12+ Best Credit Cards for Active Duty Military 2021

I will show you how to get your 1st $550 annual fee waived in my Ultimate Military Credit Cards course
The Amex Gold card is annual fee waived for military. It's even better than the Amex Platinum for everyday spending on dining and groceries.

Military Money Manual has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Military Money Manual 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.

The best military credit cards are the premium luxury travel cards from American Express and Chase. These cards offer military servicemembers no annual fees, amazing welcome bonuses, luxury travel experiences, and recurring annual benefits worth $1000s.

The credit card benefits available to active duty military servicemembers are outstanding. Thanks to two laws called the Military Lending Act (MLA) and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), military personnel and their spouses can access the best credit cards with no annual fees for military.

Here is the optimal order to apply for credit cards if you are in the military:

  1. Secured Credit Card (learn how to apply here) for 12 months to establish credit history
  2. Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited (best cash back credit cards for military)
  3. Chase Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred
  4. Pick 3 more Chase cards: IHG, Hyatt, United Explorer, United Club, Southwest Cards, Chase Freedom Flex, or Freedom Unlimited best Chase credit cards for military
  5. Amex Gold Card, upgrade to Platinum or read the full review (Find Out Why This Is My Top Recommended Card)
  6. American Express Platinum, compare Amex Platinum vs Amex Gold
  7. Amex Green, upgrade to Platinum or read the full review
  8. Amex Hilton Honors Aspire (read my full review)
  9. Amex Bonvoy Brilliant (read my full review)
  10. Amex Hilton Surpass then upgrade to Aspire
  11. Amex Hilton Honors then upgrade to Aspire
  12. Amex Business Platinum (read the full review)
  13. Amex Delta Reserve (read the full review)
  14. Amex Delta Platinum (read how to upgrade to another Reserve)
  15. Amex Delta Gold then Upgrade To Delta Reserve #3

Chase and AMEX SCRA and MLA Rules

Chase and American Express have generously interpreted these laws and offer fee waivers on most of their cards. American Express waives all fees on all of their credit and charge cards, including business cards.

Chase waives annual fees for military members on all of their personal cards (not business) opened after 20 Sep 2017.

You get all the perks of these cards with no annual fees. We’re talking about $1000s a year in travel credits, Uber rides and UberEats, free hotel stays, free first/business class tickets, free airport lounge access, and the list goes on.

In order to access all these benefits in the most efficient manner, you need to apply for these cards in a specific order. That’s because each card issuer has rules regarding how many cards you can have and how many cards you can apply for in a specific amount of time.

For instance, Chase has a 5/24 rule. This means you can only open a Chase card if you have opened less than 5 credit cards in the previous 24 months from any issuer. This rule means you need to first open 4-5 Chase cards, then open unlimited American Express charge cards. AMEX does restrict you to 5 AMEX credit cards.

Take your time and make sure you can meet the minimum spend required on each card so you get the bonus. Don’t go into debt, pay off your card weekly, and do not apply for too many cards at once.

Step 1: No Credit

We’ll assume you have not had any credit cards before and little to no credit history. The first thing to do is get a secured credit card. If you already have a credit score over 600 then you can skip this step and go to Step 2.

You can check your credit score for free on CreditSesame, Credit Karma, or with your AMEX Platinum (learn how to apply here).

This is a card that you put a small deposit down on when you open it. This ensures the credit company will be able to reclaim some money if you default. But you won’t, because you’re in this to reap the tremendous benefits towards the end of the plan.

I recommed the Capital One Secured Mastercard (learn how to apply), which has no annual fee. This is a great card to start building a history of responsible credit card usage.

secured credit card for military with bad or no credit

Since it has no annual fee, you can leave the account open forever to age your credit history. This helps you eventually get the much better luxury travel and cash back rewards cards.

Note that this does take away one of your 5/24 Chase spots. You are now at 1/24. However, it is important to have a good credit history and credit score before moving on to the more luxurious cards.

Step 2: 12 Months After Secured Card

Now that you have built up a credit history, it’s time to start a relationship with Chase Bank.

