The Platinum Card From American Express Is Free For US Military: Here's How

The Platinum Card From American Express Is Free For US Military: Here’s How

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It’s a bit of an open secret on military bases; active duty service members can get The Platinum Card from American Express for free.

The Platinum Card from American Express has a reputation for being a much-coveted card to hold. Constructed from metal instead of plastic, it’s not only flashy and heavy, but it offers the best benefits of any travel reward card on the market. However, those perks come with a hefty price tag.

The annual fee for The Platinum Card from American Express comes in at a jaw-dropping $550. And what do you get for that hefty price tag?

  • 60,000 Membership Rewards sign up bonus if you spend $5,000 in the first three months
  • Access to the largest network of airport lounges
  • up to $200 annual airline fee statement credit at one selected airline
  • up to $200 in Uber credits ($15/month in Uber credits, with an additional $20 credit in Dec)
  • up to $100 Sak’s Fifth Avenue statement credit, ($50 between January and June and $50 between July and December)
  • TSA/Global Entry credit worth up to $100 every four years
  • Gold Status with both Hilton and Marriott hotels

Annual Fees Are Waived For Military

Active duty service members have a special advantage. Several credit card companies, like American Express, will waive those annual fees, even the sky-high ones! And it's the same card with all of the same credits and benefits.

That’s huge! Not only can you earn some incredible sign-up bonuses with these premium cards, but they can also save you hundreds of dollars and make traveling for you and your family a much more pleasant experience.

I know, it sounds too good to be true. I heard reports about this many years ago. I assumed it was just another one of those crazy military rumors. Or if it was true, it had to be complicated and likely not worth the effort.

I was wrong. It’s true, it’s easy, and it’s absolutely worth the effort. I’m kicking myself that we waited so long to take advantage of it.

So why would credit card companies waive annual fees?

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act 

Congress passed the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) in 2003 to lighten the financial burden during military service. It provides protection with rental agreements, security deposits, prepaid rent, evictions, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgage interest rates, mortgage foreclosures, automobile leases, etc.

Under SCRA, the interest rate on all debt incurred before entering active duty is capped at 6%. This interest cap remains for the remainder of your time in service and for one year after service ends. Debt incurred by spouses also qualifies for SCRA benefits.

Now SCRA itself does not state that servicemembers cannot be charged annual fees on the credit cards. However, American Express has decided to waive these fees for anyone eligible for SCRA protections. It’s a fantastic way of thanking military members for their service and great public relations for the credit card company to boot!

Here's everything you need to know about SCRA if you're curious.

Does American Express Waive Fees For Spouses?

Yes! American Express applies the same SCRA benefits to military spouses that it does to active duty service members, but you'll want to know two things.

Verification of eligibility is done through the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting Systems (DEERS.) Any spouse with a dependent ID and TRICARE benefits is already enrolled. If you are newly married, it's best to make sure the enrollment process is complete prior to applying for American Express cards.

Second, whether or not a spouse's fees are automatically waived may depend on which state you live in. It appears annual fees will be waived for those who live in community property states, which include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

That does not mean anyone who lives in another state is out of luck. Those who reside in non-community property states may need to add the active duty member to their account as an authorized user before requesting for SCRA benefits. Any fees associated with adding the authorized user and the annual fee should then be eligible for a waiver.

To learn more about travel rewards, check out our free travel rewards course.

Top American Express Cards For Military

American Express restricts the sign-up bonuses to “once per lifetime” and you may only have five of their credit card products at any one time. Business credit cards will count for the five-card limitation. It’s a good idea to keep those rules in mind when planning your American Express card opening strategy.

The Platinum Card From American Express

By far, the most popular cards American Express offers are its Platinum cards. Once applying for Chase cards is no longer an option because of 5/24 (opened five accounts in the last 24 months), The Platinum Card from American Express should be next in line as it offers the best card benefits as detailed above.

  • 60,000 Membership Rewards bonus points if you spend $5,000 in the first three months
  • 5 points per dollar spent when you book flights directly with the airline or through American Express Travel
  • 5 points per dollar spent when you book, and prepay, for hotels on amextravel.com.
  • 1 point per dollar spent on everything else
  • Access to  the Global Lounge Collection
  • up to $200 annual airline fee statement credit at one selected airline
  • up to $200 in Uber credits ($15/month in Uber credits, with an additional $20 credit in Dec)
  • up to $100 Sak’s Fifth Avenue statement credit, ($50 between January and June and $50 between July and December)
  • TSA/Global Entry credit worth up to $100 every four years
  • Gold Status with both Hilton and Marriott hotels

Learn how to apply for The Platinum Card from American Express here.

Delta Reserve Credit Card From American Express

The Delta Reserve from American Express is one of several Delta co-branded cards offered by American Express. It touts that it provides access to Delta SkyClub lounges when traveling on Delta. You’ll get that with The Platinum Card from American Express, so it isn’t too valuable for military members on its own.

