Military Money Manual has partnered with CardRatings and OMAAT for our coverage of credit card products. Military Money Manual, OMAAT, and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. Thank you for supporting my independent, veteran owned site.
American Express waives the annual fees on all their personal cards, including the $550 per year AMEX Platinum, for active duty military servicemembers and spouses.
AMEX waives the AMEX Platinum annual fees to comply with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Military Lending Act (MLA).
If you or your spouse opens your AMEX card while on active duty military service, you are eligible to have your account enrolled in AMEX Military Lending Act benefits and pay no annual fees.
American Express Platinum for Military Servicemembers
My Top Recommended AMEX Active Duty Military Card (Updated February 2020):
- Learn how to apply for the Platinum Card from American Express
- Annual fee of $550 waived for US military
- 60,000 point welcome bonus when you spend $5000 in the first 3 months
- $200 annual Uber Credit – good for Uber Eats!
- $200 annual airline fee credit
- Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounge access for free
- No foreign transaction fees
AMEX is very generous in their interpretation of these 2 laws, extending very generous annual fee waivers to active, guard, and reserve military servicemembers and their military spouses. If you are on active duty orders for at least 30 days, you can qualify for the AMEX Military Lending Act (MLA) benefits.
I've been an American Express Card Member since 2007. I directly experience AMEX's legendary support for the military with amazing customer service and credit card products. I opened over a dozen AMEX cards, all without ever paying an annual fee thanks to my military service.
My military spouse wife is also growing her AMEX collection without any annual fees. So far she has the Platinum card, the Hilton Honors Aspire card (full review of Hilton military credit cards), and the Delta Reserve card (review of Delta military credit cards.
My first credit card was an American Express card. Since then, I've opened up dozens of accounts with AMEX, including Hilton Hotels cards with FREE Diamond Status, several Platinum cards, Marriott cards with free nights annually, and the AMEX Gold Card.
All the cards I carry from American Express come with an annual fee that is waived by the company exclusively for military SMs and spouses.
Currently I save over $5000 a year but still get all the benefits of a cardholder. This is a great deal that all military servicemembers need to take advantage of!
AMEX Platinum Military
So there I was… On a deployment exercise, sitting at a bar on a military base near Gulfport, Louisiana. Behind the bar was a wooden, multi-tiered stand to keep cards of open tabs.
Of the 2 dozen or so cards on there, at least half were AMEX Platinum cards. It was comical. You could see them all shining in their metallic glory in this low-rent bar in backwater Louisiana.
But it makes total sense – Why would a military member NOT get the Platinum card when it has such a substantial welcome bonus and has annual benefits that have actual monetary value?
The benefits of this card easily justify it's $550 annual fee. But as an active duty military servicemember or spouse, you will not pay that $550 fee!
60,000 Point Welcome Bonus
To start off, the AMEX Platinum card offers a 60,000 AMEX Membership Reward (MR) point welcome bonus when you spend $5000 in the first 3 months of card membership.
60,000 points can be cashed out through the AMEX Schwab Platinum card at 1.25 cents per point, making 60,000 AMEX worth $750 cash. You can also redeem MR points for Amazon credit, but only at .7 cents per point, making 60,000 points worth $420.
However, if you really want to make your 60k AMEX points go far, you should transfer them to a travel partner, like an airline or hotel. You can earn much more than 1.25 cents per point.
AMEX Travel partners include:
Aer Lingus, AeroMexico, Air Canada, Alitalia, All Nipon Airways (ANA), Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles), Avianca, British Airways, Delta, El Al, Emirates, Etihad, Flying Blue (Air France / KLM), Iberia, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Choice Hotels, Hilton Honors, Marriott BonvoyAMEX Travel Partners
As an example, I recently cashed in 240,000 AMEX MR points for $27,000 first class flight from Hawaii to Tokyo Japan. That's 11 cents per point! 11 cents per point means 60,000 AMEX MR points would be worth $6600.
$27,000 ANA First class tickets…
…or 240,000 AMEX MR points and $485 cash!
Even at a conservative 2 cents per point, the 60,000 AMEX MR welcome bonus is worth $1200!
$200 Uber Credit
Every month, like clockwork, I get a $15 credit in my Uber account, just for keeping my no annual fee AMEX Platinum card around. If you have more than one Platinum card or your spouse has a Platinum card, you can stack the credits as well. In December AMEX hands out $35 in Uber credit.
When I lived in the United Arab Emirates for 2 years and could not use the credit, I sent UberEats to family and friends back home. Don't let those credits go to waste! The credits do not carry over month to month.
