Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred for Active Duty Military 2021

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred credit cards are offered with no annual fees to active duty military servicemembers and their spouses.

This is an amazing opportunity for military servicemembers, along with their spouses, to pick up some of the top Chase travel rewards cards available.

This recent change was implemented on all personal Chase cards opened after 20 September 2017. Chase made the change to comply with the Military Lending Act (MLA), which is similar to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

I recommend picking up 1 or 2 Chase Sapphire Preferred OR Reserve cards ASAP due to the new annual fee waiver. All Chase personal credit cards are fee waived for military members and their spouses. The CSR is one of those ultra-luxury travel cards, like the AMEX Platinum, that offers tremendous recurring benefits and value with no annual fee for military personnel.

I had a Chase Sapphire Reserve card since it launched with the epic 100,000 Ultimate Reward point bonus. Unfortunately, that is no longer available. However, my wife did recently pick up her own Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

Within a few days of receiving the card, she received a separate letter from Chase stating that her account was being handled in accordance with the MLA. Therefore, we now have a CSR that we pay no annual fee on! Thanks Chase!

Should I get the Sapphire Reserve or Preferred?

The big question now is “Should you get the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP)?”

Sign Up Bonus60,00050,000
$300 Annual Travel CreditNOYES
Points for Restaurants and Travel2x3x
Annual Fee Waived for Military$95$550

Because Chase recently increased the bonus to 60,000 points on the Sapphire Preferred, I am recommending all military personnel first get the Chase Sapphire Preferred, to earn the extra 10,000 Ultimate Reward Points.

After 1 year, upgrade the CSP to a CSR and immediately access the $300 annual travel credit and increased 3x earn on restaurant and travel spend.

The main difference between the Preferred and the Reserve for military members is the recurring $300 annual travel credit. This is a huge boon that could be worth $6000 over 10 years if both you and your spouse get a Sapphire Reserve card. ($300 annually x 2 people x 10 years = $6000).

$300 Travel Credit vs. 10,000 Points

The CSP increased sign up bonus of 60,000 extra Chase points, puts an extra 10,000 Chase points in your pocket vs the CSR. It's hard to earn Chase UR points because they are so valuable. If I was starting out military travel hacking, I would gladly trade one year of the $300 travel credit for 10k more points.

It really all comes down to whether you think you can get 1 cents or more per UR point. There are many redemptions, especially when transferring to airline partners, where you can get 1 cents or more of value. Even booking travel through the Chase Portal with a CSP nets you 1.25 cents per point!

For instance, booking First or Business class with Ultimate Rewards after transferring to a partner like United, Singapore Airlines, or British Airways can earn you massive returns on your points, sometimes up to 11 cents per point.

However, if you just cash the points out for statement credit or cash, you only earn 1 cent per point.

Either way you go, if you are in the military you should have a Reserve or Preferred card in your pocket and then upgrade to a Reserve ASAP! With the annual fees waived, these cards are just too good to pass up!

Chase Sapphire Preferred for Military

Chase Sapphire Preferred Military SCRA MLA
  • Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate after spending $4000 in the first 3 months of card membership
  • 2x points on travel and dining (includes takeout, delivery, and dine-in)
  • Earn 2x points on up to $1000 in grocery store purchases per month until April 30, 2021
  • Complimentary DashPass, the premium DoorDash membership with $0 delivery fee on orders over $12
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Primary rental car insurance coverage
  • Upgrade to a Chase Sapphire Reserve after 1 year
  • $95 annual fee waived for military and spouses with Chase Military Lending Act

Since the sign up bonus on the CSP has increased, you need to decide if you want the $300 annual travel credit of the CSR for the first year or the additional 10k UR points. Personally, I would take the extra points and then upgrade the card after 1 year to a Reserve.

This card has no foreign transaction fee, which is essential for OCONUS TDYs and PCSs. You also get 2X points on travel and restaurant purchases.

