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Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and Credit Cards

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The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and Military Lending Act (MLA) provide a ton of benefits to military servicemembers. One of the greatest features for vacation-bound military families is that it can reduce your credit card APR and for active-duty military, waive the annual fee! If you just want to know which credit cards waive their usual high fees, check out the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card from American Express.

Note: Please do not take this as legal advice. We research all of the information and provide you with our best understanding.

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The Platinum Card from American Express

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If you are a traveler who loves the airport lounges, Marriott hotels, airfare credit, and more then you need to add this card to your repertoire.

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Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

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In his Inaugural Address on January 2,1961, John F. Kennedy said, “MY FELLOW AMERICANS, ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU, ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY.” This statement is relevant to the role of an individual citizen, in relation to the United States government and was a clear display of patriotism, which, as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the ‘love for or devotion to one’s country’. According to Statista, 85% of Americans consider themselves to be very patriotic.

However, rewind to 1940, and you will discover how, back then already, the United States federal government was showing its love for and devotion to its citizens, especially military members, by enacting legislature such as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act, which was later revised and expanded on by the Servicemember Civil Relief Act in 2003 (SCRA).

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and Credit Cards Image

This legislation was designed to ease financial burdens on servicemembers during periods of military service and covers the legal implications surrounding the following:

  • rental agreements
  • security deposits
  • prepaid rent
  • evictions
  • installment contracts
  • credit card interest rates
  • mortgage interest rates
  • mortgage foreclosures
  • civil judicial proceedings
  • automobile leases
  • life insurance
  • health insurance
  • income tax payments

The SCRA provides protections for military members as they enter active duty and is generally read in favor of the servicemembers it is intended to protect.

Who qualifies for Servicemembers Civil Relief Act benefits?

The SCRA provides a variety of benefits and protection to those in military service. Military service is defined in the Act as including:

  • full-time active-duty members of the five military branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard)
  • reservists on federal active duty
  • members of the National Guard on federal orders for a period of more than 30 days
  • commissioned officers in active service of the Public Health Service (PHS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • servicemembers absent from duty for a lawful cause or because of sickness, wounds, or leave

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act also provides certain benefits and protection to servicemember dependents and, in certain instances, to those who co-signed a loan for or took out a loan with, a servicemember.

The term “dependent” includes:

  • a servicemember’s spouse
  • a servicemember’s children
  • any other person for whom the servicemember has provided more than half of their financial support for the past 180 days

What protection does the SCRA provide?

What the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act does is limit the amount of interest that may be charged on certain financial obligations, such as a credit card, that were incurred prior to military service, to no more than 6% per annum, including most fees. In order to have the interest rate on a financial obligation capped at 6% per year, a servicemember has a duty to provide the lender/creditor with written notice and a copy of his or her military orders or, “other appropriate indicator of military service” such as a letter from a commanding officer. The written notice and proof of military service shall be provided to the lender within a hundred and eighty days upon termination of the servicemember’s military service.

The lender must then waiver interest greater than 6% per annum retrospectively and is prohibited from accelerating the payment of the principal debt in response to a properly made request for a 6% interest rate cap. The only way a lender can avoid this 6% interest rate cap is if a court determines that the servicemember has the ability to pay interest at a rate higher than 6% per annum.

How does the Department of Justice enforce the SCRA?

Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, the Attorney General is authorized to file a federal lawsuit against any person, or entity, who engages in a pattern or practice which violates this law. The Attorney General may file such a suit wherever the facts at hand raise “an issue of substantial public importance.” When the Attorney General files a lawsuit under the SCRA, he has the authority to seek monetary damages on behalf of individual servicemembers. The Attorney General additionally has the authority to secure civil penalties, equitable relief, and declaratory relief.

How do I file an SCRA complaint with the Department of Justice?

As the first port of call, you should contact your nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office to determine whether the SCRA applies. Dependents of servicemembers may also contact or visit their local military legal assistance offices wherever they reside. In order to have your SCRA case reviewed by the Department of Justice (the Department), you must first seek the assistance of your military legal assistance office. If that office cannot resolve the grievance, it should opt to forward the grievance to the Department. The Department will then review the matter to determine whether Department action is appropriate.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and Credit Card Waivers!

American Express – General

Link: AMEX Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Eligibility

Amex waives the fees mentioned below, in respect of their cards:

American Express

  • annual fees (this can be a huge saving with some Amex cards)
  • over-limit fees
  • late payment fees
  • returned payment fees
  • statement copy request fees

In addition to this, they cap credit card interest rates at 6% per annum. Cardholders who qualify for SCRA benefits can request those benefits by calling the number on the back of their card or 800-253- 1720 to submit a request. If you’re calling from abroad, you will be able to make a collect call on 336- 393-1111. You can also do it all online in your card’s online portal in the Document Center.

