Best Credit Cards for Military 2024 | 21+ Cards for Active Duty, Spouses

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

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All information about American Express Green Card, American Express Aspire Card, and American Express Surpass Card has been collected independently by MilitaryMoneyManual.com

The best credit cards for active duty military and military spouses are the travel rewards cards from American Express and Chase, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Chase cards waive the annual fee on all personal Chase credit cards for military servicemembers and spouses under the Military Lending Act. That means no annual fees even on the best Chase cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card!

If you want to understand American Express benefits for you and your spouse, check out this article on American Express benefits.

You can also take my 100% free Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course to understand Amex and Chase benefits in depth.

These cards allow you to earn welcome bonus offers worth thousands and annual benefits that put cash back in your pocket.

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. Start with a beginner's credit card from Navy Federal or USAA for 12 months to establish credit history
  2. Now establish a good relationship with Chase bank, open a Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card or Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card
  3. Now it's time to pick up a Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  4. Pick 3 more Chase cards: IHG hotel card, Hyatt hotel card, United Quest℠ Card, United Club℠ Infinite Card, Southwest Airlines Credit Cards, Chase Freedom Flex, or Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card or another best Chase credit cards for military
  5. Thanks to Amex family language restrictions, start with the American Express® Green Card
  6. Now it's time for the American Express® Gold Card
  7. The Platinum Card® from American Express – Big Kahuna time!
  8. Hilton Honors American Express Card, upgrade to another Amex Hilton Aspire after one year
  9. Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card then upgrade after one year
  10. American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Card – don't ignore the best hotel credit cards for military!
  11. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
  12. Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

A little bit about the thought process here: depending on your travel goals, you'll probably want to prioritize Chase cards first, because of the Chase 5/24 rule, which means you can only open a Chase credit card if you've opened less than 5 credit cards from any bank in the last 24 months.

Then, for American Express you have to respect the Amex family language rules, which restrict the order you can apply for the cards in order to receive the welcome bonuses.

Best Military Credit Cards: Chase and American Express

Chase generously interprets the Military Lending Act (MLA) and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) laws and offer fee waivers on most of their cards.

You can read more details on American Express protections here.

Chase waives annual fees for military members and spouses on all of their personal cards opened after 20 September 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 American Express cards.

Amex also has restrictions on how many Amex cards you can open.

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 before the statement is due, and do not apply for too many cards at once. Pace yourself, this is a marathon not a sprint!

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 beginner's credit card from a military friendly bank, like Navy Federal Credit Union or USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Credit Card.

If you already have a credit score over 700 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 card.

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.

If your credit score is below 720, I recommend building your score up by opening any of the no annual fee cards offered by Navy Federal (NFCU), USAA, or PenFed. These are the best, military friendly credit cards to start building a history of responsible credit card usage.

Within less than 12 months of getting a no annual fee card and building your score, you will be able to get the better cards listed below.

You can see how I built an 800+ credit score in my 20s without carrying any credit card debt. Even though I have over 20 credit cards, my score is still over 800.

Since these cards have 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. The Chase 5/24 rule means that you can only open a Chase card if you have opened less than 5 credit cards from any bank or company in the last 24 months. 5 cards in 24 months or 5/24.

Example: If you have opened a Navy Federal card, a Chase card, and an American Express card in the last year, you are at 3/24.

I cover what “5/24” means in detail.

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 card that you can keep forever to age your credit history.

Chase Freedom Flex

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 Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited for Military

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • INTRO OFFER: Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) — worth up to $300 cash back. That's 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.
  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, the premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Chase Travel, 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 minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
  • Compare the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Chase Freedom Flex
  • Member FDIC

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.

Compare the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Freedom Flex here.

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 card, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve 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 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

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card is one of the best travel cards with annual fee waivers for active duty and military spouses.

