Best Credit Cards for Military Personnel

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Contributor, Benzinga
October 12, 2023

Serving our country as active duty military personnel can present you with a lot of challenges. Because you likely move every few years, you may have trouble establishing the roots that allow for a pristine financial picture. 

Congress addressed the issue with the passage of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) of 2003, which caps interest rates at 6% for cards you had before joining the military while you’re on active duty. Then, the Military Lending Act (MLA) extends that law to credit cards (and other lending products) that you acquire while in the military and caps the interest rate at 36%. Keep in mind that you must apply for these benefits after receiving approval from a credit card issuer. 

While your rates will stay capped at these rates on all of the credit cards listed below, you will receive extra perks and benefits from each card. In fact, some credit card issuers go the extra mile to make it easier for you to take control of your finances by offering credit cards for military personnel that have extra perks.  Here are our picks for the best military credit cards.


The Best Credit Cards for Military:

Best Overall: The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum is one of the best credit cards for military families that travel. Aside from all the waived fees and statement credits, it offers perks for travelers that can be used by both the service member and others who are cosigners on the card. By using this card, you will enjoy the same luxury perks as those who pay $695 a year to have the card. Additional benefits include access to luxury airport lounges, a generous sign-up points bonus and an abundance of travel perks when you use your card. 


  • American Express carries with it a certain status and panache that other cards simply do not
  • American Express offers quite a few backend and concierge services that can help both businesses and consumers


  • American Express is not accepted everywhere as some vendors don’t want to pay the processing fees

Best for Food and Dining: American Express® Gold Card

  • American Express® Gold Card
    Regular APR

    *Terms apply ** Be advised that applicants who do not have a credit history in the U.S. but have had credit cards or loans in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, South Korea, Switzerland or the United Kingdom will need to provide a SSN or ITIN during the application process.

If you love to eat, using your American Express Gold card for groceries and dining out, including takeout and delivery, can earn you up to 4X the points on your card. You can use these points for up to $25,000 a year and get great rewards to pay for flights and prepaid hotels when you use If you’re looking for a luxury credit card without all of the charges, this could be it. AMEX offers $250 as an introductory offer, but if you’re in the military, you won’t have to pay it. But, you still get the perks. That means access to flexible payment schedules, and generous points (in addition to your introductory points) for most things that you buy. 


  • The lack of an annual fee and lower overall fees makes this card quite appealing
  • You can use the flexible payment scheduling options on this card to make it work for your lifestyle and budget


  • American Express approval standards could turn out to be higher than you expected

Best for Travel: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is ideal for an overall card because of exceptional benefits such as new member bonus points as well as travel and dining rewards.

Get 60,000 points if an individual spends $4,000 within the first three months. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You also get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.

The card features a $95 annual fee. This makes the card more palatable for military members. Plus. it offers rewards that fit in with the military of “assignment-based” lifestyle.

When using the card, you earn 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, except for hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 Annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit. You also earn 2x points on other travel purchases, 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out along with 3x points on online grocery purchases and select streaming services. Cardholders earn 1 point on all other purchases.


  • Chase bonuses on its new cards are typically robust and allow you to plan for big purchases
  • The rewards multipliers are much higher than the competition


  • Many in the military will not want to pay an annual fee

Best for Cashback: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited® provides cash back rewards as well as attractive introductory options such as low rates and bonus points. Cash back rewards do not expire as long as the account is open. It publishes no clearly stated minimum credit score, but it’s ideal for newer individuals such as students that are looking to grow during their credit journey or military personnel who want to get a handle on their finances.

Cardholders gain access to a range of rewards. Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining, including eligible delivery services and drugstores and 1.5% back on all other purchases.

Special Offer: Unlimited Match Cash. When you use your card for all your purchases for the first year, Chase will match all the cashback you receive.  

Both the return payment fees and late payment fees can reach $40. Credit limits are determined by your creditworthiness. The card has no obviously stated minimum credit score and no annual fee.

Enjoy a generous 15-month intro APR that makes the card all the more affordable.

Overall, the card has ample cash back benefits and many incentives that can prove beneficial for military personnel and their families. 


