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Are you on active duty, or will you be soon? If so, you may be able to use the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to get valuable credit card rewards and benefits at very low cost (in many cases for free).
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SCRA benefits: Every credit card issuer, by law, is required to adhere to certain standards under the SCRA. But certain issuers will provide lower interest rates or waive more fees than others, creating more compelling offers all around.
High rewards rates: If you’re eligible for SCRA benefits, you may have access to some of the best rewards cards available without their usual associated fees. This means you could potentially earn points, miles, or cash back at industry-leading rates without worrying over whether you’ll get enough value to make the card worth your while.
Reward categories with universal appeal: Many of our favorite military cards allow you to earn rewards on purchases often considered essential, including gas, groceries, restaurants, and travel.
Versatile benefits: A good rewards program can go far, but benefits are the real draw when it comes to most upper-tier credit cards. Perks like travel insurance, statement credits for certain purchases, and airport lounge access offer major value, and they’re all the more appealing if you don’t have to pony up a pile of cash every year to enjoy them.
Offers for every credit level: You don’t need great credit to find a credit card that meets your needs. We’ve listed a healthy mix of good cards available to those with fair or average credit, and several designed for repairing bad credit or building credit from scratch — plus some premium options for those with better credit.
Is a Military Card Right for You?
Though we’ve compiled the credit cards on this page with servicepeople in mind, most (but not all) of the picks you’ll find here are everyday consumer credit cards available to cardholders far and wide.
As an SCRA-eligible military servicemember, however, you may be able to get them with improved terms and waived fees, often giving you a lot more bang for your buck.
That’s why it’s important to confirm whether you’re eligible for SCRA benefits. We’ve outlined SCRA eligibility requirements at the bottom of the page, so take a look before applying for anything new.
If you qualify, examine your options carefully to find a card that will help you earn rewards without changing up your spending habits. Think about where and how you shop, and find cards that will reward you for the things you (or your family) already purchase on a regular basis.
Dig into the benefits each card offers, too. Many credit cards provide features beyond their rewards programs that can amplify their value considerably. And these perks become even more appealing if you qualify for SCRA benefits and can get them all for free.
Premium credit cards, which usually have annual fees around $500 (give or take), naturally come with the best perks on the market, like airport lounge access, airline statement credits, and elite hotel statuses. These can deliver hundreds upon hundreds of dollars in value. Other benefits, like travel insurance, are just icing on the cake.
2% cash back for every purchase you make (must pay at least the minimum due on time):
1% back when you make a purchase
1% back when you pay for that purchase
It’s a good option to pair with a card that does have some bonus reward categories, like some of the others on this list. You’ll be able to earn more rewards in the bonus categories, while using the Double Cash to get a flat rate on everything else.
Some cards are co-branded with certain airlines, and most of these cards are issued by American Express, Chase, and Citi.
Luckily for you, all three of these issuers will waive the annual fees of cards that are eligible for SCRA benefits. So a large swath of airline cards will have their annual fees waived, along with certain other fees depending on the issuer.
The right card for you will depend on which airline you spend the most time and money with. Check out our picks for the best airline credit card offers and you’ll probably find a match.
A typical good redemption value would probably be around 1.5 cents per mile for United. That means you’ll be earning the equivalent of about 13.5% cash back when spending with United, which is pretty good.
Just like with airline cards, many hotel credit cards are issued by American Express, Chase, and Citi. These issuers all waive the annual fees for cards that are eligible for SCRA benefits, making them good picks if you stay at hotels often.
The right hotel card for you will depend on where you like to stay. If you prefer Hilton, there’s a card for that. If you like Marriott, Hyatt, or IHG, there are co-branded cards for them too. See our picks for the best hotel credit cards to find some great cards for major hotel brands.
14X Hilton Honors Bonus points per dollar for eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio
7X Hilton Honors points per dollar spent on:
Flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
Car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
3X Hilton Honors points per dollar spent on all other purchases
150,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
This card is very rewarding, offering plenty of Hilton Honors points when you spend with Hilton. You’ll get those additional 20X points because this card comes with automatic Hilton Honors Diamond status, which is the highest possible elite membership tier.
That means when you spend with Hilton you’ll be able to earn the equivalent of around 13.6%–34% cash back, depending on how you redeem those points. This is an excellent value, especially considering that you won’t have an annual fee to pay.
That’s a lot of cash back, but you’ll also get benefits and statement credits that can be worth hundreds of dollars every year.
Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, enjoy a free Weekend Night Reward within your first year and every year after renewal.
Earn 14X Hilton Bonus Points when you make eligible purchases on your Card at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio.
Earn 7X Bonus Points for eligible purchases: on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies & at U.S. restaurants.
Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
Enjoy up to $250 in Hilton Resort Credits on your Card each anniversary year, when you stay at participating resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
Enjoy complimentary Diamond status with your Hilton Honors Aspire Card.
$450 annual fee.
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The information related to Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.