Chase Sapphire Reserve for Military

Chase Sapphire Reserve No Annual Fee for Military

Learn how to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve here

  • $550 annual fee (and $75 authorized user fee) completely WAIVED for US military and spouses
  • $300 annual travel credit. That's $300 FOR FREE on any travel purchase (Uber, taxi, airfare, hotel, train, car rental, etc)
  • 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4000 in the first 3 months of opening account
  • 3x points on travel and dining worldwide, after earning the $300 travel credit
  • Redeem points with a 50% bonus when booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
  • Automatic travel insurance on trips purchased with the card including trip cancellation, delay, interruption, lost baggage, and auto rental collision
  • Up to $100 Global Entry sign up fee reimbursed every 4 years
  • No foreign transaction fees

$550 annual fee waived + $300 travel credit + $750 Ultimate Rewards points when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards + $400 Priority Pass Lounge access + $100 Global Entry Fee = minimum $1500 of value for military personnel. Add a second card for your spouse and now you're looking at $3000 of value.

This card offers over $1500 of value in the first year alone. Add your spouse and double your value to $3000. The annual travel credit is one of the best benefits on any credit card currently available.

3X points on worldwide dining and travel is awesome and because you're paying no foreign transaction fees, you get to reap the rewards with no downsides.

The $300 travel credits will post to your account the same day your purchase posts to your account, so it's almost instantaneous. See my example below:

Chase $300 Travel Credit

My Priceline car rental and Uber trip to the airport were reimbursed the same day. There's no activation or application required for the travel credit, it's just automatic and easy. I have used my $300 travel credit for 3 years now. Since I travel so much for the government, I alway use the benefit within the first few months of the year.

Chase has a “one Sapphire rule,” meaning that you can only hold the Sapphire Reserve OR the Sapphire Preferred, but not both. You can upgrade a Sapphire Preferred to a Sapphire Reserve after 1 year of card membership.

This not Chase's rule, but is a law called the CARD act, where credit card companies can't raise the annual fee on you within one year.

Because of the excellent travel benefits and the fact the the card is free, it makes total sense for both you and your spouse to pick up a Chase Sapphire Preferred card and then upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Chase Military Lending Act (MLA)

Chase updated their military policy on September 20, 2017. Any account opened AFTER Sep 20, 2017 is eligible for the Chase military fee waiver under MLA. You can click the image to see a PDF copy of the MLA letter I received from Chase.

Chase MLA Credit Card Letter

Unfortunately, if your account was opened before 20 Sep 2017, you are out of luck. You can always open a new Chase credit card and receive the fee waiver benefit.

The MLA caps interest the banks can charge at 36% Military Annual Percentage Rate (MAPR). This MAPR includes annual fees, so Chase decided it was easier to waive the annual fees for military members rather than calculate the 36% MAPR for each military servicemember.

The only fees Chase now charges military personnel are late fees and insufficient fund fees. This is a very generous interpretation of the MLA, as “bona fide fees” on premium cards are allowed under the MLA. That said, take advantage of Chase’s military fee waiver while you can!

I received my MLA letter from Chase before my card even arrived. My wife received her Chase Sapphire Reserve fee waiver MLA letter the day the card arrived in a separate envelope. It's pretty clear from the wording of the letter that all fees are waived except “late fees and non-sufficient fund fees, if applicable.” That's great news for all military members!

I’ve been a satisfied Chase customer since 2011. I plan to increase my business with them now that they waive annual fees for military personnel.

I recommend you and your spouse pick up a Chase Sapphire Preferred today and upgrade after 1 year to the Chase Sapphire Reserve! After that, pick up an annual fee waived AMEX Platinum and sign up for my course to maximize your military credit card benefits.

22 thoughts on “Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred for Active Duty Military 2021”

  1. Spencer,

    I’m used a chase card since 2004. I’ve upgraded the same card to CSR in 2017. I called today and was told chase only waives annual fee for cards obtained before active duty. Since I joined in 2000 I am not eligible for fee waivers, something you can suggest to help? V/R Allen

    • Yeah you might be stuck. You could close your accounts and wait until your eligible for the bonuses, but that would be 4 years. If you are married, your spouse could open a CSR and get the fee waived if you are active duty still. Then just add you as an authorized user.

  2. Unfortunately I got the Chase Sapphire Reserve before September 2017. Should I cancel the card and re-open it to get the fee waived? What do you recommend?