$200 Airline Fee Credit
You pick an airline of your choice every year on the AMEX website. You can spend $200 on incidentals on that airline and get the reimbursement posted to your credit card statement.
$100 Global Entry Credit
Since all military personnel already have TSA Pre-Check with their DOD ID numbers (the number on the back of your CAC), it makes sense to apply for the Global Entry program. With the Platinum card, your $100 sign up fee is reimbursed.
Global Entry gives you fast track access to the US when returning from overseas. This can be really nice when coming back to the US from OCONUS. The last thing you want after an economy class flight is to wait in a long line for Customs and Immigration.
Centurion & Priority Pass Lounge Access
The Centurion Lounges offered by American Express have some of the best food and drink available in lounges in the US. You can get into all of them for free with your Platinum card.
The AMEX card also gives you complimentary membership in the Priority Pass program, giving you access to an additional 1200+ airport lounges around the world.
When you're travelling internationally or domestically, it's really nice to not have to worry about food, where you're going to charge your phone, or if the bathrooms are going to be nice. Lounge access takes you far from the madding crowds and gives you a little bit of peace in your travels.
Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite + Hilton Gold Status
The hotel elite status you get automatically just for having a Platinum card make this card a no-brainer. As a military servicemember, chances are pretty good that you travel for work or fun.
There is almost always an Marriott or Hilton property near your TDY location or your vacation spot. Since SPG and Marriott just merged you should have no problem cashing in on this benefit.
You will earn extra points when you stay at these properties because of your status and you might get freebies like breakfast, room upgrades, or other perks.
To get even better Marriott and Hilton Elite status, check out the no annual fee Marriott credit cards for military and automatic Diamond status (the highest offered) on the Hilton credit cards for military.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
The best luxury travel cards offer no foreign transaction fees. Most of the cards in my wallet have no foreign transaction fees. If you are stationed OCONUS or travel a lot OCONUS, you need to make sure you always have a no foreign transaction fee card in your wallet.
It just doesn't make sense to pay foreign transaction fees, especially when you get an awesome card like the AMEX Platinum with no annual fee. Do the math and don't pay extra when you do not have to!
Best AMEX Cards for Military with No Annual Fees
|Learn How to Apply||Welcome Offer||Annual Fee Waived||Other Benefits||Value|
|Platinum Card||60,000||$200 Uber + airline credit, 5x points on airfare||$2000|
|AMEX Gold Card||35,000||4x points on groceries and restaurants||$1200|
|Hilton Honors Aspire||150,000||Free night, Diamond Status, $250 credit||$2000|
|Bonvoy Brilliant||75,000||Free night, $300 credit||$1500|
|Delta Reserve||75,000||Annual companion benefit||$2000|
How I First Learned That the AMEX Platinum is Free for Military
While on a TDY to France in 2013, a military buddy of mine (an Air Force E-6, Tech Sergeant) mentioned that he had the American Express Platinum card that comes with a $550 annual fee. He had access to great airport lounges in Amsterdam while we were travelling on TDY. While I paid $15 for an airport sandwich, he was enjoying free food and drink courtesy of AMEX.
He also told me about the $200 of airline fees AMEX reimbursed annually. I thought the rewards program sounded good and the benefits were great, but I couldn't justify that insanely high annual fee. $550 a year was WAY too much money for a young lieutenant!
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 in 2003. I thought this was too good to be true so I had to do some more research.
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 annual 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.
AMEX Active Duty MLA and SCRA
After further research, I discovered that American Express waives annual membership fees for active duty military servicemembers. This includes the $550 per year AMEX Platinum card and all of the other personal credit and charge cards in the AMEX portfolio.
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 ($5000+ savings for my 12 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:
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.
American Express Customer Care
Here is the MLA statement from the AMEX Cardmember agreement:
Military Lending Act – Federal law provides important protections to members of the Armed Forces and their dependents relating to extensions of consumer credit. In general, the cost of consumer credit to a member of the Armed Forces and his or her dependent may not exceed an annual percentage rate of 36 percent.
This rate must include, as applicable to the credit transaction or account: the costs associated with credit insurance premiums; fees for ancillary products sold in connection with the credit transaction; any application fee charged (other than certain application fees for specified credit transactions or accounts); and any participation fee (other than certain participation fees for a credit card account).
To listen to this statement, as well as a description of your payment obligation for this Account, call us at 855-531-0379. If you are a covered borrower, the Claims Resolution section of this Agreement will not apply to you in connection with this Account. Instead, the Claims Resolution for Covered Borrowers section will apply.
