Why the Amex Platinum card is best for active-duty military
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I have my nine years of active-duty service in the Navy (Beat Army!) to thank for getting me interested in points and miles. Traveling and moving all the time was hurting my family’s wallet and I knew there had to be a better way to cover all the travel expenses.
Among the many travel strategies and benefits I took advantage of during my service, one of the best was The Platinum Card® from American Express (which I continue to use). Let’s look at what makes one of the best credit cards so beneficial for active-duty military members.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
Before we get into the Amex Platinum benefits, we’re going to review all the benefits military members receive — including those that involve credit cards — under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). SCRA offers financial and legal protection for, among other things, credit cards, mortgages and taxes. Some of the most important of these benefits include:
- Reduced interest rates. The interest rate on debt — including credit cards, car loans, business obligations and some student loans, as well as fees, service charges and renewal fees — is cut to 6 percent for anything incurred before entering active-duty service. For mortgages, the lower interest rate extends for a year after active-duty service.
- Foreclosures are postponed. No sale, foreclosure or seizure of property for nonpayment of pre-service mortgage debt is allowed if done during or within nine months after your service on active duty, unless there’s a valid court order. This is especially helpful in states that allow foreclosures to proceed without involving the courts.
- Deferred income taxes. The Internal Revenue Service, along with state and local taxing authorities, must defer your income taxes due before or during your military service if your ability to pay is materially affected by military service. Also, no interest or penalty can be added because of this deferral.
- Protection for small-business owners. If you own a small business, your nonbusiness assets and military pay are protected from creditors while you’re on active duty. This also applies to business debts or obligations.
- Termination of automobile leases. You may terminate an automobile lease under circumstances that include: signing a lease agreement before being called to active duty; signing an agreement and then receiving permanent change-of-station orders outside the continental U.S.; or signing an agreement and then receiving orders to deploy.
No annual fee
The Platinum Card now is viewed almost reverentially in military circles because its high $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) is waived each year you’re on active duty. That means no annual fee to receive the public welcome offer of 60,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months or up to 100,000 Amex points via CardMatch (offer subject to change at anytime).
Further, American Express also waives the annual fee for any accounts when an active-duty member is registered as an authorized user, including on your spouse’s account. With the Amex Platinum, that’s a savings of $175 a year for up to three authorized users (see rates and fees).
As a result, my fellow officers and senior enlisted all became familiar with the card and held it. We even had office pools where we rotated referral links so the new person coming to the office could sign up and one of us would earn a referral bonus.
APPLY HERE: Platinum Card from American Express
How to get the waiver
When you sign up for the card, you must request the benefit from American Express, which will validate your service via an automated system with the Department of Defense. You’ll then receive a statement credit within a few weeks for the amount of the annual fee. I know thousands of service members are grateful to American Express for this gesture of thanks.
Other Amex Platinum benefits
Now that you have the Amex Platinum card — without the $550 annual fee — it’s time to dig into some of the top benefits that come with it.
Related reading: 10 Things to do when you get Amex Platinum
Delta Sky Club access
Because of the Fly America Act and the rule that all official travel must be booked through the Defense Travel System, Delta is often the airline for your official government travel. When you’re flying Delta and have the Amex Platinum in your wallet, you get free Sky Club entry on your day of travel.
Related reading: The best Delta Sky Club lounges, and how to get into them
Sky Clubs have come a long way in the last few years and are the best domestic lounges, in my opinion. Remember free entry is only for the cardholder — up to two guests are allowed at a cost of $29 each.
If you’re not flying on Delta and your airport has one of these lounges, they’re an excellent option, since your Amex Platinum card will get you in. They’re located in nine airports:
- Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
- Hong Kong (HKG)
- Houston (IAH)
- Las Vegas (LAS)
- Miami (MIA)
- New York LaGuardia (LGA)
- Philadelphia (PHL)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Seattle-Tacoma (SEA)
By the end of 2020, there will be six more Centurion Lounges, located in Denver (DEN), New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), London Heathrow (LHR), Charlotte (CLT) and Phoenix (PHX). If you’re out of the country on temporary or permanent duty, there are 13 International American Express Lounges:
- Stockholm, Sweden (ARN) — American Express Lounge by Pontus
- Mumbai, India (BOM) — American Express Lounge
- Delhi, India (DEL) — American Express Lounge
- Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE) — The Centurion Lounge
- São Paulo, Brazil (GRU) — American Express Lounge
- Melbourne, Australia (MEL) — American Express Lounge
- Mexico City, Mexico (MEX) — three Centurion Clubs
- Monterrey, Mexico (MTY) — two Centurion Clubs
- Sydney, Australia (SYD) — American Express Lounge
- Toluca, Mexico (TLC) — Centurion Club
Once inside, enjoy amenities such as seasonally inspired food from renowned local chefs, signature cocktails, premium spirits and curated wines — all complimentary. Some lounges offer spa services, wine tasting areas, family rooms and shower suites — also all complimentary.
