Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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Serving on active duty in the U.S. military comes with a lot of sacrifices, including potential financial challenges. But there are ways to save money and create value for your military household with benefits such as those offered to military members by the American Express® Gold Card.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) established in 2003, and the Military Lending Act (MLA) established in 2006, have helped make financial transactions less costly for service members. These relief acts help reduce financial burdens and provide consumer credit protection for qualifying military members who have secured credit prior to, or during, military service.
Some credit card issuers not only adhere to the requirements of these acts but expand the benefits to include eliminating fees on select credit cards.
Because American Express is one of those card issuers, we’re looking at military benefits for the popular Amex Gold card today. We’ll share how the card earns rewards, some of your options at redemption time, and benefits that could be helpful for active-duty military members.
The SCRA applies to credit established prior to active duty and provides a cap of a 6% interest rate, including fees, on many financial obligations incurred prior to military service.
The MLA applies to credit established during military service and limits interest to 36% Military Annual Percentage Rate (MAPR) on certain loans and credit products. While 36% may seem high, the MLA applies to a variety of loans including payday loans, which are known to have high interest rates. The 36% includes all fees, credit insurance premiums, and finance charges.
Credit card issuer American Express, while adhering closely to the requirements of these acts, goes beyond the mandatory fundamentals as eligible active military members won’t be charged the annual fee, and other fees, on select credit card products.
The absence of annual fees can offer significant savings for a military member while providing a long list of valuable benefits.
Let’s look at a snapshot of the Amex Gold card and the benefits you’ll realize as an active-military cardholder. No doubt, the Amex Gold is one of the best credit cards for military members.
This is the best card for food lovers who dine out at restaurants (worldwide), order take-out and want big rewards at U.S. supermarkets!
The American Express® Gold Card is a game-changer.
With this card, you can earn 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants and you’ll also earn 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1x.
There isn’t another card on the market that offers a 1-2 punch like this. Of course, there are several other benefits of the Gold Card as well, including extra monthly dining rewards and more.
With a generous welcome bonus that jumpstarts your earnings and ongoing bonus earnings for everyday purchases, the Amex Gold card makes it easy to earn a lot of rewards quickly. You’ll also receive statement credits for qualifying dining purchases and Uber Cash each month.
The card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees, making it a great card to have in your wallet when traveling outside of the U.S. (rates & fees).
Now that you have a snapshot of the key benefits of the Amex Gold card, let’s look closer at the potential value each benefit could provide an active military household. We’ll include an estimated value, when possible, of what the benefit might provide to a military member’s household.
Welcome offers can change, so be sure to check for current offers in the table above prior to applying.
The value of the welcome bonus you receive can vary depending on how you redeem your rewards. However, you can count on a value of 1 cent per Membership Rewards point when redeeming for flights via Amex Travel. A 60,000-point welcome bonus, for example, would translate into $600 worth of eligible travel when redeemed via Amex Travel. A 90,000-point welcome bonus offers $900 in travel.
You can also transfer Membership Rewards points to Amex travel partners to redeem for free hotel nights and award flight tickets. Transferring points can result in potentially better value for your rewards points.
American Express won’t charge the annual fee for eligible active-duty military members, but also for their spouse, children, and qualifying dependents. We’ll talk more about eligibility shortly, but those family members and dependents who may also qualify.
With the Amex Gold card, you’ll receive 4x Membership Rewards points on everyday purchases such as U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases each calendar year, then 1x), including commissaries coding as grocery stores. In addition, dining purchases worldwide, including take-out and delivery, also receive 4x Membership Rewards points.
If you were to spend $25,000 each year in these bonus categories, you would earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points worth approximately $1,000 when redeemed via Amex Travel and even more potential value when transferring to hotel and airline partners.
On flights purchased directly from the airline or via Amex Travel, you’ll receive 3x bonus earnings and 2x earnings for other qualifying travel via Amex Travel. For example, just $3,000 worth of qualifying flights would earn 9,000 Membership Rewards points.
While it’s difficult to put a defined value on the ability to transfer Membership Rewards points to travel partners, this redemption option is potentially the most valuable. While redeeming Membership Rewards via Amex Travel for 1 cent in value is an option, transferring points to hotel and airline partners for free hotel nights or award flight tickets could yield much greater results.
