Posted by William Charles on January 29, 2020
Credit Cards

Published on January 29th, 2020 | by William Charles

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American Express Making Changes To Military SCRA/MLA Benefits (Update)

Update 1/29/20: American Express has confirmed that eligible users that have been denied under SCRA due to the account being opened after active duty start date will continue to be eligible for an annual fee waiver under the MLA program. MLA eligibility should be done automatically, but if cardholders don’t have it automatically applied they are encouraged to contact American express. Hat tip to Military Money Manual.

Original post: American Express offers benefits for military cardholders, there are two types of benefits:

The major difference between MLA and SCRA is the SCRA focuses on existing debts when a service member enters into active duty and MLA focuses on credit extended to existing active duty members. American Express offers benefits above and beyond what is required by law. For example American Express has traditionally waived annual fees for all active duty military. According to users on reddit as of January, 2020 American Express is no longer waiving fees for cards that were opened after their active duty start date.

Previously American Express waived the annual fees for cards that were opened after the active duty start date under SCRA, whereas they should have be waiving the fees under MLA (keep in mind waiving annual fees is not a requirement of either SCRA or MLA but that SCRA has to do with credit issued before entering active duty and MLA has to do with credit issued after entering active duty). I suspect what will happen is that American Express will continue to waive fees under MLA, but you’ll need to request them to be waived under MLA rather than SCRA (seems to be backed up by this chat rep, but they are unreliable at the best of times). At this stage some representatives are stating that this is not possible, whereas others are processing the fee waiver without issue. Existing cardholders with the annual fee waived are not being charged an annual fee, regardless of whether the card was opened before or after entering active duty status.

We have reached out to American Express for comment.



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Pierce
Pierce

This is a whole lot of nothing, people asked for scra and they are not eligible. The annual fee waivers state mla and they are done with the generosity of Amex.

Trillium
Trillium

Just got a green and brilliant. In the scra comment section, I asked for mla to be applied if scra cant. If that kicks back, I’ll hit them up

Spencer

Can you check if you are listed as a covered borrower? Go to your AMEX Account Management page. At the bottom there is a link to “Request Cardmember Agreement” In the agreement you should see the text: “You have been identified as a ‘Covered Borrower’ under Military Lending Act.”

iahphx
iahphx

I do not see such a link. At the bottom, there are generic links like “Card Agreements” but that does not link to a specific agreement applicable to my daughter.

Dima
Dima

I guess someone on the RAT team watched one of those YouTubers who talk about having a lineup on $450+ AMEX cards with AFs waived…

Spencer

Probably not…this seems to be just an update to their existing SCRA policy and bringing it into the modern legal environment where AMEX complies with both SCRA and MLA. For accounts opened after the start of active duty, MLA makes more sense to apply. Continuing to call it SCRA confuses the issue.

At the end of the day, military servicemembers and their spouses should still get their annual fees waived on all personal credit and charge cards. I suspect business cards annual fee waivers may be going away, but that is only a guess at this stage.

James
James

Yep! it’s just under MLA now. The Military Money Manual sight has the latest updates! https://militarymoneymanual.com/amex-scra-denials/

Michael
Michael

This would have nothing to do with RAT. Amex knows they are going to waive the few as soon as the applicant reports income from the military. Amex could decline the Initial application and subsequent ones but chose not to.

My wife and I have qualified for over $2500 in annual fee waivers from Amex for years. We look forward to continued waivers for several more until we both retire from the service.

Spencer

William Charles another thing to note is I think this is going to become an automatic process. All of my (active duty US servicemember) and my wife’s (civilian military spouse) card agreements with AMEX state “You have been identified as a ‘Covered Borrower’ under Military Lending Act”.

I suspect what will happen or has happened is AMEX has transferred everyone receiving SCRA benefits to their MLA program and marked their accounts as “covered borrowers.” Going forward, anyone who open’s up a new AMEX account will have their SSNs run against the MLA database: https://mla.dmdc.osd.mil/mla/

If the credit applicant pops positive on the MLA database (i.e., they are a military SM or a mil spouse), then that SSN will be identified as a “covered borrower” and their annual fees will be waived, just as it has been for the past 10+ years.