American Express offers these benefits to all active-duty servicemembers regardless of when the card was opened.

The Platinum Card from American Express

The $550 annual fee and the authorized user fee (see rates & fees) is waived for those covered under the SCRA.

It appears that American Express are extremely supportive of the military and have great customer service to prove it.

Servicemember spouses could possibly get annual fees waived for their own accounts under certain circumstances, but it is advised to call to find out, as individual experiences and answers from American Express customer service tend to vary significantly.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

The $450 annual fee (see rates & fees) is waived with the similar conditions as the American Express Platinum Card.

The card offers a generous welcome bonus of seventy five thousand points once you utilize your new card on $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

It is highly recommended to have a hotel card, such as this one that earns valuable points, if you consider all the travelling that United States servicemembers do.

Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

The $450 annual fee (see rates & fees) is waived with the same conditions as the American Express Platinum and the Bonvoy Brilliant cards.

With most official government travel being on Delta, you could earn Delta elite status quicker by being a holder of this card and by adding your temporary duty (TDY) trip miles to your SkyMiles account.

You also receive 20% off on in-flight purchases on Delta with this card.

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Chase Sapphire Reserve

Link: Chase Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Chase has a number of the most valuable credit cards within the travel rewards hobby at the moment, and if you open your account before going on active duty, Chase will waive all fees including annual fees. They also lower your credit card interest rate to 4% (lower than what is required by law).

Chase also offers foreclosure protection if you have a mortgage through them, which protection applies regardless of when the mortgage began. It prevents Chase from foreclosing on your home, irrespective of how far behind you are on payments. This foreclosure protection applies to the active duty service period and continues for one year, after your service has been terminated.

The $450 annual fee for those covered under the Military Lending Act (MLA) is waived, provided you opened your account after September 20, 2017.

If you opened your account before September 20, 2017, but subsequent to starting active duty, and are a resident of Ohio, Louisiana or Pennsylvania, you can send Chase your Leave and Earnings Statement proving residency and they will waive the annual fee.

Call Chase’s extremely efficient Military Specialist line on 1-800-235-9978 for further information.

Bank of America

Link: Bank of America Military Benefits

In essence, Bank of America provides the minimum benefits as per the SCRA. This means that they will only extend benefits on accounts that were opened before active duty status began.

However, they do have the 6% annual interest rate cap benefit for six months after active duty terminates. Any loan products (car loan, home mortgage, etc.) are also protected from repossession and foreclosure during active duty.

Barclays

Link: Barclays Military Benefits

In previous years, Barclays had been one of the most generous banks when it came to providing SCRA benefits. Previously, Barclays was willing to offer SCRA benefits to new cardholders even if they opened accounts subsequent to commencing active duty. However, Barclays modified their policy on this at the beginning of 2017.

Now, Barclays only provides SCRA benefits to cardholders who opened their accounts prior to commencing active duty. If you opened an account before active duty, Barclays offers benefits that go above and beyond. They offer 0% in terms of the annual interest rate and no annual fees on credit cards throughout active duty. However, those members who began active duty who are now looking at a Barclays card will NOT be considered SCRA eligible, and therefore are responsible for any fees and standard interest rates that apply to any of their cards.

Capital One

Link: Capital One Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

According to Capital One, it is committed to protecting servicemembers with benefits that exceed the requirements of the SCRA.

Capital One extends the following benefits to all credit card accounts, which were opened before active military service commenced:

  • All fees waived (including annual fees) on all cards
  • 4% annual interest rate cap benefit during active duty AND for 1 year thereafter.

Capital One also makes it easy to apply for these benefits online and has a dedicated support line, just for active duty members! This means obtaining proper answers to your benefit questions is straightforward as a result of these client service representatives, who are trained specifically to assist military members and families.

You can call 855-227-1645 to talk to a Capital One Military Specialist. This line is available 24/7.

Citi

Link: Citi Products and Programs

Citi offers generous advantages for SCRA-eligible cardholders, as long as they opened their accounts before active duty status commenced. They unfortunately show no leniency in this regard.

For those accounts opened before active duty service commenced, Citi offers a 0% annual interest rate for the period that covers active duty. They will also waive all fees on these accounts (including annual fees).

