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Unfortunately, the nearly unbelievable SCRA and MLA benefits American Express, Chase, and other credit card companies extend to active duty servicemembers does not apply to military veterans and retirees.
Military vets and retirees must pay annual fees on Amex and Chase cards just like civilians. Sometimes the fee waivers continue when you leave active duty, so make sure you open all the cards you can before leaving active duty.
That being said, there are still excellent travel reward and cash back credit cards available to veterans and retirees. You want to look for a credit card that offers a large welcome bonus, great recurring benefits, and great rewards for spending in travel categories.
If you have a business, whether freelancing, rental properties, AirBnB, Uber, etc check out my best cards for veteran owned small business. If you are looking for cash back cards, check out my best cash back cards for military servicemembers.
My Top Recommended Card for Military Veterans and Retirees
- Learn how to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate after spending $4000 in the first 3 months of card membership
- 60,000 points = $750 minimum when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal
- New benefits include $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit
- 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
- 3x points on dining (includes takeout, delivery, and dine-in)
- 2x points on all other travel purchases
- Points can also be redeemed with “Pay Yourself Back” for 1.25 cents each on eligible purchases
- No foreign transaction fees, great for overseas OCONUS assignments, TDY, and PCS
- Primary rental car insurance coverage & trip cancellation/interruption insurance
- Unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Must activate by 12/31/21.
- Get up to $60 back on eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021
- 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
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is the little brother to the Chase Sapphire Reserve and comes with amazing Sapphire benefits.
The 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points could be cashed in for $1000.
A better use of the points is booking travel in the Chase travel portal for 1.25 cents per point when booked through Chase Sapphire Preferred Travel Portal. That makes 100,000 points worth $1250
But the best use of Chase Ultiamte Rewards points is transferring them 1:1 to partner airlines and hotel brands for potentially $2000-$3000+ of travel value (assuming 2-3 cents per point).
I recently received 11 cents per credit card point when transferring to All Nippon Airways (ANA) and booking 2 first class tickets from Honolulu, Hawaii to Tokyo, Japan. The big point redemption are out there!
Other cards you should check out are listed on my Best Military Credit Card Bonuses of the Month page. I keep this page updated monthly with the best cards offering the highest bonuses.
Best cards for Military Veterans and Retirees:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- American Express® Gold Card
- Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Freedom Flex
American Express Platinum Card for Veterans and Military Retirees
American Express Platinum Card
The SCRA law that allows active duty military servicemembers to get their annual fees waived on all American Express cards does not extend the same protections to military veterans and retirees. It's not my policy, that's just the way the law is written.
Therefore, military vets need to pay the annual fees on the Platinum Card from American Express. While this might seem high, this card can actually deliver over $1500 of value in the first year alone, easily covering the annual fee.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express – learn how to apply
- Annual fee of $695 waived for US military personnel and spouses
- Best Ever Public Offer: Earn 100,000 Membership Reward Points welcome bonus (valued at $2000+) when you spend $6000 in the first 6 months
- Earn 10x points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the US up to $25,000 in combined purchases for the first 6 months (an extra 250,000 points potentially!)
- 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 statement credit on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or the Hotel Collection booked on Amex Travel and paid for 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, 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
- $179 CLEAR Credit: Get through airport security faster with CLEAR
- No foreign transaction fees
- Heavy metal card that looks and feels really cool
- The Platinum Card® from American Express – learn how to apply
- Read my full review of the Amex Platinum card for military, terms apply
Amex Gold Card for Veterans
- 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, including takeout and delivery
- 4x points on US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year) – includes OCONUS Commissaries
- 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 annual Uber or Uber Eats cash. Earned as $10 per month.
- $120 per year credit at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House or Shake Shack (enrollment required)
- Read my full review of the Amex Gold card for military, terms apply
Amex Hilton Honors Aspire Card
- American Express Hilton Honors Aspire card
- 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
- $450 annual fee
- Full review of AMEX Aspire card
The American Express Hilton Honors Aspire card offers a tremendous amount of value for the travelling military veterans for retiree. With this card you get automatic Hilton Honors Diamond Status. That means free breakfast!
You get automatically upgraded (subject to availability) at all Hilton brands including Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Canopy, Curio, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Tapestry Collection, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, Tru, Homewood Suites, or Home2 Suites.
The recurring annual benefits with this card are also stunning. $250 airline fee credit which can offset purchases made with the US airline of your choice.
You also get a annual free night award, good at any Hilton property. This can be worth over $1000+ depending on the hotel or resort you cash it in at.
I have had the Aspire card since 2018 and love it! I have stayed at multiple Hilton properties in Bucharest, Munich, Dubai, Melbourne, Brisbane, New York, Oklahoma City, London, Edinburgh all on points! No taxes, no fees, no room charges: totally free. And usually I'm upgraded to a suite because of the complimentary Diamond status.
Chase Freedom Flex
- Learn how to apply for the Chase Freedom Flex
- Earn $200 cash back (20,000 UR 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
The Chase Freedom Flex card offers 5% back on rotating categories and no annual fee. It also has great points earning on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on everything else.
You can transfer Chase points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred and use them for travel. Chase points used through the Chase Sapphire Preferred Travel portal at travel.chase.com are worth 1.25 cents each. 10,000 points = $125 then.
I have had this card since I joined the military. I keep it open to age my credit history with no annual fee.
Gasoline is usually one of the categories for half the year, making this a great card to use to fill the car up. I usually put whatever the 5% category is on the Freedom Flex, then travel and dining on my Sapphire Reserve, and then everything else on my Chase Freedom Unlimited.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Learn how to apply for the Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Intro offer: earn an additional 1.5% on everything you buy up to $20,000 in the first year – worth $300 cash back!
- 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
- 4.5% on dining at restaurants, takeout, and delivery
- 4.5% back on drugstore purchases
- 3% on all other purchases
- After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards(R), 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
- No annual fee
The card offers no annual fee. You can compare the Chase Freedom Flex vs Chase Freedom Unlimited in this article.
This is my default card when I’m back in the States. If you can get 5% back on easy categories like gas or groceries with the Chase Freedom Flex card above do that. Otherwise use this card to get 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite card is for military veterans and retirees!