This is how Chase’s MLA program works currently, where you don’t need to ask for MLA benefits, they just automatically kick in for 99.9% of military applicants when you apply for the card. For instance, my wife (mil spouse) received her MLA annual fee waiver letter for her last 2 Chase cards (Hyatt and CSR) before she received the cards in the mail.

iahphx
iahphx

Thanks for the post. I have a daughter who is active duty military and has previously had all fees waived under the SCRA. She recently got a new card and AMEX denied the SCRA benefits last week because the account was “open while she was already in the military.” We called AMEX and the reps couldn’t understand the denial. They reopened the request. Having read this thread, I just called AMEX (if you’re doing this for family members, it’s easy for them to designate you as an “account manager” to handle matters like this) and told them to add the MLA request to the open inquiry. Tonight’s agent was also surprised to learn of the previous denial. We’ll see what happens. Obviously, the benefit to the military is quite generous and not required by law, but I also think they deserve it. I’ll be surprised if AMEX rescinds it.

Spencer

Can you check if she is a covered borrower? Go to your AMEX Account Management page. At the bottom there is a link to “Request Cardmember Agreement” In the agreement you should see the text: “You have been identified as a ‘Covered Borrower’ under Military Lending Act.”

John Waters
John Waters

Amex really hurts us civilian cardholders who have to pay higher fees and have reduced benefits to pay for fee waivers for a “special class” of people who are paid for their efforts already. 550 annual fee waived with a sign up bonus as high as 100,000 is ridiculous. Amex is not generating revenue from these people to offset the cost. For loans and other products Amex offers most in the military will go to USAA or other types that offer lower rates. The laws were not designed for premium credit cards that offer benefits and Amex has every right not to offer these benefits for those who sign up and apply for no fee.

Spencer

Thank you for your service.

GL
GL

I agree with you on most of these points. People go into the military hopefully knowing full well what it entails. They are paid for their services, just as anyone else is. I just don’t see why they are a special class of people compared to the average hardworking civilian on the street doing their job day in and day out. Ok fine they might be in the line of fire, but so are police officers who may be shot at anytime, doctors/nurses who may contract coronavirus or whatever communicable disease out there, and even Wall Street bankers who in a downturn might be laid off at anytime. There’re existing laws that protect them like SCRA and MLA but business go above and beyond to help them because somehow that’s the cool thing to do (public image). But yeah there’re plenty of no military unsung heroes out there working their asses off and putting their butts in the line of fire too. Businesses need to make money too, so what really ends up happening is that these folk end up paying for military people’s annual fees and enjoyment of the card benefits.

Danno
Danno

Fair point, Wall Street bankers really do have it rough. An apt analogy, comparing their plight to that of police being shot at and military members being rocket-attacked for a miniscule fraction of the compensation.

COBOLCODERUSEALLCAPS
COBOLCODERUSEALLCAPS

Agreed. Amex is very generous to waive the fees on their cards in additional to their spouse’s. It is a better strategy to waive the annual fee for the card member’s most expensive card to save costs while preventing abuse and to maintain that generosity.

John Robinson
John Robinson

Cops perpetrate the war on drugs, the war on free speech (in Europe), the war on not wearing a seat belt, so us civilians actually face more risks than cops since millions each year suffer from police abuse and hundreds are killed unjustifiably by cops. Then we have black on white and non white latino on white violence which is extremely disproportionately high, and we civilians suffer thousands of deaths at their hands and millions of other crimes including rape, theft, battery and vandalism. Cops should not be in this discussion. As for soldiers, since they are not used at the border to protect sovereignty of real citizens, they are used overseas in areas they don’t belong and the civilians there suffer a lot even if that is not the intent of these soldiers who just blindly follow orders. Still most military members never leave the U.S., sit at a desk or repair aircraft, or work on ships which statistically is safer than being a civilian flying on a commercial aircraft. They receive good pay which increases every year and with promotions, earn a great pension with a certain amount of service, earn great benefits, have housing allowance, have combat duty pay and many receive signing bonuses and resigning bonuses.

Mark
Mark

Great take John 👌

David
David

1) Some people are appreciative that they don’t have to serve to experience the freedoms and leg-up received by being born in a developed country, and they extend that appreciation to those who risk their lives. I think that’s cool. I’m half-Korean, and all my Korean family members were mandated to serve in the military to maintain their countries lifestyle. They have a much deeper appreciation for their freedom, and a deeper connection to the sad necessity of a strong military force. Have you seen Israel stop all activities to honor the fallen? If not, you should look it up.

2) I don’t know if you’re well-traveled, but the natural state of humanity seems to be that cops are easily paid–off, and support their own interest instead of the systemic interest of the communities they serve. Check out Police Activity on Youtube, they post American body camera footage of everyday cops – from the truly evil, racist cops, to the everyday person doing their job. Make your own judgment, but I believe we (in the US) are truly lucky to be able to call a central number when we are in need, and have a 99% chance of having a caring person come to help us in need.

