The best credit cards for active-duty military — some with limited-time perks

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If you’re actively serving in the military, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects you from high interest rates and other financial obligations. Some banks, like American Express and Capital One, waive annual fees but allow you to earn credit card rewards and offer fantastic perks — even on cards you opened after entering active service. Some cards have no foreign transaction fees, so you can use those cards around the globe.

We’ll evaluate the best credit card offers for active military, so you can decide which cards will work best for you.

Best credit cards for active-duty military

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best for beginners
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for travel perks
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for premium travel rewards
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for small-business owners looking for premium perks
  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Best for top-tier hotel elite status
  • Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for dining and entertainment

The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards card and Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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You can enjoy waived annual fees on certain credit cards no matter where you are stationed around the globe. (Photo by PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock)

Who qualifies for SCRA benefits?

Generally, SCRA benefits apply to anyone actively enrolled in a branch of the U.S. military and their spouses, though some banks or card issuers might have other criteria. This includes:

  • Anyone on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard
  • Anyone serving in the National Guard who has been called to active duty for more than 30 consecutive days (for service funded by federal money)
  • Commissioned officers of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who have been called into active service
  • Anyone who is absent from active duty because of sickness, wounds or other qualifying reasons
  • A spouse of an active-duty servicemember (based on above qualifications) as long as they share a joint line of credit with that person

Some banks extend relief beyond these minimum requirements. Capital One extends protection to National Guard members called for active duty, regardless of state or federal funding (the law only requires them to comply for federally funded service such as a war).

Check out team member Alex’s post about all the SCRA benefits.

How to military credit cards work?

All card issuers offer SCRA benefits but certain banks have gone even further to ease financial burdens military members may face. For example, some banks offer lower interest rates to active-duty military and often will extend those rates for up to a year after service ends.

Active-duty military have unique circumstances to consider when choosing a card. For example, if you travel overseas, you should have a card with no foreign transaction fees. Also consider features like the type of rewards you’ll earn, the welcome offer and the annual fee, not just the SCRA rate and benefits.

Regardless of which card you choose, it’s important to use your credit cards responsibly. We always recommend paying off your balances in full and on time every month. If you end up carrying debt and paying loads of interest, it’ll likely negate the value of any rewards you earn. So even if you’re extended a line of credit, try to stay within your budget and set up automatic payments to avoid issues.

The best cards for military personnel

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Current bonus

When you sign up for Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Insider tip

When you use your points to book travel through Chase’s travel portal, your points are worth 1.25 cents each. This is a great way to book free travel without the hassle of blackout dates or searching for award seats.

Benefits and perks

Chase Sapphire Preferred benefits and perks include:

  • 5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out
  • 3x points on select streaming services
  • 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
  • 2x points on all other travel
  • 1x point on all other purchases
  • Primary car rental insurance — Coverage on damage from theft or collision to your rental car when you pay for the rental with your card
  • Trip delay reimbursement — Up to $500 back per ticket on meals and lodging when your trip is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay
  • Extended warranty protection — Extends U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by a year on eligible warranties of three years or less
  • Baggage delay insurance — Reimbursement of up to $100 a day for five days on purchases like toiletries and clothing for passenger carrier baggage delays longer than six hours

Annual fee

The $95 annual fee is waived for active-duty military personnel. 

Why it’s worth it

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the card we frequently recommend for beginners in the miles-and-points hobby. Because Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to so many partners, this card gives you more flexibility than even the best airline credit cards.

Total value

When you earn the welcome bonus, that’s the equivalent of $1,000 in travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards with no blackout dates.

You’ll find our review of the Sapphire Preferred here.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Best for travel perks

Current bonus

When you sign up for Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.

Insider tip

Chase has these restrictions for their Sapphire-branded credit cards. Note that you cannot have more than one Sapphire-branded credit card open at the same time.