What makes it valuable is the annual companion certificate. Each account anniversary, the associated Delta SkyMiles account is credited with a companion certificate. This certificate allows a companion to accompany the cardholder on a Domestic flight in First, Comfort+, or regular economy for just the cost of taxes!

  • 75,000 bonus miles and $10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles if you spend $5,000 in the first three months
  • 2 miles per dollar spent directly with Delta
  • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
  • Access to Delta Sky Club
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights, up to $60 per person per round trip flight
  • Receive a companion certificate, which allows a free flight for a companion on a domestic flight, on account anniversary

Learn how to apply for the Delta Reserve from American Express here.

American Express Gold Card

While the American Express Gold Card doesn’t offer nearly the same level of perks that The Platinum Card from American Express does, it’s a good American Express Membership Rewards earning cards since it earns 4x on dining and at supermarkets (including at military commissaries.) Additional American Express Gold Card perks include up to $100 airline fee statement credits per year on a single airline and $10 per month statement credit that may be used at Grubhub, Seamless, Shake Shack, Boxed, and a few other places (enrollment required.)

  • 35,000 Membership Reward bonus points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months of opening the account
  • 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide
  • 4 points per dollar spent at grocery stores in the US, up to $25,000 spent (then 1 point per dollar after that)
  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel booked at amextravel.com.
  • up to a $100 credit for airline fees on a selected airline

Learn how to apply for the American Express Gold Card here.

The Business Platinum Card From American Express

If you have a side hustle then you may qualify for a business card. Much like its personal card counterpart, The Business Platinum Card from American Express has some amazing benefits. Many of the perks are the same, but there are a few minor differences.

  • 75,000 Membership Reward points if you spend $15,000 in the first three months
  • 5 points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels booked at amextravel.com
  • Access to the largest network of airport lounges
  • An annual airline fee statement credit of up to $200 on a selected airline
  • An annual Dell.com statement credit of up to $200. (up to $100 between January and June and $100 between July and December)
  • 35% point bonus when Membership Rewards points are used to book flights with the qualifying airline
  • TSA/Global Entry credit worth up to $100 every four years
  • Gold Status with both Hilton and Marriott hotels

The 35% point bonus is a particularly valuable benefit of The Business Platinum Card from American Express. When Membership Rewards are used to book domestic travel in First or Business class fares on any airline, or with the selected airline for the $200 statement credit, through the American Express travel portal, 35% of the points spent are credited back to the account.

Learn how to apply for the Business Platinum Card from American Express here.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Hilton Honors points aren’t particularly valuable, but the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is an amazing top-tier card American Express also offers. Civilians will pay $450 a year for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, but military members will have the annual fee waived for it too. Besides a sign-up bonus, the benefits this card offers are:

  • Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points if you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months.
  • 14 points per dollar spent at participating Hilton hotels and resorts
  • 7 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with amextravel.com
  • 3 points per dollar spent on everything else
  • Up to $250 credit annually for eligible purchases at participating Hilton resorts
  • Up to $250 airline fee statement credit, annually, on a selected airline
  • Annual weekend night award
  • Complimentary Hilton Diamond status (allows access to executive lounges and room upgrades)
  • Priority Pass lounge access

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

Marriott points are more valuable than Hilton and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card is a terrific card to hang onto. However, there is a complex set of rules for this card. Applicants may not be eligible for a sign-up bonus if they have received a bonus in the last couple of years on either Chase Marriott Bonvoy card. Read the fine print when applying to be sure.

The benefits of the Marriot Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card are a credit of up to $300 on eligible purchases at participating Marriot Bonvoy hotels and an annual certificate for a free night (up to 50,000 points) at a participating hotel. The hotel credit may pay for the cost of the room, parking, or any other purchases charged to your room.

  • 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
  • 6 points per dollar spent at Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants
  • 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with the airlines
  • 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • up to $300 credit for purchases at a Marriott Bonvoy hotel, per year
  • Credit for TSA Pre-check every 4 years, or Global Entry every 4.5 years
  • 1 free night award on account anniversary. Can be redeemed at a participating hotel

American Express and Upgrading Cards

Though American Express restricts sign up bonuses to once in a lifetime, they are generous with their upgrade offers.

You’ll only see the upgrade offer if you don’t already have the higher-end card in the same online account. Note I did not say you couldn’t already have that card. You just need to have another American Express account with a unique login. It’s possible to earn the sign-up bonus on a lower-tier card and then upgrade it to a higher tier card with better perks.

For example, my husband can upgrade his Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card to a Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. He already has a Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, but it’s in a different account. In the second account, it shows he may request an upgrade. After upgrading, he’ll have double benefits, one set from each card.

American Express Card Upgrade

It’s important to note that these upgrades are not new applications or accounts.

