Best Benefits for Military Members
* There are some great credit cards available that have high annual fees that are waived with SCRA.
The benefits include $200 annual Uber credit (Including Uber Eats), pretty great purchase protection for lost, stolen, or broken items,
free Boingo, free lounge use at airports, $200 annual credit to use on your flights, and it’s a charge card- keep it just for the benefits if you want or use it for the extra protection.
How To Maximize the value of the AmEx Platinum Card
The following is taken from an achieved post found here:
With AmEx opening up their purse strings, many people are jumping in and applying for the AmEx Platinum Card, trying to earn 100,000 MR points with a $3,000 minimum spend, and a $550 annual fee. Along with the app frenzy, a lot of questions get asked over and over again. Here is my attempt to put the answers in one place.
Let’s get some basics questions out of the way:
- $550 Annual is charged on your first statement. It is waived after you submit your SCRA Request.
- If you are Active Military, AmEx can waive the AF.
- The AF does not count towards your minimum spend.
- If you ever had an AmEx Personal Platinum card before, you do not qualify for the bonus again.
- If you are an AU on someone else’s AmEx Personal Platinum, you would still qualify to get your own card and sign-on bonus.
- However, if you only had a Benz, Ameriprise, business, or any other AmEx Platinum card other than the personal Platinum, you do qualify for this bonus.
- AmEx expedites Platinum cards automatically. For example, I applied for the Benz Platinum last Friday, and FedEx dropped off the card this Monday.
- You do need good credit to apply. However, the reports seem to indicate AmEx is not very strict about a number of recent AmEx cards. Folks who have recently had 2-3 AmEx cards are still being approved.
- This is a Charge Card! This means by default, you MUST pay off the full amount each month. AmEx is beginning to offer payment plans for Charge Cards, but you should expect to pay off the statement amount each month.
- Since this is a Charge Card, there is no Credit Limit. This does NOT mean you can spend as much as you want on the card. This means AmEx may raise or lower your spending limit based on your previous activity.
- This is really a Travel Rewards Card. If you are looking for Cash Back, this is NOT the card to get. Most of the benefits of the card are for people who do travel each year. The more you travel, the more valuable the benefits.
- Yes, you can apply for another AmEx Charge Card or a Credit Card the same day to try to combine pulls. I’m not convinced that combining pulls do anything useful, but if you believe in it, go for it.
- You can cancel anytime in the first year, and get a prorated refund of the Annual Fee. Note, I recommend against doing this. You can earn enough back from the card to offset the AF. I rather always maintain a good relationship with the bank, use the card regularly. If the benefits of the card do not work for you, cancel it at the 11-month mark to at least show you tried to like it.
OK, so exactly what Benefits do you get with the card that make it worth the $450 AF? There are a couple of benefits that basically offset the AF in the first year:
- $200 annual airline fees refunded as a statement credit. This is every calendar year.
- $100 Global Entry/TSA Pre-check fee refunded as a statement credit.
Hmm, that looks like $300 only? Well, since the airline fees refund is available every calendar year, you can get that once this year, and again next January. This means $400 back. Note that this credit does not apply to airfare directly, but if you buy food or upgraded seats on your ticket, this credit would apply. There are also some ways to get this credit turned into GCs. Do a Google search for “AmEx Platinum MPX Amazon”.
What if you already have Global Entry or Pre-check? Well, you can pay for GE or Pre-check for anyone else in your family using the Platinum card, and they will give you the $100 credit.
So combined, in the first year, this card is effective AF-free, or even makes $50. Note you do have to spend the $450, but you get enough value back that it should not be a factor for the first year. On an ongoing basis, the $200 credit is available each year, which makes the card really a $250 AF card.
What other benefits are on the card that makes it valuable?
- Access to AmEx Centurion lounges for free for you and your family, or up to 2 guests.
- Priority pass membership, providing access for you at any Priority pass lounge. Guests would have to pay.
- Delta lounge access if you are flying Delta.
- Hilton HHonors Gold Status
- SPG Gold Status
- Free Boingo Wi-Fi.