If you think they are the bane of societies problems, please consider than when you or one of your loved ones may need dire help one day.

Rob
Rob

they get tax breaks for this. next slide

David Weigel
David Weigel

1) After 10 years in the Army, with experience on the enlisted and officer side, most of the military is populated by people who joined before their prefrontal cortex has fully developed, and without an adequate understanding of how the world works. Most do not know what it’s like to be blown up or shot at, and how that would affect them for a lifetime. Even those who don’t see combat rarely understand the effect the lifestyle will take on their impressionable minds.

2) We have a volunteer force that influences the decisions of nations around the world. From 2006-2016, I was sent on plenty of assignments where I was a small part of a ‘message’ sent to other nations. We benefit from being the international reserve currency partially because people know America will not be easily toppled by war.

3) Some people are appreciative that they don’t have to serve to experience the freedoms and leg-up received by being born in this country, and they extend that appreciation to those who risk their lives. I think that’s cool. I’m half-Korean, and all my Korean family members were mandated to serve in the military to maintain their countries lifestyle. They have a much deeper appreciation for their freedom, and a deeper connection to the sad necessity of a strong military force. Have you seen Israel stop all activities to honor the fallen? If not, you should look it up.

GL
GL

At the very least fine if you wanna waive the AF then no sign up bonus.

Matt
Matt

Amex has more than made up the annual fees they waived for my cards through my usage. You are not subsidizing my cards. The waived annual fees just get more cards into the hands of consumers who would most likely not even consider a card with a $550 annual fee. I would have never even looked at a card like that, but now that I have had one for a few years, I’ve opened several other cards, a personal loan, and a HYSA with Amex. Could they offer the same thing to first responders and other public servants (bankers are not public servants)? Sure, they could, but showing military support is a one stop shop for a company to be “patriotic” in the eyes of the public.

aubergine
aubergine

A rough proxy for how much an issuer+network earns off you is about 2% for spending.

If you borrow on cards, it is much more variable, but you can use a 7% placeholder. Even if you pay everything off, one needs to account for the expected losses in a given pool of card holders. For Amex maybe that is 1-2%, for CapOne maybe 4-5%, for Sears it spiked at 13%.

You would have to be borrowing/spending a ton to make up all those fees.

Mark
Mark

John Waters it’s Amex’s choice to do this, or not. As a serviceman who has benefited from this choice, I’m thankful they do it. If they stop, I’ll understand and downgrade or close a couple of higher-fee cards I hold.

To argue that it makes your fees higher, though, is a bridge too far. You could make the same argument about any business’s decisions, the charities they support, the investments they make, ad infinitum. And at the end of the day, you have the choice to refuse to “subsidize military servicemembers” and cancel your card: nobody is forcing you to keep your Platinum card.

COBOLCODERUSEALLCAPS
COBOLCODERUSEALLCAPS

How do service members even qualify for this card? I thought you needed a high 5 figure income, which I suppose most paygrades in the military don’t pay (or they lie).

Mark
Mark

“I thought” (wrong obvoiusly)
“or they lie” (classy!)

Staradmiral
Staradmiral

nonsense. heard someone report 30k income and got approved for the platinum. a 800 CS and good credit report can make up for that. The US amex platinum has no income requirement, but many other countries do for the Amex plat

Thomas
Thomas

Can I join this salty AF conversation? No one is stopping you from joining the Military in order to get the annual fees waived from all your glamorous travel cards. I’d consider that pretty F’d up if that was the reason you were joining, and your attitude would get called out pretty quick. But at least you won’t be paying any annual fees. You’ll be forced to go to the field for weeks on end, can’t call in sick, forced to work 100+ hour weeks, away from your family, and no overtime pay. But at least you won’t be paying any annual fees. You won’t be able to take a vacation whenever you feel like. And, whenever you make such a request, it doesn’t have to be approved until days before your vacation starts, and your boss can still say “nah, you ain’t going.” Or worse yet, you get to that bomb vacation spot in Hawaii, and even though you had requested 14 days of vacation, your boss can recall you back, even though you just got there. And getting back WILL be 100% at your own expense. But at least you won’t be paying any annual fees. You don’t get to choose where you live, you have no control over where you get stationed, you are “the needs of the Military.” And they’ll move you around wherever and whenever they damn well please. But at least you won’t be paying any annual fees. You hate your boss? Cuz he’s incompetent? Too bad, you can’t say sh*t about it to his face or you could face disciplinary punishment, causing you to lose your job title, and even a month’s worth of pay. And the worst that can come from your civilian boss’s incompetence is a report doesn’t get turned in on time. In the Military, their incompetence could cost you your limb, sight, or even life. But at least you won’t be paying any annual fees. Don’t like to workout? Woke up feeling ill? Your knee acting up? Tough. Everyday is run day, and you don’t get a choice. Don’t feel like throwing that 60lbs ruck on and doing a 12 mile ruck at 3am? Tough. You don’t get a choice. But at least you won’t be paying any annual fees. Don’t wanna deploy to Afghanistan? Tough. You don’t get a choice. But at least you won’t be paying any… Read more »