  • The intro APR alone can make this card an excellent place to invest in large purchases or balance tranfers
  • The cash back rewards have a massive scope that can be quite helpful for you


  • The extra fees and late fees can be ruinous for some cardholders

Best for Luxury Travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

If you love traveling in style, the Chase® Sapphire Reserve card will accommodate your needs. All those points that you earn? They don’t expire as long as your account remains open, hasn’t changed status or is closed for fraud or other unlawful purposes. This credit card is truly one of the best credit cards for living the military lifestyle you are part of.

You can earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months you hold the card (that’s $900 towards travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®), 5x points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase with Chase Ultimate Rewards® after the first $300 you spend each year. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Remember, you get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Rates are affordable, with an annual fee of $550 with an additional $75 for each additional user. You also get:

  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access more than 1,300 airport lunges worldwide, along with up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry, NEXUS or TSA PreCheck®
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, lost luggage insurance and much more


  • The welcome bonus makes the card more than worth the while
  • Point transfers make planning for travel much easier


  • The annual fee may seem excessive for some consumers

Features to Look for in Credit Cards for Military Personnel

When looking for the best credit card for military members, it’s important to check for these benefits.

1. Points

You can use points as cash back, for travel or for that luxury hotel you’ve been dying to stay in. A good military credit card will allow you to use your points in a way that will best benefit your life.

2. No Annual Fee

The best military cards waive annual fees for military personnel, allowing them the opportunity to take control of their financial lives. Those fees can go toward reducing your credit card balance or adding to your savings account.

3. Good Customer Service

As a military member, you need easy access to customer support when you want to dispute a charge or ask a question about your card. Look for a card that allows you to get in touch with no hassle.

4. Perks

As a military member, some credit card issuers offer you perks that you might not have otherwise received. For instance, you can get access to the same airport luxury lounges that others do who pay hundreds in annual fees.

How to Get Approved for a Credit Card for Military Personnel

As a military member, use these tips to get approved for the right card.

1. Know Your Credit Score

The first step in building your credit and getting the right credit card is knowing your credit score. Once you know your score, you can take the steps to ensure that it’s as good as it can be.

2. Sign up for SCRA and MLA

As soon as you’re approved for a credit card, contact the credit card company and ask them to sign you up for both programs. Doing so will put a cap on your interest rate, waive certain fees and make you eligible for perks you wouldn’t otherwise receive.

3. Make Your Payments on Time

Just because you get one credit card, that doesn’t mean you can let your credit score slip. By making your payments on time, you will continue to build your credit. After all, you don’t want to have to look for credit cards for bad credit.

4. Use Good Spending Habits

Don’t think of your credit card as a way to spend more money. Instead, think of it as a way to spend smarter money. Use your points and cash back to improve your finances.

How You Can Improve Your Credit Score

Having a great credit score allows you to take advantage of credit cards with more perks. Here’s how you can improve yours.

1. Set up Automatic Payments

When your credit card payments are automatically taken out of your check, you don’t run the risk of a late payment or the accompanying ding to your credit score.

2. Know Your Limits

Lenders use a debt-to-income ratio to determine how much credit to extend to you. If you have too much debt, they aren’t likely to take the chance of lending to you. Your debt-to-income ratio should never exceed 50%.

3. Use the Perks to Your Advantage

Credit cards for military members offer perks that you can use to help save money. For instance, you can use the cash back or points to pay for other expenses. And some credit cards give you monthly or yearly statement credits that you can use instead of having to pay out of pocket.

4. Create a Budget

If you spend more than you earn in a month, it can be the beginning of credit card debt. Instead, manage your money by creating a budget and learning to stick with it.

Frequently Asked Questions


Are military members exempt from credit card annual fees?


Some credit card issuers waive annual fees for military members, but it’s up to the credit card company to decide whether they do.


What are the best credit cards for military members?


The best credit card for you, as a military member, is one that fits your lifestyle. You can get a credit card that offers points for travel, cash back or statement credits for the things you love.


Is Chase Sapphire free for military members?


Yes, Chase Sapphire waives the annual fee for active duty military members.


Is Amex Gold free for military members?


American Express waives all fees for active military personnel, so like all other American Express cards, the Amex Gold is free for military active duty personnel.

About Suzanne Kearns

Suzanne is an expert in the insurance, personal finance, real estate and retirement planning space.