Enlisting in the armed forces is a life-changing decision, without a doubt. What many people don’t realize is that entering active duty can have an impact on their credit card and debt situation. There are perks and benefits to be had, as long as one knows where to look – and there are a few headaches you may be able to avoid if you plan ahead.
We’ve compiled the following tips to get you started:
Familiarize yourself with the SCRA.
The Service members’ Civil Relief Act, or SCRA, was enacted to protect eligible active-duty personnel from high (or fluctuating) interest rates while serving their country. This legislation limits the APR on their pre-service credit card debt to 6%, as well as providing for several waived fees.
It’s sometimes possible to get additional fees waived, so be sure to submit your request.
A customer must submit a request for SCRA eligibility, primarily to prove their status as an active-duty service member. While approval will ensure the maximum 6% APR, there are several card issuers that will go above and beyond for our military. Most notably, American Express has earned itself a reputation for waiving annual fees for almost every active-duty customer.
Some card issuers will also lower the card’s APR below the 6% threshold. There are even some cards, such as the BarclayCard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, that may drop the interest rate all the way down to 0%.
Notify your card issuer before traveling, deploying, or moving.
Card issuers take identity theft very seriously. In an attempt to crack down on fraudulent purchases, many financial institutions will lock an account the moment that any suspicious activity pops up. In most cases, “suspicious activity” involves purchases made outside of the cardholder’s home country, but some users have reported their accounts locked while taking road trips out of state.
To be safe, it’s always a good idea to inform your card issuer when you’ll be traveling outside of your normal area of operation. If you plan on leaving the state, calling to let your issuer know can’t hurt; if you’re leaving the country, then informing them is absolutely essential. It’s the only way to avoid a very inconvenient account hold.
As a member of the armed forces, there’s nothing stopping you from signing up for a standard consumer credit card; then again, with the great perks available to the military, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t seek out a credit card that’s designed for maximum perks
Apart from the SCRA benefits, some lenders give their active duty members additional reason to sign up. We’ve checked out three of the available options, each hand-picked to give maximum benefit to our military members.
QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card from Capital One®
This would be our “entry-level” pick of cards in this category, as it requires only a fair credit rating. (The other two options will require good-to-excellent credit for approval.)
Despite the ease of entry, the Cash Rewards card from Capital One still offers a few solid benefits. 1.5% cash back is pretty competitive for a card that requires only fair credit, and MasterCard is widely accepted all over the world. Capital One caps interest at 4%, rather than the mandated 6%, and they even extend this benefit to National Guard members on state-funded active duty.
Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard from Barclaycard
Though the military offers one of the few opportunities to travel the world without emptying one’s pockets, it doesn’t preclude service members from wanting to rack up air miles and travel rewards. This World Elite MasterCard offers great benefits, including the ability to earn a massive 40,000-point bonus by making $3000 worth of purchases within 90 days of signing up.
What’s even more exciting is the opportunity for eligible active-duty members to enjoy 0% APR on pre-service debt and new purchases. This uncommonly-low interest rate might be enough to sway even those customers who aren’t sure they’ll be travelling often on their own dime.
Citi®Double Cash Card
Citi offers a great deal for members who sign up before going into active duty: waived service and renewal fees and a 0% interest rate during active duty. Cash back rewards are more versatile than airline miles, and this card offers one of the highest reward rates available. Customers earn 1% cash back on purchases and an additional 1% back when the balance is paid off.
These benefits make the CitiDouble card well worth exploring, but bear in mind that it will require an excellent credit score for approval.