Amex Platinum Military Spouse Fee Waiver, Best Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve | Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 50

14,542 grads of the Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course already know why
The Platinum Card® from American Express is my #1 recommended card

Military Money Manual has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the cards that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. This site does not include all card companies or all available card offers. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

Listen to The Military Money Manual Podcast on SpotifyApple PodcastsAmazon MusicAudible, YouTube, or Stitcher.

In this episode Jamie and Spencer discuss Military Lending Act (MLA) benefits for military spouses.

Military spouses enjoy the exact same benefits active duty military servicemembers do on American Express, Chase, Citi, and US Bank credit cards: the annual fees are waived on all the premium cards.

Spencer and Jamie break down the best credit cards for military spouses including:

Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 50 Links

Outline of Episode:

  • How military spouses get their annual fees waived on credit cards 
  • The Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course
  • Military Lending Act (MLA)
  • Amex MLA policy
  • Chase MLA policy
  • Citibank MLA policy
  • US Bank MLA policy
  • Where to start if you’re new to travel hacking
  • How travel hacking affects your credit score
  • Best credit cards and strategies to maximize military spouse benefits
  • How travel cards can be used as cash-back cards
  • Our favorite airline credit cards for military spouses
  • Top hotel credit cards for military spouses
  • The best business credit cards for military spouses
  • Cash-back cards

Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 50 Transcript

[00:00:00] Spencer: Military spouses get the same annual fee waivers that active duty service members do.

Hey guys, gals, podcast listeners, Spencer Reese here from, and here with my co-host Jamie. Hey, Jamie.

[00:00:12] Jamie: Hey Spencer.

[00:00:13] Spencer: To borrow a military phrase, here's the bottom line up front- military spouses get the same annual fee waivers that active duty service members do. So if you're thinking about getting the Amex Platinum, that's waived, you're thinking about getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve that's waived as well, and so on and so forth. So let's get into the details of how this works.

I've been running my 100% free, email-based Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course at, for a few years now with over 7,000 graduates. One of the most frequent questions I get in the course goes something like this.

“We already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card and we love all the benefits, but we just have the one card, and both my husband, who's an active duty service member and me are on the account. So one of them is an authorized user. So when you mention that you can get a card for you and your wife, is that applying for two separate cards?”

That's right. When I mention getting a card for each spouse, and I mention that a couple places on the website and a couple places in the course, I mean that the service member opens up their own account and then the spouse also opens up his or her own account.

So all of the big credit card issuers or most of the big credit card issuers, American Express, Chase Citi, and US Bank, all waive their annual fees for a civilian spouse married to an active duty service member. If you're mil-to-mil, then you're both military, right? And you're both going to get your annual fees waived.

But what the trick is that people stumble on is, hey, I'm civilian. Why am I going to get the benefits? And that's because of the Military Lending Act. The Military Lending Act extends the same benefits that active duty military service members or reservists or guardsmen on active duty orders longer than 30 days, it extends those same benefits of the MLA to their spouses and the Military Lending Act specifically protects military service members and spouses from predatory lending practices like charging more than 36% interest per year.

[00:02:14] Jamie: That's right, Spencer. We went into detail in episode 19 about the Military Lending Act and getting your annual fees waived on Chase, Amex, Citi, and US Bank, like you mentioned. There's also a great article that I'd like to point the listeners to on the That explains how to check your eligibility for MLA benefits because we do recommend that you check your eligibility in the Department of Defense MLA database before applying for a card, especially if you're a military spouse.

Every few months we get a message from a spouse who didn't get their fees waived for some reason, and so far, 100% of the time they were not listed correctly in DEERS with their social security number, either a new marriage or something like that where something was messed up in DEERS. So especially important if you're new to active duty or newly married, or if you have a Guard or Reserve spouse on Title 10, Title 32, or any other active duty orders longer than 30 days.

And if you are Guard or Reserve and get at least 31 days of Title 10 orders, your annual fee for that period should be fully waived as well.

Let's break down the military fee waivers for military dependents, military spouses, or spouses married to an active duty service member by card issuer. In this episode today, we'll talk specifically about Chase, Amex, Citi, and US Bank.

And again, we're talking about civilian spouses here because they are protected by the Military Lending Act or the MLA, they get the same fee waivers as the active duty. So I'm going to start with Chase here.