Add your Amex Gold card to your Uber account and receive $10 each month in Uber Cash deposited into your account, up to $120 each calendar year. Uber Cash can be used for Uber rides and Uber Eats in the U.S.
Each month, you could receive statement credits of up to $10, for a maximum of up to $120 in statement credits each year, for qualifying dining purchases. Eligible dining redemptions include Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Wine.com, Goldbelly, Milk Bar, and participating Shake Shack locations.
Book a prepaid stay of 2 nights or more with The Hotel Collection via Amex Travel and receive hotel benefits that include daily breakfast for 2, an upgraded room (when available), early check-in/late checkout (when available), and a $100 on-site amenity.
Reserve and pay for your entire car rental with your card, decline the agency’s CDW/LDW coverage, and receive secondary coverage for damage and theft. Secondary means that any other applicable insurance must be accessed first. You’ll also have access to purchase Premium Protection which is primary for a low price ($12.95 to $24.95) that covers the entire rental period.
If you were to rent a vehicle for just 1 week each year, decline a CDW/LDW coverage costing $20 per day and purchase Premium Protection instead, you could have primary coverage and save approximately $100 on that rental. Terms and conditions apply.
Purchase an eligible item with your card and receive purchase protection for up to 120 days of coverage for damage or theft from the date of purchase. An extended warranty is provided for items purchased with your card that have manufacturer warranties of 5 years or less. The warranty will be extended for up to 2 additional years.
Amex Offers can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Log in to your online card account and browse through up to 100 offers that can save you money or earn you more points when you make a purchase with the selected retailer or service provider.
If you can use this benefit, it is possible to save on your new car purchase. You’ll receive special pricing from participating dealers, up to $2,000 in post-purchase benefits, and the opportunity to pay for $2,000 or more of your car purchase with your card.
If you make $1,000 in foreign transactions each year, you’ll save the 3% transaction fees, or $30 (rates & fees).
The first step to receiving SCRA or MLA benefits with American Express is to review the qualifications. You’ll also need to verify your status and request benefits. Here’s how to get the process started.
You can confirm your active-duty status via the MLA database, and also the status of your spouse or dependents. This is the same source American Express uses to confirm eligibility.
Once you’ve determined you qualify for SCRA or MLA American Express benefits, you can apply for the American Express card of your choice. Once approved for the card, you can request benefits.
After card approval, you’ll have several options for requesting benefits.
American Express makes it easy to request SRCA or MLA benefits. Once you’ve been approved for the Amex Gold card, for example, you’ll want to log in to your online account, select Account Services, either Credit Management or Payment & Credit Options, then SCRA Benefits.
You can also utilize these methods to request benefits.
Allow several weeks for American Express to verify your eligibility and process your documents.
You’ll need good to excellent credit to qualify for the Amex Gold card. Generally, this means a score of more than 670 plus good credit history.
Like most card issuers, American Express has limits on the maximum number of cards you can have at 1 time. You can hold up to 4 credit cards and 10 charge cards simultaneously, including both business and personal cards.
American Express, unlike many other card issuers, will forgo fees on business credit cards as well as personal cards for qualifying active-duty military.
In most cases, you will pay the annual fee after card approval and be reimbursed once American Express has verified your eligibility. However, it is possible your status could be verified prior to the annual fee showing up on your statement.
American Express issues over 60 cards, many with high annual fees that have the potential to be exempt for active-duty military members. Here is a sampling of the cards we recommend for some of the best value to active-duty military members.
The Amex Platinum reigns supreme for luxury travel, offering the best airport lounge access plus generous statement credits, and complimentary elite status.
When it comes to cards that offer top-notch benefits, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better card out there than The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Make no mistake — the Amex Platinum card is a premium card with a premium price tag. With amazing benefits like best-in-class airport lounge access, hotel elite status, and tremendous value in annual statement credits, it can easily prove to be one of the most lucrative cards in your wallet year after year.
These are just some of the benefits offered by the Amex Platinum card. As one of the best cards available for active military members, the Amex Platinum card features a long list of premium benefits. Learn more about the overall value of Amex Platinum card benefits for military in our related article.
This card is ideal for business travelers who enjoy luxury travel and are looking for a card loaded with benefits!
