Serving in the armed forces isn’t easy. Whether it’s early-morning PT, after-work formations, or never-ending deployments, being a service member means you’re always on call. It’s a lot to sacrifice — but fortunately for those who’ve chosen to join, you’re also entitled to quite a few benefits.
Yes, you probably already know about those discounted Disney tickets, and you hopefully flash your ID at the Home Depot to get your 10% off. You may have even read our article about American Express cards being the best for military members. But did you know that Chase is also an excellent option?
With a slew (and ever-increasing number) of high-end credit cards, service members can gain some pretty sweet perks while enjoying waived annual fees. Do you know what this means? Free stuff. What kind of free stuff? Hundreds of dollars in travel credits (including TSA PreCheck), free hotel nights, elite status, airline lounge memberships, and more.
Let’s take a look.
Which Credit Cards Waive Annual Fees for Military Members?
Fortunately for service members, most large banks will waive the annual fee for their credit cards. Not all of them will waive those fees for cards you acquired prior to joining, but they will for cards you open while on active duty.
American Express, Chase, Citi, and Capital One will all waive the annual fees for credit cards if you’re on active duty.
Unfortunately for veterans and reservists, these benefits only apply to those who are actively serving. This means that when your enlistment or commission ends, these banks will begin charging you for your cards, so keep that in mind when opening your accounts.
Chase and Citi will both waive fees for all consumer cards, while Amex goes a step further and includes small business cards among its waivers. While that would be nice for Chase cards, there are still quite a few benefits for military members on Chase’s consumer credit cards and the perks won’t cost you a dime.
How Many Chase Credit Cards Can You Have?
Unlike some other banks, Chase doesn’t have a hard limit on how many credit cards you can hold — some of us at Upgraded Points even have 7 Chase cards! This is good news for all you future credit-card aficionados since you’ll be able to get and hold quite a few cards.
How To Get a Chase Credit Card
Most of Chase’s premium credit cards also require an excellent credit score and an established credit history. Generally speaking, you’ll want to have a credit score of at least 720, as well as history on your credit report.
What does this mean? Well, a lot of younger folks will check their credit score and see that they’ve got a high score, say somewhere in the mid 700s. But if their credit score is a result of not having any credit at all, that 700+ isn’t going to get you anywhere. You’ve got to establish history, whether through a starter credit card, auto loan, or being added as an authorized user to someone else’s card before your high credit score has any meaning behind it.
Even without a perfect score or a lot of history, you have options. Chase’s mid-tier cards have less stringent requirements, which means you can still see some benefits even if you’re not yet qualified for the most premium credit cards.
Just because Chase hasn’t established a specific limit on how many cards you can have doesn’t mean you’ll be able to have unlimited cards. Anecdotally, Chase will limit your cards based on your total credit line. This means that it will extend a certain amount of credit to you, and once you’ve hit that limit it will no longer approve credit cards.
Hot Tip: Chase has instituted some very specific once-per-lifetime rules on some of its cards, including the Chase Sapphire line. Be sure to read the fine print to find out if you’re eligible for a sign-up bonus when you apply.
If you’ve been denied for a card due to maxing out your total credit line, it’s possible to get approved by calling the reconsideration line at 888-270-2127 and asking them to move existing credit to your new card. This isn’t guaranteed but can work out in your favor and get you approved.
Beware, however, that Chase also uses the 5/24 rule to weed out applicants who’ve acquired too many credit cards too recently.
What Is the Chase 5/24 Rule?
The bane of many an award traveler’s existence, the Chase 5/24 rule is this: Chase will not allow you to open a new credit card if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards within the last 24 months. This applies across a broad spectrum of cards, not just Chase, and includes pesky things like store cards and being added as an authorized user to someone else’s credit card (though that can be clarified via the reconsideration line).
So if you’re new to the points and miles community and would like to get a Chase credit card, be aware that Chase will count and track how many cards you’ve opened in the last 2 years. There is no getting around this.
When Should You Get Each Chase Credit Card?
