Tag: MLA

Credit card strategies for uniformed services personnel

Credit card strategies for uniformed services personnel

How do you maximize awards travel and credit cards in relation to the Uniformed Services? One of the laws protecting all seven branches of the Uniformed Services is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or SCRA for short, which provides a host of credit-related benefits to servicemembers. Among them are a cap for APR for credit card balances and more importantly in my perspective, a waiver of annual fees associated with credit cards.

Unfortunately, SCRA for the most part only guarantees a waiver of annual fees for credit cards you had prior to entering active duty. This means you cannot enter active duty and pick up all the credit cards you want and expect to pay $0. You have to plan out accordingly (especially with a company like Chase and their 5/24 rule), but if you play your cards right (no pun intended), you could potentially enter active duty with a handful of high annual fee cards and have all their fees waived.

Prior to entering active duty, I had a Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa, Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Visa, Chase IHG Rewards Club Mastercard, and Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard. Post-commissioning, I called Chase and Barclay and requested SCRA benefits to be considered for my accounts. The process was simple: the companies would verify my active duty status (https://scra.dmdc.osd.mil/scra/#/single-record) and notify me within 30 days of my SCRA status. Within two weeks, both companies wrote back to inform me that (as I expected) I am eligible for SCRA benefits, and all the annual fees (since starting active duty) associated with those cards were waived and will continue to be waived for the duration of active duty! Talk about exceptional value when the Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa card bears a hefty $450 annual fee!

Is there another side to the “for the most part?” how SCRA is applied? While most credit card companies (e.g. Chase, Barclay, Citibank) follow the SCRA law to the letter, American Express is unique and is very active duty-friendly. Per the experience of active duty coworkers, American Express will waive fees for cards even if you applied for and received them after entering active duty, meaning American Express will (uniquely) go beyond the minimum requirement of SCRA. I have my eyes set on applying for the American Express Platinum card ($550 annual fee), a valuable addition to any awards traveler’s wallet, in the near future.

To summarize: in regards to SCRA, if there is a non-American Express card you want, obtain it before entering active duty. For American Express cards, you’ll get SCRA benefits regardless of when you obtain it.

More recently in September 2017, a new act was enacted called the Military Lending Act (MLA). With provisions very similar to SCRA, the MLA also guarantees a waiver of annual fees for cards obtained after September 2017, which means that if you qualify for MLA, you can apply for a card you want now and have its annual fee waived. Unfortunately, the wording of MLA is specific in that it only applies to the Armed Services (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard), making PHS officers like myself excluded from the act (see your eligibility at https://mla.dmdc.osd.mil/mla/#/single-record). When I called Chase, Citibank, and US Bank, they confirmed verbally that MLA only covers the Armed Services. But, do you know someone who is currently active duty in the Armed Services? They will be eligible for MLA! Encourage them to apply for a card that best suites his or her travel needs!