Top 10 things I’d do if I were in the military

A few days ago, fellow BoardingArea blogger, The Military Frequent Flyer, published “How to Get Your Annual Fees Waived on American Express.”  This was a guest post by the author of a financial blog: Military Money Manual.  And, the guest post linked to the original (and more complete) post: American Express Waives All Card Holder Fees for Active Duty Military.  Wow!  Amex will waive card fees for active duty military personnel.  This includes annual fees.

If I were in the military I’d be really stoked about this!  Amex cards offer some of the best perks in the industry, but often with exorbitant annual fees.  If I were in the military, here is what I would do:

  1. I would get the Amex Platinum card (usual annual fee: $450).  In addition to airport lounge benefits, I’d make full use of the card’s annual $200 airline fee credits.  I would also sign up for all of the elite benefits the card offers (see details here).
  2. I would get the Amex Mercedes-Benz Platinum card ($475).  The benefits of this card almost completely overlap with the regular Platinum card (unless you want to buy a Mercedes), but I would happily make use of the additional $200 in airline fee credits.
  3. I would get the Blue Cash Preferred card ($75) so as to get 6% cash back at grocery stores (up to $6K spend per year).
  4. I would get the Delta Reserve card ($450) for its annual companion pass, free checked bags, and priority boarding.  SkyClub access wouldn’t be worth much since I would already get in for free thanks to all of the other cards listed above!
  5. I would get the Premier Rewards Gold card ($175) so as to earn 3X for paid flights and 2X at gas stations and supermarkets.
  6. I would get the Starwood Preferred Guest card ($65) so as to earn extra SPG points during SPG stays.  If I was chasing Platinum elite status with Starwood, the card would help by giving me credit towards 5 elite nights per year and 2 elite stays.  I wouldn’t use it to chase SPG Gold status, though, since my Platinum cards would give me that for free.
  7. I would ask Amex if they would also waive fees for business cards.  If so, I’d consider: The Business Platinum card ($200 more in refunded airline fees!), The Delta Reserve business card (another free companion pass!), SPG business card (more credit towards elite status), and the Business Gold Rewards card (2X online advertising and shipping).
  8. I would accept an invitation for the American Express Centurion card and ask them to waive the $7,500 initiation fee and $2,500 annual fee (see the Membership Agreement here).  The card’s benefits are very similar to the much less expensive (relative to this one) Platinum card(s), but it does additionally include elite status to a few airline programs.  Unfortunately, you have to be invited to this one and that’s only likely to happen if you’re super rich.  So… which branch of the military would make me super rich while I’m still serving?
  9. I would call the other banks where I have credit cards and ask them if they would match Amex’s offer.  I doubt it would work, but you never know!
  10. And, last, but not least, I would hopefully serve our country well.  Would they let me keep blogging too?

No, I’m not seriously considering joining the military.  And, no, I’m not advocating joining just for free credit cards.  If you’re in the military, though, this post might be helpful to see some of the benefits you can get for free from American Express.  I think its awesome that Amex does this for our military!

Ironically, I already have most of the cards listed above even though they’re not free for me.  For some, I am in the middle of a first year free offer.  And, for a few, I paid the annual fee when I signed up because the signup bonus made it well worth it.  In both of these cases, when the annual fees comes due I’ll decide then whether to keep, cancel, or downgrade the cards.  In addition to those first year trial situations, though, I have several Amex cards where I feel that the perks are worth the annual fee and so I do pay for them year after year.

One other thing worth mentioning here: once every year, American Express does its Small Business Saturday thing where they give you back up to $25 for using their cards at local small businesses.  The more Amex cards you have, the more you can support local businesses and get paid back.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. I have heard that there is a limit to the number of AMEX personal cards. Personally, I have the Blue Cash, BCP, Plat, SPG and SPG business. I have been considering dumping the plat to get something else if there is a limit to the number of cards.

    This is a huge benefit for military. It made me realize that any business that might fall under the Servicemenbers Civil Relief Act, might have such benefits. Now I try to remember to always ask.

    As far as getting other CC companies to match… No luck so far.

  2. Agree this is a huge benefit to our military folks… shame to see how someone would want to abuse this by getting every card in the sun just to take advantage of this “benefit”. Guess that’s what this game has come down to though…

  3. One of the greatest travel benefits that I used when I first joined up was to fly standby (essentially free) on military planes to Hawaii and Europe. I guess I am getting spoiled by credit card signup bonuses because I didn’t even consider doing so for my next trip to Hawaii. However, when I was 20, signing up at the air base to go anywhere the next plane was flying was a great adventure! Now flying in a freezing C130 on a jump seat in a skirt seems much less attractive than using my American miles… I am a reservist, so AMEX doesn’t waive my fees, but it has still been very, very good to me. 🙂

  4. If you like 6% back on grocery spending, then why don’t just get a Sallie Mae card? It gives you 5% back on that (as well as gas stations and bookstores), but has no annual fee whatsoever.

