Why the Amex Platinum is a great card for active duty military

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Rewards credit cards can come with important benefits that make travel more affordable or convenient, ranging from airport lounge access to fee credits for ridesharing or airline incidental purchases. These perks are offered to cardholders for free in most cases, although cards that are chock-full of benefits tend to charge higher annual fees as a result.

The Platinum Card® from American Express is the perfect example of a card with top-notch benefits and a high annual fee — $550 per year — to match. While this fee is required upfront, having the Platinum Card gives you access to elite airport lounge membership, up to a $200 airline fee credit, up to $200 in Uber credits per year, a credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, elite hotel status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors and more.

Is the American Express Platinum Card free for military members?

While the annual cost involved in carrying this card is high for many, plenty of Americans get to skip paying it altogether. If you’re active duty, you can get all the generous benefits this card offers for an annual fee of $0.

This is true whether you choose to be a primary cardholder or an authorized user on another person’s account. For example, an active duty service member could also become an authorized user on another person’s account for $0 per year instead of the $175 per card that’s normally charged.

How do active-duty military members get their annual fee waived?

The fact military members can avoid this fee is mostly due to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Military Lending Act (MLA). Established in 2003 and 2006, respectively, these two acts provide important consumer protections to military members and their families, such as caps on the amount of interest they’re required to pay.

Generally speaking, benefits from SCRA apply to credit acquired prior to active duty, whereas MLA benefits apply to credit acquired during active duty. Fortunately, American Express offers a resource page on both SCRA and MLA and how they work. You can use this page to apply for SCRA benefits online, or you can ask American Express to waive your annual fee based on MLA by calling customer service or using their online chat feature.

While American Express is not required to waive fees for military applications due to either of these acts, they choose to go the extra mile to help military members save money while using their products.

Does American Express waive annual fees for veterans?

While active-duty military members can have their annual fee for American Express credit cards waived entirely, the same isn’t true for military veterans. This is unfortunate for veterans who have served their country and put their lives at risk, but the Platinum Card can still be worth it even with the $550 annual fee. After all, three major benefits alone — airport lounge access, up to $200 in airline fee credits and up to $200 in Uber credits — are worth an absolute minimum of $829 in value if you’re able to use them.

What credit score do you need for the Amex Platinum card?

Like other premium travel credit cards, the Platinum Card requires very good or excellent credit. This typically means a FICO score of 740 or higher, although American Express does not release any specific minimum credit score requirements.

If you believe your credit score is lower than it should be to qualify, it’s not too late to take steps to improve your credit in the short-term. The best ways to improve your credit include paying all your bills early or on time and paying down debt to decrease your credit utilization ratio, but you can also refrain from opening or closing new accounts until you’re ready to apply.

Benefits of the Amex Platinum

There’s a reason American Express and the military pair well together, and it’s mostly due to the superior cardholder benefits you can receive without an annual fee.

First off, you should know that this card lets you rack up points in the American Express Membership Rewards program, which is renowned for its value and flexibility. This program lets you book travel directly through American Express, but you can also redeem points for gift cards, merchandise and transfers to Amex airline and hotel partners.

Additional perks you’ll receive when you apply for this travel credit card are highlighted below.

Airport lounge access

The Platinum Card comes with Priority Pass airport lounge access that lets you enter and utilize more than 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. However, you’ll also get access to American Express Centurion lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when you fly with Delta Air Lines.

While airport lounges can be hit or miss in terms of the food, drink and relaxation potential, getting this benefit for free is pretty sweet.

$200 airline fee credit

You get up to $200 in credits toward airline incidental purchases, but these credits are only good for a single airline you select ahead of time. Also, note that you cannot use these credits for airfare, but only for incidental fees charged to your card account.

$200 in Uber credits

You can also get up to $200 in Uber credits per year, although these credits are doled out on a monthly basis — $15 for each month (except for December when you get $35). These credits can help you save considerably if you use Uber every month, but they do not roll over to the next month if you don’t use them.

Elite hotel status

This card gives you automatic Gold elite status with both the Marriott Bonvoy and the Hilton Honors programs. This level of status may help you get free breakfast in some Hilton properties, whereas you’re more likely to benefit from a room upgrade with the Marriott Bonvoy program.

With either program, however, you’ll earn more points on paid stays due to your elite status. You’ll also have the ability to quickly climb the elite status ladder with paid stays since you’re getting a head start as a Gold member.

$100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck

You can use your credit card to cover the cost of Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership, which will set you back $100 or $85, respectively. Since Global Entry includes TSA Precheck, however, this membership is easily the better deal.

Whether you should sign up for  Global Entry or TSA Precheck depends on how often you travel outside the United States. TSA Precheck is mostly geared to consumers who want expedited security during travel within the United States, whereas Global Entry lets you skip the long lines at customs and immigration when you arrive home in the U.S. after traveling abroad.

Limited time COVID-19 benefits

Through December 31, 2020, the Platinum Card from American Express is also offering up to $40 per month in statement credits toward select streaming subscriptions and wireless phone services. Specifically, your card helps you qualify for:

  • $20 per month in credits toward select streaming services
  • $20 per month in credits toward wireless phone services

To qualify, you have to charge these purchases to your Platinum card.

5X points on most travel

The Platinum Card lets you earn a generous welcome bonus, but you’ll also rack up 5X points on flights booked with airlines and flights and prepaid hotels booked with AmexTravel.com. If you are someone who frequently travels for work or leisure, being able to rack up such a high rate of points for each purchase can help you grow your rewards balance fast.

Be aware that you’ll earn 1X points on all other purchases charged to your credit card.

Other American Express military credit cards

While the Platinum Card is an obvious choice for active-duty military members, there are other American Express credit cards that may be more attractive depending on how you spend and how you like to redeem your rewards. Here are some of the top options to consider:

Card name Rewards rate New cardmember offer Normal annual fee (waived for active duty military)
 

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

 

3X miles on Delta purchases, 1X miles on everything else 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) when you spend $3,000 in purchases within three months of account opening $550
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card 14X points on Hilton purchases, 7X points on select travel and dining and 3X points on other purchases 150,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening $450
American Express® Gold Card 4X Membership Rewards® on restaurants  worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amex Travel.com and 1X points on other purchases Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first 6 months. $250
American Express® Green Card 3X Membership Rewards® points on an expanded travel category,3X points on restaurants worldwide and 1X points on other purchases 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after making $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months $150
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through AmexTravel.com, 1.5X points on eligible business purchases of $5,000 or more and 1X points on other purchases 75,000 points when you spend $15,000 on your card within three months of account opening $595

The information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.