The first card to get is a no annual fee (for everyone, not just military)

Chase Freedom Flex

no annual fee credit cards for active duty
  • Learn how to apply for the Chase Freedom Flex
  • $150 welcome bonus after $500 of purchases in the first 3 months after opening card
  • 5% cash back on rotating categories up to $1500
  • 5% cash back on travel (hotels, rental cars, airfare) purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, takeout, and delivery
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1% cash back on every other purchase
  • Points never expire as long as account is open
  • Up to $1000 per year of cell phone insurance if you pay your monthly cell phone bill with the card
  • No annual fee

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Learn how to apply for the Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Earn $150 cash back after $500 spend in the first 3 months of account opening
  • 5% cash back on travel (hotels, rental cars, airfare) purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, takeout, and delivery
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase after that
  • No annual fee

I prefer the Chase Freedom Unlimited for its simple 1.5% cash back on everything. The Chase Freedom Flex is also great though because usually half the year you can get 5% cash back on gas, which tends to be a big expense for most military members.

You can combine your Chase Ultimate Rewards on one card, so save your UR points on these lower tier cards. Consolidate all of your UR points on higher tier cards as you acquire them. Be patient and don't cash out your Ultimate Rewards just for cash.

Step 3: 3-6 months After 1st Chase Card

Now you have 12 months of credit history with your secured card. You also have a no annual fee Chase cash back card. It's time to move on to one of the best luxury cards available:

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve No Annual Fee for Military

The CSR is one of the top travel cards with annual fee waivers. Chase only allows you to have one card in the Sapphire family of cards. For military members with annual fee waivers it probably makes sense to go for the top tier card and get the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

You might also consider a Chase Sapphire Preferred, as it usually offers a higher sign up bonus than the Sapphire Reserve. After one year of holding a Sapphire Preferred, you can upgrade it to a Reserve to earn 3x on travel and restaurants and the $300 annual travel credit.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred Military SCRA MLA
  • Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Best Ever Offer: Earn 80,000 (!) Chase Ultimate after spending $4000 in the first 3 months of card membership
  • Plus, earn up to a $50 credit towards grocery store purchases
  • 2x points on travel and dining (includes takeout, delivery, and dine-in)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Primary rental car insurance coverage
  • Upgrade to a Chase Sapphire Reserve after 1 year (compare Reserve vs Preferred)
  • $95 annual fee waived for military and spouses with Chase Military Lending Act

Whether to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve depends if you think you will get more value out of the extra Ultimate Reward points or a $300 travel credit. If you value Ultimate Reward points at more than 3 cents per point, than it makes sense to get the CSP and then upgrade to a CSR.

Personally, if I was starting building my credit card empire again, I would get the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the larger sign up bonus, then upgrade to a Chase Sapphire Reserve 1 year later to get the recurring $300 annual travel credit, 3x points on travel and restaurants, and the excellent travel insurance.

Step 4: Pick Your 5 Chase Cards

Next, pick from the remaining Chase cards to fill your 5/24 slots. If you fly domestically, getting a Southwest Companion pass is a great option. United cards can be good, especially if you fly them often for TDYs.

If you have a secured card, a Chase Freedom Flex or Freedom Unlimited, and Chase Sapphire Reserve, you should be able to pick up 2 more Chase cards to max out your 5/24 limitation. Pick any of the two cards below, depending on your travel/cash back goals.

Southwest Airlines credit cards are a great option. If you earn 110,000 Southwest miles in one calendar year, you earn a companion pass for the rest of that year AND the following year.

For example, let's say you open a personal Southwest credit card for 60,000 welcome bonus points and the Southwest Airlines business card for another 60,000 welcome bonus points. You are allowed to hold both a personally and a business Southwest card at the same time.

If you meet the minimum spend for the welcome bonus on both these cards, (let's say $5000 total) you easily surpass the 110,000 points required for the companion pass. If you open these cards in Dec 2019, complete your spend by February 2020, you will have the companion pass for all of 2020 AND 2021. This is a huge benefit!

Note that you can only get the bonus on one personal Southwest card per person per 24 month period. Business cards do not count against this limitation.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card

Read my full Southwest Companion Pass for military review to see how to maximize these Southwest cards to fly your partner for free for almost 2 years!