- AmEx Offers
- Roadside Assistance
- Purchase/Return Protection
- Extended Warranty
- No Foreign Transaction Fee
- AmEx Fine Hotel Resorts benefits
- AmEx Concierge Service
- and a few more…
So as you can see, if you do a bit of travel, this is a great card to have in your pocket.
But what about that 100K MR Points?
Now we get to the good stuff. First off, there is a detailed FAQ on how to use MR points.. As you can see, you can get 1 cent per point by using this with Uber or pay for travel through the AmEx portal. So getting $1000 of value back from the card is relatively straightforward.
But, the real value is in airline transfer partners. Off the top of my head, here are some redemption options. Note, all award redemptions are subject to award seat availability.
- Transfer 25k to Delta and book an RT ticket to anywhere Delta flies in the lower 48 states.
- Transfer 30k to Flying Blue, and then book an RT flight to Hawaii.
- Transfer 40k to ANA, and get an RT Economy ticket on ANA to Japan. Most of Asia is available for a bit more points.
- Transfer 75k to ANA, and get an RT Business class ticket on ANA to Japan
- Transfer 15k/25k to Aeroplan, and book a United flight in the lower 48.
- Transfer 60k to Aeroplan, and book a Star Alliance flight to Europe 1.
- Transfer 58k to Singapore and fly from JFK-FRA owe way in one of the top First-class products in the world, Singapore Suites.
I’m not going to try to argue whether the 100k points are worth one, two, or five thousand dollars. The points are worth exactly what you feel any particular flight is worth.
Should you get this card?
If you get approved for this card and spend $3000 on the minimum spend and $450 on the AF, you would end up, on the low end, maybe $1000 of Amazon or other retailer gift cards, or a thousand dollars worth of Uber rides and $400 of Amazon gift cards. On the high end, you can get $400 in Amazon gift cards, free Global Entry for 5 years, and a Trip to most of Asia in Business class on ANA. The ANA ticket alone retails for $4-5000 dollars. And if you fly a few times a year, then the airport lounge and the hotel benefits can further add value to the card.
You really don’t get this kind of deal very often. So if you have a credit score, and that you can meet the $3,000 minimum spend, AND that you can use the travel benefits, you really should consider getting this card. If you really just want Cash Back in your pocket, you need to decide whether getting Gift Cards or credits like Uber is good enough for your purpose.
The Service-member Civil Relief Act and You
You may have paid enough attention during one of the initial finance briefs to hear about the Service-member Civil Relief Act – SCRA.
SCRA can help you a lot in more ways than you can imagine. SCRA is a program that provides certain protections with loans and debts for servicemembers who are called to Active Duty.
What is SCRA?
The Too Long; Didn’t Read (TL;DR) version of SCRA:
Helps you break leases, protects you from foreclosures, repossessions, and evictions.
Helps lower loan interest to at least 6% for loans that were started before joining the military. (many banks such as USAA, Chase, and American Express lower interest rates to 4% and 0%)
Helps refund fees and interest you paid from the day you join the military and Today.
Allows you to delay payment on loans without impacting your credit.
Many banks waive fees including Annual Card Fees.*
What can SCRA do for Me?
The SCRA can postpone or suspend financial or civil obligations to prevent you from being taken advantage of while on active duty and away from home. Taken from Military.com
Protections offered by the SCRA include:
- Prevents your landlord from evicting you unless the rent is higher than $3,451.20 per month (this amount changes every year)
- Stops foreclosures without a court order
- Your vehicle can’t be repossessed without a court order if you made a deposit, or at least one payment before you joined
- You can’t be taken to court for civil proceedings, this includes divorce and child support hearings
- Keeps the owner of a self-storage facility from selling your belongings for overdue rent without a court order
Benefits offered by the SCRA include:
- Lets you to terminate your current cell phone contract if you relocate for at least 90 days to a location that doesn’t have coverage under your current cell phone provider
- Lets you end a vehicle lease you signed before joining if you are mobilized, PCS OCONUS, or deploy OCONUS for at least 180 days
- Lets you end a housing lease without penalty if you deploy for 90 days or more
- Limits interest on all loans taken out before joining the military to 6 percent. This includes auto loans, mortgages, student loans, credit cards, etc.
- Also, it says that if you use any of your SCRA rights and delay payments it won’t reflect on your credit report