Chase only allows you to apply for 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® Card, 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® Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $937.50 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠
  • 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠
  • 3x points on dining (includes takeout, delivery, and dine-in), select streaming services and online groceries
  • 2x on all other travel purchases
  • 1x on all other purchases
  • $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠ . Example- 60,000 points would be worth $750 toward travel.
  • No foreign transaction fees, great for overseas OCONUS assignments, TDY, and PCS
  • Primary rental car insurance coverage & trip cancellation/interruption insurance, and more.
  • DashPass access is complimentary which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • 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
  • Member FDIC

Whether you should apply for 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 125,000 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 70,000 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 $5,000 total) you easily surpass the 125,000 points required for the companion pass. If you open these cards in Dec 2024, complete your spend by February 2025, you will have the companion pass for all of 2025 AND 2026. 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 Credit 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!

chase southwest rapid rewards priority credit card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • $149 annual fee waived for military and mil spouses
  • Earn 3x points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases
  • Earn 2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare
  • Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming.
  • 7,500 Anniversary points each year.
  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • 4 Upgraded boardings per year
  • 25% back on in flight WiFi and drink purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Member FDIC

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Chase Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
  • Learn how to apply for the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
  • Earn 80,000 points after $5000 of spend in the first 3 months from account opening
  • 4x pts per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines purchases
  • 3x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners
  • 2x points on rideshare
  • 2x points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services
  • 1x point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 4 Upgraded Boarding per year when available
  • 9,000 bonus points after your card anniversary
  • Member FDIC
  • $199 Annual Fee NOT waived for military

Chase Freedom Flex or Chase 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.

Step 5: American Express Cards

Now that you've exhausted your Chase options, it's time to move on to American Express. Amex application rules include:

  • No more than five American Express credit cards at any given time.
  • No more than 10 American Express cards without preset spending limits at any given time.
  • Maximum of two new cards in a 90-day period.
  • Can only earn the welcome bonus on the same card once per lifetime.
  • You can only earn a welcome bonus if you don't have a higher tier card in the same family.

You can start building your Amex Platinum collection to reap annual benefits and welcome bonuses offers worth thousands.

Because of the Amex family language rules, you must start with the lowest tier or lowest annual fee card and work your way up to the highest tier or highest annual fee card. How that looks in practice is going in this application order:

  1. American Express® Green Card
  2. American Express® Gold Card
  3. The Platinum Card® from American Express

After 1 year of holding the card, you can upgrade your lower tier cards to the highest tier cards. You can then reapply for the lower tier card, like adding another Amex Gold card back into your card portfolio so you're always earning 4x points in the bonus categories.

American Express® Green Card

American Express Green Card for Military: No Annual Fee!

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

  • Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, earn 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases made during your first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back in the form of a statement credit.
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on travel including airfare, hotels, cruises, tours, car rentals, campgrounds, and vacation rentals.
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® Points on transit purchases including trains, taxicabs, rideshare services, ferries, tolls, parking, buses, and subways.
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the US.
  • $189 CLEAR Plus Credit: Receive up to $189 per calendar year in statement credits when you pay for your CLEAR Plus membership (subject to auto-renewal) with the American Express® Green Card.
  • $100 LoungeBuddy: No airport lounge membership? No problem! Purchase lounge access through the LoungeBuddy app using the American Express(R) Green Card and receive up to $100 in statement credits annually.
  • Payment Flexibility: When it comes to paying your bill, you have options. You can always pay in full. You also have the flexibility to carry a balance with interest or use Plan It(R) to split up large purchases into monthly payments with a fixed fee, up to your Pay Over Time Limit. You may be able to keep spending beyond your limit – you'll just need to pay for any new purchases in full when your bill is due.
  • Trip Delay Insurance: If a round-trip is paid for entirely with your Eligible Card and a covered reason delays your trip more than 12 hours, Trip Delay Insurance can help reimburse certain additional expenses purchased on the same Eligible Card, up to $300 per trip, maximum 2 claims per eligible account per 12 consecutive month period. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Coverage is provided by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees: No matter where you're traveling, when you use your American Express® Green Card there are no foreign transaction fees.
  • $150 annual fee waived to $0 with Amex MLA benefits
  • Terms Apply.
  • All information about American Express Green Card has been collected independently by MilitaryMoneymanual.com

American Express Gold Card

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 
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

The benefits of multiple Platinum cards are additive, so for example, when you add another Platinum card to your Uber account, you get $15 + $15 = $30 of monthly Uber credits. And $70 in December. I have 7 Amex Platinum cards.

After one year, upgrade the Amex Green to Amex Platinum and upgrade the Amex Gold to Amex Platinum. Apply for another Amex Gold and Amex Green if you want them back in your collection. The one year restriction is due to the 2008 CARD ACT law, not an Amex policy.

Step 6: Best Travel Credit Cards for Active Duty Military

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.

Learn more about the best airline credit cards in this article.