Every bank does something different when it comes to acquiring credit cards. These rules are in response to credit card churning, which is the practice of opening credit cards for their sign-up bonuses then closing them once you’ve earned the welcome offer. This practice is highly discouraged by banks — hence Chase’s 5/24 rule, which is among one of the stricter rules.
This is something really important to consider, especially if you’ve decided you really want to start investing in points and miles. The order in which you open your credit cards is important. If your credit is just OK and you won’t qualify for any premium cards just yet but you want them later, you’ll need to make sure you leave room for them based on 5/24.
Let’s look at this from 2 different scenarios:
Scenario 1: You Already Have Great Credit
In scenario 1, you’ve got established credit and an excellent credit score. You’re really interested in having the best perks possible and aren’t afraid of high annual fees if or when you choose to leave the military (though depending on how long you stay in, you could be getting thousands of dollars worth of free credits in the meantime).
In this case, you’d probably want to aim for Chase’s premium credit cards immediately in order to receive as many benefits as possible for as long as possible. Once you’ve got those cards, you can pick what you’d like from among the mid-tier cards left available based on 5/24. You’ll do all this before attempting to acquire any other card from any other bank.
Scenario 2: You Have Good Credit But Want To Improve
In scenario 2, you have good credit but probably won’t qualify for Chase’s more expensive cards. In this case, you’ll get 1, maybe 2, of Chase’s mid-tier credit cards. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a good option as a starter card (though again, be excruciatingly aware of the once-per-lifetime language, especially with the Sapphire cards). Otherwise, one of the co-branded hotel or airline cards is a decent option, especially if you’re looking to use those free hotel certificates.
Once you’ve got a few months of charges and on-time payments under your belt, you’ll want to consider getting one of the premium Chase cards. The idea here is to build your credit and your goodwill with Chase simultaneously. You will — again — not get any other credit cards from other banks in the meantime. Chase is super strict about 5/24 and 2 entire years is a long time to wait before getting a new Chase credit card.
Whether you’ve got great or good credit, once you’ve gotten all the Chase cards you’d like to have, you can go hog-wild picking up all the other travel cards you desire — as long as you’re abiding by the other banks’ rules.
Bottom Line: How and when you apply for a Chase credit card matters. Do your research on the situation for the best chances of success.
The Best Chase Credit Cards for Military: Premium Cards
Like we’ve already said, Chase is going to waive all annual fees for its consumer credit cards as long as you’re an active-duty service member. This means that it’s premium cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, are going to cost you nothing out of pocket while still giving you hundreds of dollars in perks each year.
These cards are going to give you the most bang for your (non-existent) buck or are going to be the most worthy slots in your 5/24 wallet.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
One of the kings of the travel credit card world, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s $550 annual fee is waived for military members.
So what comes with that hefty annual fee? Tons! The card is chock-full of high-end benefits to up your travel game.
Additional Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Benefits
So to recap here, you’ll pay $0. In return, you’ll get $300 in travel credit, Priority Pass airport lounge access, free food delivery, bonus points on purchases, and no foreign transaction fees so that when you swipe your card at the Green Beans downrange, it won’t cost you anything extra.
United Club℠ Infinite Card
Are you a United flyer? If not, become one, because this credit card is going to give you major perks when flying with United — and you won’t even have to be in uniform.
The best thing about the United Club Infinite card is that it’s going to give you a United Club membership, which means whenever you fly you’ll be able to enter the United Club lounge. The card normally costs $525 per year, but that fee will be waived for service members.
Additional United Club Infinite Card Benefits
- United Club membership that allows you to bring in 2 companions
- 2 free checked bags for you and a companion
- Gives you eligibility for space-available complimentary upgrades on award flights
- Platinum elite status with IHG.
- Complimentary upgrades on awards for companions
- 10,000 miles for signing up with CLEAR before June 30, 2022
- $75 in statement credits for purchases at IHG from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022.
In case you’re wondering why exactly you should want an airport lounge membership when you’ve already got the USO, just know that United Club lounges tend to offer better food — and they include alcohol.
The free checked bags are also nice. Although many airlines will give you free checked luggage even if you aren’t traveling on orders, it’s always a possibility that they won’t, and they definitely don’t extend that courtesy to a companion. This guarantees the baggage for the both of you will be checked for free.