  • Learn how to apply for the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority
  • $149 annual fee waived for military and mil spouses
  • Earn 40,000 Southwest points after you spend $1000 in the first 3 months
  • New! Earn 3x points on dining, takeout, and delivery services for the first year
  • 2 Points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases
  • 7500 bonus points on card anniversary
  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • 4 Upgraded boardings per year
  • 20% back on in flight WiFi and drink purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

  • $99 annual fee waived for military
  • Earn up to 80,000 Southwest points: 50,000 points when you spend $2000 in the first 3 months, then earn an additional 30,000 points when you spend $10,000 in the first 9 months
  • 6,000 anniversary bonus points

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

  • $69 annual fee waived for military personnel
  • Earn up to 80,000 Southwest points: 50,000 points when you spend $2000 in the first 3 months, then earn an additional 30,000 points when you spend $10,000 in the first 9 months
  • 3,000 anniversary bonus points

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card

  • Learn how to apply for the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business credit card here
  • Limited Time Offer to Earn 100,000 Southwest Miles:
  • Earn 70,000 points after $5000 of spend in the first 3 months of card membership
  • Plus, earn 30,000 additional miles when you spend $25,000 in the first 6 months
  • Earn dollar spent equals at least 1 Southwest mile, so $25,000 spend + welcome bonus = 125,000 miles, exactly what you need for a companion pass
  • 9000 bonus points after your card anniversary
  • Global Entry or TSA Precheck Fee Credit
  • $199 Annual Fee NOT waived for military

Chase Freedom Flex or Freedom Unlimited

Whichever card you didn't get in Step 2, now is a good time to pick up the other. Learn how to apply for the Chase Freedom Flex or learn how to apply for about the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

United Explorer Card

  • $95 annual fee waived for military
  • Up to $100 Global Entry Fee Credit
  • 2x miles on hotel and restaurant charges

Step 5: Apply for American Express Platinum(s)

Now that you've exhausted your Chase options, it's time to move on to the best luxury cards available: American Express Platinum cards.

You need to start building your AMEX Platinum collection to reap annual benefits and welcome bonuses worth thousands. Start with the regular AMEX Platinum.

Platinum Card from American Express (My Top Recommended Card)

Military SCRA MLA AMEX Platinum
  • American Express Platinum Card – learn how to apply
  • Annual fee of $550 waived for US military personnel and spouses
  • 75,000 Membership Reward Points welcome bonus (valued at $1500) when you spend $5000 in the first 6 months
  • 10x points at US Gas Stations and US Supermarkets (OCONUS Commissaries are US supermarkets) up to $15,000 in combined purchases for the first 6 months (an extra 150,000 points potentially!)
  • 5x points on airfare booked directly with airline or on amextravel.com
  • 5x points on prepaid hotels at amextravel.com
  • $200 annual Uber or UberEats credit (free taxi or food) + VIP Uber Status
  • $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit, can be used for gift cards
  • Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounge access for free + guest
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Heavy metal card that looks and feels really cool
  • Read my full review of the Amex Platinum card for military

Next, open an AMEX Gold card and after one year upgrade it to a Platinum. The benefits of Platinum cards are additive, so when you add another Platinum card to your Uber account, you get $30 of monthly credits ($70 in December).

American Express Gold Card

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 Amex points after spending $4000 in the first 6 months of account opening
  • Rose Gold is back! Choose between the Gold or Rose Gold version when you apply.
  • 4x points on all restaurants worldwide
  • 4x points on US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year) – includes OCONUS Commissarries
  • 3x points on flights booked directly with the airline or on amextravel.com
  • No foreign transaction fees – great for the 4x on restaurants worldwide when travelling for fun, OCONUS TDY, or PCS!
  • $120 annual Uber or Uber Eats cash. Combines nicely with Amex Platinum Uber credit. Earned as $10 per month.
  • $120 per year credit at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House or Shake Shack
  • Read my full review of the Amex Gold card for military

Finally, open a AMEX Green card. This is another AMEX charge card that you can upgrade to a Platinum card after one year.

American Express Green Card

American Express Green Card for Military: No Annual Fee!

Step 6: Hotel and Airline Cards

From here on out, keep learning about the credit card reward space and apply for cards as they come available in the programs you like and use. Sign up for my free, 5 day email based credit card course to begin your journey.

You can focus on hotel cards and get free Hilton Diamond Status by holding a AMEX Hilton Honors Aspire card. You can earn dozens of free night stays with the full AMEX Hilton line up: Aspire, Surpass, and Honors.

You can earn over 250,000 Marriott points with the 3 Marriott Bonvoy cards: Brilliant, Boundless, and Business. All the Hilton cards can earn you over 350,000 Hilton points.