Citi has Military Specialists you can call 24/7 to discuss benefits. The number is 877-804-1082 if you’re calling from the United States and 605-335-2222 for collect-calls from abroad.

Discover

Link: Your SCRA Benefits With Discover

Discover extends SCRA benefits to all types of cards, and irrespective of whether the accounts were opened prior to or during the course of active duty service.

They’ll waive late fees and over-limit fees on all credit card products, and they guarantee an annual interest rate cap that does not exceed 5.9%.

US Bank & Wells Fargo

Link: US Bank SCRA Benefits

Link: Wells Fargo SCRA Benefits

Both of the above banks provide the minimum required SCRA benefits. This means they will lower the annual interest rate to 6% on any accounts opened prior to active duty service. In addition to this, home mortgage or car loans are protected from foreclosure and repossession respectively.

Again, these are the standard protections that the SCRA offers. These banks honor what is required by law, but do not go above and beyond to extend these benefits in any way.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card has a $550 annual fee, so people often wonder if it’s worth-while to have. Yes, the annual fee can be difficult to digest, but if you value the card’s membership benefits, which include lounge access, shopping protections, Hilton and Marriott status, access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, evacuation protection on trips and more, then yes, getting the Amex Platinum Card makes a lot of sense. Also, if you value spend capability, the Amex Platinum is a charge card so you generally have higher spend power than with credit cards.

The Platinum card provides many advantages, but to be honest, the Platinum is not the best card on the market for points or travel protection since the Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige are difficult to beat in this regard. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are just as valuable as Amex Membership

The Platinum card provides many advantages, but to be honest, the Platinum is not the best card on the market for points or travel protection since the Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige are difficult to beat in this regard. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are just as valuable as Amex Membership

Rewards points, while Citi ThankYou points are worth slightly less. Although, the value you can obtain depends on whether or not you intend on redeeming your points through a travel portal or transferring them to be used on a selected airline or hotel partner. In certain instances, and depending on your disbursement patterns, the Sapphire Reserve or Citi Prestige may accrue points quicker than the Amex Platinum.

At the end of the day, if you learn to maximize the up to $200 airline credit, up to $200 Uber credit and up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit , you’re really looking at $50 a year for a card that gives you access to Centurion lounges, Delta lounges when flying Delta, Priority Pass Select membership, Hilton Gold status, Marriott Gold Elite standing, a 60,000-point welcome bonus and so much more.

Below we delve into the details and benefits:

  • You get 60,000 bonus points with the Platinum card after $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of card membership
  • Up to $200 annual airline fee in statement credits on incidental fees charged by the airline you select
  • Membership Rewards points (5 points for every $1) on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
  • Membership Rewards points (5 points for every $1) on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
  • Up to $200 Uber credit split into monthly $15 credits for US rides, plus a bonus of $20 in December
  • $100 fee credit for Global Entry or an $85 fee credit for transportation security administration (TSA) pre-check every 4 years
  • Saks credit to the value of $100 which is split into 2 $50 statement credits for the 2 halves of the year
  • Transfer of points to 21 airline and hotel partners
  • Access to Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges and Delta Sky Clubs, when flying Delta (all part of the American Express Global Lounge Collection)
  • Complimentary Gold status at Hilton and Gold Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • Complimentary memberships to Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive
  • Access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts
  • No foreign-transaction fees
  • $550 annual fee
  • You can add up to 3 authorized users for a fee of $175 per year

Welcome Bonus

If Membership Rewards points are valued at 2 cents each, that makes this 60,000 point bonus worth $1,200, which is more than twice the $550 annual fee. The best value in terms of redeeming points, however, is in transferring to airline or hotel partners. For example, you’ll transfer thirty four thousand American Express points (or less if there’s a transfer bonus) to Iberia for an out-of-season, 1 way, business-class flight between Boston and Madrid. In the event you are needing to pay fifty thousand points for a peak award, you’ll still have some points from the welcome bonus to spare.

It’s easy to see the value right there, but, if you also deduct the $200 annual airline fee credit, it lowers the effective annual fee to just $350. The downside is that Amex makes its annual fee credit far more difficult to use than its competitors. You are limited to only one airline each year and can only get credits for incidental fees on that particular airline. Although, it depends on the airline. You may just be able to purchase airline gift cards that activate the annual credit, which could be used to buy airfare. This is far less impressive when compared to the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige’s travel credits, which can be used for practically any travel expense.

In addition to this, you’ll receive a further $200 in annual Uber credits that, if maximized, lowers the annual fee to just $150. Again though, Amex has made this credit more difficult to use than necessary. Instead of just providing a flat $200 each year, the Platinum card’s $200 in Uber credits are doled out in increments of $15 each month, with an extra $20 in December. Further, you’ll now have to remember to select Uber Cash to enable you to use your credits. People in areas who don’t use Uber as often may find at least a few of these monthly credits going unused.

Finally, and in addition to the above, you will receive a $100 in annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits which can effectively reduce the annual fee to just $50. These credits are split into 2 $50 credits for each half of the year, and there are plenty of items under $50 that you can purchase as gifts.

Card Perks

The Platinum card from Amex has a number of the nicest membership benefits of any card. First, the Platinum card provides you access to the best network of domestic lounges within the country, like the Centurion Lounges. American Express has spent a lot of resources building these lounges and they are worth every cent, with food menus from award-winning chefs and exquisite cocktails at each location as well as complimentary massages and spa treatments at some locations. So far, there are only 9 Centurion Lounges open, including one international location in Hong Kong, but 5 additional lounges are scheduled to open soon.

Even if you’re in a city without a Centurion Lounge, you’ll still have other options as the Platinum card also comes with a complimentary Priority Pass membership that allows you to take 2 free guests in with you. With over one thousand two hundred lounges within the Priority Pass worldwide network, including restaurants, you’ll have access to a lounge at many of the airports you visit. And, as the cherry on top, whenever you’re flying on Delta you’ll have access to Delta Sky Clubs, which makes the Platinum card the last non-airline-branded credit card to offer access to 1 of the legacy airline lounge networks.

Another great travel benefit of the Platinum Card is the $100 Global Entry or the $85 TSA pre- check application fee waiver, available once every 4 years that you’re a cardholder. If you’re not already a member of one or both of these trusted traveler programs, this is a great way to apply for free. Or, if you’re already a member, you can either renew your own membership when it comes up for renewal or use your fee waiver on the application for a friend or family member.

Amex’s Fine Hotel & Resorts is a program which, incidentally, offers extra value by providing additional perks once you book a hotel room through the program (like complimentary breakfast for 2, guaranteed 4pm late checkout, free Wi-Fi, room upgrades when available and a benefit specific to each hotel that’s valued around $100). You can also sometimes find offers for free nights when staying 3 or 4 nights at a property. If you enjoy taking cruises, you may also get value from the American Express Cruise Privileges Program, as this program provides shipboard credits and more on selected sailings of 5 nights or more that are booked through approved channels.

The Amex Platinum card provides high-quality shopping protection in all categories, but it sadly does not include price protection. This means that several items you acquire with your Platinum card could also be covered by the extended warranty protection that matches warranties of less than 2 years and adds 2 years to warranties of 2 to 5 years.

With the return protection, American Express may refund you up to $300 per item if a merchant will not accept a return within 90 days of purchase. The purchase protection in regard to damaged, lost or stolen goods may apply if claimed within 120 days of purchase (90 days for New York residents). You can have a look at the benefits guides for each type of protection on Amex’s website. And, if you’re traveling outside the country, the Amex Platinum is one of their few credit cards with no foreign transaction fees.

The Amex Platinum also offers complimentary status in two hotel loyalty programs: Hilton Honors and the Marriott Bonvoy program. You get Gold status with Hilton which entitles you to an 80% points bonus, complimentary breakfast at most brands, space-available upgrades and more. And while Gold Elite standing in the new Marriott program isn’t the foremost valuable mid-tier standing that there is (valued at roughly $845), it does get you benefits like priority late checkout should this option be available, upgrades to superior rooms when available, and a welcome gift of points.

The long and short of it

Many banks require you to open an account prior to commencing active duty to be eligible for SCRA benefits. So, if you anticipate entering into active duty, you might consider opening a new account with banks like Chase, Barclays or Citi, which will reduce or eliminate the interest you’ll pay while you’re serving. Or, check out top cards from American Express, which will waive annual fees, late fees, and much more!

Below is a list of banks that we think offer the best benefits for active-duty military cardholders:

  • American Express waives annual fees, late fees, and other service fees for any of their cards
  • Capital One waives annual fees and lowers annual interest rates to 4% on all cards during active duty and for 1 year thereafter
  • Citi waives annual fees and has a 0% interest rate on credit cards as long as the account was opened before active duty began
  • Barclays also waives annual fees and lowers interest to 0% on credit cards that were opened before active duty
  • Chase waives annual fees and lowers interest rates to 4% on credit cards opened before active duty
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