Reader Email: ROTC Cadet AMEX Platinum, O3E FI, Trad Guard CZTE

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

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Here are a couple of emails I received from readers on the site that I thought were worth sharing:

Hi Spencer, I just read your credit card guide and was amazed at the benefits the Amex platinum card gives. I’m in AFROTC right now. How long did it take you after commissioning before you got approved for the Amex platinum? I will graduate with no debt. I don’t know my credit score, but it can’t be bad.

Very Respectfully,

Cadet H

Hey Cadet

Good choice with AFROTC. I did the same from 2006-2010.

I recommend checking your credit score on and You usually need above 720 to get approved for the AMEX Plat.

I would wait until you get your first active duty paycheck before getting an Platinum card.

Entering active duty is a stressful and exciting time. Meeting the minimum spend to get the welcome bonus can be overwhelming as a young LT.

Probably the best time to get the card is as you finish your initial AFSC training and before you PCS to your first duty station. If you put all your PCS costs on the card you should meet the spend no problem.

Good luck! Hope to see you on active duty one day.

Thank you sir! Your website has been a lot of help and I’ve shared it with the other cadets.

Prior Enlisted Officer Financial Independence

I just had a quick question for you. I am also an active duty military officer (03E) with 12 years of service and am looking for independence by the age of 40. I am currently 30.  My question is this: I currently invest 20% of my base pay into TSP and I try and max out my USAA Roth however with 2 small kids that’s kind of hard. I was wondering how much you recommend putting into Roth’s before you start venturing out? I was also wondering how much you recommend having in a savings account? I currently have no revolving debt and I own 1 house that i rent out. I also do the chase trifecta for points ( sapphire reserve, freedom unlimited and freedom flex) Thanks.

Hey reader:

Are you planning on doing 20? Did you opt into the BRS? What is the expense ratio on your USAA Roth IRA?

I max out my Roth TSP and Roth IRAs (1 for me, 1 for the wife) and recommend every military servicemember do the same, even if you're looking for FI by age 20.

The tax advantages are too big to pass up. After you've maxed out both of these, look at opening a low cost taxable brokerage account, such as at Vanguard (who I use), Fidelity, or Schwab.

For savings accounts: whatever you're comfortable with. I keep $10k in an emergency fund (invested in SDP at the moment), $5k in another “float” account, and then I have about 10 savings/checking accounts that I route money into every paycheck for various expenses (gas, auto insurance, my money, my wife's money, etc.).

Whatever works for you. I try to have 1-3 months expenses on hand in case Congress doesn't pay us plus 2 round-trip tickets to see my wife's or my family, in case of family emergencies. This let's me sleep easy at night.

Nice job on the debt, house, and Chase cards. Take a look at AMEX too if you're looking to maximize.

Thanks for the response. I am planning on doing 20 as I’m in a flight contract that’s 8 so I’ll be at 20 once I’m done. I am currently in the high 3 as I was told that Is a smarter option for those in my situation (prior enlisted). . I honestly don’t know enough about the BRS to commit and I like the idea of the high 3. Thanks for sharing your info. I kind of do the same as far as emergency funds etc. i use my chase cards for all bills and then pay it off. I also have the platinum. Don’t use it all that often. Once the command permits I am planning on using my UR points for a trip. ( just read one of your articles on using points). Still kind of confused on the best way to maximize my points 300k.

Do you happen to have kids ? What do you think about 529 plans ? Thanks Spencer.

High-3 is only better than BRS if you make it to 20. And then only marginally so. If there's any chance of getting out early, give yourself the flexibility of BRS.

Best way to maximize your points is transferring to airline partners. You can book expensive business/first class tickets that would normally cost thousands of dollars for only 50-100k in points, depending on the airline and route.

I created a 5 day, 100% free course specifically to help military servicemembers maximize their credit card benefits. It's available here.

No kids, not too familiar with 529 plans. I just saw an article about them here.

Deployed Traditional Guard CZTE

Hi Spencer,

Doug Nordman recommended I ask you this question. How will making traditional TSP contributions from CZTE pay will appear on my W-2? I believe it will show up under Box 14 with code E. Is that correct?

I'm a traditional guard member currently deployed. Our LES statements are different – we pay taxes for September, then get reimbursed the taxes on the first October LES. The October LES will also have taxes taken out. They'll be reimbursed in November, and it repeates.

We're trying to get ahead of how it will appear on the W-2, because we'll likely have to go to finance to have them straighten it all out.

Thanks in advance for your help!

So you're saying DFAS will withhold December taxes meaning you will need a W-2 that correctly shows Dec should be tax free and the Traditional TSP contributions should be treated as tax free? And you'll get the money back on your tax return?

Your information is correct.

Box 14 shows miscellaneous important figures.  The most frequently seen code on military W-2s is code E. Code E represents traditional TSP contributions made with income earned in combat zone tax exclusion areas.

Any reason you're doing Traditional versus Roth with CZTE?

Thanks for the message, stay safe on the deployment.

I like hearing from you all and enjoy helping you solve your military financial problems and achieving your military financial goals.

If you want to send me an email, please use my contact page! Or use my mmm at email. I try to personally respond to every reader who writes me.

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