Best Credit Cards for Air Force Academy Cadets with MLA Benefits

Get a $695 credit card annual fee waived in my Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course
The Platinum Card® from American Express card is annual fee waived for military. Terms apply.

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U.S. Air Force Academy cadets stationed in Colorado Springs, Colorado are eligible for Military Lending Act benefits on credit card from American Express, Chase, Citi, and U.S. Bank. That means cadets can get the best travel rewards cards and pay no annual fees.

Cadets at U.S. military academies are on active duty, Title 10 orders. However, there was an issue with the MLA database where military academy cadets and midshipmen did not show as covered borrowers.

The banks and credit card companies did not waive annual fees for the cadets and midshipmen until recently. That issue has now been corrected.

MLA Database Fixed in 2022

In February 2022, that MLA database issue was fixed. Military academy cadets and midshipmen are now eligible for MLA benefits.

I have received multiple data points of Academy cadets opening The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card and getting their annual fee waived.

These two Amex cards, plus the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, are perfect for cadets in their final year before they go on their 60 days of leave after graduating. You can travel hack your way around Europe, use airport lounges, get free flights, free hotel stays, and set yourself up for financial success before starting your job in the “real Air Force.”

Before the Military Lending Act was implemented in 2017 on credit card products, many Academy cadets were able to open cards and get annual fee waivers under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act or SCRA.

There was a brief gap between when the MLA was implemented in 2017 and the MLA database was updated in 2022 where it was more difficult for cadets to get annual fee waived cards. Now, it is much easier. If you are listed as a covered borrower in the MLA database, you will get your annual fees waived. It's that simple.

To maximize your military credit card benefits, I recommend you start by taking my 100% free Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course. Then, verify you are listed a covered borrower in the MLA database. Finally, check out the best credit card welcome offers and the best credit cards for military servicemembers articles.

After 10 years of active duty service as an Air Force officer, I wrote a book on achieving financial independence in the military. You can pick it up on my site or on Amazon in audiobook, ebook, hardcover, or soon in paperback. If you want to maximize your military money, check out The Military Money Manual: A Practical Guide to Financial Freedom.

Best American Express Cards for USAFA Cadets

Military SCRA MLA AMEX Platinum
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express – learn how to apply
  • Annual fee of $695 waived for US military personnel and spouses
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 5x points on airfare booked directly with airline or on amextravel.com up to $500,000 per calendar year
  • Earn 5x points on prepaid hotels at amextravel.com
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts(R) or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credits: Up to $20 in monthly statement credits when you use your Platinum card to pay for: Peacock, Audible, Sirius, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, and the New York Times. Enrollment Required.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on Uber Eats and rides
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at 1 qualifying airline
  • $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit, can be used for gift cards, enrollment required
  • 40 Centurion Lounges and 1200+ Priority Pass airport lounge access for free
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Heavy metal card that looks and feels really cool. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card(R), Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express – learn how to apply
  • Read my full review of the Amex Platinum card for military, terms apply
American Express Gold Card military AMEX Gold Card Military No annual fee SCRA $250 annual fee waived
  • Learn how to apply for the American Express® Gold Card
  • $250 Annual Fee waived for US military and spouses
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Reward® Points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card in the first 6 months of Card Membership
  • Earn 4x points at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the US
  • Earn 4x points on US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, then 1x points) – includes OCONUS Commissaries
  • Earn 3x points on flights booked directly with the airline or on amextravel.com
  • No foreign transaction fees – great for the 4x on restaurants when travelling for fun, OCONUS TDY, or PCS!
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Amex Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 annually.
  • $120 per year Dining Credit: Earn up to $10 per month in statement credits when you use your Amex Gold at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Molk Bar, and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose between the Gold or Rose Gold version when you apply.
  • Read my full review of the Amex Gold card for military, terms apply

Best Chase Cards for USAFA Cadets

Chase Freedom Flex Military

Chase Freedom Flex Credit Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • Earn $200 cash back (20,000 Ultimate Reward points) when you spend $500 in 3 months
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
  • 3% on dining at restaurants, takeout, and delivery
  • 3% back on drugstore purchases
  • 1% back on all other purchases
  • 5% on up to $1500 of purchases in specific bonus categories each quarter
  • No annual fee
  • Compare the Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Sapphire Reserve No Annual Fee for Military

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • $550 annual fee waived to $0 for US military + spouses with Chase MLA policy
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually.
  • 3x Points on other Travel (airfare, hotels) after earning the $300 travel credit
  • 3x Dining restaurants, takeouts, delivery
  • Chase Ultimate Reward Points redeemed through the Chase travel portal are worth 1.5 cents, a 50% bonus.
  • Priority Pass lounge and restaurant access with over 1300+ airport lounges worldwide
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry every 4 years
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Primary coverage with Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Learn more in the Chase Sapphire Reserve review

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