Best Credit Cards for Military Spouses 2020 | MLA and SCRA

I will show you how to get your 1st $550 annual fee waived in my Ultimate Military Credit Cards course
The Chase Sapphire Reserve travel card is fee waived for military.

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The best credit cards for military spouses have no annual fees plus offer huge welcome bonuses and outstanding recurring benefits. Both the American Express Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve are available with no annual fees for military spouses.

To be crystal clear: Chase and Amex waive annual fees for civilian spouses married to an active duty servicemember AND ALSO waive annual fees for the military servicemember. A married couple with one member in the military can double dip on annual fee waived cards. Each person can get their own card and get their fee waived. Not just authorized users, but their own actual account.

As most military spouses know, travel is a huge part of military life. You usually are stationed with your spouse far away from your family.

With the cards listed on this page, you can earn exclusive travel benefits like hotel points and air miles, free hotel stays, travel credits, and airport lounge access.

Both Chase Bank and American Express waive annual fees on all of their personal credit cards for military spouses. AMEX goes a step further and waives the fees on their business charge and credit cards as well. Check out this list of the best credit cards available for military spouses:

Credit Cards for Military Spouses

Military SCRA MLA AMEX Platinum
Card NameWelcome OfferAnnual Fee Waived for Military SpousesOther BenefitsFirst Year Value
AMEX Platinum60,000$550Centurion Lounges, $200 Uber credit$2000
Chase Sapphire Reserve50,000$550$300 travel credit, Priority Pass$1900
Hilton Honors Aspire150,000$450Diamond Status, free night yearly$2000
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant75,000$450Free night yearly, $300 hotel credit$1800
Blue Cash Preferred$250$956% cash back at US supermarkets and streaming$500

Imagine the next time you go home to visit your or your spouse's family you can book one or two tickets for free. What if you could fly the whole family for free?

Or, if you go road tripping, you can stay at hotels along the way without paying a dime. If you want to take the family to Disney World, you can do it for much cheaper than the advertised price. Those are the benefits these credits cards offer military families.

Thanks to generous interpretations of the Military Lending Act (MLA) and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), military spouses can get the annual fees waived on the best luxury travel and rewards cards available.

Best American Express Cards for Military Spouses

American Express offers all of their cards, including business and personal and charge and credit, for no annual fee for active duty servicemembers. Spouses can also get their annual fees waived. In some common property states, the SCRA benefits are automatically applied.

In non-common property states, you must add the servicemember as an authorized user to the account. Then the fees should be reimbursed. As always, your experience may vary.

Please let us know in the comments if you needed to add your active duty spouse to your account to get the fee waiver or it was automatic. Please include what state you currently reside in to help gather data.

American Express Platinum: My Top Recommended Card for Military Spouses

Military SCRA MLA AMEX Platinum
  • Learn how to apply for my top recommended card HERE
  • Annual fee of $550 waived for US military spouses
  • 60,000 point welcome bonus
  • $200 annual Uber Credit
  • $200 annual airline fee credit
  • Centurion and Priority Pass lounge access for free
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Heavy metal card that looks and feels really cool

Of all the great cards available, I highly recommend the AMEX Platinum for military spouses. This card has the highest annual fee waived and offers amazing travel and lifestyle benefits.

Besides the great welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5000 in 3 months of card membership, you get many other perks with this card.

The $200 annual Uber credit can be redeemed for Uber Eats, meaning free food for you and your family! If your active duty spouse also has a AMEX Platinum, you can combine the credits in a single Uber account for $30 per month. My wife and I currently receive $45/month in credits from our 3 AMEX Platinum cards (Ameriprise, Schwab, and Regular).

The best travel benefit is the Centurion and Priority Pass Lounge access. When you're travelling domestically or internationally, airports can be loud, bright, and chaotic. Escape all of that noise and retreat to a Centurion Lounge or Priority Pass lounge at hundreds of airports around the world.

Most lounges also offer free food and drink. It's an outstanding benefit included with your card. It makes travelling so much easier and more pleasureable. Once you experience it, you won't be able to go back!

American Express Hilton Honors Aspire card

Free Diamond Status at Hilton Hotels for Military
  • Learn how to apply here
  • $450 annual fee waived for US military spouses
  • Complimentary Diamond Status at all Hilton brands
  • 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points welcome offer after $4000 of purchases in the first 3 months (worth up to 18 nights of stays!)
  • 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

This card has amazing benefits for military spouses and servicemembers. The $450 annual fee is completely waived, which means you get all of these benefits without paying a dime!