My
My

Whoah, I love reading the details how ever i’m going to jump in with my 2 cents. Not everyone gets a service sign up bonus. Seen multiple teens try to enlist by asking for a MOS that has sign up bonus available. There are good recruiters mixed in the bad apple bunch. Some if not most actually secure a quality service member in a position that the recruit can excel in. Thats pretty harsh to lump everyone in the military in as boaster’s or unworthy because of a desk job. Trust instinct some people boast because it easier to wade in the pool of tears. The hours are long. Life tends to move so fast and all the pleasure of taking the time to enjoy life isn’t always cherished. At least for my family. Waiving the annual fee is a wonderful benefit that makes stressful times bare-able. Not everyone enlisted/commission is in the line of fire and that goes to the same with all said benefit. Theres always a wording in all contracts. I do understand with both sides however, i believe some civilian work in hard positions and deserve similar benefit. At the same time the civilian sector tends to offer a higher salary, while the military’s higher pay normally depends on moving to a location with higher cost of living. No matter how long and how hard work is done pay typically is the same. Thats another story and not something i’m qualified to even care about. Since everyone does not have the same story. Pay raise by federal. Uhmm, don’t know exact detail so don’t jump down my throat. Years back i remember pay was 1.5% maybe 1.2% E3 pay didn’t go very high. I was still very happy because it was like a free coffee every month. If the annual fee is done away i also have no problems i hate seeing the bragger and think its just going to make it difficult for everyone not just one community. Possible restriction is something i might consider because of the junior enlisted. They tend to run as fast as they can and I worry they can find themselves in financial trouble. All i can say is i’m thankful for the benefits and my family is happy to be of service wether we succeed or fail. Its all about the lives we affect. Being able to use the… Read more »

Richard
Richard

Don’t be salty at the service members because you have to pay annual fees/higher fees on your premium cards that you chose to apply for. If you really want them waived, maybe you should join the service, go on a few deployments, miss out on your kids’ birthdays and anniversaries, then move around every two years to wherever they tell you to go for your new assignment, while your children adjust to their new schools again so that you get waived fees.
It should be considered an honor to serve your country and Amex just happens to honor the military by giving back. I’m sure your annual fees aren’t fronting for our waived fees.
Maybe you should think about who else to blame? how the bloggers? or the churners? self referrers? We play by the rules that’s presented to us but the ones that don’t should be the ones shouldering the blame.

Jim
Jim

“according to users on reddit”… that tells me all I need to know. I read through the thread and I’m going to chalk this up to over-hyped fake news unless something official comes from Amex. SCRA and MLA are two different things, SCRA will not apply if you open the card after joining AD which is why they got the declination letter from Amex. They never got charged an annual fee so all of this is fear mongering nonsense.

Spencer

AMEX changed the way they interpreted the SCRA law for 10 years overnight without any communication or even informing their Customer Service Reps. It’s caused a lot of confusion of what is actually happening for AMEX’s military credit and charge card holders.

They don’t really owe us an explanation. But it would be nice to know what changed, why it changed, and what the rules are going forward.

Danno
Danno

As long as Chase continues to refund the fees, I don’t foresee AMEX ending it. But as a sidenote: maybe those getting the cards for free stop getting every card and abusing the hell out of this? Or at the very least, quit rubbing it in everyone’s face on blogs and YouTube. I swear some people see a golden goose and pull a knife immediately.

aubergine
aubergine

It’s strange to me that Amex & Chase don’t cap this at hypothetically two cards a piece or something.

Especially when club crowding and other issues are coming up now.

iahphx
iahphx

There are very few active duty military in the USA. Only about 1.3 million. They’re not taking your lounge seat, trust me. Besides, most of them are on a base somewhere doing their jobs. AMEX would certainly be within their rights to take these generous benefits away. But should they? I don’t think so, and I think the vast majority of Americans would agree with me about that.