How American Express Cards Make Military Travel Easier

Besides the points and miles active duty service members can earn with American Express cards, the other benefits these cards offer can make business and personal travel easier and more comfortable.

TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry

American Express cards like The Platinum Card from American Express and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card include statement credits to cover the application costs for expedited screening. Every four years, the account is eligible for a TSA or Global Entry statement credit.

Those with TSA Pre-Check can enter the TSA lanes at the airport, skipping the long regular lines. These pre-vetted individuals do not need to remove shoes, belts, jackets, or remove items from carry-on bags, making getting through security that much faster.

Because military can already use their Common Access Card (CAC) number as their Known Travel Number (KTN), the TSA Pre-Check credit card benefit may be used for a spouse, family member, or friend. Pre-Check makes family travel easier since kids 12 and under can go through TSA lanes with a parent.

But having a CAC does not give military service members Global Entry, a trusted traveler program that allows for expedited entry into the US. When traveling back to the United States from a deployment or overseas duty station, Global Entry recipients use a kiosk at Customs and Immigration, bypassing the regular lines, and speeding through the process.

Like TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry recipients also receive a KTN, granting them all the TSA Pre-Check benefits, so getting Global Entry is the better option. However, all children, regardless of age, require Global Entry enrollment. Having multiple American Express cards with this benefit means that the entire family can enroll and skip the lines at the airport.

Related Articles: Global Entry Program: Everything You Need To Know

Airport Lounges

Traveling can be a stressful experience. Between crowded gates and expensive airport food, a long layover can feel like torture. Having access to an airport lounge makes the entire ordeal much more pleasant and less expensive.

The Platinum Card from American Express card grants access to the largest network of airport lounges. Not only are lounges are a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of the terminal, but they offer food and drinks, free WiFi, and plenty of outlets for charging devices.

A military family can save a bundle just being able to grab meals or snacks between flights. Some lounges even have playrooms for kids, complete with books, toys, and video games.

The over 1200 lounges are accessible with The Platinum Card from American Express card are:

  • The Centurion Lounges by American Express
  • The International American Express Lounges
  • Delta Sky Clubs (when flying Delta)
  • Priority Pass Select Lounges
  • Airspace Lounges
  • Escape Lounges

Airline Fee Statement Credits 

Several of the recommended American Express cards offer an airline fee statement credit. With this benefit, once an airline is selected, incidental fees such as baggage and in-flight purchases made with the card are reimbursed in the form of a statement credit, up to $200. Call the number on the back of your card to make your airline selection. Airlines can be changed once per year in January.

Many airlines already offer free baggage to active duty military for personal travel. Check the airline’s baggage policy before using the credit for bags.

Purchasing food and drinks on board an aircraft for a family isn’t cheap and not every airport has a lounge to grab a bite in before the flight. The airline statement credit is a great way to save on meals for the family while traveling.

There are some lounges even The Platinum Card from American Express card doesn’t grant access to. Another option is to purchase a day pass to airline lounges, such as the United Club.

Requesting SCRA Benefits

Having the annual fees waived, or “suppressed” as American Express refers to it, is easy. Rank does not matter. Both officers and enlisted personnel are eligible.

Simply call the 1-800 number on the back of the card and answer the representative’s questions. It can also be done online. Once the card has been added to the online account, log in and go to Account Services.

American Express SCRA Request

As of this writing, it takes a few clicks to get there.

American Express SCRA Request

Clicking on the SCRA link takes you to a similar link.

American Express SCRA Request

And finally, you get to the actual SCRA request.

American Express SCRA Request

There are a few more questions after this point to answer. Once submitted to American Express, a snail-mail letter will be sent informing you that the SCRA benefits have bee applied to your account. A separate letter confirming the decision is sent for each eligible card. It’s that easy!

Already Paid Fees On An American Express Card? 

No worries! If you currently have American Express cards you paid annual fees on, log in and do this now. Historically, American Express has credited previously paid fees to SCRA eligible accounts.

Final Thoughts

American Express offers a wide range of travel rewards cards, from no-frills, no annual fee budget cards to the high-end ultra-premium products laden with brag-worthy travel perks. High annual fees restrict most travelers to holding just one or two of the American Express's top cards, but thanks to SCRA protections, American Express is generously waiving these fees for service members and their spouses.

While American Express limits sign up bonuses to once per lifetime so they can't be churned, the top cards' annual benefits alone make them worth holding onto for the remainder of your time in service. Start with The Platinum Card from American Express as it offers the best ongoing travel benefits. After that, review the benefits of each card and let your personal travel plans and goals determine which card is the best match.

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ChooseFI seeks to uncover helpful services that help you be financially resilient. However, we may receive compensation, at no cost to you, from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article, including from CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Opinions are the author’s alone, and this content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of these entities. See our disclosures for more info.

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