Members of the military, including those on active duty, need access to credit cards just like anyone else. Fortunately, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides military members with protective benefits, including a limit on the amount of interest they can be charged during periods of active service.To qualify for SCRA benefits, you must be on active duty, a reservist on federal active duty or a member of the National Guard on federal orders that extend longer than 30 days. You must also be able and willing to provide your card issuer with a copy of your military orders and a written notice. Note that SCRA benefits can also be applied to your credit card account retroactively.Beyond SCRA benefits, you should know that many card issuers extend their top rewards and travel credit cards to qualified military members without an annual fee. This means eligible military members can take advantage of cardholder perks and rewards available to them without having to fork over hundreds of dollars in fees each year for the privilege.The following credit cards stand out for military members thanks to their outstanding benefits and rewards programs.
Best for luxury travel perks
- Earn 50,000 points worth $750 in travel when you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening
- An annual $300 travel credit
- Earn 3x points on travel (after earning the travel credit) and dining
- Earn 1x points on all other purchases
- Rewards redeemable for gift cards, statement credits, experiences, merchandise or 1:1 transfer to airline and hotel partners.
- Cardholder perks include a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, a credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit, a $60 credit toward DoorDash purchases this year and next year and more.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a premium travel rewards card available to military members without the hefty $550 annual fee. You can earn big points on travel, enjoy VIP lounge and security screening access while traveling, and take advantage of flexible redemption options.
Best for flexible travel rewards
- Earn 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 on your card within the first three months
- Earn 2x miles for each dollar you spend, no categories or limits
- Redeem miles for travel at a rate of one cent per point, or transfer to a handful or airline partners
- Cardholder benefits include a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
- Annual fee waived the first year, $95 thereafter
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a great straightforward option for earning miles on all your purchases, without any categories or limits to track, with flexible redemption options. Capital One also waives the $95 annual fee for military members.
Best for premium travel perks
- Earn a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 within 3 months of account opening
- Earn 5x Membership Rewards points for each dollar spent on airfares booked directly or through AmexTravel.com and for prepaid hotel bookings made through the portal
- Earn 1x points per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Lucrative cardholder perks include airport lounge membership (Priority Pass Select, Centurion and Delta SkyClubs when you fly Delta), a $200 airline fee credit each year, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Status, up to $200 in Uber credits each year and more.
The Platinum Card® from American Express also waives its $550 annual fee for military members, offering luxury travel perks, like airport lounge access, airline credits and hotel status, while letting you earn 5x points on travel.
Best for groceries
- Earn 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000, then 1 percent) and on select U.S. streaming services like Netflix and Hulu
- Earn 3 percent cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit expenses like parking, tolls and Uber rides
- Earn 1 percent cash back back on other purchases
- Enjoy a $250 welcome bonus when you spend $1,000 on your card within three months of account opening
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a winning card for military members who spend a lot at the grocery store. With an unmatched cash back for U.S. supermarkets, this card usually comes with a $95 annual fee that’s waived for military members.
Best for long-term debt repayment
- Zero percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 12.99 to 23.99 percent
- No balance transfer fee for transfers made within 60 days of account opening
- Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $1,000 on your card within three months of account opening
- Earn 2x Membership Rewards on your first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year
- Earn 1x points on all other purchases
- Earn 20 percent more points each time you use your card for at least 20 transactions during a billing period
- No annual fee
While SCRA limits the amount of interest military members can be charged during active duty, if you’re looking to pay down debt fast with no interest, the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card offers a generous introductory APR period and no balance transfer fee on transfers within the first two months. You can also earn a boost on points if you use the card regularly.
The information about the Amex EveryDay Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.
How to choose the best military credit card for you
The best credit cards for military members all have one thing in common — they offer valuable rewards or perks that can help them wind up “ahead” in the credit card game. To make the most of any credit card, however, it’s crucial to refrain from using plastic as a short-term loan. Remember that, outside of SCRA protection, the average credit card comes with an interest rate well over 17 percent. Your best bet is finding a military credit card with perks and rewards you want, using it regularly for purchases you can afford and paying your bill in full every single month.
Note that many of the major card issuers waive annual fees for service members in most cases, including big players like Chase, American Express, Barclays, Citi and Capital One.
To find the right credit card for your needs as a military member, you should consider the type of rewards you want to earn, as well as how each card’s earning structure aligns with your normal credit card spending. Then, see if the issuer will waive the annual fee for military members. Also, look for perks you’re likely to use, including airport lounge membership, credits for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, annual travel credits or dining credits.
How the law protects service members seeking credit
Before you choose one of the best credit cards for the military, it’s also smart to be aware of the legal protections that apply to service members, including protections afforded through the Military Lending Act. This act includes specific rights for active military and their dependents, including:
- A 36 percent Military Annual Percentage Rate (MAPR) cap on all credit cards, which considers finance charges, credit card fees, and add-on products in conjunction with credit cards
- No mandatory waivers of consumer protection laws
- No prepayment penalties on credit cards or loans
- No mandatory allotments
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) also enacts its own standards for credit cards offered to military members. For example, SCRA mandates that lenders cannot charge active-duty military more than 6 percent interest on any amount owed with a credit card or loan before they enter active-duty service. Lenders can also apply this rate retroactively, and the SCRA prevents creditors from reducing or denying credit (or from reporting negative information to their credit report) based on the fact a military customer requests the 6 percent interest rate.
It’s important to note, however, that this act applies to existing debts only. In other words, SCRA doesn’t require credits to apply the 6 percent interest rate cap to new purchases made once a military member enters active duty.