Best Military Credit Cards for Hotel Stays

Check out the best military hotel credit cards article for in depth comparison of the top 4 cards.

American Express Hilton Honors Aspire

Amex Hilton Honors Aspire Card Military

American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • $550 annual fee waived for military servicemembers and military spouses
  • Complimentary Diamond Status at all Hilton brands (suite upgrades, breakfast, check in gifts, etc)
  • 180,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points welcome offer after $6,000 of purchases in the first 6 months offers ends 17 January 2024
  • 1 weekend night reward after opening your account and every year on renewal
  • $400 Hilton Resort Credit – $200 each semi-annual period
  • $200 airline fee credit – Earn up to $50 statement credit each quarter
  • $189 Clear Credit
  • 14x Hilton Honors Bonus Points at Hilton properties
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • The information and associated card details on this page for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by Military Money Manual and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
  • Full review of Amex Aspire card, terms apply
  • All information about American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Card has been collected independently by MilitaryMoneymanual.com

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 special benefits 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.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card

Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Military

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • $650 Annual Fee* See details about American Express protections for you and your spouse 
  • Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Each calendar year, get up to $300 (up to $25 per month) in statement credits for eligible purchases made on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card at restaurants worldwide.
  • Upgrade and enhance your views when available at select properties with Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status, when booked with a Qualifying Rate.
  • Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 3X points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines.
  • 2X points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enjoy a night away when you receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Free night can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. (Certain hotels have resort fees)
  • Get rewarded each calendar year after spending $60,000 on eligible purchases on your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. Select one Brilliant Earned Choice Award benefit per calendar year. See https://www.choice-benefit.marriott.com/brilliant for Award options.
  • Elevate your stay when you receive up to a $100 property credit for qualifying charges at The Ritz-Carlton® or St. Regis® when you book direct using a special rate for a two-night minimum stay using your Card.
  • Save time traveling with either a statement credit every 4 years after you apply for Global Entry ($100) or a statement credit every 4.5 years after you apply for a five-year membership for TSA PreCheck(R) (up to $85 through a TSA PreCheck official enrollment provider) and pay the application fee with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Receive 25 Elite Night Credits toward the next level of Marriott Bonvoy® Elite status each calendar year with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. (Limitations apply per Marriott Bonvoy member account. Benefit is not exclusive to Cards offered by American Express. Terms apply)
  • Lounge Access! Enroll in Priority Pass(TM) Select, which offers unlimited airport lounge visits to over 1,200 lounges in over 130 countries, regardless of which carrier or class you are flying. Escape the busy airport and enjoy snacks, drinks, and internet access in a quiet, comfortable location.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
  • Safeguard your phone with Cell Phone Protection. Receive reimbursement for your repair or replacement costs (the lesser of) following damage, such as a cracked screen, or theft for a maximum of $800 per claim when your cell phone line is listed on a wireless bill and the prior month's wireless bill was paid by an Eligible Card Account. A $50 deductible will apply to each approved claim with a limit of 2 approved claims per 12-month period. Additional terms and conditions apply. Coverage is provided by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.
  • Terms Apply.

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

Amex Hilton Surpass

amex hilton surpass

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points plus a Free Night Reward after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 7/31/2024.
  • Earn a weekend night award when you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • Earn up to $200 back each year on eligible Hilton purchases when you use your Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.
  • 12x Hilton Honors points at Hilton properties
  • 6X Points for each dollar of purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • 4X Points for each dollar on U.S. Online Retail Purchases.
  • 3X Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Complimentary Status: Get Hilton Honors™ Gold Status with your Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.
  • Elevate your status to Hilton Honors™ Diamond Status when you spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year (good through the end of the next calendar year)
  • Enjoy complimentary National Car Rental® Emerald Club Executive® status to make travel even easier. Enrollment in the complimentary Emerald Club® program is required. Terms apply.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $150 annual fee
  • 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

Open an Hilton Honors American Express Card, then upgrade to Aspire after 1 year

IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card

Chase IHG One Rewards Premier Military MLA

IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • $99 annual fee waived for US military according to Chase MLA policy
  • Earn 140,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Enjoy a Reward Night after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide. Plus, enjoy a fourth reward night free when you redeem points for a consecutive four-night IHG® hotel stay.
  • Earn up to 26 total points per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on purchases on travel, gas stations, and restaurants. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Automatic Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier cardmember
  • Global Entry, TSA PreCheck(R) or NEXUS Statement Credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card
  • IHG Rewards bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental(R), Crowne Plaza(R), Kimpton(R), EVEN(R) Hotels, Indigo(R) Hotels & Holiday Inn(R)
  • No foreign transaction fees – essential for international travel

The World of Hyatt Credit Card

Chase The World of Hyatt Military MLA

The World of Hyatt Credit Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent
  • 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 (Level 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
  • discontinued_disclaimer

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.

