Best Credit Cards for Air Force Academy Cadets with MLA Benefits

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The Platinum Card® from American Express is my #1 recommended card

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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 use your points and miles to travel 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 on our partner's secure site

  • Annual fee of $695* See more details about military protections for you and your spouse 
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible 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
  • $200 Annual Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Note that The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on Uber Eats and rides every year. Only available to the basic card member, Terms Apply
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at 1 qualifying airline
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: CLEAR® Plus helps to get you to your gate faster at 50+ airports nationwide and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Card. CLEARLanes are available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues.
  • This is a MAJOR time saver–$100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 year period for TSA PreCheck® application fee for a 5-year plan only (through a TSA PreCheck® official enrollment provider), when charged to your Platinum Card®! Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
  • Complimentary access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection® lets you visit more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting. You can love the lounge life with more airport lounge options than any other credit card issuer on the market. As of 03/2023.
  • $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.
  • Up to $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit, enrollment required
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 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

American Express® Gold Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Reward® Points after spending $6,000 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, Milk 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
  • $250 Annual Fee* See more details about American Express protections for you and your spouse 

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 Travel℠ portal
  • 3% on dining at restaurants, takeout, and delivery
  • 3% back on drugstore purchases
  • 1% back on all other purchases
  • 5% on up to $1,500 of purchases in specific bonus categories each quarter
  • No annual fee
  • Compare the Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus

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 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠
  • $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 through Chase Travel℠ 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 Chase Travel℠ 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, Member FDIC
  • Learn more in the Chase Sapphire Reserve review

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