Best Military Credit Cards for Hotel Stays

American Express Hilton Honors Aspire

Free Diamond Status at Hilton Hotels for Military
  • American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Card
  • $450 annual fee waived for US military servicemembers and spouses
  • Complimentary Diamond Status at all Hilton brands (suite upgrades, breakfast, check in gifts, etc)
  • 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points welcome offer after $4000 of purchases in the first 3 months
  • 1 weekend night reward after opening your account and every year on renewal
  • $250 Hilton Resort Credit
  • $250 airline fee credit (similar to the AMEX Platinum, also free for military)
  • 14x Hilton Honors Bonus Points at Hilton properties
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Full review of Amex Aspire card

The AMEX Hilton Honors Aspire card is a powerhouse. I took my family out to dinner at the Hilton Surfers Paradise Resort in Australia and applied the entire $250 resort credit. Free dinner for 6!

The complimentary diamond status and no annual fee for US military servicemembers makes this a no-brainer card for SMs. Learn more about this and other Hilton AMEX cards with no annual fees for military.

AMEX Bonvoy Brilliant

Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Free for Military
  • Learn how to apply for the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant
  • $450 annual fee 100% waived for US military personnel
  • $300 Marriott Statement Credit on all charges to your room including spa, restaurants, room service, laundry, and nightly rates
  • Earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $5000 in the first 3 months of card membership
  • Plus earn a $200 statement credit for US restaurants in the first six months of account opening. Offer expires 5/12/21
  • Earn 6 points per dollar spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary (any redemption up to 50,000 points)
  • Complimentary Gold Elite Status at all Marriott Bonvoy properties (Westin, Ritz Carlton, etc)
  • No foreign transaction fees

Learn more about all 3 of the Marriott cards available with no annual fees for military personnel.

Amex Bonvoy Business

  • $125 annual fee waived for US military
  • 75,000 Marriott reward points welcome bonus after $3000 in the first 3 months of card membership
  • 6x points earned at SPG and Marriott hotels
  • Annual free night award at worth 35,000 points

Amex Hilton Surpass

  • Learn how to apply for the Amex Hilton Honors Surpass card
  • 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points as a welcome offer after spending $2000 in the first 3 months
  • Plus, earn a $150 credit after your first purchase with the card in the first 3 months
  • Earn a weekend night award when you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • $95 annual fee waived for US military
  • 12x Hilton Honors points at Hilton properties
  • Upgrade this card to another fee waived Aspire card and get all the benefits of the Aspire card x2
  • Learn how to upgrade to Amex Aspire cards

Amex Hilton Honors Card, then upgrade to Aspire after 1 year

Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Chase Hyatt

Chase The World of Hyatt Military MLA
  • Learn how to apply for the Chase World of Hyatt card
  • Earn 30,000 welcome bonus points – spend $3000 in the first 3 months to earn 30,000 points.
  • Hyatt rooms start at just 5000 points, so you could earn 6 nights with just the welcome bonus
  • 1 free night at any category 1-4 Hyatt hotel every year you keep the card open
  • Earn ANOTHER free night at category 1-4 hotel when you spend $15,000 on the card in a year
  • Cardholders get World of Hyatt Discoverist status (Tier 2/4) just for having the card, as long as the account is open
  • $95 Annual fee waived for US military personnel and spouses with Chase MLA policy

Hyatt is an awesome hotel brand that really treats loyalty members right. Free nights start at just 5000 points, so 30k bonus points could earn you 6 free nights at excellent hotels around the world.

Free Delta Amex Cards for Military

You can earn heaps of Delta points with the Amex line of Delta co-branded credit cards. Learn more details about the Amex Delta cards with military annual fee waivers in this article.

Amex Delta Reserve

AMEX Delta Reserve card free for US military

American Express Delta Reserve

Annual Fee: $550 per year, but waived for US military servicemembers and spouses to $0

Welcome Bonus: Limited time offer: Earn 80,000 bonus Skymiles and 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) after you spend $5000 in the first 3 months of cardmembership. Offer ends 4/28/21

  • This is my TOP recommended AMEX Delta card for military
  • $550 annual fee waived for US military (active duty and Title 10/32 Guard/Reserve)
  • 3x miles on Delta purchases
  • Free Delta Sky Club (airport lounge) access when travelling on a Delta flight in any class
  • First bag checked free
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck (military should get Global Entry)
  • Annual Companion Certificate
  • No foreign transaction fees

