0% APR, Fees Eliminated: Credit Card Benefits for Active Military Members
For many active duty members, the promise of 0% APR and waived fees may sound like another Veterans Day sale – a bargain, available for a short time. But a handful of credit card companies are changing that, quietly offering benefits like these year round to members of deployed services. For those who pay off their debts, waiving interest could save hundreds of dollars.
While all banks offer financial relief to active duty members, some offer much more than what the law requires. Federal , or SCRA, requires, among other things, that lenders cap interest rates on pre-service debt at 6% APR and waive service and renewal fees, such as annual fees, transaction fees, etc. foreigner and late fees. But several large issuers offer even lower interest rates on existing credit card balances and new purchases, sometimes extending low rates for up to a year after a service member’s end of active service.
If you want to enjoy these benefits while on active duty, here’s what you need to know.
NerdWallet surveyed 10 major issuers and compared their SCRA benefits. Here are the best deals we found:
Keep in mind that these benefits generally apply to cards opened before active military service, not during. If you are already on duty and plan to open a new account, call the issuer first to see if any benefits apply.
Here is a full list of our findings.
As a general rule, you can benefit from reduced interest and a fee waiver if you opened your account before active duty and meet the following criteria:
An issuer may choose not to provide these improved terms, if a court decides that the member’s ability to repay debt is not “substantially affected” by military service. That is, a lender might be able to get a court order allowing them to charge a member regular rates and fees if they are an officer with a high salary and would not have having difficulty paying a higher rate. But in practice, major credit card issuers usually don’t.
Even if you don’t fit into any of these categories, your bank can still help. Capital One is extending protections to other active duty members not covered by the law, including members of the National Guard called up for state-funded service, a spokesperson said. The USAA also offers benefits to service members who are deployed, performing a Permanent Change of Post (PCS), or participating in qualified military campaigns, regardless of their SCRA status. Many issuers also offer benefits to spouses of active-duty military personnel, whether or not they share a joint account with a service member. If you are unsure of your eligibility, ask your issuer.
By law, you must submit your claims to creditors no later than 180 days after being released from your service to receive benefits. However, some issuers give you more time to submit these requests.
Here’s how to take full advantage of the SCRA benefits of your credit card:
SCRA benefits can make your total balance much more affordable, especially if your issuer offers 0% APR to active duty members. If you pay a large balance with a high APR, those savings could add up quickly. Keep in mind that the balance transfer fee, which is typically 3% or 4% of the transferred balance, is waived on SCRA qualifying accounts as well. If you transferred your balances to your 0% APR card, you could save on interest and fees.
If you’re trying to improve your credit scores and are having trouble qualifying for a no-cost option, use your SCRA benefits to get annual fee waiver. Pay your balances on time and borrow sparingly, and you may enjoy better terms in the future.
If you have great credit and never have a balance, you could get even more value with cards that have premium features, like high reward rates, airline fee credits, travel fees, and more. deleted baggage, airport lounge access and free upgrades. If you get the card before your active duty begins, you probably won’t have to pay an annual fee while in service.
From low interest rates to military customer service specialists, having a credit card from a bank that offers great military benefits can be very profitable. If you are preparing for a deployment or are already serving overseas, be sure to notify your service issuers. They might help you more than you think.
An earlier version of this article lacked an exception to the qualifications for SCRA benefits. This article has been corrected.