How to Apply for AMEX MLA Benefits
If the credit applicant pops positive on the MLA database (i.e., they are a military SM or a military spouse), then that SSN will be identified as a “covered borrower” and your annual fees will be waived, just as it has been for the past 10+ years.
All of my (active duty US servicemember) and my wife’s (civilian military spouse) card agreements opened after Oct 2017 (when MLA started being enforced) with AMEX state “You have been identified as a ‘Covered Borrower’ under Military Lending Act”.
If you want to see if your account has been identified, follow these steps:
- Go to your AMEX Account Management page.
- At the bottom there is a link to “Request Cardmember Agreement”
- In the agreement you should see the text: “You have been identified as a ‘Covered Borrower' under Military Lending Act.” on the bottom of page 2.
How to Get AMEX SCRA Benefits
Please note you only need to apply for AMEX SCRA benefits if you opened the account BEFORE active duty military service. If you open your AMEX account while on active duty military service, you will automatically be enrolled in AMEX Military Lending Act.
To have AMEX handle your account in accordance with the SCRA, you can go 2 ways: call AMEX or apply online. The online application is easy and they are quick to respond. Follow this 3 step process or click the picture:
- Log in to your account, click “Account Services”
- Click “Card Management” on the left
- Click “Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Benefits”
If you want to call, simply dial the number on the back of your card or 1-800-528-4800. 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.
You will 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 Denial
Summary of AMEX SCRA Denials:
- In January 2020, many readers of Military Money Manual informed me that their AMEX SCRA requests have been denied due to the consumer opening the account AFTER active duty start date
- This is a correct interpretation of the SCRA law, but was a change in AMEX's SCRA policy that has been in place for over a decade
- For any account opened after active duty start date, AMEX applies automatic MLA protections on “covered borrowers.”
- Covered borrowers means any person on active duty military service and their legal spouse. As part of this automatic MLA protections, annual fees will continue to be waived, as they have been for 10+ years.
- AMEX provided clarification on this policy
American Express updated their military annual fee waiver program in January 2020. There are now two programs in place at American Express: Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and Military Lending Act (MLA).
Here is the statement I received from my source at AMEX:
We have not changed the relief we provide to our eligible military servicemembers under SCRA and MLA.
SCRA relief covers loans or Cards opened prior to active duty, while MLA relief covers loans or Cards opened while on active duty.
Typically if a Card Members’ loan or Card is ineligible for SCRA relief because it was opened while on active duty they will be notified accordingly and then automatically receive MLA relief instead.
We are happy to assist any military servicemembers on how best to manage their Amex membership prior to active duty, while on active duty, or upon coming home from active duty and into civilian life. We thank them for their membership and service to our countryStatement from AMEX to MilitaryMoneyManual.com
Here are two other data points as well from customer service reps at AMEX:
8+ Years of AMEX Military Fee Waivers
Just a quick update in 2020 here – I've had AMEX cards since 2012. I have never been charged an annual fee.
Imagine if I keep all the cards I listed above for another 8 years of active duty military service. That would be over $40,000 in annual fees waived over the next 8 years.
Think of all the free airport lounges I've been in, the hotels I've been upgraded at, and the upgraded flights I've taken in those 7 years! The value of this benefit for military servicemembers is truly astronomical.
In December every year I receive over $175 of Uber Cash from my 5 AMEX Platinum cards. That's at least a few free meals from a restaurant!
AMEX Military Success Stories
Fellow servicemembers report thousands of dollars of fees refunded and excellent cards obtained with no annual fees. Just read some of the dozens of comments below this post. Here's a few highlights:
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!
Kevin reported in 2016 getting over $8000 back!
I was looking around the AMEX website and came across their SCRA link. I have the AMEX Blue card and recently opened up an AMEX Platinum account…mostly for the airport lounge access. A friend of mine said AMEX will waive the annual fee for active military, which is a hefty $495 annual fee. I didn’t even speak to anyone, just clicked on the link. This was March 19th. I received an email saying I had a message in the secure message center which in turn said my “issue” has been resolved and I would be receiving written confirmation of the results. On April 2nd, I started downloading transactions through Quicken and had several from American Express. They were all refunds in varying amounts, ranging from $50 all the way to $5,382.61. The total amount I received back was $8,604.05. I actually have a credit of nearly $1,900! I was happy, but at the same time concerned a mistake had been made. I’ve had an AMEX account since 2002 and been active army since 1999, so I’ve amassed some fees, however when I called to confirm, I was told, yes, this is all correct, no errors made. Needless to say, I am forever dedicated to AMEX.