  5. Agree with Dave about the Sallie Mae MC. I assumed there must be a catch because the blogs never talk about it. The $250 per month cap on 5% back on groceries makes it a little less useful but add 5% back on gas and Amazon and how could you not have it? My local grocery stores don’t take American Express (as the old commercial goes) so it’s a good option.

  6. I did not know that Amex waived their fees for military members. That would have been good to know when I was actually active. I have been using the Capital One card. It only earns 2% on everything, but there are no caps and its straight forward. I just like to keep it simple. If anyone is interested I also got my own travel site through connexionworldtravel.com and earn 1.5% – 4% cash back on my reservations on top of what I get from my cc, miles and points programs. It’s a great deal that I don’t think a lot of people know about.

  7. And remember, if you’re active duty and have been paying annual fees, you can call and (potentially) get them to reimburse you for previous annual fees you might’ve paid. Have patience if the customer service rep doesn’t know what you’re talking about, as they’re not all aware of the policy (I can verify this personally).

    Andy – militarymoneymanual.com

  8. Spoken like a true civilian but no offense.
    1. Max out your TSP. Soldier you have no clue how crazy your chain of command is going to get or how bad the wacky weed they are going to smoke. 12 months ago would you have been ready to deploy to Syria. Ok then, get the message real quick. Max the TSP and be ready to bolt for the door.
    2. Keep a record of every single government flight you take and be prepared to testify before a Congressional committee as to why you are more holy than they are. Then max out the upgrades and gently let your status be known in a respectful professional begging sorta way. Then sit back and sip champagne and share with your fellow citizens what it means to agree to kill someone on their behalf…….no forget that last point……….talk about how you admire how Reagan accomplished so much and never fired a shot…….if you don’t count Granada as that was a Boy Scout weekend……..
    3. Go to France on your free weekend from Germany and cry about why DeGaulle kicked us out. Be nice and enjoy the foie gras.
    4. Before #3: Take any Europe tour offered and salute sharply and move out. The miles you will save and the experiences you will have on Uncle Sugar’s dime are beyond description.
    5. Normandy is an absolute must. After serving 3 years in Germany and a career in the Army I can’t figure out why I never went. Then after my wife had leukemia twice and we were taking our Glad to be alive World Tour we stood on the beaches of Normandy at Omaha. I have never felt so alive and so grateful as a human being as I did on those beaches. Nothing compares. You did not exist prior to this trip and you will understand after you have been there.
    6. Go to Washington DC and visit all the historic sites and get a sense as to what you are fighting for……The Vietnam Memorial……Lincoln……Washington………the reflection pool………the Marine Corps Memorial…….Roosevelt…..the Pentagon……..breathe it all in and go forth and do great things……….
    7. Sign up for the PFCU and Navy Federal accounts…..they will treat you right……for that matter so will Chase as I have accounts with all three for different products geared to the veteran……….
    8. Go get yourself enrolled at the VA……..as a veteran no one is going to watch out out for you like the VA………yes same bureaucracy that we faced on active duty but ten times better service than TRICARE ever thought about giving you……….remember once you take off the uniform you are the sworn financial enemy of DoD and your health care means they buy more bombs for Damascus so understand very clearly that you are now oersona non grata except to the VA who will love you like a child………..
    9. Grow your hair a bit longer and stop being such a target on your trips. Obviously if you still on active duty you have to cut it when you return from duty but in the interim blend in.
    10. Every flight you get on you are a deputized sky marshall and we all expect you to act as such. Look around the plane and determine friendlies and be ready to take charge if the need arises……..I gave my 13 year old football playing son this drill as he visited grandpa a month after 9-11 and I expect you to give your kids the same message.

    Oh and do take advantage of those ridiculous credit card offers although I do believe most promises to military are somewhat of a marketing scam………..but there are millions of us out there so you have to figure that out on your own……….

  9. @FrequentMiler – I inquired of Amex customer service as to how many Amex cards I could get, and whether or not I could get the Centurion. You are limited to four personal cards and two business (they do waive annual fees on business cards too). The agent was unclear about the Centurion card, but she said she didn’t see any reason why the annual fee wouldn’t be waived, although the initiation fee wouldn’t. She said you have to average about 250k of spend per year to qualify…I think I’d have to tap out all the VR at all the area CVSs to hit that!

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