United Quest℠ Card
United’s newest credit card, the United Quest card, offers some pretty decent perks for its $250 annual fee — which, of course, will be waived for you. These include things like an annual United credit usable for airfare, inflight purchases, and more.
Additional United Quest Card Benefits
- 2 free checked bags for you and a companion
- A TSA PreCheck/Nexus/Global Entry credit
- Travel and purchase protection
- 25% back on United inflight purchases (includes Wi-Fi, food, and beverages)
- Eligibility for space-available complimentary upgrades on award flights
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Southwest is already an extremely generous airline, with 2 free checked bags for everyone and no fees for seat selection (active-duty military passengers board between groups A and B). That said, its most premium credit card, the Southwest Priority Card, is going to give you free travel credit and free reward points each year on what would otherwise be a $150 annual fee card.
Additional Southwest Priority Card Benefits
- 4 upgraded boardings per year, with reimbursement for A1-15 paid boarding when purchased at the counter
- Earn 1,500 tier qualifying point (TQPs) towards elite status for every $10,000 in spending, up to $100,000 per year
- 25% back on inflight purchases, including food and Wi-Fi
Hot Tip: Don’t forget to check out the additional hotel and flight discounts you may be eligible for as a member of the military.
The Best Chase Credit Cards for Military: Mid-Tier Cards
Although Chase only has a few really high-end credit cards, it excels at mid-tier cards. These don’t feature the same premium benefits as the other Chase cards but still punch way above their weight class when it comes to perks. This includes things like free hotel nights, elite status, and flight discounts.
These cards may also be a better option for you if you’re younger and don’t have a ton of credit history or if you otherwise don’t have the excellent credit required for Chase’s more expensive cards.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The younger brother of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is an excellent starter card for those just entering the points and miles world. It doesn’t feature tons of benefits, but it does earn Ultimate Rewards that can be used for valuable airline and hotel redemptions.
Additional Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Benefits
Hot Tip: You can quickly earn lots of Ultimate Rewards points once you have been approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card — check out our guide to how to get maximum value out of those points.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Another Southwest card, the Southwest Premier card really only has 1 main perk: a 6,000 point bonus on your cardmember anniversary. We value Southwest points at 1.4 cents each, making this bonus worth $84 per year. You’ll earn 2x points per dollar on all Southwest purchases, and all points earned count towards Southwest’s coveted Companion Pass.
British Airways Visa Signature® Card
Unlike other airline credit cards, the British Airways Visa card doesn’t offer free checked bags or priority boarding. Instead, it offers unique perks that help offset the actual cost of any flights you’ll be taking.
Additional British Airways Visa Card Benefits
- Receive an award ticket statement credit for taxes and fees on award tickets to London — $100 for economy and premium economy or $200 for business and first class — up to 3x per year
- No foreign transaction fees
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
While American Express has most of Marriott Bonvoy’s credit cards (including its most premium option), Chase maintains the Marriott Boundless card for its members, which includes elite status and an annual free hotel night, which means you can hundreds of dollars in benefits from this single card.
The World of Hyatt Credit Card
Similar to the Marriott Boundless card, the World of Hyatt card gives its holders elite status and a free hotel night each year:
Additional World of Hyatt Card Benefits
- No foreign transaction fees
IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
The IHG Premier card offers the most generous hotel elite status you’re going to find with a Chase card by giving its cardholders automatic IHG One Rewards Platinum Elite status. While this status isn’t as bountiful as others, it’s still nice to have and can score you some excellent upgrades at IHG hotels.
Additional IHG Premier Card Benefits
Hot Tip: If you’re earning Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt, or IHG One Rewards points (or even all 3!), we have plenty of inspirational guides for redeeming your points at Marriott, Hyatt, and IHG properties!
Whether you’re a big traveler or not, there’s no reason not to get at least a few of these Chase cards if you’re a service member. From the World of Hyatt card to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, military members can all find something from which to benefit.
With waived annual fees for active-duty folks, you can score yourself hundreds of dollars in travel credits, elite status, airline lounge memberships, and more — and it won’t cost you a thing.