Low APR and Waived Fees: Credit Card Benefits for Active-Duty Military

Federal law requires all issuers to offer relief to those on active duty, but some go well beyond what's required.
Jae Bratton
Claire Tsosie
By Claire Tsosie and  Jae Bratton 
Edited by Erin Hurd

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Under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, credit card issuers are required to offer financial relief to active-duty service members, but some offer more than what the law calls for. The SCRA requires that lenders cap interest rates on pre-service debt at 6%, among other protections. But several major issuers offer even lower interest rates, sometimes extending them for up to a year after the active duty period has ended. Some issuers also waive various credit card fees, and a few issuers do both. Combined, these financial protections could add up to hundreds of dollars in savings.

Here’s what you need to know about these credit card benefits and how to qualify for them.

Best credit card benefits for active-duty military

NerdWallet surveyed 11 major issuers and compared their SCRA benefits. Here are the best offers we found:

  • Barclays offers 0% APR on accounts opened prior to active duty for eligible service members.

  • Capital One, Chase, Navy Federal Credit Union and USAA offer 4% APR on eligible balances for qualifying service members.

  • Capital One and Chase also waive all credit card fees including annual fees, late fees and balance transfer fees. 

Remember, though, that these benefits only apply to cards opened before active military service, not during.

Here’s a complete list of our findings.



American Express

  • Waived fees (such as annual fees).

  • A maximum of 6% APR on eligible pre-service balances.

Source: American Express spokeswoman

Bank of America®

  • Waived fees on SCRA-eligible accounts.

  • 6% APR on SCRA-eligible accounts, during active duty and extending for six months after SCRA-eligible period ends.

Source: Bank of America® spokesman


  • 0% APR for any credit card or loan accounts opened prior to the service member’s active duty start date.

  • All other fees are waived, except for annual fees. The reduced APR and fee waivers will remain on the accounts while the service member is on active duty.

Source: Barclays spokesman

Capital One

  • Waived fees, except for insurance, on eligible accounts during active duty and one year afterward.

  • 4% APR on eligible balances during active duty and one year afterward.

Source: Capital One spokeswoman


  • Waived fees on eligible accounts during active duty and one year afterward.

  • 4% APR on eligible balances during active duty and one year afterward.

Source: Chase spokesman


  • Waiver on certain applicable servicing fees.

  • Annual percentage rate will not exceed 6% on pre-service obligations.

Source: Citi spokeswoman


Interest rate not to exceed 6% on debt incurred prior to active duty, including most fees for the duration the servicemember is on active duty.

Source: Discover’s website

Navy Federal Credit Union

Maximum interest rate of 4% to eligible member accounts.

Source: Navy Federal’s website


Maximum interest rate of 4% on accounts that qualify for the SCRA or state military benefits.

Source: USAA’s website

U.S. Bank

  • 6% rate cap for balances that were incurred prior to active duty.

  • Waived fees incurred while on active duty.

Source: U.S. Bank spokesman

Wells Fargo

6% APR on pre-service balances.

Source: Wells Fargo spokesman

*Updated April 2024

How to qualify for credit card benefits

The following service members are eligible for the SCRA’s interest rate reduction benefit:

  • Active duty members of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy.

  • Reserve members on active duty.

  • National Guard members mobilized under federal orders for more than 30 consecutive days.

  • Active duty commissioned officers of the Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

  • Spouse of an active-duty service member who shares a joint line of credit with that person.

The service member must apply to receive SCRA protections. Applications are submitted directly to the lender, along with documentation verifying the active duty period. Lenders are required to accept applications for reduced interest rates throughout activity duty and up to 180 days after duty ends. Service members must submit separate interest reduction requests for each account, even if those accounts are held by the same lender.

If you're preparing for deployment or already serving overseas, remember to notify issuers of your service. They might help you out more than you'd expect.

🤓Nerdy Tip

While the SCRA applies to loans taken out before active duty, the Military Lending Act protects service members with loans opened during active duty. The MLA prohibits issuers from charging a military annual percentage rate of interest above 36%. Issuers must factor in credit card fees such as annual fees when calculating the MAPR. No application is needed to receive this MLA benefit.

How to maximize SCRA benefits

Minimize interest payments while paying off debt

SCRA benefits can make your total debt balance a lot more affordable, especially if your issuer offers single-digit APRs to active-duty service members. If you’re paying off a large balance with a high APR, those savings could add up quickly. Keep in mind that balance transfer fees, which are generally 3% or 5% of the transferred balance, are also waived on SCRA-eligible accounts. If you transferred your balances to your card with a low APR, you could save on both interest and fees.

Build credit without paying annual fees

If you’re trying to boost your credit scores and are having trouble qualifying for a card with no annual fee, use your SCRA benefits to get the annual fees waived. Pay balances on time and in full, and borrow sparingly, and you could qualify for better terms in the future.

Maximize rewards and other benefits

If you have excellent credit and never carry a balance, you could get even more value out of cards with premium features, such as high rewards rates, airline fee credits, waived baggage fees, airport lounge access and complimentary upgrades. If you get the card before your active duty begins, you likely won't have to pay an annual fee during your service.

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