Michael
Michael

Nothing is stopping Amex from turning down the service member’s application. Do my wife and I need 7x Amex card accounts between the two of us? No, but if Amex approves them, we will enjoy the benefits.

Steve
Steve

Only 7? Sounds like you need 3 more plus some charge cards. Unless only one of you is active duty.

Staradmiral
Staradmiral

Blame is also on Amex for not denying the app. I mean what logic is there to letting someone have 3 platinum cards? just create coding that will automatically deny the app, problem solved, but nooo it’s the customer’s fault of course

iahphx
iahphx

Well, AMEX could obviously restrict the number of “free” cards if they want to. I mean, that’s up to them, and not the peanut gallery. No one can really complain whatever AMEX decides to do about military cards, although I certainly believe they should go “beyond the law” to help out our service men and women. What is wrong is to change policy and say nothing, leaving folks — like my daughter — trying to figure out what’s going on when even AMEX’s own customer service staff has no idea.

James

Update! The most recent is on http://www.militarymoneymanual.com/amex-scra-denials/... same program basically just under MLA now. Good news!

Beans
Beans

Great. My only problem now is that some of my cards were not automatically enrolled into MLA (cards were opened before MLA was in effect) and reps have told me that you can only get it when you open NEW accounts.

lilurbanachiever
lilurbanachiever

My guess is that Amex/Chase/whatever are not as altruistic as they appear. Income/IQ ratio is much higher for military than for the general pop. This should be exactly the target audience for cc companies – folks who carry thousands in cc balances. Personally, I do not care.

Mark
Mark

I highly doubt that, but would love to see your sources. Income/IQ indeed. You’re a jagoff.

Steve
Steve

This might actually be true. Not because military people have lower IQ than average. IQ of service members is probably higher, as the military won’t accept people with IQ’s that are too low, especially during times of “peace.” Military pay, however, is significantly higher than civilian pay, once you control for education, years of experience, skills. Of course, this won’t hold true in the upper tail of the distribution. The higher income likely outweighs the higher IQ though, meaning lilurbananachiever’s claim about the ratio is probably true. I’m not sure a high income: IQ ratio makes you more likely to hold a higher balance; I’d think that’d be more related to discipline or impulse control or financial edu, among other things. Even if the high ratio does increase the portion of people who hold a higher balance, I doubt it does by enough to offset all the fee waivers of everyone who isn’t holding a balance. Especially since premium cards like the platinum, which provide the most value from this benefit, generate the vast majority of revenue from annual fees and swipe fees.

Mark
Mark

Steve, you raise a good point, and more tactfully than the jagoff OP (the urbanachiever jagoff, not the cobol jagoff) I wonder how many military folks commit the cardinal sin of the game by carrying balances. Is it more or less than the general public?

I suspect anyone foolish enough to carry a balance wouldn’t pass the CC application, but then again, I suppose it’s the balance-carriers that allow the rest of us to get bonuses: they subsidize us the way poor jagoff John Waters subsidizes military people with higher fees.

Have I IDed all the jagoffs? No, there’s the guy who wants Wall Street bankers’ fees to get waived. 😀

lilurbanachiever
lilurbanachiever

Ugh, touched a nerve there, I guess. Funny how the public opinion swayed from despising the poor draftees during Vietnam to blindly supporting today’s well-paid professionals.

David
David

Some people are appreciative that they don’t have to serve in the military to experience the freedoms and leg-up received by being born in this country, and they extend that appreciation to those who risk their lives. I think that’s cool. I’m half-Korean, and all my Korean family members were mandated to serve in the military to maintain their countries lifestyle. They have a much deeper appreciation for their freedom, and a deeper connection to the sad necessity of a strong military force. Have you seen Israel stop all activities to honor the fallen? If not, you should look it up.

dudeious
dudeious

well paid….. lol

COBOLCODERUSEALLCAPS
COBOLCODERUSEALLCAPS

Don’t mind Mark, he’s one of those target audiences. Not sure why he’s been crying so hard in this entire considering how laws like SCRA and MLA were created specifically to protect him from his own stupidity.

iahphx
iahphx

Has anyone in the military who got billed an annual fee by AMEX gotten this issue resolved yet? My daughter’s SCRA application was denied because she opened the account after joining the military, and (as her designated account manager) I asked them to review the matter under the MLA. But we haven’t heard back in almost 2 weeks.

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