Chase fee waivers for military spouses. Chase and Amex both waive the fees automatically.

When you apply for an account, they automatically check your social security number through the database. You don't have to send in any extra paperwork or orders. For most people when everything goes correctly.

When I open a new Chase card, I get an MLA letter explaining my benefits, and usually, that comes in the mail even before I receive the card.

So that's how automatic and how quick it is. The letter says something along the lines of, We've applied the MLA benefits to your account and that they won't charge you fees other than late fees and non-sufficient fund fees if applicable. You'll expect to get that letter, like I said, sometimes even before the card itself.

Chase started applying the MLA benefits back in September of 2017, which created some interesting situations, like one that Spencer mentioned before where his wife was getting her Chase Sapphire Reserve annual fees waived, but Spencer wasn't. So what he did in response to this, was he closed his Chase Sapphire Reserve and his wife added him as an authorized user to her card. The $75 authorized user annual fee is also waived, and that's free.

Remember, you don't need to be an authorized user on your spouse's card or account. Military members and their spouses each get their own waived card and account and get double the benefits. The only reason he did the authorized user is because he wanted to keep his card closed for a little bit so he could reapply for his own.

So next is an overview of the Amex MLA for spouses. Their system is very similar to Chase, where they automatically check the database when you apply, and you'll see a line in your terms and conditions document. After you get your card approved, that will say at the bottom of, I believe it's on page two, that you've been identified as a “covered borrower,” (covered borrower is the verbiage you're looking for) in accordance with the Military Lending Act.

And you won't have any annual fees charged if you're identified as a covered borrower.

[00:05:39] Spencer: The other two banks we'll talk about today are Citibank and US Bank.

So for Citibank, this is the most complicated one. Whereas Amex and Chase are just automatic. They check the MLA database and as long as you're in the database when they check, then you're going to get your fees waived. It's really important. I always encourage people to check the MLA database before you apply, especially if you've never applied for the card before and gotten your fees waived.

If you're not in the database, it's going to be a lot harder to get your fees waived after the fact. You have to be identified as a covered borrower at the time the credit line is open. So it's really important to check the MLA database and ensure that everything in there is correct. And for most military service members, this is not an issue, and military spouses.

I've got over 7,000 graduates of the Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course, and I think I've been contacted maybe half a dozen times, maybe five or six times by a military spouse who hasn't gotten their fees waived because for whatever reason, they didn't add their social security number to DEERS, or the database wasn't updated before they applied for the card.

Whatever reason it is, there's always been some kind of issue with the MLA database, and if they had just checked the MLA database first before applying, they could have identified the issue, fixed the problem, had the MLA database updated, and then applied for the Amex Platinum or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and then gotten their annual fees waived with no problem.

Okay, so the Citi cards, the trick with getting the Citi MLA fee waiver for either military service members or for the military spouse is you have to make sure that you have a charge to the account in the month you are charged the annual fee. So let's say you open, usually, that's charged in the month that you open the account.

So let's say that you open your account in July 2019. In July 2020, the statement that closes in July 2020, you'll be charged the annual fee. If you don't have a charge on your account, the annual fee will just post, and then you'll be responsible to pay the annual fee. If you do have a charge on your statement, let's say that you just have your Netflix or your Amazon Prime monthly goes to your Citi Premier card or your Citi Prestige card.

Then as long as there's a charge when the statement closes, the annual fee will be posted. So like on the Citi Premier Card, it's $95, and then a couple days later there'll be a credit that says like Citi Military Lending Act or MLA benefit applied, and they'll refund the annual fee.

So the trick with Citi is you have to have a charge on your statement in order to get the MLA fee waiver. Again, it's a little bit more complex than Chase or Amex, but it can be worth it for cards like the Citi Premier or the Citi Prestige.

[00:08:26] Jamie: So I've hinted a couple times Spencer about being mad at Citi, and this is exactly why. Do you have to have the statement close with a balance or it just has to be a charge at some point through the month?

[00:08:40] Spencer: I believe the statement has to close with a balance and I think if there's a transaction and then you pay it off immediately or you pay it off before the statement balance closes, the statement closes and then there's a balance, I don't think you'll get the fee waiver. So is that what has happened to you?

