Military Academy MLA Benefits Explained | Cadets + Midshipmen

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Military academy cadets and midshipman are eligible to have Military Lending Act or MLA benefits applied to their credit card accounts. This is a recent change to American Express and Chase MLA rules based on a Federal Register notice of database update published in February 2022.

I have received multiple datapoints confirming that West Point, Air Force Academy, Annapolis Naval Academy, and Coast Guard Academy cadets and midshipmen are getting their annual fees waived on cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card.

You should check the MLA database to confirm you are eligible for the benefits as a “covered borrower.” Always check the MLA database before applying for a credit card if you are a military cadet or midshipmen to confirm you are correctly listed as eligible for MLA benefits. If you are not listed in the MLA benefits, correct the issue with your personnel office before applying for the card.

American Express, Chase, Citi, and US Bank interpret the MLA laws the same for all covered borrowers. Academy cadets and midshipmen receive the same military annual fee waiver benefits as active duty military personnel and military spouses.

I recommend starting with my Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course, which will walk you through step by step on how to maximize your military credit card benefits. You can earn free flights, free hotel and resort stays, and pay no annual fees. We have had over 9,000 graduates of the course since 2018.

When your ready to open up credit cards, you can start with my optimal order of cards to open in the best credit cards for military article. Or check out the best credit cards for military academy cadets and midshipmen.

You can't go wrong with The Platinum Card® from American Express or Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card. Both cards waive the annual fee for active duty military and military spouses.

Military SCRA MLA AMEX Platinum
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express – learn how to apply
  • Annual fee of $695 waived for US military personnel and spouses
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on 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
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts(R) or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credits: Up to $20 in monthly statement credits when you use your Platinum card to pay for: Peacock, Audible, Sirius, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, and the New York Times. Enrollment Required.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on Uber Eats and rides
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at 1 qualifying airline
  • $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit, can be used for gift cards, enrollment required
  • 40 Centurion Lounges and 1200+ Priority Pass airport lounge access for free
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required.
  • $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. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Heavy metal card that looks and feels really cool. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card(R), Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express – learn how to apply
  • Read my full review of the Amex Platinum card for military, terms apply
Chase Sapphire Reserve No Annual Fee for Military

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 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
  • $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 Chase Ultimate Rewards® 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 the Chase travel portal 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
  • Learn more in the Chase Sapphire Reserve review

Cadets and midshipmen at all the military academies are eligible for MLA benefits now:

  • United States Military Academy (USMA) in West Point, New York
  • United States Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland
  • United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) in New London, Connecticut
  • United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, New York
  • United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Military Lending Act for Academy Cadets and Midshipmen

military service academy cadets and midshipmen military lending act

The Military Lending Act is a federal law that provides certain consumer credit protections to members of the armed forces and their dependents. These members and dependents are labeled as “covered borrowers.”

The MLA was enacted by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in Fiscal Year 2013. The law limits the amount of interest that can be charged to covered borrowers to 36% per year.

The practical implications of the law is that, if you are correctly listed in the MLA database as as covered borrower, then your annual fees will be waived on certain credit cards.

These cards include all personal cards from American Express, Chase, Citi, and US Bank. Note that you must be in the MLA database and listed as covered borrower at the time of your application for a line of credit or you will not get your annual fees waived. Here is a list of the best credit cards for military servicemembers and military spouses.

Military Academy MLA Update 2023

This MLA update is a recent change: it was published in the Federal Register Dec 27, 2021 and implemented in 2022.

This update adds cadets and midshipmen attending Military Service Academies of the Armed Forces, who are covered borrowers under the MLA, to the population of covered borrowers identified in the MLA database, thereby correcting an error in the database's original development.

Document Number 2021-28034
American Express Gold Card military AMEX Gold Card Military No annual fee SCRA $250 annual fee waived
  • Learn how to apply for the American Express® Gold Card
  • $250 Annual Fee waived for US military and spouses
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Reward® Points after spending $4,000 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, Molk 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

Bottom Line

Now confirmed by multiple data points, this MLA update is real. Military academy cadets and midshipmen can open premium travel rewards and cash back credit cards with no annual fees.

I recommend starting with my list of the best credit cards for military and working through that list. You can sign up for my Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course. I've trained over 10,000 military and military spouse graduates how to maximize their military credit card benefits and earn free airfare, hotels, and lots of other goodies.

The big catch here if being able to meet the minimum spend requirements in the allotted time. If your natural spending is lower than the minimum spend requirement, then wait until you commission to open up these premium cards.

A good time to potentially open the credit cards would be right before or after commissioning. The cards could provide travel rewards points to travel the world before reporting to active duty. You could also use the expenses of your first PCS to meet the minimum spending on the card.

Before you go, check out the best credit cards for cadets and midshipman.

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