Related reading: A guide to Amex Centurion Lounges
Priority Pass membership
The U.S. military travels the world, requiring more than just Delta Sky Club access to be comfortable in the majority of airports we transit. Priority Pass lounge club membership picks up the slack and allows you and two guests to enter any of the 1,200-plus lounges for no additional charge. I was consistently pleased during my nine years of travel to find a Priority Pass lounge in almost every airport the Navy required me to visit across Asia and the Middle East.
In order to go out and enjoy yourself while traveling, all ranks in the military are required to have a plan to avoid potential DUI situations. They also often have a curfew. Uber comes in handy here and it’s even better when you have $15 in free Uber credit every month (with a $20 credit in December) courtesy of your Platinum Card. Credits are only good for use in the U.S. (one of my biggest pet peeves right now with Uber), and they do not carry over to the next month.
APPLY HERE: Platinum Card from American Express
$200 in airline credits
I view this benefit as the icing on the cake for the Amex Platinum when you aren’t paying an annual fee. Every calendar year you receive up to $200 in statement credits from a participating airline of your choice to cover any incidental fees — such as checked bags and inflight food and beverage — you charge to your Platinum card. Not only does Amex not require you to pay $550, it then gives you another $200 to spend with an airline of your choice.
Hilton Honors Gold and Marriott Gold status come with being an Amex Platinum cardholder. These will make your hotel stays worldwide more comfortable and give you bonus points in your hotel loyalty accounts on government-paid room nights.
Remember you have to use your Government Travel Charge Card to pay for the room, meaning you won’t earn points via your credit card, but you can keep the points earned for staying the night in your hotel account.
Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit
If you’re in the military, you need Global Entry. If you stay in service more than a few years, you’re going to travel internationally and there’s a good chance it will be via commercial air.
Get Global Entry now and skip the immigration return line. It’s free, after you pay the fee with your Amex Platinum card. Plus, Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck for free. You’ll be reimbursed once every four years for the fee. If you already have Global Entry, use it to get a friend or family member registered for free. Anyone can use the credit, not just the cardholder.
When should you apply?
There is one thing to consider if you’re active-duty military before jumping to get the Platinum Card from American Express: You need to consider maximizing your Chase 5/24 status first and ensuring you have a path to earn Ultimate Rewards.
Applying for the Amex Platinum will add to your 5/24 standing, so you don’t want to prevent yourself from getting a Chase Sapphire Reserve (now also waiving the annual fee for new sign-ups from military members) or a Chase Freedom Unlimited Card.
APPLY HERE: Platinum Card from American Express
Other military-friendly Amex cards
American Express® Gold Card. Like the other Amex cards, this card’s $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) is waived for active duty military personnel. The welcome offer is 35,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases with the card in the first three months. Earn a generous 4x points per dollar spent for dining worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 a year, then 1x), 3x on flights booked directly with an airline and 1x on everything else. Receive an annual up to $120 credit ($10 monthly) when you use the Gold card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. Use a $100 airline fee credit to cover things including checked bags or inflight food and beverages.
Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express. The card’s $450 annual fee ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) (see rates and fees) is waived. New card members receive 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. Earn 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases and 1x on everything else. Enjoy a free Sky Club membership for you, plus up to two guests for $29 each (going up to $39 on Jan. 30, 2020). Receive a domestic first class, Delta Comfort+® or domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year you renew your card.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. The card’s $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) is waived for military members. The current welcome offer is 75,000 points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. Earn 6x points per dollar spent at participating Marriott hotels, 3x points at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with an airline and 2x points on everything else. Perks include an up to $300 annual statement credit, a free award night (up to 50,000 points) every card anniversary, Gold Elite Bonvoy status and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit (up to $100).
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card. This no-annual-fee card offers 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in combined gas and military base purchases annually. Earn 2% cash back on your first $3,000 spent on grocery purchases annually and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Redeem it for cash or in the USAA Service Rewards Center.
I’ve held this card since 2012 and was sad when I saw the annual fee for the first time after leaving the Navy. It reminds me of the years of value my wife and I received from the card all around the world, for absolutely nothing out of our pockets. There are several other benefits not listed above for the card which could also bring you significant value based on your own individual situation.
Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson
Featured photo by Mark Edward Atkinson/Tracey Lee/Getty Images
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees