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Credit Cards

Military members can get over $1,500 of value from the American Express Platinum Card — here's why it's such a good deal

The Platinum Card from American Express offers a long list of benefits, and active-duty servicemembers can get the $695 annual fee waived.

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The best rewards credit cards are loaded with benefits, like statement credits, airport lounge access and purchase protection. Cardholders often have to pay steep annual fees for these choice cards. But not if you're an active-duty member of the U.S. military.

Many card issuers waive annual fees and cap other charges for active-duty service members. , thanks to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Military Lending Act (MLA), . This means those in active-duty military service can earn a welcome bonus and take advantage of valuable ongoing benefits without having to consider the card's annual fee.

Below, CNBC Select details how to take advantage of this benefit and why the American Express Platinum Card® is one of the best cards for active-duty service members.

How the SCRA and MLA apply to credit cards

The SCRA and MLA are similar laws, but have a few key differences. The biggest one is that the SCRA applies to specific financial obligations servicemembers incur before starting active-duty service. The MLA, on the other hand, applies to certain financial commitments you make while on active duty.

If you open a credit card while on active duty you may benefit from the MLA, and credit cards you open before active duty can be affected by the SCRA.

If you get an Amex Platinum card five years into your active service and request SCRA relief, they're probably going to deny you, says Richard Kerr, vice president of travel at Bilt Rewards and a Navy veteran. The difference in how these laws work has just caused a lot of confusion, Kerr said. "You should have requested relief from the annual fee under the Military Lending Act, instead."

Many credit card issuers will waive fees and cap interest rates for servicemembers on active duty, including active duty reservists. But this benefit isn't automatic: You'll need to contact your card issuer and request the fee waiver.

If you have a credit card that charges an annual fee, you even may qualify for reimbursement of the fees you paid while on active duty. While this isn't guaranteed or standard practice, there are "situations where issuers have gone above and beyond," Kerr says. "'I've physically seen checks with five years worth of annual fees sent back to the service member."

Why the Amex Platinum is such a valuable card for active-duty service members

The American Express Platinum Card is an excellent travel rewards card, but it has a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), one of the most expensive annual fees on the market. But if you're a service member who qualifies for a fee waiver, opening the Amex Platinum is easily worth it.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 1X points on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.

  • Annual fee

    $695

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit Needed

    Excellent/Good

  • See rates and fees, terms apply.

The Amex Platinum is loaded with up to $1,595 in statement credits, and even if you only take advantage of half of those, you're making a nice profit. It also earns Amex Membership Rewards points, which are some of the most useful and valuable travel rewards you can earn.

Here is a list of the perks and the welcome bonus you can earn with the Amex Platinum card:

Amex Platinum benefits

Benefit Potential value Details of the benefit Is this a new benefit?
Welcome offer: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.$1,600 (Points are valued at 2 cents per point. This assumes you earn the full welcome bonus plus an additional 8,000 in points when you charge $8,000 in order to hit the spend requirement, assuming an earning rate of 1 point per dollar)As you spend on the card, you will earn the following: 5X per $1 booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel, up to $500,000 per year; 5X per $1 on prepaid hotels booked on AmexTravel.com; 1x per $1 on other purchasesYes, however, this welcome offer is reduced. In the past, the welcome offer was 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first three months.
Up to $200 Hotel credit$200 Get up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.Yes
Up to $200 Airline fee credit$200 Get $200 each year in incidental credits (i.e. checked bag fees, in-flight drinks, etc.) Must select one airline and charge to Amex Plat.No
Up to $300 Equinox credit$300 Get up to $300 back each calendar year on an Equinox+ subscription, or any Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Visit https://platinum.equinox.com/ to enroll. Yes
$155 Walmart+ credit$155Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded. Subject to auto-renewal.Yes
Airport lounge accessVariableYou will receive access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes: Priority Pass membership, Delta Sky Club access and Centurion lounges.No
$200 Uber credit$200 You will get $15 in Uber Cash per month (bonus $20 in December) for Uber rides or Uber Eats orders. Benefit renews annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.No
Up to $240 digital entertainment credit$240 Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, The New York Times, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.Yes
Up to $100 TSA PreCheck®/Global Entry credit$100 Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck® (through a TSA official enrollment provider) application fee, when charged to your Platinum Card®. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.No
$189 CLEAR® Plus credit$100 You will receive up to $189 per year in statement credit to apply for CLEAR® Plus, a biometric security program located at airports and stadiums across the U.S. (subject to auto-renewal) We only value this at $100 because members of select airline loyalty programs can apply for CLEAR® at a discounted rate. Yes
$100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit$100 You will receive $50 semiannually to use at either Saks Fifth Avenue or saks.com. Enrollment required.No
Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold statusVariableYou will receive complimentary Gold status benefits when you book directly at Hilton properties. Gold status includes: daily food/beverage credit, upgrades when available, fifth night free when using points and free Wi-Fi.No
Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite statusVariableYou will receive complimentary Gold Elite status benefits when you book directly at Marriott properties. Gold status includes: upgrades when available, late checkout and enhanced Wi-Fi.No
Terms apply.

Cardmembers also receive elite status with Avis, Hertz and National. And the card has a wide range of built-in travel insurance and purchase protections, including:

  • Trip delay insurance
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Return protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended Warranty
  • Cell phone protection
  • Baggage insurance
  • Terms apply

Find the best credit card for you by reviewing offers in our credit card marketplace or get personalized offers via CardMatch™.

Other cards to consider as an active-duty service member

Regardless of what credit cards you have or want, it's a good practice to ask the card issuer about fee waivers or other benefits available for members of the U.S. military. Although other issuers will waive credit card annual fees for active-duty servicemembers, Amex is one of the most accommodating according to Kerr. In his experience, "as long as you request relief underneath the right piece of legislation it's always been no questions asked."

Depending on your spending habits and travel preferences, several credit cards can be as valuable as the Amex Platinum.

The American Express® Gold Card is great for foodies, it earns 4X Amex points at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year). Cardmembers also receive up to $120 in dining credit annually ($10 a month) and up to $120 in Uber Cash annually ($10 a month). Terms apply.

For anyone looking for a luxury hotel stay, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card are the premium cobranded hotel credit cards for those chains. They both come with annual free night certificates, elite status and generous statement credit benefits.

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Bottom line

Active-duty military members can have the annual fees waived on certain credit cards. This is a particularly useful benefit to take advantage of with luxury credit cards, which tend to have the best perks but come with high annual fees.

For example, the Amex Platinum card has a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), but this is offset by the ability to earn up to $1,595 in statement credits each year. Active-duty service members can have the annual fee waived, which makes the Amex Platinum an exceptionally valuable card to consider.

Catch up on CNBC Select's in-depth coverage of credit cardsbanking and money, and follow us on TikTokFacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

For rates and fees of the Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

*Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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