:

    It worked. I’m telling you right now… Absolute customer for life. Nice move on Americans Express’s part… I’m pretty brand loyal. :)

  23. Tara says:

    Unfortunately, as of 11 February 2014, AMEX is now saying it will only credit the fees for deployed servicemembers. Just being active duty is not good enough. At least that is what the customer service guy said when I tried to apply.

    • Spencer says:

      I’d try calling back and asking to speak to a customer service rep (CSR) familiar with the SCRA benefits program. Many CSRs do not have formal training on SCRA benefits and do not understand the program. Ask that your account be reviewed for SCRA eligibility. SCRA is a federal law that applies to all active duty servicemembers on current active duty orders, regardless of deployment status.

  24. Mike says:

    Tara, was this resolved in your favor? I just learned about this waiver and I’m waiting for a good signup offer to jump into this card (something over 25k at least). I’m hoping amex hasn’t changed its policy of fee waiver, and hoping some good incentives pop up to offset the apparent loss of some amex platinum airline lounge access.

  25. ANO says:

    Has anyone with SCRA benefits already applied to their account tried adding their wife to their account with a credit card like the AMEX platinum. Will they waive her annual fee because its associated with your account? Thanks

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