  3. I’m an Active Duty service member, I recently got approved for the chase preferred credit card. How does that help me in future. Help me understand. I just applied for this credit card, I never knew It has benefits for active duty soldiers.

  4. I’m about to go active duty (officer), I have my orders, and I’m planning on buying an engagement ring soon. My credit score is 650+, can I apply straight for the Chase Sapphire? I see the others in your military money manual and it shows working up to the sapphire but I don’t want to miss out on the 60k miles since I’ll be spending the $4k in one purchase. Any suggestions>

    • With a credit score that low you might not be eligible for the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The 60k deal should be around for a few more months. Do you have 6 months to boost your credit score or are you looking to purchase this engagement ring soon?

  5. Whats the deal if you (AD) or your spouse (AD) is planning on separating in the next year or two (possibly going to the guard or reserve)? Does AMEX or Chase (in this case) know that you are not in the military anymore and charge you once that happens?…how long does it take them to “find out”?

    • Your spouse will probably get a letter from Chase 6-9 months after getting out of active duty service, asking if she is still active duty. If she cannot provide evidence that she is still activated, they will probably charge the fee within a few months of you receiving the letter. Should be plenty of time to close the account if you are no longer getting value from it. They run a check against the public MLA or SCRA databases, available here: and here:

  6. Hey Spencer,

    Would you recommend me and my wife getting separate chase accounts if neither of us have one or for me to get a CSP and then get a card for my wife on that account?

    • Each of you should get your own cards. Annual fees will be waived on both if one of you is active military. If you just get one card and add your wife, you miss out on the welcome bonus for her! Also that can waste a 5/24 slot for her, so it’s a lose/lose. Open up an account for both of you!

  7. Spencer, any data points on how upgrading a CF or CFU –> CSR affects the “opened date?” Does a product conversion/change reset that date or does it retain the original date?

    My wife (active duty) opened her CSR in 2016 before the Sep 2017 waiver-date. Wondering if I product change her Freedom or FU to a second CSR will that waive the fee. Then we could just downgrade the old CSR to a Freedom or FU. (Or do it in the reverse order if Chase doesn’t want us holding two CSR simultaneously).


    • Product change or account conversion should not reset the account opening date. Best practice here would be to open a new CSP or Chase Freedom/Freedom Unlimited and then upgrade to CSR after 1 year. You CAN hold more than one CSR (from upgrading lower tier cards), but can only get the bonus once every 48 months.

  8. By my math, if I spent 10k on dining/travel a year I would get 30k points from Reserve and 20k points from Preferred, which I figure would even out the 60k vs 50k bonus, plus I get the $300 credit, so I wold make out better with Reserve. Am I missing something in this? Thank you!

    • Nope, makes sense to me! Just depends on if you want that 10k UR points up front or after a year. Personally, since I am locked out of Chase cards due to 5/24 rules, I would take the 10k up front because it’s hard for me to get Chase points now. But to each their own.

  9. Do you suggest getting Chase Sapphire Reserve card for self and adding spouse as an authorized user ($450 waived, $75 waived) and then after reaching spending bonus (my primary card) later getting spouse her own primary card with me as an authorized user ($450 waived, $75 waived) to qualify for spouse (primary card) spending bonus? Does that work to maximize the bonus for both myself and my wife? I am active duty. She is not.

    • If you and your spouse are under 5/24 (less than 5 cards opened in the last 24 months), DO NOT add your spouse as an authorized user as this will count to her/his 5/24 status.

      Rather, open CSR in your name, meet the minimum spend. Then open a CSR in her name and meet the minimum spend. If you can, open a CSR for each of you at the same time and meet the minimum spend so you can open more cards sooner to maximize your benefits.

      This is only if you are planning on maximizing your military benefits by following my step by step guide:

      If you are not planning on opening more than 5 cards in 24 months, then your plan is fine and you can add each other as authorized users. I would NOT do this though as it takes away a valuable 5/24 slot and reduces the number of Chase cards you can potentially open in the next 24 months.

      It sounds like you are just starting your credit card travel rewards journey. Keeping your options open and not closing any doors is very valuable!


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