Amex Delta Cards

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.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

AMEX Delta Reserve card free for US military

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

Annual Fee: $650 per year* *see more details on American Express protections for you and spouse

Welcome Bonus: Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • This is my top recommended Amex Delta card for military
  • Enjoy the lounge life with complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club® and bring up to two guests or immediate family members at a rate of $50 per person per visit when flying Delta. Effective 2/1/25, Reserve Card Members will receive 15 Visits per year to the Delta Sky Club; to earn an unlimited number of Visits each year starting on 2/1/25, the total eligible purchases on the Card must equal $75,000 or more between 1/1/24 and 12/31/24, and each calendar year thereafter.
  • Flying with someone? Receive four Delta Sky Club® One-Time Guest Passes each year when you fly together on Delta. After that, you may bring up to two guests at a per-visit rate of $50 per person, per location.
  • When you book a Delta flight with your Reserve Card you'll get complimentary access to The Centurion® Lounge.
  • Want status? Earn $2,500 Medallion® Qualification Dollars each Medallion Qualification Year to get closer to Higher Status with MQD Headstart.
  • You can earn $1 Medallion® Qualification Dollar for each $10 of purchases made on your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card in a calendar year giving you a boost toward achieving elevated Medallion Status for next Medallion Year.
  • Traveling with friends is better, especially in first class. Receive a Companion Certificate on First Class, Delta Comfort+®, or Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights each year after renewal of your Card. The Companion Ticket requires payment of government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and no more than $250 for roundtrip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Make eating out easier with $240 Resy Credit: With the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Resy Credit, earn up to $20 per month in statement credits on eligible Resy purchases using your enrolled Card.
  • Enjoy $120 Rideshare Credit: Earn up to $10 back in statement credits each month on U.S. rideshare purchases with select providers after you pay with your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. Enrollment Required.
  • Save 15% on travel as a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express member by booking Award Travel using miles on Delta flights through Delta.com and the Fly Delta app! Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • Increase your chance for a better seat with your Card. Receive upgrade priority over other Medallion Members within the same Medallion level and fare class.
  • Get on the upgrade list! Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Members with an eligible ticket will be added to the Complimentary Upgrade list, after Delta SkyMiles Medallion Members.
  • 3X Miles on Delta purchases.
  • 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Terms Apply.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

AMEX DELTA Platinum no annual fee for military

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

Annual fee: $350* *see more details on American Express protections for you and spouse

Welcome Bonus: Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Traveling is better with friends. Receive a Companion Certificate on Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights each year after renewal of your Card. The Companion Ticket requires payment of government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and no more than $250 for roundtrip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Want status? Receive $2,500 Medallion® Qualification Dollars each Medallion Qualification Year and get closer to Status with MQD Headstart.
  • Save money as a Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Member and get 15% off when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights through delta.com and the Fly Delta app. Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • You can earn Earn $1 Medallion® Qualification Dollar for each $20 of purchases made on your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card in a calendar year to get a boost toward achieving Medallion Status for next Medallion Year.
  • 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Making eating out easier with $120 Resy Credit: With the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Resy Credit, earn up to $10 per month in statement credits on eligible Resy purchases using your enrolled Card.
  • Enjoy $120 Rideshare Credit with $10 back in statement credits each month on U.S. rideshare purchases with select providers after you pay with your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. Enrollment Required.
  • If you are an over packer or just want to save money, you can enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Board earlier with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding
  • Save A LOT of time! Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®: Receive $100 back for Global Entry or $85 back for TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Official Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Looking for an upgrade? Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Members with an eligible ticket will be added to the Complimentary Upgrade list, after Delta SkyMiles Medallion Members and Reserve Card Members.
  • No foreign transaction fees, terms apply (rates and fees)

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card (upgrade to another Amex Delta Reserve)

AMEX Delta Gold for Military and Spouses

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

Annual fee: $0 introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $150* *see more details on American Express protections for you and spouse