U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 spent annually, then 1%)
Select U.S. streaming services
3% cash back:
U.S. gas stations
1% cash back on all other purchases
$300 statement credit for spending $3,000 in the first 6 months
6% is the best normal rate you’ll find for grocery store purchases, compared to other cards. And with no annual fee to pay thanks to your military benefits from Amex, the cash back you earn will be all profit.
Amex Offers: Find significant discounts at a changing selection of merchants and websites, like (at the time of publication) TurboTax, SamsClub.com, Etsy, and many more.
ShopRunner membership:ShopRunner provides free two-day shipping and returns at participating online retailers.
Lowest Hotel Rates Guarantee: If you book an eligible prepaid hotel room through American Express Travel and then find the same room being advertised online for a lower price, you can be refunded for the difference.
Shopping protections: Extended Warranty, Purchase Protection, and Return Protection
Travel protections: Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance and Global Assist Hotline
Purchase APR: 0% on purchases for 12 months, then 13.99% - 23.99% Variable
Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 (waived for SCRA-eligible members) (Rates & Fees)
Fee waivers: Certain other fees are waived for SCRA-eligible members as well, like late and returned payment fees.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees)
If you transfer your points to an Amex airline or hotel partner, they could be worth 2 cents or more; that’d give you an 8% cash back equivalent at restaurants. That won’t cover a good tip at a fancy eatery, but it could cover a delivery fee.
4X Membership Rewards points per dollar at:
U.S. Supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X)
1X Membership Rewards point per dollar for every other purchase
60,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 6 months
Along with solid rewards you’ll also get a $120 annual dining credit, broken up into $10 per month. That’s a pretty nice deal, considering the card’s annual fee can be waived as part of your SCRA benefits.
$120 annual dining credit: Earn up to $10 in statement credits per month for purchases at eligible restaurants and food delivery services, like GrubHub, Seamless, Boxed, The Cheesecake Factory, and participating Shake Shack locations.
The Hotel Collection: Provides up to $100 in credits and room upgrades (when available) for every eligible hotel stay of two nights or more. Eligibility for this offer is limited. Enrollment is required in the Amex Offers section of your account before redeeming.
Up to $120 in Uber Cash: Add the Gold Card to the Uber App to get up to $10 in Uber Cash per month; U.S. Eats orders and rides only.
Uber Eats Pass: Get unlimited $0 delivery fees and 5% off orders at eligible restaurants for 12 months; must enroll by 12/31/21. Taxes and service fees may apply and do not count toward the order minimum. Eats Pass will start auto-billing 12 months from enrollment, at then-current monthly rate. Learn more.
Point transfer: To a selection of airline and hotel partners, like JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Marriott, and Choice Privileges.
Amex Offers: Find significant discounts at a changing selection of merchants and websites, like (at the time of publication) Dropbox, Blue Apron, Sling, and many more. Eligibility for this offer is limited. Enrollment is required in the Amex Offers section of your account before redeeming.
Complimentary ShopRunner membership:ShopRunner provides free two-day shipping and returns at participating online retailers.
Rose Gold is back. You can now choose between Gold or Rose Gold.
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery, plus, earn 4X points for Uber Eats purchases too.
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
$120 Uber Cash: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
$120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
No Foreign Transaction Fees.
Annual Fee is $250.
American Express is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.
If you’re carrying a large balance at a high interest rate, you may be able to transfer that balance to a card with a 0% intro APR. That’ give you time to pay it off without accruing extra interest as you go, potentially saving you thousands of dollars.
The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card (Review) currently has one of the best offers you’ll find, at 0% APR for 18 months for balance transfers (from the date of the first transfer; all transfers must be completed in the first four months). There’s typically a fee for balance transfers, but as part of its SCRA benefits, Citi waives all fees associated with its cards — including that transfer fee.
That gives you quite a long time to pay off a balance at no interest. Purchases will get 18 months at 0% APR.
After the introductory rates expire, you’ll get a regular APR of 14.74% – 24.74% (Variable).
Check out the runners up for some balance transfer cards without balance transfer fees (but their introductory periods are a bit shorter).
Citi provides a 0% APR for existing balances as part of its SCRA benefits. This means you’ll get that 0% rate for as long as you qualify for the SCRA, and that could give you even more time to pay off a balance.
However, remember that the special SCRA 0% rate will only apply to balances and cards that exist before you enter active duty. So if you transfer a balance after entering active duty it will be subject to the regular APR, even though you’ll get the fee waived (assuming the card was opened before active duty began).
0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer. After that the variable APR will be 14.74% – 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
Get free access to your FICO® Score online.
With Citi Entertainment®, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
Shop with confidence knowing that you have dependable protection benefits, including $0 Liability on Unauthorized Purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% – 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.
With bad or limited credit (a FICO Score 8 of less than about 579), you’ll have a hard time being approved for most credit cards. But some cards are designed for bad credit, including secured credit cards. A secured card requires a one-time refundable security deposit when you’re approved, which will fund the credit limit.
If you’re in this situation, we recommend using the Discover it® Secured (Review). While some secured cards seem almost like a punishment for having bad credit, this card stands out for actually having a pretty good rewards program. It’s about on par with (or perhaps better than, given your spending habits) the QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards above, which is meant for average credit.
Use this card responsibly. That means paying your bills on time, but we also recommend always paying off your statement balance in full each month. This will be good for your credit utilization and it will also prevent any interest from accruing on purchases, helping you avoid credit card debt.
Every eight months, Discover will review your account and your credit to decide whether to return your deposit and allow you to continue using the card. This is a great feature because it means you don’t have to close this account and open a new card, which isn’t as good for your credit in general.
2% cash back on up to $1,000 in purchases per quarter (then 1%), at:
1% cash back on all other purchases
Cashback Match: Double all cash back earned in the first year; awarded at the end of the first year
You’ll normally get 2% back for those common purchases, but Discover’s Cashback Match will double all the rewards you earn in your first year. So you’ll be getting 4% cash back in the reward categories and 2% cash back for all other purchases.
That’s an excellent offer to find because most other secured cards don’t come with any rewards at all. Compared to them the Discover it Secured seems very generous, especially given the Cashback Match.
SCRA benefits are legally required for eligible servicemembers for every credit card, no matter the issuer. If you’re on or will be going on active duty, you can use these benefits to get an exceptionally good deal on certain cards.
Active-duty servicemembers of several kinds are able to get reduced interest rates on credit cards and other loans. These benefits apply only to active-duty military servicemembers, to avoid punishing you with high interest and fees while serving your country.
The main benefits of the SCRA that relate to credit cards are:
A cap of 6% APR for any credit card debts owed before entering active-duty military service (debts incurred after beginning active duty are subject to the regular APR).
Credit card issuers are barred from reducing credit limits or dropping customers as a result of entering active-duty service.
And a few more things to know:
These terms only apply to cards that were opened (and balances that were accrued) before beginning active duty. If you get a credit card while on active duty, these terms will not apply to it.
You’ll need to apply for SCRA benefits, you won’t get them automatically.
You can also apply to have SCRA benefits retroactively applied to your account, to cover the period when you were on active duty. If you do so, any eligible fees you paid will be reimbursed.
So, for example, if you had debt with an interest rate of 20% when you began active duty, that previous balance would get a new APR of 6%. But any new purchases you make after beginning active duty would be subject to the regular 20% rate.
You can make even better use of your SCRA benefits by adding authorized users to your card account. Authorized users will share the same SCRA benefits you get, which could mean having annual fees waived, depending on the issuer. That means you can get an extra copy of your Amex Platinum Card for your spouse totally for free, for example (or any other Amex card for that matter).
SCRA Benefits Eligibility
Any member of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) or a reserve component called to active duty (Reserve, National Guard, and Air National Guard).
National Guard personnel under a call or order to active duty for more than 30 consecutive days (for purposes of responding to a national emergency declared by the president and supported by federal funds).
Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officers.
U.S. citizens serving with the forces of a nation with which the U.S. is allied in the prosecution of a war or military action.
Spouses of active-duty military members listed above where credit is extended to a servicemember and spouse jointly.
Take note that full-time National Guard duty is not considered to be active duty under the SCRA.
SCRA eligibility will begin on the date that active duty begins. It will end when the period of active duty ends, although some card issuers may choose to extend their SCRA benefits longer than that.
All credit card issuers must abide by the basic terms of the SCRA. But some credit card companies go above and beyond those requirements to provide even better terms to their eligible cardholders.
The following table shows the SCRA benefits that each issuer will apply to eligible accounts. In some cases you’ll see that the issuer only provides the basic SCRA terms, while others will go further by waiving annual fees or other fees, or providing interest rates even lower than 6%.
Take note: American Express has told us that it’s “very likely” that the annual fees of its cards will be waived, but they can’t guarantee that this will occur (they might just be cagey for legal purposes). We recommend submitting an SCRA request to see if they’ll grant this benefit, as some Amex cards would be very lucrative without the annual fees. If you’re worried that you won’t get a fee waiver, go with a different issuer instead.
Remember that credit card issuers will usually only apply these benefits to accounts opened and balances accrued before active duty begins.
But, keep in mind that in most cases these benefits only apply to credit card accounts opened before active duty begins.
Which Credit Cards Waive Fees for the Military?
Active-duty military personnel may be eligible for SCRA credit card benefits, which include a cap of 6% on interest rates (the SCRA only applies to accounts opened and balances accrued before entering active duty).
But some card issuers will go even further, like reducing APRs to 0% and waiving some or all card fees (including annual fees!).
The SCRA (Servicemembers Civil Relief Act) is a legal mandate that requires all credit card issuers to extend certain relief measures to eligible active-duty military personnel. These measures only apply to credit card accounts that were opened before active duty began (the same goes for credit card balances; they must be there before active duty begins to qualify).
The two main SCRA benefits that apply to credit cards are:
A maximum APR of 6% for credit card debts owed before entering active duty
Credit card issuers are not allowed to reduce credit limits or cancel credit cards as a result of entering active-duty service