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The Military Lending Act protects active duty military servicemembers and their spouses from certain lending practices.
Also known as the MLA, this law provides many benefits for active duty troops and their spouses including annual fee waivers on the best military credit cards from American Express and Chase.
What is the Military Lending Act?
The Military Lending Act was enacted in 2006 and is implemented by the Department of Defense. It protects active duty servicemembers, their spouses, and their dependents from certain lending practices, such as charging more than 36% annual interest on loans.
These individuals are identified as “covered borrowers” of the MLA. National Guard and Reservists called to active duty orders of 30 days or more are also eligible for MLA benefits.
For covered transactions, such as consumer credit like payday loans and credit cards, the total annualized rate charged to a covered borrower may not exceed 36 percent. This is calculated as the Military Annual Percentage Rate or MAPR.
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The annual fee waiver interpretation of the MLA opens up a world of travel hacking opportunities for military servicemembers and their spouses. You can open premium travel rewards cards, earning the welcome bonuses, reaping the annual benefits, and paying no annual fees.
Credit card companies were given until October 2017 to comply with the MLA rules. That is when Chase credit cards began waiving annual fees on their personal credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card
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- $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
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- No foreign transaction fees
- Learn more in the Chase Sapphire Reserve review
What is Military Annual Percentage Rate MAPR?
Military Annual Percentage Rate or MAPR must be calculated on any covered credit product offered to a covered borrower. Any credit insurance premium or fee must be added to the MAPR.
The MAPR must not exceed 36 percent if offered to a covered borrower as determined by the credit issuer checking the MLA database.
If you are offered a loan or take out a loan that exceeds the 36 percent interest rate cap, talk to your Judge Advocate General's (JAG) or legal office on your base for help.
What types of loans are covered under MLA?
In general, any consumer credit product offered to covered borrowers including:
- Payday loans, deposit advance products, tax refund anticipation loans, vehicle title loans
- Overdraft lines of credit
- Installment loans (except vehicle or personal property loans where the vehicle or personal property secures the loan)
- Certain student loans
- Credit card accounts opened after October 3, 2017
Does MLA Apply to Mortgages and Vehicles?
The Military Lending Act does not apply to residential mortgage transactions, regardless of whether the covered borrower lives in the home.
The MLA also does not apply to the financing of vehicles purchases if the loan is secured by the vehicle.
MLA does not apply to credit that is used primarily for business, commercial, or agricultural purposes. That is why no credit card company waives annual fees for their business credit cards.
Credit products that are subject to MLA protections include:
- Credit cards;
- Deposit advance products;
- Overdraft lines of credit (but not traditional overdraft services);  and
- Certain installment loans (but not installment loans expressly intended to finance the purchase of a vehicle or personal property when the credit is secured by the vehicle or personal property being purchased).
What Agencies Enforce MLA?
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are all jointly responsible for enforcing the Military Lending Act.
A creditor cannot require that you submit to mandatory arbitration or give up rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act or Military Lending Act.
What Does MLA Stand For?
In the context of the military, MLA stands for “Military Lending Act”
Check the Military Lending Act Database
The MLA database is how banks, credit unions, credit card companies, and lenders verify that you are a covered borrower and therefore eligible for MLA benefits. The MLA database is maintained by the Defense Manpower Data Center or DMDC.
You can access the Military Lending Act website at https://mla.dmdc.osd.mil/mla/ to verify that you are a covered borrower. If you are a covered borrower, then you can take my 100% free course The Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course.
I have taught 10,000 graduates since 2018 how to maximize their military credit card benefits. You can also check out the optimal order in which to open credit cards in my best credit cards for military article.
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- 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
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Military Lending Act FAQ
Banks, credit card companies, and other lenders use the MLA database to identify if you are a covered borrower of the Military Lending Act. They will need your last name, Social Security Number, and date of birth to check the MLA database.
The Department of Defense is responsible for implementing the Military Lending Act but several other agencies are responsible for enforcement of the MLA. These agencies include CFPB, FDIC, NCUA, and FTC.
MLA stands for “Military Lending Act” The MLA is a 2006 law that protects active duty servicemembers, their spouses, and their dependents from certain lending practices.