Welcome Bonus: Earn 40,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership

  • Get 15% off as a Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card Members when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights through delta.com and the Fly Delta app. Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • $200 Delta Flight Credit to use toward future travel after you spend $10,000 in purchases in a year
  • 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at U.S. Supermarkets and at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights, saving up to $60 on a round-trip Delta flight per person. That could save a family of four up to $240 per round-trip flight!
  • Board early with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights
  • NEW! Get $100 Delta Stays Credit: Book on delta.com as a Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card Member and earn up to $100 back annually on eligible prepaid Delta Stays bookings.
  • Take up to $50 off the cost of your flight for every 5,000 miles you redeem with Pay with Miles when you book on delta.com.
  • Get 20% savings in the form of a statement credit on eligible Delta in-flight purchases after using your Card.
  • Send money and split your Card purchases with any other Venmo or PayPal user, directly from the Amex App when you use Send & Split(R). Enroll today.
  • No foreign transaction fees, terms apply (rates and fees)

Being in the military comes with many perks and benefits.

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

The total benefit value of all of these cards is well over $20,000. Take your time, hit all of your minimum spending so you can earn the welcome bonus offers. Don't get too many cards at once and overwhelm yourself.

NEVER accumulate credit card debt. Pay your card off in full once a week or once a month. See this month's best 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!

69 thoughts on “Best Credit Cards for Military 2024 | 21+ Cards for Active Duty, Spouses”

  1. Hey Spencer, I’m new to your website, but man it is EXTREMELY useful. Unfortunately my attention to detail isn’t the best, and I have opened up several AMEX credit cards today but didn’t do the Chase cards first. As a result I was able to get the Chase Sapphire Reserved, but no other cards in addition (like the freedom flex ones).

    Should I stop getting cards and wait out the 5/24, or should I start accumulating more AMEX platinums? I feel as though the opportunity cost of waiting it out is not worth it, and here’s why:

    I currently already have:
    1 Navy federal Credit Union card (~2017)?
    1 AMEX platinum (~2018)
    1 AMEX gold (~2018, and just called to upgrade it today)
    1 AMEX blue cash preferred (~2019)
    1 AMEX charles schwab platinum (2021)
    1 Amazon Prime Visa (through Chase) (2021)
    1 CITI business travel card for gov’t travel (2022)

    And today I was a little trigger happy and I got:
    1 AMEX platinum
    upgraded the AMEX gold
    1 AMEX Delta platinum (just for the sign-on bonus)
    1 Chase Sapphire Reserve

    And I applied for the AMEX green (before I read about the Chase 5/24 rule) a couple times (both in normal browser and incognito) but it looks like I’m not eligible for the welcome offer so I didn’t accept. Good thing I didn’t pull the trigger anyway and prevent me from getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

    So as irritated and FOMO I feel about not being able to get the Chase Sapphire Freedom flex/unlimited, the downsides are:

    1) that I may not get the % back on every little thing

    However, (the combination of cards I already have get me more than 1% back on almost everything) and ,

    2) my credit age could be in jeopardy, when I eventually retire from active duty and be forced to close down some of the cards with the annual fees.

    However, I think my credit age will be relatively safe with the Navy Federal Credit union card and the Amazon prime card, both of which have no annual fee so I’m intending to keep them forever.

    In my mind, I think the right call is to keep growing my AMEX platinum collection, especially by opening the green and another gold to start the timer on the 1 year upgrade time.

    What are your thoughts? Any advice will be very much appreciated!

    And thanks again for putting such a comprehensive guide to military finance here. You’ll probably see me ask more questions as I lurk around, especially irt the FIRE component. I’m an O-3 in the Coast guard, 4 years in with 1 year left to pay off the academy obligation. Intend to stay the full 20. Currently trying to wrap my head around if I should contribute to roth vs traditional IRA/TSPs. Since traditional is almost a no-brainer for most FIRE people, but in the military, our tax bracket is already low while we are active duty with the nontaxble income, and upon retirement, the 40% base pay pension after 20 years will bump the tax bracket up and thus the roth ladder won’t work as well as it does for most FIRE people.

    • 2 – I wouldn’t worry too much about your credit age or credit score. Here’s what I planned to do with my credit cards when I leave the military.

      I agree you should keep growing the Amex Platinum collection.