Amex Delta Platinum

AMEX DELTA Platinum no annual fee for military

American Express Platinum Delta Skymiles

Annual fee: $250, waived for military and spouses

Welcome Bonus: Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus Skymiles after spending $3000 in the first 3 months of card membership. Offer ends April 28 2021

  • Earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • 3x Skymiles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels
  • 2x Skymiles on restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets
  • 20% off in-flight purchases on Delta, posted as a statement credit
  • Main Cabin Priority 1 boarding – get that overhead storage!
  • First checked bag free – Delta usually checks up to 4 bags free for US military on leave or on orders
  • Fee credit for Global Entry (military should get this one) or TSA Precheck
  • No foreign transaction fees

Amex Delta Gold, then Upgrade To Another Delta Reserve

AMEX Delta Gold for Military and Spouses

American Express Delta Gold

Annual fee: $99 fee waived for active duty military and spouses, and $0 for the first year for everyone

Welcome Bonus: Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus Skymiles when you spend $2000 in the first 3 months. Offer ends 4/28/21

  • 2x miles on Delta purchases, restaurants worldwide, and US grocery stores
  • Main Cabin Priority 1 boarding – get that overhead storage!
  • First checked bag free – Delta usually checks up to 4 bags free for US military on leave or on orders
  • No foreign transaction fees

Being in the military comes with many perks and benefits. The best military credit cards are the travel reward credit cards everyone else has access to, just without the annual fees.

Chase and AMEX’s interpretation of the MLA and SCRA open up a tremendous opportunity to the above-average military servicemember.

The total value of all of these cards is well over $20,000. Take your time, hit all of your minimum spending so you get the bonuses, and don't get too many cards at once. NEVER accumulate debt. Pay your card off in full once a week. See this month's top military credit card bonus offers.

You can sign up for my 5 day, 100% free online course that teaches you how to maximize your military credit card benefits. I'll never send you any spam and you can unsubscribe at any time. You can get your first card and annual fee waived in less than 30 days.

Sign up today for the Ultimate Military Travel Hacking Course and learn how I have 38 of the best military credit cards.

Good luck applying and let me know of your experience in the comments!

36 thoughts on “12+ Best Credit Cards for Active Duty Military 2021”

  1. Have you explored something similar for military members stationed in Europe? I would imagine you can still squeeze the same benefits out of the hotel travel cards. But what’s the best strategy for taking advantage of air travel benefits to/from the UK or Germany?

    Reply
    • Same strategy and same cards will work for Europe stationed servicemembers. I used this plan when I was stationed in the Middle East for 2 years and flew to Europe often. Stayed in many nice hotels around Europe for free, some favorites are Hilton Carlton Edinburgh, Ritz Carlton Geneva, and Hilton Garden Inn Bucharest Romania.

      Reply
      • If we’re about to be stationed in Europe, wouldn’t make much sense to get the Southwest card, right? Which card provides the most airline travel benefits while travelling to/from Europe?

        Reply
  2. I recently came across this site and wanted to say thanks for all the info and recommendations!

    I do have one question regarding building out the AMEX portfolio. For a single active duty servicemember, how much time do you recommend allowing to pass before opening up the next card? Obviously, one would want to ensure they have met the spending requirements to achieve the sign-up bonus on their most recently opened account. If they are able to do that rather quickly (e.g., 1-2 months), then what is the minimum recommended wait before applying for their next AMEX card?

    Reply
    • Check out the Amex card application rules here. You can open up to 2 cards every 90 days and 1 card every 5 days. If you can handle the minimum spends, opening 2 cards a week apart, waiting 100 days (just up be sure) from the second card and then opening 2 more a week apart should be an aggressive pace.

      Reply
  3. You should “prefer” the Sapphire Preferred over the Reserve given the new 80,000 point bonus. If the user’s transferring points or waiting until the second year when they upgrade it to a Reserve, it’s a better deal.

    Reply
      • Thanks for clarifying. I have one of my Five card slots left. Do you have any recommendations as far as when to close one card and open another? I don’t want to raise any suspicion with AMEX. I also want to solidify my final slot after I max out the points on the cars that I don’t want to keep asap. I am going for the 3 Aspires, 1 Bonvoy, 1 Delta reserve you recommended. Currently I have one aspire, one surpass (Upgrading), one Delta reserve and one Bonvoy.