[00:08:57] Jamie: I think so. I think that was it because I opened the Citi Premier I think last year or maybe early this year, and actually, it was coming up on a year ago, so I have to make sure I bill something on that card in September. And I got denied, and I tried again and again.

And what I tried showing him is, “Hey, I have the Citi Prestige card, which they're not accepting new applicants on right now, but I have another card with you guys that has MLA benefits applied. How come you can't just see that and apply it to this card?”

And that's the only thing I can think of is that I paid off the full balance before the statement closed, so it wouldn't allow the system to trigger.

We'd be interested in data points from the listeners if you have some, I know there was a comment on your Citi MLA article a couple weeks ago that mentioned that one of the readers did not get a waiver and the customer service representative mentioned that you had to have a statement balance on there.

So I think that might be an important detail there to actually have that balance that is less than the 36% or whatever the math is that you mentioned a minute ago, but greater than zero when the statement closes.

[00:10:09] Spencer: Yeah. I think that just highlights that for American Express and Chase, it's so simple and so easy.

You don't have to jump through any hoops to get your annual fees waived. And they just keep happening automatically. But for Citi, you have to jump through a little bit more hoop-age. And it's a little bit trickier than Chase or American Express.

Now, for US Bank, as far as I can tell, the data points that I've received, is that as long as you're in the MLA database, it just automatically applied and there's nothing else you have to do.

Again, if you have any other data points for US Bank, reach out on Instagram or by email or Twitter, or Facebook, and let me know. But as far as I can tell US Bank, it's just like Chase and American Express, where you are in the MLA database, you open up the card account, and the annual fee is waived.

Jamie, what if you're just getting started with credit cards and travel hacking? So we're talking about like a military spouse who is just coming into the travel hacking game with no credit or maybe low.

[00:11:08] Jamie: Yeah, great question. So if you have no or low credit, we recommend a no-annual-fee card first from a bank like Navy Federal or USAA, a military-friendly bank to start building your credit history.

It might take six months or so to build a history with the credit bureaus. You can check your score for free in a lot of places. And you never have to pay for your credit report. You can go to, which I think we talked about in past episodes, and plenty of websites and banks will even give you a score in that too.

Next, after you establish that history for about six months with Navy Federal or USAA, then we'd recommend getting a Chase no-annual-fee card. Then it depends on where you want to go with your travel hacking goals. After that, whether you want cash back so you can fund your Roth IRA or you want to take the family to Hawaii or Disney World for example, and that's gonna depend on which card you start to open.

The reason we say Chase next is because you've heard us probably mention before the 5/24 rule for Chase, whereas they will not give you any new cards if you have five new cards opened in the last 24 months. And that's five cards across any bank.

So it's good, when you're getting started and once you've established history to go ahead and start getting a Chase card or two, if you're going to continue and then go to Amex when you're ready so you don't waste those first five critical spots.

But I definitely recommend, Spencer, you mentioned the course, I don't know if you remember the feedback I gave you as a beta student of yours when you started off the course, but definitely review Spencer's free course for the full strategy, and he walks you through it in detail at the, the Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course, step by step of here's a great strategy to follow.

But the one thing I want to highlight is you need to be careful if you're getting started and you have no credit or low credit, especially if it's low credit from debt or previous credit card debt. Treat your cards like a debit card. Don't ever go into credit card debt.

Remember that 80% of your credit score is payment history, credit utilization ratio, which is how much you owe versus how much you can borrow, and length of history. So if you make your payments on time, don't carry a balance from month to month, and keep your oldest accounts open, you're almost guaranteed to have an excellent credit score over 800, and you'll qualify for all the best benefits, which you need obviously a good credit score to get the top tier cards which we hope you will eventually look into like the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

One question we do get a lot is that what about my credit score with all these cards open? Both Spencer and I have and our spouses, I think if this is still true, have credit scores well above 800, above 820 usually or so. And it may fluctuate a couple points, but it's not a big deal. Nothing that's going to be an issue for you at all.

So let's get into some of the best credit cards and strategies you can use to maximize your military spouse benefits. And remember that if your partner is interested in travel hacking, you can double your benefits by each opening your own card account.

And if you're lucky enough to have referral links or offers on your card, you can refer your spouse from your account to their own new card. They'll earn the welcome bonus after meeting the minimum spend, and you'll earn the referral bonus when they're approved for the card. So this is an easy way to add hundreds of thousands of points and miles to your accounts, and one that Spencer and I both used a lot. Referrals are amazing.

Cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and we have past episodes, you can go back and get more details on the Chase Reward system. Their points are called Ultimate Reward points, like I said. There are cards like the Chase Freedom Flex and the Chase Freedom Unlimited that are both great starter cashback cards, but you can combine the Ultimate Rewards onto a better card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve once you get them.

So the Chase Freedom Flex or the Freedom Unlimited are good starter cards and you can accumulate Ultimate Rewards and then consolidate onto a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred when you get there. You might hear of the Chase trifecta, which is the Chase Freedom Unlimited plus the Chase Freedom Flex, plus the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited means you'll always earn 1.5 times points on every transaction outside of their bonus categories. With a Chase Sapphire Reserve, you'll earn three times, 3x on travel and restaurants. And with the Chase Freedom Flex, you can earn 5 times Ultimate Rewards on rotating categories like gas, groceries, pharmacies, Amazon, et cetera.

[00:15:45] Jamie: So Ultimate Reward points can be combined across the cards, like I said. So the Freedom earnings can be moved to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and then they can be transferred to travel partners or used to book a hotel. And that's where you really start getting the most bang for your buck.

With Chase, the points can also be combined within households too, so you have to call to set that up the first time, but you and your spouse can combine your points, and that's an amazing strategy as well to maximize your redemptions.

[00:16:13] Spencer: Yep. I love the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program. I think it's one of the best flexible points currencies out there. We talked about that in the episode with Rob Shaye about our favorite points currencies, and I think the Chase program is definitely one of the best ones out there, and I also like that it's motivated American Express to improve theirs and Capital One and Citi and so competition is good and competition works.

So let's talk about cards that earn American Express Membership Reward points. So we talked about the Chase trifecta. Now we'll talk about the Amex trifecta, and that's the American Express Platinum Card, or officially the Platinum Card from American Express, then there's the American Express Gold Card, and the American Express Green Card. And so that's an order from most premium to their lowest level.

They're all very complimentary cards, and I see a lot of people, especially in the military, they get an Amex Platinum card, and they put all their spending on it.

That's terrible because you're only getting one point per dollar spent for most purchases on the American Express Platinum card, except for 5x points on airfare and for hotels prepaid through the portal.

So you'd be much better off getting an American Express Platinum card, putting your travel expenses on that, but then using your Amex Gold card day to day, like at the commissary, when you go out to restaurants, when you go to bars, because that's earning 4x points on restaurants and US supermarkets.

Another thing to note there too, I've got an article on my site about commissaries. Overseas commissaries usually code as US supermarkets.

So even if you live overseas, don't forget about the Amex gold card. It's a great way to earn Amex Membership Rewards points. And you can still get 4x points on base at the commissary.

And then there's the Amex Green card, which allows you to earn 3x points on travel categories. So if you've got a hotel stay coming up and you don't have another card that fits better, or that you're trying to earn the minimum spend on, or if you're not staying like a Hilton or a Marriott that has a branded card that goes with it, the Amex Green card can be a great card to earn 3x Membership Reward points on travel.

The other thing to know is that you can upgrade the lower-tier cards. So in episode 25, we talked about the Amex Gold and the Amex Green cards, and we had a good review of those using those cards on your military travel hacking journey.

But after you've had those cards open for a year, about a year, you can upgrade them to additional Amex Platinum cards. And because you're getting the annual fee waiver as a military spouse, you can accumulate multiple Amex Platinum cards and get the benefits from holding multiple Amex Platinum cards.

For instance, Uber credits. $200 a year, and that can be for Uber or Uber Eats if you have multiple Amex Platinum cards, that's $200 per card. So all of a sudden if you've got three Amex Platinum cards, you're going to be getting $600 per year of Uber credits instead of just $200. And that can really add up and be a really great benefit to military families.

The other advantage to upgrading the card too, is then you can go back and you can open up another Amex Gold account, and you won't be eligible for the welcome bonus because welcome bonuses on Amex cards are once per lifetime, which in the real world works out to be once every seven years or so.

So you have to earn the bonus, close the account, wait seven years, and then you might be eligible for the bonus again. But that's a long time, so I recommend not waiting for that and just opening up another Amex Gold or Amex Green card. If you do upgrade those cards to a Platinum card, and then you can keep earning 4x points or 3x points on the different bonus categories.