Benefits and perks

The Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits include:

  • 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining worldwide
  • 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent on all other purchases

  • $300 annual credit every cardmember anniversary for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry
  • Free Priority Pass Select membership for access to airport lounges
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Visa Infinite benefits like $25 food and beverage credit at the Luxury Hotel Collection and complimentary car rental elite status with Silvercar
  • Rental car discounts with National and Avis

Annual fee

The Chase Sapphire Reserve annual fee is $550, which is waived for military members currently serving.

Why it’s worth it

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a top premium travel rewards credit card. With all of the easy-to-use perks, there’s no doubt you’ll get a ton of value from this card.

Total value

The Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonus is worth at least $750 in travel. And with the $300 annual credit for travel purchases every cardmember anniversary, that’s $1,050 in value in the first year, not counting other money-saving perks you enjoy as a cardholder. Here’s our review.

Wake up to this view on Oahu by using Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book your Marriott stay. (Photo by Jeff Whyte/Shutterstock)

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Best for premium travel rewards

Current bonus

The Platinum Card® from American Express earns 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of opening your account.

Insider tip

With the Amex Platinum, you get exceptional airport lounge access, including access to Amex Centurion Lounges, which are among the best airport lounges because of their meals, buffets, premium alcoholic beverages, showers, conference spaces and fast Wi-Fi.

Benefits and perks

The Amex Platinum card comes with a host of benefits: an annual airline incidental fee statement credit of up to $200 on your selected airline; up to $200 in Uber Cash per calendar year for U.S. services and up to $100 in statement credits for Saks Fifth Avenue per calendar year. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Here’s an in-depth look at the benefits and perks of the Amex Platinum.

Annual fee

This card normally comes with a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), but Amex will waive the annual fee on cards you opened after entering active duty. Read more about having fees waived in our post about Servicemembers Civil Relief Act credit cards

Why it’s worth it

The American Express Platinum card might be one of the best values on this list because you can take advantage of all this card has to offer, like the $200 airline incidental-fee credit, Global Entry-fee credit, and $200 in Uber Cash every year, without paying the annual fee (see rates and fees).

Total value

The Amex Travel Portal lets you redeem your points for airfare at a rate of 1 cent per point. So the welcome bonus is worth at least $750 and potentially much more if you transfer points to an Amex transfer partner. That’s not even taking into account the value you’ll get from the card’s benefits and perks. Here’s our full review of the Amex Platinum.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Best for small-business owners looking for premium perks

Current bonus 

Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with your Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

Insider tip

My favorite benefit of this card is the 35% points rebate you get on all Pay With Points bookings in first class or business class, or any other flights (including coach) booked with your selected airline through the Amex Travel (up to 500,000 points per calendar year).

Benefits and perks

The Business Platinum card is a good option for large business purchases and travel spending. It earns 1.5x Amex Membership Rewards points on single purchases of $5,000+ (up to 1,000,000 bonus points per calendar year) and 5x Amex Membership Rewards points when you book airfare or prepaid hotels through the Amex travel site.

The card is loaded with valuable statement credits. You get up to $200 in credits per calendar year for airline incidentals with your selected airline (luggage fees, inflight food and drink) and an annual Dell credit (up to $100 from January to June; up to $100 from July to December). That’s in addition to a credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.

You’ll find a full list of the Amex Business Platinum benefits here.

Annual fee 

The Amex Business Platinum annual fee is $595 ($695 if application is received on or after 01/13/2022) (see rates and fees), but it’s waived for active-duty military members.

Why it’s worth it

The Amex Business Platinum is always a strong pick, especially for frequent travelers and if you can take full advantage of the many statement credits and lounge access.

Total value

To get the most value from your rewards points, transfer your Amex Membership Rewards points to travel partners. To redeem them without having to worry about award charts and blackout dates, take advantage of the Amex Pay With Points feature.

Here’s our review of Amex Business Platinum.