        Reply
  4. Hi Spencer. Love your website. There is one thing that I am a little confused about. According to your optimal order of applying for credit cards you have seven American Express credit card slots occupied( Delta reserve, Delta platinum, delta gold, Hilton Aspire, Hilton surpass, Hilton honors, Bonvoy brilliant). This does not Include getting a second bonvoy card as you have recommended for the five CREDIT card slots before. So really there are nine that seem to be getting recommended. It doesn’t seem possible. Also, for your second bonvoy credit card slot as part of your five credit card American Express slots, how are you getting this? From the business card? If so it is less rewarding than the non-business bonvoy and I would think getting the third Hilton honors card and upgrading it to an aspire would be more valuable In filling your five credit card maximum from American Express. Thank you for your time.

    Reply
  5. is the recommendation base on a two player mode? i dont see a need for both me and my wife to get the chase freedom and freedom unlimited

    Reply
  6. You may want to add the US Bank Altitude Reserve near the top of the list. They’re sensitive to new lines of credit (generally denied above 2/12), but waive the annual fee for military and offer a $325 annual travel credit and other perks fairly comparable to the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

    Reply
  7. If I already have established credit and only have a couple of bank CC, do you recommend CSR or AMEX Plat first? I have heard that chase is a little more particular in their approvals, so I should start there. Thoughts? Thanks for all the data!!

    Reply
    • I would recommend you get Chase first due to their 5/24: CSR, Hyatt of the world (free annual night), IHG (annual night), United Club Mileage Plus (for their lounge), & Southwest Rapid reward.

      Then I would go after AMEX Plat, Gold (4x grocery, rest.)*, Marriott Bonvoy (annual night), Hilton Aspire(annual night)

      and Citi Bank Prestige ($250 travel cred by calendar yr) and yes annual fee is waived. Sent your LES to their military department and eventually, you’ll get a letter.

      Reply
  8. Question for you. Where to go from here?

    I have (all the cards are over a year old):

    Amex: Plat, Gold, Blue Cash Preferred, Bonvoy, Delta Reserve, Delta Platinum
    Chase: Free, Free Unlimited, Ritz, and Amazon

    Next steps
    1) Have an email offer to upgrade my Bonvoy to a Bonvoy Brilliant, might as well.
    2) I can get back in on the CSR in January so I plan to do that.
    3) Not sure what else, maybe to go after the Hilton Honors card or Citi prestige, citi aadvantage, or united club.
    4) Don’t know if I follow the Delta platinum to Delta reserve upgrade, but already get the second com pass with the plat.
    5) Like using the Amex gold for restaurants so I don’t know if I want to upgrade it

    My wife isnt military and only has one wells fargo card :/

    Primary purchases (hope I’m doing this right):

    Gas: Blue cash preferred
    Groceries: Blue cash preferred
    Restaurants: Amex Gold
    Amazon: Amazon card
    Travel: depends (Amex Platimum or Delta cards depending)
    Other: Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Freedom depending on the quarter

    Reply
  9. Your plan lines up with the strategy I had in mind, however my research has showed you can only ba e 5 amex credit cards (not including charge cards). So I’m curious to know how you have 3 hilton cards, 3 delta, and the Marriott card since that’s 7 cards. Did you close some to stay at 5? Thanks!

    Reply
  10. You may want to mention that IHG and Hyatt cards can generally be opened by those who have more than 5/24 (unless that’s changed very recently), so a user may benefit from other Chase cards in their first five.

    Reply
    • David – 2019 data points show that IHG and Hyatt do now fall under Chase’s 5/24 rule. I was even rejected for a Chase Amazon Prime Rewards card because I had opened too many accounts in the last 2 years. :(

      Reply
  11. Spencer,
    I’m pretty well versed in all of this material, but I’ve never been able to get Citi to waive my Prestige fee. Can you please explain how to do this.

    Reply
    • I don’t have direct experience with this yet, I just opened a Citi Premier last week. My understanding is you can send a copy of your orders or LES to [email protected]

      Please report back any data points you have to share with the rest of the community!

      Reply
      • Spencer,

        Were you able to get Citi to waive the annual fee? I’ve maxed out what I can with AMEX & Chase, and am looking at other CC providers. I called both Citi and Capital One and inquired about waived annual fees. Both companies said that the fees would only be waived if I had applied for the card PRIOR to going on active duty.

        Reply
      • Confirmed. My Presitge which I opened Oct 2019 annual fee was waived. Just follow the instructions above and you should get a letter in about a month.

