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Update 29 January 2020: This issue appears to have been resolved! Your SCRA request with AMEX will be denied if the card is opened after active duty start date. However, this is fine as your account will automatically be enrolled in AMEX's Military Lending Act (MLA) program.
AMEX credit card annual fees will continue to be waived for military servicemembers and spouses, regardless of when they open the account. If you open the card account before active duty, SCRA will apply. If you open the account while on active duty or married to a servicemember, MLA applies.
See official statement from one of my sources at American Express. My top recommended card is the AMEX Platinum for military servicemembers.
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 countryMilitaryMoneyManual.com source at American Express
American Express now has 2 military fee waiver programs for active duty military and spouses. Both programs waive all fees for US military servicemembers and spouses.
The AMEX program for accounts opened while on active duty is Military Lending Act or MLA.
The AMEX program for accounts opened before active duty is Servicemembers Civil Relief Act or SCRA.
They are essentially identical programs in that all annual fees are waived for US military servicemembers and spouses.
If you open a card while on active duty military or while married to an active duty military servicemember, Military Lending Act (MLA) benefits will be applied to your account.
Your card account will have a note at the top that says: “Account enrolled in Military Lending Act” Any customer service agent on the phone or over chat should be able to confirm this with you. You will NOT receive a letter in the mail.
If you open an account before joining active duty, SCRA benefits will be applied to your account. You can fill out the AMEX SCRA application here.
You will receive a letter in the mail or emailed to you stating your account is now being handled in accordance with SCRA.
Background on AMEX SCRA Denials
In January 2020, many reports came in on Reddit and to my email inbox that American Express changed their Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) benefits for military servicemembers.
Go here for an explanation of American Express's new Military Lending Act policy.
The letter or email military servicemembers are receiving looks like this:
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. Our records indicate your account was opened during the active duty time period. Therefore, this account is not eligible for relief under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
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 are outside the United States, please 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
The key line is in bold above: “Our records indicate your account was opened during the active duty time period. Therefore, this account is not eligible for relief under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.”
What AMEX failed to communicate to eligible servicemembers is that while SCRA does not apply, MLA does.
American Express Adding MLA With SCRA
Multiple AMEX customer service reps and contacts confirmed military annual fees will continue to be waived under AMEX's new Military Lending Act policy. There is (as of 29 Jan 2020) no information on AmericanExpress.com to confirm this information.
The Military Lending Act or MLA is an even stronger version of the SCRA. Chase implements their MLA policy in September 2017.
The Chase Military Lending Act program continues to waive all annual fees on all Chase personal credit cards for US military servicemembers and their spouses. Some of the awesome Chase military credit cards include:
You can also compare the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs the AMEX Platinum card. Both cards have a $550 annual fee and compliment each other when it comes to earning many reward points.
I also recommend comparing the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Active duty military should probably favor the Reserve, as the benefits are greater and the $550 annual fee is waived to $0.
AMEX SCRA Denials Frequently Asked Questions
As of 24 January 2020, there has been no official statement from AMEX on why they changed their military SCRA policy. I will update this page as more information comes out.
After contacting AMEX customer service reps, it appears that AMEX is shifting away from SCRA to MLA. Before Jan 2020 AMEX used to use the SCRA law to apply military annual fee waivers for cards opened while on active duty service. Now it appears they will continue to waive annual fees for military, just changing the program to MLA away from SCRA.
Military Lending Act benefits are automatically applied to your account when you open the account on active duty. AMEX customer service reps should see “Account enrolled in Military Lending Act” as the first note on your account when they pull it up over secure chat or on the phone.
There are no reports as of 24 Jan 2020 that anyone with an SCRA fee waiver already in place has been charged an annual fee. This policy appears to only effect cards that were opened in Dec 2019 or Jan 2020.
If you have any additional information or data points, please share them in the comments. Thank you!