When you hold this card you get complimentary Diamond Status. That means free room upgrades, welcome gifts, free breakfast at every Hilton hotel, executive lounge access, late check-out, and early check-in.

The Diamond Status a tremendous free benefit available to military spouses and their active duty partners. Other benefits of this card include the $250 resort credit, which can be redeemed at any of the 226 resorts listed on this page: Hilton Resorts. That means free food, free massages, or free whatever else you charge to the room. It's an amazing benefit.

You also get an annual weekend night reward credit after opening your new AMEX Hilton Aspire card. This reward renews every year on your account anniversary. It totally makes the card worth keeping open for years on end, especially since you're not paying any annual fees!

American Express Bonvoy Brilliant

American Express Bonvoy Brilliant with no annual fee for Military spouses
  • Learn how to apply here
  • $450 annual fee waived for active duty military spouses
  • 1 free night award (worth 50,000 points)
  • 100,000 Marriott points welcome bonus after $5000 in purchases within the first 3 months of card membership
  • 6x points earned at SPG and Marriott hotels
  • 3x points earned on US restaurants and flights booked directly with the airline
  • $300 credit on eligible purchases at SPG or Marriott properties
  • Complimentary Gold Elite Status
  • No foreign transaction fees

This card is a no-brainer. You can get 100,000 Marriott points after meeting the welcome bonus requirements. You get a free night stay at any Marriott, SPG, or Ritz Carlton property up to 50,000 points. This can be worth over $1500, depending on where and when you stay.

My wife and I recently booked the 60,000 point, $2000/night Ritz Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Hamra Beach resort. This place is insane, with private pools at each villa and private beach access. We're so excited to go stay there in Decemember. Check this place out:

Ritz Carlton Al Hamra Beach RAK

The $300 credit can be applied to room rate charges or anything charged to your room. Essentially it $300 free to use as you wish at any SPG or Marriott property. Such a great benefit, even if you are paying the annual fee, but you're not!

With the Bonvoy Brilliant Card from AMEX, you can book this hotel along with over 6000 other amazing properties with your welcome bonus points and annual free night. If you're in the military, you'd be crazy not to pick up this card.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred

  • Learn how to apply for the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred
  • Normally a $95 annual fee, WAIVED for military spouses
  • $250 welcome bonus after spending $1000 in the first 3 months of Card Membership
  • 6% cash back on US supermarkets, including OCONUS/CONUS Commissaries
  • NEW: 6% cash back on US streaming services, including Apple Music, Netflix, Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Prime Video (full list here)
  • NEW: 3% cash back on transit purchases such as taxis, Uber, Lyft, parking, tolls, trains, buses, subway, and more
  • 3% cash back on US gas stations (including OCONUS NEX/AAFES)
  • 1% back on all other purchases

If you're looking for the best cash back rates, the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred needs to be at the top of your list. The annual fee of $95 is waived for active duty military spouses. Note that you may need to add your active duty servicemember as an authorized user, depending on your state.

The 6% cash back on US supermarkets works at all DECA Commissaries, whether you are overseas or in the US. The 3% cash back on US gas stations also works overseas at NEX/AAFES gas stations on base.

Best Chase Credit Cards for Military Spouses

Chase changed their military policy in 2017. Any Chase personal card opened on or after 20 Sep 2017 is eligible for annual fee waivers, whether you are an active duty servicemember or married to an SM.

This is an awesome change to Chase's policy. Since making this change, my wife and I have applied for many more Chase cards than we did before. Now is the perfect time to get any of the travel, hotel, or airline Chase credit cards listed below.

My wife opened a Chase Sapphire Reserve card in October 2018. Before we even received the card we received a letter from Chase notifying us that her annual account fees were waived under Chase's interpretation of the MLA. This will save us $525 per year in annual fees!

Chase Sapphire Preferred Military SCRA MLA
  • Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Best Ever: Earn 80,000 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)
  • 5x points on Lyft rides until March 2022
  • 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

Refer a Military Spouse to Chase

After one spouse opens up the CSP, and you can comfortably meet the minimum spend, you should refer your spouse from your CSP so they can open their own CSP. Chase has the refer a friend website here.

You can both be authorized users on each other's accounts and still open your own account.