On Amex Membership Reward points, the points are not combined between accounts. So like between your Platinum, Gold, and Green account, it all goes into one big pool of Amex Membership Reward points. However, you can't combine within your marriage or partnership or household.

So if you and your spouse both have Amex accounts, your points are separated and you can't combine them like you can with the Chase Ultimate Reward points.

With the Amex Schwab Platinum, you can cash out points and this actually becomes, can turn your Platinum, Gold, and Green card into cash-back cards if that's what you're interested in. Because if you open up an Amex Charles Schwab Platinum, you can cash out your Amex Membership Reward points at 1.10 cents each, and you could combine the cash, right?

So if both you and your spouse both had Amex Schwab Platinum cards, and you wanted to cash out your points, then obviously you can combine your cash once they're cashed out and maybe fund a Roth IRA.

So one example, Jamie, that I thought of today that I thought was interesting. Let's say you have a military spouse couple and they both open up an Amex Platinum card. They earn the 100,000-point welcome bonus. They open up an Amex Gold card, they earn a 60,000 point welcome bonus, and then they open up an Amex Charles Schwab Platinum Card, and they earn another 60,000 points welcome bonus.

Per person, they're going to earn 220,000 points, which is huge. That's massive. That's a round-trip business class ticket to most places in the world if you transfer some to a travel partner, and together they've got 440,000 total points, which is awesome.

Now, if they went and cashed out those points, that would be $4,840 of value, cash value. And that's almost, you're almost fully funded a Roth IRA account for the year right there.

It just shows that even if you can't, you don't have a travel hacking goal, and if you're not someone who wants to fly in lie-flat business class international for whatever reason and go travel the world, you can still use this hobby to put cold hard cash into your pocket. And I know for most people earning almost $5,000 just through everyday spending is a lot more value add than whatever, Scentsy MLM somebody is trying to sign them up for in a military,

And that's a great strategy we talked about a couple episodes ago with Rob Shaye of that as smart as he is and as detailed as he is and he loves all the hacks and all the tips, he cashes out a lot of his from his Schwab Platinum and just uses it for cash and investment money. So there's nothing wrong with that.

[00:23:09] Jamie: Now, if you start using it on Amazon for 0.7 cents, then we might start making fun of you.

Let's transition now to the airline credit cards. We have lots of episodes that cover these in detail, so this will be, again, a broad overview, a quick overview of these options.

As far as airlines go, one good one to consider for military spouses might be the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card. This can help you earn a Southwest Companion Pass, if you earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards miles in the same year, then you can get a companion pass for the rest of that year and the following year.

So my wife and I have used this strategy before. We opened up two cards, a personal card, and a business card for her, basically back to back. And she earned the companion pass, and then I flew for free on Southwest for 18 or 19 months or so based on the timing when we did it.

[00:23:59] Spencer: Another strategy for that too is if you have kids, both parents can earn the companion pass and then make the child the companion, and then you can fly an entire family of four for 50% off.

[00:24:11] Jamie: Southwest can be great depending on your local airport. If you live near a Southwest airport, it's a great airline to use and it's also compatible with the $200 airline incidental fee credit that we've talked about before, such as on the Amex Platinum card.

Then another airline card you might want to consider is the Delta Reserve credit card from American Express. You can earn Delta SkyMiles, and they can be valuable if you fly Delta a lot, but SkyMiles don't have the greatest redemption value reputation. But if you live near a Delta airport or somewhere where you might fly Delta a lot, or your parents live near a Delta airport, then that might make sense for you.

I live near Atlanta, so I get a little bit of value from it. I've been flying Delta a lot since we moved here to Alabama a year ago. But what I've found is the companion pass that comes with the Delta Reserve can include first class. So buy one, get one free, including first class. But they limit what flights you can use it on.

We have used it a lot. For example, my wife and three kids flew, and they used companion passes. So we bought two, got two free, and so from Atlanta to Seattle, and they even flew first class on the way home, yeah. Including my two-year-old, we're like that now we're bougie. And so it was buy one get one free, so it helps with the cost a little bit.