      As an O-3, the answer is usually Roth IRA and Roth TSP. Switch to Traditional as a high year O-4 or O-5, but do the math to see if it makes sense. Either way, it’s taxes now or taxes later, so don’t sweat the Roth vs Traditional debate too much, just max out the accounts either way.

  2. Spencer — Thanks for this. I just started this routine and have had a pre-existing (“vanilla”) Platinum AMEX since 2019. Today I applied for the AMEX Gold and put it under a separate account log-in since the advice about upgrading the Gold after 1 year. I went to add AMEX offers to this new card and it came back with “Sorry about that. The offer you selected has already been added to one of your Cards.” The only could it could be referring to is the vanilla platinum on the other log-in. So we aren’t able to double-dip benefits from one Amex to the other? That seems like the central theme of your recommendations so I just wanted to check on what I might be doing wrong so I start off on the right foot.

    Thanks!

    • Amex Offers don’t stack. Amex keeps track across all your accounts with your Social Security number. However, other benefits that are per account do stack, like the hotel, airline, and Saks credit for example.

  3. Hello,

    I was wondering if I could get any advice on the next card to open up.

    Current Cards:
    AMEX Platinum
    AMEX Gold (>1 year opened)
    CSR
    WoH
    3 other no-annual fee cards (USAA and Discover)

    I’m in AMEX pop-up jail (>7 months) for the AMEX green card, and have been waiting until I get approved for that with the increased welcome offer before I upgrade my gold card. However, I have also considered getting another Chase card while I’m still under the 5/24 rule. What do you recommend? Opening up a CF card and upgrade to a CSR after a year, open a different Chase card, or continue waiting to leave AMEX pop-up jail. Thanks for any insight!

    • Open a Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited (or both cards) and then upgrade to a CSR after 1 year. IHG card is good too for free nights, but maybe wait for a limited time offer. I’d upgrade Amex Gold to Platinum now (unless you are waiting for welcome offer) and then apply for another Amex Gold (no welcome offer will be available, but you can still earn 4x points on eligible categories).

      • The only worry I have is that I get in bad favor with Chase for having 2 CSRs just because it seems like you can only have 1 of these cards based off the other websites out there. Do you have any data points of Chase closing an account because of this?

        • I have many data points of military servicemembers with multiple CSRs. No data points of Chase closing an account because of this.

          • Thanks Spencer! I’ll apply for the Chase Freedom Flex. Just a heads up, the link to the card on your page goes to an error page.

  4. So I read the “optimal order to apply for credit cards if you are in the military:”
    And I want to make sure I’m reading this right, but if you can only have 5 American express cards, How would someone be able to get the Marriott or Delta or Hilton cards on top of the AMEX platinum, gold or green cards?
    The list shows multiple AMEX cards;
    Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American express card
    AMEX green card
    Amex Gold
    Amex Platinum
    Delta Reserve American express card
    Delta Platinum American express card
    Delta Gold American express card
    American express Hilton Honors card
    Hilton Honors American express Aspire Card
    Hilton Honors American express Surpass card
    I want to understand what I can and can’t use for future reference, any help/ explanation would be great, thanks.

    • The limit is 5 Amex credit cards and 10 Amex charge cards, also known as “Pay Over Time” cards. The Amex Platinum, Amex Gold, and Amex Green count as charge cards. You can have up to 10 of this type.

      The Amex credit cards are three co-branded cards, such as Hilton, Marriott, and Delta. You can have up to 5 of these cards. A good mix might be 3 Hilton Aspires and 2 Marriott Bonvoy Brilliants.

      • Spencer,

        Just wanted to provide a data point here. I know Amex has gone back and forth between allowing 4 and 5 credit cards per person, and I think they have dipped back down to four. Outside of the charge cards I have a Bonvoy Business, Blue Business Plus, Hilton Aspire, and Hilton Surpass and just last week was denied a Hilton Honors because I had reached my max number of credit cards. Not trying to tell people not to give it a shot, but just don’t save your most desired card for #5.

  5. Hey Spencer,

    I recently started my active duty service and I got the Amex Platinum card recently and was going to apply for Amex Gold soon for the bonus. However, I do spend a decent amount of $ on gas each month because I do a lot of driving and was wondering what card you would suggest for gas purchases.
    I know my credit card is out of order from this list but not sure how deep I want to get into the credit card game just yet. Do you think this is a good start or should I go a different route for my next card(s)?