Since writing this post nearly 5 years ago, I've received hundreds of responses from military servicemembers getting their fees waived and enjoying the benefits of great cards like the AMEX Platinum.
There are also lots of posts on Reddit describing the fees AMEX has waived for military personnel.
Best AMEX Cards Free for US Military
American Express has the best travel reward credit card lineup of any of the major credit card companies. These cards include:
- The AMEX Platinum Card ($550 fee waived)
- Hilton Honors Aspire card ($450 annual fee waived)
- Bonvoy Brilliant card ($450 waived)
- Delta Reserve card ($450 waived)
With just these 4 cards, you get $1900 of annual fees waived and you get perks like:
- Diamond Status at all Hilton Hotels
- Free airport lounge access
- $450 per year of airline fee credits
- $200 per year of Uber credits
- Gold Elite Status at SPG, Marriott, and Ritz Carlton Hotels
- 300,000+ points in welcome bonuses
Currently, I have the following American Express cards, all with the annual fees waived:
- AMEX Platinum x2 (my wife and me) ($1100)
- Platinum (upgraded from Gold) ($550)
- Gold Card ($250) (read my full AMEX Gold card military review)
- Green Card ($95)
- Charles Schwab Platinum ($550)
- Ameriprise Platinum ($550)
- Business Platinum ($595) (full AMEX Business Platinum for military review)
- Ameriprise Gold (will upgrade to Platinum soon) ($195)
- Delta Reserve ($450) (read my full AMEX Delta Reserve for military review)
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant x2 (upgraded an AMEX SPG) ($900)
- Hilton Honors (upgrade to another Aspire soon)
- Hilton Honors Aspire ($450)
- Bonvoy Business ($125)
Total annual fees waived: $5810
With these cards I earned over 250,000 Hilton points, 270,000 AMEX Membership Reward Points, 410,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, and 75,000 Delta Skymiles.
Valued at a conservative 1.5 cents per point, that's $25,200 of travel value, just from the welcome bonuses.
Most of the time military spouses can get their AMEX Platinum card annual fees waived without adding the active duty servicemembers as an authorized user to the account.
Personally, my wife has 3 AMEX cards now and had the annual fees waived on all of them without adding me (the military person) as an authorized user.
Once the SCRA or MLA benefits are applied to the first personal AMEX credit or charge card, usually you don't need to apply for the benefits again – they are automatically applied to future accounts you open.
American Express offers a unique opportunity to US servicemembers to earn a ton of Membership Rewards points, Marriott Bonvoy points, Hilton Honors points, and Delta Skymiles.
You can earn hundreds of thousands of points in welcome bonuses and points just for doing your ordinary spending with your AMEX cards AND pay no annual fee.
These no annual fee cards can open up business/first class travel opportunities and free hotel stays that would cost you thousands if you paid cash.
Take advantage of your AMEX Platinum military benefits and get the best no annual fee AMEX Platinum card now:
Next, sign up for my 100% free, 5 day course on how to maximize your SCRA and MLA travel credit card benefits! You can also check out the other credit cards that waive annual fees for military.
AMEX Platinum Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Yes! The AMEX Platinum card for US military servicemembers AND their spouses has NO annual fee. The normal $550 annual fee is waived under AMEX's interpretation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) law.
Usually the Platinum Card for American Express requires good to excellent credit. That means at least 700 points out of a maximum 850 FICO score. You can check your credit score fore free with Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
Yes, AMEX waives all of their annual fees, including on the Platinum card, for US military spouses.
AMEX waives the annual fee on all of their cards, including the AMEX Platinum. Cards opened while on active duty are waived with Military Lending Act (MLA). Cards opened before active duty are waived with SCRA.
Oh yeah! The AMEX Platinum card is made out of metal and will even rust if left in water. The card makes a satisfying “thunk” sound when you throw it down. You'll want to pick up the bill for your friends just to drop it on the table!
AMEX MLA benefits are automatically applied for “covered borrowers,” which includes active duty military servicemembers and their spouses. If your fees are not waived and you think you should qualify based on military service, call the number on the back of your card or start a secure chat on AmericanExpress.com
Go to your AMEX Account Management page. At the bottom there is a link to “Request Cardmember Agreement” In the agreement you should see the text: “You have been identified as a ‘Covered Borrower' under Military Lending Act.”
The easiest way to get your AMEX Platinum annual fee waived is apply and open the card while on active duty military servicemember or while married to an active duty servicemember.
Amex, Chase, Citi, and US Bank all waive their annual fees for credit cards opened after starting active duty military service. You can see the full list of fee waived credit cards for military.