Delta also has some lower-tier cards, but it doesn't really matter what tier it is when you're getting the annual fee waived like you guys are, after learning all the hacks from this episode. Lower-tier Delta cards like the Platinum or the Gold. And remember, that's different from the regular Amex Platinum or Amex Gold. These are Delta Platinum, and Delta Gold, and they also have a Blue card.

Once you get these, you can then upgrade them, like we talked about in episode 25 to a premium card like the Delta Reserve, and then you get double the benefits, like double companion passes and things like that. Citi Advantage American Airlines AAdvantage, I guess is how you would say that, the Advantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, or the Citi Advantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard.

They're pretty good for American miles. And so if you live near Dallas or an airport like Lawton, Oklahoma, for example, where American kind of dominates, those might be good to consider. But American points are hard to earn because they don't have the good transfer partners like Delta or United do. So if you're interested in flying American more then those might be cards to consider for you. And the last one I want to mention is United.

So United Club Infinite card and the United Quest cards. You can look at the for specifics of each of those and their best current offers whenever you're listening to this podcast. So there's a lot of airline cards available there for you to consider.

[00:26:53] Spencer: Okay. We'll talk about some hotel credit cards you might want to consider, as a military spouse, now that you're getting your annual fees waived, and then we'll talk about some cash-back cards, and then mention a few extra cards that you might want to think about.

For hotel credit cards, I think hotel credit cards are awesome, and I know a lot of military travel hackers, whether they're spouses or active duty, they start with the cards that everybody knows about, like the Amex Platinum, Amex Gold, Chase Sapphire Reserve.

But then once you exhaust those initial cards, look at the hotel credit cards. Because if you do any kind of traveling, which if you're in the military, you probably do, the benefits can be huge and I think they outweigh a lot of the other travel rewards cards.

So some of the cards for Marriott: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant. It's an American Express card and you get automatic Marriott Gold status. Also, Chase offers two Marriott cards, the Bold and the Boundless. I think they had an alliteration thing going on with the Bonvoy B.

And the Bold and the Boundless are definitely lower-tier cards. The annual fees are a lot lower than the Bonvoy Brilliant. And the benefits, the perks are a lot lower, but occasionally the welcome bonuses on the Chase Marriott cards are great!

Recently the Chase Marriott Boundless was offering five free night certificates up to 50,000 points, and you could top them off with 15,000 Marriott Bonvoy points so that would get you up to 65,000 points per night.

So the value right there could be 250,000 Marriott points, which can go a long way depending on where you're staying and what kind of hotel you're staying at. I've got some great Marriott redemptions before at Ritz Carlton's all over the world, whether it's Geneva or in the Middle East or in the United States as well.

Then you have the Amex Hilton Honors Aspire card. I've actually got three of these and my wife has two, so that's awesome because we get five annual free night certificates from those, and the lower tier Amex Hilton cards can be upgraded to additional Hilton Aspire cards. So that's how we were able to get that many cards. Plus every time we opened up a card, we earn the welcome bonus from it.

So usually what I recommend for cards that have tiers like that is always start at the highest level of the tier. So start with the Amex Hilton Honors Aspire card, earn the welcome bonus on that after you meet the minimum spend, and then apply for the next tier down, right now it's the Amex Hilton Honors Surpass Card. And then finally there's the Amex Hilton Honors at the bottom, and then you can earn the welcome bonuses on all of them. And then once a year goes by, you can upgrade them to the full Hilton Honors Aspire card.

And for instance, right now, annually you get a $250 airline fee credit and a $250 Hilton Resort credit, which can be fantastic if you're anywhere near a Hilton resort to use towards room credit or to use towards, if you're using a free night certificate or points, you can use it at the bar or the restaurant or spa services, and that can really go a long way in making your trip that much more enjoyable.

Oh, and it comes with free diamond membership. So both my wife and I are Diamond members because we hold Hilton Honors Aspire cards, and that comes with all the perks of Diamond, like free breakfast, and free drink vouchers, sometimes we get food and beverage credit, sometimes we get the room upgraded. So that's an awesome card there.

Finally, the last two hotel cards I'll mention are the Chase World of Hyatt credit card and the IHG Rewards Club Premier card. Both of those have lower annual fees. I think right now in 2022, they're $95 a year, but they come with free annual nights, and that can go a long way.