        Reply
  12. Does Air Force reserve get the annual fee waived as well? How about reserve called for deployment?

    Reply
  13. That’s great info Spencer, thank you! If you are the primary finance person in the family, do you just have the log ins for the CC’s on which your wife is the primary acct holder so you can track the activity? Do you ever close out the cards whose benefits you have received and which you are no longer using? I know you don’t really do the dollar tracking budget (based on past post), how do you track the family expenditures…monthly? weekly? Sorry for all the questions…taking notes and trying to streamline the process!

    Interesting to note- Just recently found out that if a military member OR spouse applies for AMEX Plat or Chase Reserve, is accepted and then adds the spouse as the secondary user, the secondary user can no longer apply for the benefits of the card AND it counts against their 5/24 rule count. It may be better for each partner to apply seperately, each be the primary user, to get the full benefits. May need to stagger the applications for spending goal purposes.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the questions!

      1. Yes, as the primary finance person in the family we share our log in details. She allows me to login to her accounts to make payments and keep track of the cards.

      2. Yes, I close cards frequently if I am no longer receiving the benefits from the cards. Especially if the card charges an annual fee. Thankfully, because annual fees on most Chase and all AMEX cards are waived for US military, I don’t have many cards that charge an annual fee.

      3. I don’t really track family expenditures any more. We spend money on what’s important to us (food, travel) and don’t spend it on things we get little pleasure from (gadgets, alcohol, cable, cars). Budgeting is an annoying chore to me.

      We invest 50% of my military paycheck. We save >95% of my wife’s paycheck. I consider that a 90% solution for 10% of the effort (Pareto’s principle). Could we eek out a little more savings? Probably, but why? We have no debt, we will be financially independent in a few years, and we enjoy our life. We save the dollars so we don’t have to count the pennies. At this point saving $100-200/month is not going to make us FI that much quicker. And at what cost to time, effort, and stress?

      Our budget is pretty stable at this point. We pay ourselves a “marriage premium.” Like an insurance premium that you pay to the insurance company. This is money we can spend on whatever we want without the other partner questioning it. Mine usual goes into my hobbies (cycling, gaming, fitness). My wife usually saves her premium and buys her friend’s flights so she can holiday with them.

      Joint expenses like food, restaurants, going out to eat, gas for the car just come out of the joint money. We discuss what we consider a joint expense and what it considered a marriage premium expense. If we can’t agree, which is rare, we pay out of our marriage premium.

      Our marriage premium when I was a young lieutenant not making that much was $50/month each. Now it’s grown to $500/month each. We set aside money every month for the recurring expenses (cell phone plan, internet, house cleaner, Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, renters and car insurance) and then allow ourselves to spend whatever is left in the checking account.

      Once a week I pay off the credit cards. If we ever dip into a savings account, for instance if we have a large airfare purchase coming up, I make a note of it so we pay ourselves back. Usually expenses are high in one month and low in the next. It all seems to work out in the end.

      4. I don’t think your statement is true, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong. As far as I know, authorized users CAN open new accounts with their own Social Security number (SSN) and receive the welcome bonus. I have done it many times myself and recently. However, you are correct that being added as an authorized user CAN count against your Chase 5/24 rule, so be careful with that.

      Reply
  14. Great and useful post. I did have two questions: 1. Do you feel like with more cards open and available, there is more chance for fraudulent activity and identity theft? 2. How do you keep track/use/store all of these cards? How do you track the spending/payment activities on so many? We have the USAA Limitless, Chase Reserve, AMX Plat, Amazon and I feel like I’m already at capacity tracking spending/payment on just those four. Thank you!

    Reply
    • 1. No. Fraud prevention is really quite good these days and all of my cards have zero liability for fraudulent charges. If a card is ever stolen or compromised, I simply phone the company, dispute the charge, and order a new card to be delivered. It’s happened a few times in the last 10 years and is always resolved within 20 minutes on the phone. New cards are delivered in 2-7 days depending on whether the company expedites the card.

      2. I have a credit card holder book to physically hold my cards. $15 on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2SlbFgf I track the spending requirements in a spreadsheet I built myself. The column headings are “Spending Required…Open or Closed…Bank Issuer (AMEX, Chase, etc)…Card Name…Primary User (me or my wife)…Minimum Spend…Total Spent…Spend Remaining…Date Opened…Date to Meet Minimum…Annual Fee…Date to Close Account…Bonus…Reward Program

      Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.