Military couples both get annual fees waived on Chase cards as long as one member is active duty. Check your spouse's and your own MLA status here:

If it says you or your spouse are not eligible for MLA, make sure her or his Social Security Number is properly loaded in DEERS.

You can earn up to 15,000 points for the referral, plus you will both earn 80k welcome bonuses, plus if you spend $4,000 on travel or dining you'll earn 2x points.

A military couple could potentially earn 160,000 (2x 80k welcome bonuses) + 16,000 ($8000 minimum spend on 2 cards on 2x travel or dining), + 15,000 referral bonus = 191,000 Ultimate Reward Points

At 2 cents per point by transferring to a travel partner, that's $3820. Just cashing out the points yields $1910. What could you do with an extra $1900?

Chase Sapphire Reserve (learn more here)

Chase Sapphire Reserve No Annual Fee for Military
  • $550 annual fee waived for US military servicemembers and mil spouses
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • 50,000 Ultimate Reward points after $4000 of spend in the first 3 months ($750 value when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards)
  • 3x points on travel and dining after earning the $300 travel credit
  • Travel insurance when purchasing airfare and hotels through the card
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Metal card (looks and feels really cool)

This card normally carries a $550 annual fee and a $75 authorized user fee. My wife and I used to pay $525 per year to own this card before Chase changed their military policy.

Now, since the card is free, it makes sense for both of us to open our own accounts. That way we can each get the $300 annual travel credit and the 50,000 point welcome bonus.

The other perks of the card include free Priority Pass lounge access, a great travel insurance benefit for hotels and air travel booked on the card, and no foreign transaction fees.

The no foreign transaction fees really come in handy when you live overseas or travel TDY/TAD overseas a lot. This has been our experience in the military so far. We have saved hundreds of dollars on foreign transaction fees with this card since 2016.

You should also look at the Chase Sapphire Preferred with it's increased 60,000 point sign up bonus when you spend $4000 in the first 3 months of opening the card. It may make more sense to open this card first and then upgrade to a Sapphire Reserve after one year. Compare the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs the Chase Sapphire Reserve military spouses.

Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier

Chase IHG Premier MLA
  • Learn how to apply for the Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier
  • $89 annual fee waived for US military according to Chase MLA policy
  • Earn 125,000 IHG points after $3000 of spend in the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn a free night each account anniversary
  • Fourth night is free each time you redeem points for a 4+ night stay
  • Earn 25x points per $1 spent at IHG properties
  • Automatic Platinum Elite Status (2nd highest membership level)
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Fee credit every 4 years – military members should get Global Entry, since you can get PreCheck with your DOD ID number off of your CAC
  • No foreign transaction fees – essential for international travel

Chase Southwest Priority

  • Learn how to apply for the Chase Southwest Priority
  • $149 annual fee waived for US military servicemembers and spouses under MLA
  • Earn 40,000 welcome bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • 7500 account anniversary bonus points
  • 2x points on Southwest purchases
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies

Chase World of Hyatt

Chase The World of Hyatt Military MLA
  • Learn how to apply for the Chase World of Hyatt Credit Card
  • $95 annual fee waived for active duty US military
  • Up to 50,000 point welcome bonus broken down as follows:
  • 25,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
  • ANOTHER 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 total within 6 months of account opening
  • Earn 9 points per $1 spent at Hyatt properties
  • Automatic World of Hyatt Discoverist status

This should be a great list to get you started! If you are interested in the optimal order in which to open credit cards to maximize your benefit as a military servicemember, check out my step by step guide.

As you can see, the best credit cards for military spouses waive the annual fee but still offer huge sign up bonuses and recurring annual benefits. Switching to these cards makes sense for both active duty servicemembers and their spouses.

Take advantage of your MLA and SCRA benefits while you still can. I would not be surprised if the credit card companies started restricting how generous they are with the military annual fee waivers.

Are you or your spouse in the military? Are you paying any annual fees on your credit cards? If you are, let me know why in the comments!

6 thoughts on “Best Credit Cards for Military Spouses 2020 | MLA and SCRA”

  1. Was your wife an authorized user on a different chase card prior to the CSR? Curious how the automatic MLA triggered.

    • I think dependents are covered under the MLA and so the credit card companies ping the DEERS database or similar with Social Security numbers to ensure compliance.

      • If I understand correctly, my wife being AD military can have an American Express card, I can apply for a completely seperate card with my credit and that fee will be waived?


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