Like Jamie and I are taking a trip pretty soon, and I had a free annual night on my Hyatt card and we were able to save over $200 and made the booking with my free annual night. And that means we don't have to use any points and I don't have to use cash, and now we have a free hotel night near the airport.

If you check out episode 18, that was our best hotel credit cards, and you can get the full review. We deep dive into all the hotel credit cards in that episode.

[00:31:19] Jamie: Second to last category is cash-back credit cards. So for Amex, they have the Amex Blue Cash Back Preferred. I don't have that card, Spencer and never have. When I go through the list, feel free to jump in.

[00:31:31] Spencer: Yeah. So the Blue Cash Preferred is awesome. It's 6% cash back on US grocery stores up to $6,000 per year. And then 1x points after that. And so that's $360 right there. If you have $500 a month of US supermarket grocery shopping, and again, if you live overseas and you shop at the commissary, most OCONUS commissaries count as US supermarkets.

So you can use your Blue Cash Preferred card overseas and get 6% cash back at the commissary.

So if you're not into the travel hacking game and you don't want to use your points for travel, again I really recommend that you do look at the cards that are marketed as travel rewards cards because there are ways to cash out the points, and there's tons of points to be made.

And you can turn those points into cash without jumping through too many hopes. Whereas the cash back cards, a lot of them actually don't earn that much cash back compared to the higher tier cards.

[00:32:37] Jamie: So the Chase cards, I have experimented with these, the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Those you can earn cash back if you want, or you can convert 'em to Ultimate Rewards, like I mentioned a minute ago.

You also have the Citi Double Cash card that you can pair with the Citi Premier card. So Spencer, talk to us a little bit about how to maximize that strategy.

[00:32:57] Spencer: Yeah, so I actually just learned about this. So one of the best credit card combinations, it's like the Chase trifecta, the Amex trifecta, for earning flexible credit card points is combining a Citi Double Cash card where you earn 2% cash back on everything, so it's 1% when you make the purchase, and then 1% when you pay off the statement, and then you can combine it with a travel rewards card, like the Citi Premier card, and you can earn 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel, hotels, and then 1x points and everything else.

But the points earned on the Citi Double Cash card can be earned as Citi ThankYou Points. And then you can transfer them to Citi travel partners like Emirates, Etihad, and Singapore Airways, and you can get those awesome lie-flat business class tickets and fly around the world in style.

[00:33:50] Jamie: That's awesome. I'll have to look into that one when I'm ready for another card.

And then the last one in this category is the American Express Blue Business Cash Card. Is there an annual fee on this card, Spencer? Because business cards are not annual fee waived with Amex anymore, right?

[00:34:03] Spencer: So the Blue Business Cash card has no annual fee, and you can earn 2% cash back on all transactions up to $50,000 per year. So that's a great way to earn $1,000 cash back if you can be eligible for Amex business cards. And again, it has no annual fee, which I thought was important to mention because Amex business cards no longer waive the annual. If the card has an annual fee, it's not automatically waived for military spouses or military service members anymore.

So before we wrap it up here, I just want to mention a couple more cards. I talked a little bit about the Citi Premier card and how you can pair it with the Citi Double Cash card.

Like we talked about earlier the Citi Premier Card is MLA fee waived for military spouses and for military service members. You just have to jump through a few more hoops. But if you've exhausted all the other cards out there, like you've made your way through all the Amex cards and all the Chase cards, then have a look at the Citi Premier. It can earn some good points. Like we talked about, if you pair it with the Citi Double Cash card, then you can make sure you're always earning 2x points on every purchase. And those are Citi ThankYou Points. So they're pretty flexible. You can cash them out or you can transfer them to travel partners.

And if you're saving for a redemption, like I just booked to Singapore Airways flight from Auckland to Copenhagen next year, 616,000 points for four of us, lie-flat business class, the whole way, and $120 US dollars in cash. So that was an awesome redemption, but it did take a lot of points. I had to build up a lot of points, I had to do a lot of research and a lot of hunting around to find those tickets. Yeah, it did take some time.

Finally, another popular card I'll mention, it's not annual fee waived, so to make sure that's crystal clear, it's not annual fee waived for military or military spouses, but the Capital One Venture X Rewards card.

It has a great welcome bonus and good recurring benefits. It has a $300 travel credit, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. You're earning 2x miles on all purchases, and it has tons of transfer partners, which just improved a lot recently.