You could book a flight to Rome with the Amex Membership Rewards points you’ve earned. (Photo by prochasson frederic/Shutterstock)

Hilton Honors Aspire

Best for top-tier hotel elite status

Current Bonus

With the Hilton Aspire, you’ll earn 150,000 Hilton points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership. That’s an excellent welcome offer.

Insider tip

This card comes with Diamond status (the highest tier) for as long as you hold the card. In addition to free breakfast, upgrades (when available) and bonus points, when you have any level of Hilton elite status, Hilton award bookings get the fifth night free, which applies to every fifth night on reservations of up to 20 consecutive nights and you can use it an unlimited number of times. In addition to the elite-status requirement, you’ll also need to book a standard room entirely with points (not cash and points or using any free-night certificates).

The fifth-night-free perk is one of the best ways to use Hilton points.

Benefits and perks

This card comes with one free weekend night each year, which you can use at almost every Hilton location except for these properties. You’ll get an additional weekend night if you spend $60,000+ on your card in a calendar year. So you could end up with a whole free weekend at a five-star hotel in a prime destination, like the London Hilton on Park Lane, which costs $450+ per night.

The card also comes with a credit of up to $250 for airline incidental fees and up to $250 in statement credits at participating Hilton resorts every year. The Hilton resort credit is valid for almost any purchase made at the 240+ participating locations, except for advance purchase or nonrefundable rates.

You can also get $100 in credits on qualifying charges (room rates and fees do not qualify) for every stay of two or more nights at Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotels. But you must book through the Amex Hilton Aspire website or by calling (855) 292-5757 to verify that you’re eligible for the credit. If you book over the phone you’ll need to use the code “ZZAAP1.”

You can read more about the Hilton Aspire benefits and perks here.

Annual fee

This card normally has a $450 annual fee, but Amex waives the annual fee for active military, which means you get all of its perks for free (see rates and fees).

Why it’s worth it

The Amex Hilton Aspire comes with a mountain of benefits that make it worth the extra cost. The Hilton Honors program can be lucrative because it’s so easy to earn Hilton points and the perks you get with Diamond status, like free breakfast, can save you money. If you like staying with Hilton, this card is a no-brainer.

Total value

Hilton points are worth at least 0.5 cents for most award-night redemptions, so the Aspire card bonus is worth $750 in hotel stays. The card’s airline and Hilton resort credits are worth up to $500. The value of the annual free weekend night will vary depending on which hotel you book, but it wouldn’t be hard to save $300+ on a one-night stay.

Add that up and you’re looking at $1,350 in value for the first year. That doesn’t even include any value you will get from having Diamond status. I have this card and it’s one of the best travel rewards credit cards.

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for dining and entertainment purchases

Current bonus

The Capital One Savor comes with a $300 cash bonus, which you’ll earn after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Insider tip

The 4% cash back you’ll earn on dining and entertainment is one of the highest earnings rates you’ll see on any card for these specific bonus categories.

Benefits and perks

Capital One Savor earns 4% cash back on dining, entertainment purchases, and popular streaming services. On top of that, you’ll also get 3% cash back at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target) and 1% back on all other purchases.

Annual Fee

The $95 fee is waived the first year for active-duty military personnel. 

Why it’s worth it

The Capital One Savor is one of the best credit cards for restaurants because the $300 introductory bonus is yours to put toward any expense. You can read our Capital One Savor card review for more information.

Total value

The total value of this card depends on your spending habits. If, for example, you spend $5,000 on dining and entertainment a year, you’ll earn an extra $200 in cash on top of the $300 welcome offer. And don’t forget the 3% you’ll earn at grocery stores.

Summary of the best credit cards for military

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best for beginners
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for travel perks
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for premium travel rewards
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for small-business owners looking for premium perks
  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Best for top-tier hotel elite status
  • Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for dining and entertainment

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave comments below, we would love to help.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.

Meghan Hunter is an editor for Million Mile Secrets. She covers points, miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels and general travel. Her work has also appeared in The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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