- Centurion Member
- Posts: 284
- Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2014 9:40 pm
- Location: Lawton, ok
There are a few webpages around the web describing the various benefits credit issuers extend to active duty service members. Unfortunately, there seems to be some incomplete, dated, or just inaccurate info out there. I decided it may be helpful to others who qualify to give you my own experiences with the various issuers I have accounts with.
Firstly, please understand that what creditors are actually required to do under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), and what many choose to do are different things altogether. Understand that while many creditors go far above and beyond what is required by law, they are not obligated to do so. I hope my fellow service members keep this in mind, and don't abuse the good will gesture that many banks give to us. The law only requires creditors to apply the benefits to accounts that were open prior to entering active duty, as a sort of safety net for reservists that may have better paying civilian jobs but are called to active duty and therefore take a pay cut. Also so that those who may have better paying jobs but are considering joining the armed forces have some relief in compensation for their service. These benefits required by law include a provision that while the individual is on active duty, their interest rates may not exceed 6%. There is no mention in the law regarding annual fees, or many of the other things many creditors choose to extend. Again, be grateful.
That being said, some creditors choose to go above and beyond by extending these benefits to service members regardless of whether or not the account was opened prior to active duty status. Following are my experiences with the various creditors I personally have experience with regarding this benefit.
American Express seems to be among the most military friendly. They don't care whether an account was opened before or after active duty. Upon request of SCRA benefits and their verification, they will waive all annual fees, including the $450 annual fee on the platinum card. Additionally they will waive overlimit fees, late payment fees, returned payment fees, and statement copy request fees. While they don't overtly state it in the letter they send out upon qualification, they waive the fees for additional cardholders for accounts, such as the platinum, that charge for this as well. At least they did for me. I believe they will only reduce the APR to 6% on revolvers for amounts incurred prior to entry into the service. I can't confirm one way or the other for sure, as my only revolver with them is still in it's promo 0% APR period. However looking at my account it appears that it will be the standard APR upon that period expiring. Still, the savings on the platinum alone are more than generous in my opinion.
They are also very painless to get this benefit as well. You just call the number on the back of your card, let them know you're active duty, and request SCRA benefits. They'll take down some basic info such as your BASD and expected separation date. They then let you know they will verify the info in some DOD databases and advise you by mail of their decision. Less than two weeks later I had a letter in my mailbox for each of my accounts advising me I was extended these benefits. Never needed to send any documentation.
One caveat is that after being approved, a few months later I opened up my EDP account. I initially saw the annual fee appear on my first statement. However, a simple phone call to ask about this was all it took. About a week later I received another round of letters for all of my accounts, including the EDP, that they qualified for SCRA status and the AF was refunded. Anecdotal evidence on ye old inter webs suggest that AMEX will even retroactively credit annual fees paid back to your BASD if you had accounts with them for several years before you found out about this benefit.
Discover is another one that goes above and beyond. They care not whether or not your account was opened prior to entering active service. Upon verification, they will lower your APR to 5.9% for the entire term of your service. They will also do this for spouses of active duty service members. I believe they waive many fees as well, but since Discover doesn't charge many fees anyway, I don't specifically remember which ones. Again, I've read they will retroactively refund interest above 5.9% that you have paid in the past while on active duty once they approve your account for this status. You can even request this status up to 180 days after exiting active duty for retroactive credit.
To request these benefits, just go to discover.com . Towards the bottom of the page, click on frequently asked questions, then military (SCRA) benefits on the left hand side. Follow the instructions. It's pretty simple. They do require documentation but it's easy to get basic things like an LES (Leave and Earnings Statement). Additionally if you're requesting benefits for a spouse account I believe you need to include a marriage certificate, along with the qualifying documentation for the actual service member.
Chase, while they still go above and beyond the law, are not quite as lax as Discover and AMEX. Chase will only extend these benefits for accounts opened before entry into active duty. I know, I checked and was denied. Again, no hard feelings. Creditors aren't required to extend any benefits whatsoever to accounts established after you enter Active Duty, with the possible exception of deployments.
The only info I can provide is what I've read, as I have no accounts with Chase that existed prior to my enlistment many moons ago. Internet evidence suggests they will reduce your APR to 4%, and waive annual fees. However, some have reported they won't waive the annual fees on the higher AF cards, like the United Club card. Again, I can't say for certain as I have no personal experience. Some have also stated that if you PCS, they will accept those orders as active duty orders and extend the benefits for accounts opened prior to that PCS. I'm sure I'll try again next time I PCS just to see.
You can request this benefit either by calling the number on the back of your card, or initiating an online secure message. They will give you the info to provide documentation, such as an LES or active duty orders, then verify you meet their requirements. You will then receive their decision via snail mail. Everything I've read states they will also retroactively credit all interest over 6% and annual fees if you are approved for the program.
There is a ton of conflicting info on whether or not Citi extends their benefits to accounts opened after active duty. I've seen an overwhelming number of reports saying they do not, but then a number saying they do. I actually finally decided to request the benefits myself tonight, and submit the requested documentation, so I will report back on my own experience. Again, I don't have any accounts with Citi that were opened prior to entering active duty.
If approved, however, the nice gentleman on the phone stated they would reduce the APR on my cards to 0% for the remainder of my active duty, and retroactively apply this benefit to refund any interest previously paid. Also, they would waive annual fees. He also went so far as to check various databases for any other Citi accounts I may have to ensure they also received the benefit. This included bank accounts, mortgages, car loans, even credit cards with affiliates such as Sears. As I understood him, things like mortgages and car loans ARE NOT reduced to 0%, but if they're higher than 6% they will be reduced to that level and retroactively credited. Dang, that would be a pretty sweet mortgage refi. I appreciated the pro-activeness, and I wasn't summarily denied based on my BASD being before my accounts were established, so here's hoping.
This will be a nice one if they let me have it, since I currently have the Citi Executive AA card. As I have stated in other posts, I'm fully willing to pay for this AF, as I have had an Admirals Club membership for years due to the amount of travel my job requires. Still, I will understand if they decide I don't qualify and won't hold a grudge. I truly don't feel entitled to anything for my career choice, but will accept the savings if offered.
To apply, I recommend calling their SCRA unit at 1-877-804-1082. I've read of spotty responses from first line customer service agents. He requested my BASD and expected separation date. In my case I'm indefinite, and he seemed to understand what that meant and was able to list that, instead of the arbitrary ETS date in my records of 2029. He then provided me with an email to send my LES to. They also accept fax and snail mail, but it seemed quickest and easiest to just download my LES off of MyPay and email it. I should hear back in a week or two regarding their decision.
I'm going to come back to them once I know more. Everything I've read is that they're about as good as AMEX about waiving AF's and whatnot. However, I have not yet asked, so I will report back once I do.
I hope this information is helpful to those it applies to. Let me know any questions you may have, and hopefully I will have answers for you. I again ask my fellow service members to please not abuse these benefits. They're truly a privilege, not an entitlement. We all made the decision to sign on the dotted line, and regardless of our own personal reasons for that decision, I would hope it's not because you want everyone to feel they owe you something.
Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
AMEX Everyday Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred
NFCU nRewards Visa