Capital One is really stepping up their game and getting into the travel credit cards reward space with a vengeance. So check out the Capital One Venture X Rewards credit card. Again, not annual fee waived, but it has been really popular on my site.

Finally, business cards. So if you have a side hustle, if you have a business, if you ever make any money outside of a W-2, you have a business. You're a sole proprietor, so you are eligible for business credit cards.

A lot of people think, “Oh I'm not eligible for business credit cards.” No. Trust me.

If you make any money outside of normal W-2 employment income, then you have a business. You're a sole proprietor, and you should be eligible for business credit cards. So for most of the cards, Chase and Amex, the fees are not waived for military or military spouses.

But a lot of the cards have no annual fees, so you don't have to worry about it.

For instance, the Amex Blue Business Plus card, you can earn 2x Membership Reward points up to $50,000 per year. So that's 100,000 Amex points that you could earn per year on the first $50,000 of your spending.

And then there's the Chase Ink Business Unlimited credit card, the Ink Business Preferred, Ink Business Cash. All of those have really high welcome bonuses, so you can earn a lot of Chase Ultimate Reward points just from the welcome bonuses.

One question we get a lot, Jamie, is do business cards count against your 4 out of 24 (5/24) Chase card rule? The 5/24 rule, you might hear it called.

And the answer to that question is no, they don't count against it. However, if you're over 5 out of 24, you can't apply for a Chase business card.

So you have to be under 5/24. You can't have opened more than 5 credit cards in the last 24 months in order to be eligible for a Chase business card.

But if you open up a Chase business card, it's not going to count against your 5 out of 24.

So if you're just early in this game and you're starting out, it might be a value add to have a look at Chase Business credit cards.

[00:38:33] Jamie: All right, a whirlwind episode there, but a great episode about military travel hacking, and so I want to share, Spencer, in closing my three main takeaways from today.

The first one I want to leave the listeners with is that military spouses can get their own card account, your own card account. With the annual fees waived, just like the active duty service member. You don't have to be an authorized user. You get your own card with your own annual fee waived.

Number two, before you apply, confirm that you'll get your annual fee waived with the banks we've mentioned today by checking the DOD MLA database. And to find out more details on how to do that, check out That stands for Military Lending Act to see how to do it.

And third, if you're just getting started with your credit card, Spencer's course has a great strategy, but it goes something like this. Start with opening a no-annual-fee card from a military-friendly bank like USAA or Navy Federal, and then move to a Chase Freedom or Citi Double Cash kind of card, and then move on to the travel awards cards like the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and really start advancing your travel hacking and earning strategies.

And if you already have a good score, you don't have to wait! Get after those top travel reward cards like the Amex Platinum or the Chase Sapphire Reserve now.

And as a recap, I want to share a couple episodes that we talked about today that would be helpful to listen to if you haven't yet. In episode 6 and episode 7 we talked about military travel hacking's most frequently asked questions, and in number 8 we talked about what was in our wallets, what cards we use and have and carry.

Episode 10, we talked about the Amex Platinum military benefits in detail. We mentioned already episode 18, best hotel credit cards. Episode 19, we talked about how to get annual fee waivers, which will be a little bit of a review from today. Episode 20, deciding which to use when you book, whether to use cash, points, or a free night certificate.

In episode 21, we talked about the Chase Sapphire Preferred versus Chase Sapphire Reserve, and we mentioned episode 25, all the details of upgrading Amex and Chase cards. Actually, we got a really cool compliment from a fellow travel hacking enthusiast that they've never heard anyone detail how to upgrade cards like that episode. So we thought that was really nice feedback. Thank you.

Episode 26, we talk about referral links. And lastly, episode 35, the Amex Green and the Amex Gold cards.

Thank you all for joining us today. We're very excited to pass over 40,000 downloads and that we recently published our 50th episode. So if you didn't hear that one, go back and listen to that one as well.

Thank you all for coming on this journey with us. It really means a lot to us. And if you want to learn more about military spouse credit cards, one final reminder, check out Spencer's Ultimate Military Credit Card Course at please reach out to us on Facebook, Instagram @militarymoneymanual or email at with any questions, feedback, or topic suggestions. We appreciate you guys, and we'll catch you on the next episode of the Military Money Manual podcast.

Leave a Comment

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