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express is a premium travel rewards card tailored toward business owners who are frequent travelers with a high number of annual expenses.
When you factor in the large number of perks that the card offers like the best airport lounge access at over 1,400 lounges, along with tons of annual credits, it’s easy to see why this card can is a top option for frequent traveling business owners.
Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a huge welcome bonus offer of up to 170,000 points with the Amex Business Platinum. The current public offer is 120,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)
If you have a side business and can make use of the benefits provided by the Amex Business Platinum card, you’ll want to know more about all the card’s benefits.
Automatic Hilton Diamond status, an annual free night, and a travel and resort credit make this the perfect card for those who stay in Hilton hotels.
The information regarding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
Paying hundreds of dollars for an annual fee on a co-branded hotel card might seem ridiculous, but you should know that the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is much more than your run-of-the-mill hotel credit card.
The Hilton Aspire card is not only a phenomenal card for Hilton Honors loyalists, but even those who visit Hilton hotels just a few times a year can still get excellent value out of all the benefits that are packed into this card.
So let’s have a look at what makes the card so valuable to travelers.
The Hilton Aspire card is one of the best hotel loyalty program cards. Top-level elite status, a free hotel night each year, statement credits, and elevated earnings make the card an excellent choice for military members who stay at Hilton properties.
Delta loyalists will love the fast track to Delta elite status, lounge access, baggage benefits, and upgrade priority with the Delta Reserve card.
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is a stellar option for frequent travelers who always fly with Delta thanks to its lounge access, status boost, annual companion certificate, and many other great benefits.
Here is a full look at everything the Delta Reserve card can offer to you to help you decide whether the card deserves a place in your wallet.
Active-duty military members will appreciate having a free checked bag and access to the Delta Sky Club when flying on Delta. The welcome bonus and companion certificate can also help secure flights for family members.
A premium card for Marriott fans who want perks like an annual statement credit and Free Night Award, plus a fast track to Marriott elite status.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card is a premium card designed with road warriors and Marriott Bonvoy loyalists in mind.
So is the card a worthwhile addition to your wallet?
If Marriott is your brand of choice, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card can deliver valuable benefits such as elevated earnings, Marriott Bonvoy elite status, reward hotel nights, airport lounge access, and more.
If you can use the associated benefits any card has to offer without having to pay an annual fee, it makes sense to take advantage of the opportunity. It’s important to manage the card wisely, however, by paying the entire balance each statement period. Not doing so negates any benefits you may receive due to incurring interest charges.
American Express offers an excellent selection of cards that can provide valuable benefits to a military household. The best card for you specifically will be the one that matches your spending mix, has redemption options that make sense for you, and offers benefits that provide value for your situation.
For the purchase protection benefit of the Amex Gold card, this is an embedded benefit of your Card Membership and requires no enrollment. It can help protect Covered Purchases made on your Eligible Card when they’re accidentally damaged, stolen, or lost, for up to 90 days from the Covered Purchase date. The coverage is limited up to $10,000 per occurrence, up to $50,000 per Card Member account per calendar year. Coverage Limits Apply. Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.
For the extended warranty benefit of the Amex Gold card, when an American Express® Card Member charges a Covered Purchase to an Eligible Card, Extended Warranty§ can provide up to one extra year added to the Original Manufacturer’s Warranty. Applies to warranties of five (5) years or less. Coverage is up to the actual amount charged to your Card for the item up to a maximum of $10,000; not to exceed $50,000 per Card Member account per calendar year. Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.
The information regarding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® card, click here.
American Express won’t charge the annual fee for qualifying active-duty military members and their spouses.
Yes. You can have up to 4 credit cards and 10 charge cards with American Express at the same time, with fees potentially exempt, if you meet all the qualifications. American Express will forgo the annual fee on each card if you’re eligible as an active-duty military member.
The Amex Gold card is a good card for earning on everyday spending, travel, and for travel redemptions. If premium travel benefits are important to you, the Amex Platinum card might be a better fit.
No. There are no extended benefits for those who are not on active duty.
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UP's Bonus Valuation
This bonus value is an estimated valuation calculated by UP after analyzing redemption options, transfer partners, award availability and how much UP would pay to buy these points.