    • Congrats on the Amex Platinum and thinking about the Amex Gold soon. I wouldn’t worry so much about maximizing a “spending category” like “gas” until you’ve opened up a few more cards. The cash back or travel rewards value of a welcome bonus can be 20% or 30% of the spending. For example, you open a Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, spend $4000 on travel (3x points on travel) and earn 12,000 points + the 60,000 point welcome bonus.

      Now you have 72,000 points and only spent $4000. You can cash out those 72,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for $720 cash, which is 18% cash back!

      Or you can use the points for travel in the Chase Travel Portal for 1.5 cents each, so now your points are worth $720 * 1.5 = $1080. Again, you only spent $4000. The “cash back value” of your spending is 27% if you redeem through the Chase Travel Portal.

      Finally, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards Points to a Chase Ultimate Rewards travel partner like Hyatt and redeem the points for 3 cents of value. Now your 72,000 points are worth $2160. And you still only spent $4000 to earn the welcome bonus. 2160 / 4000 = 54% cash back value! Holy cow.

      It’s much more efficient to focus on earning welcome bonuses than to mess around with spending rewards categories. Once you’ve opened 10 or 20 cards, sure, you can optimize your gas spending on your Chase Freedom Flex 5% cash back category. But while you still have cards to open, I recommend focusing on welcome bonuses, not spending categories.

  6. Hi Spencer,
    I notice that you recommend the Chase Sapphire Reserve OR the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I realize that this guide starts from zero, but it is probably worth mentioning the Modified Double Dip for those with more established credit. Getting the sign-up bonus for both the Reserve and Preferred is an amazing start to earning points. The MDD also works to bypass 5/24, so people could get CSR, CSP, World of Hyatt, IHG Premier, AND 2 more cards from Chase before moving on. If people play it conservatively for the start of their credit card journey, they could easily get the Marriott Boundless, upgrade to the Ritz Carlton card after a year, and finish the 24-month Marriott cooldown before grabbing the Marriott Brilliant.

    Despite having been in the military for 20 years and started churning credit cards recently, I’ve still gotten a lot out of reading through your blogs and articles. Thank you for putting this all together.

    • Great tip, thanks for sharing. A bit advanced for most people, but if you’re reading this site, it might be for you. Thanks for the kind words on the site. It’s been fun keeping it going for over a decade.

  7. I love this site and your podcast. I was wondering, now that you’ve left or are leaving active duty, which cards do you intend on keeping that have annual fees?

  8. I noticed your last 7 cards are American Express. I was tracking that they allow a max of 5 credit cards. Are some of those exempt from the count?

  9. Hello!

    Big fan of this site – it’s really helpful!

    My husband and I each have the Amex Platinum and Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant. Today we each tried to apply for another Amex (the Hilton Aspire) and a pop-up came up saying that we were not eligible for the welcome offer because of our credit history with American Express. Our balances are paid and we still do “use” the cards to keep them active.

    Do you know if there’s a certain waiting period that Amex requires before you’re eligible for another welcome bonus?

      • Were you able to get the sign up bonuses for all the cards you have? Or, because of the Amex Pop Up, did you forgo the sign-up bonus to just get some of the cards for the benefits?

  10. What happens when you get out of the military? Are the fees still waived, do you get locked in? I am a Marine reservist, did a year active so I have a DD214. Any clue about whether I’d qualify to waive these fees?

  11. Should I get the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card or the AMEX Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant credit card? Reading through the fine print for the bonus offers, it appears you cannot get the bonus offer for the one card if you have already gotten the bonus offer for the other. Should I prioritize one over the other? The Chase card appears to have a better bonus offer, but the AMEX has better overall features afterwards. Is there any issue in holding both the cards? Thanks!

    • Check out my article on Marriott military credit cards for all the details. The Amex Marriott Bonvoy brilliant is definitely the superior card for Marriott. I recommend getting that one even if the bonus is lower than the Chase because of the Amex’s annual recurring benefits.

  12. 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?

    • 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.

      • 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?

  13. 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?

    • 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.

  14. 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.

      • 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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!!

    • 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

    • 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. :(

  22. 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.

    • 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 MILITARYORDERS@CITI.COM

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

      • 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.

      • 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.

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

  24. 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.

    • 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.

  25. 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!

    • 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

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