In gratitude for their service to us and our country, business owners strive to give back to military members by offering them exclusive discounts and promotions. These military discounts can provide an appreciated financial break for those who can take advantage of them. They’re often seen at restaurants, retail stores, airlines, car dealerships, and many more locations.
Although many military members may know about certain discounts, they may not be as familiar with others. For instance, members of the military can save big on credit cards. Most credit card companies, including Citibank, provide benefits specifically for active-duty military. These benefits can vary by the credit card issuer, but they all aim to decrease the financial burdens military members may experience.
Here, we’ll take a look at the military benefits associated with Citi credit cards and the value they can bring you.
Understanding MLA and SCRA benefits for active-duty military
Most credit card companies offer military benefits because they’re required to by law, at least to some degree. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, enacted in 2003, is a law designed to relieve the financial stress of military members while they’re on active duty. Along the same lines, the Military Lending Act of 2006 was enacted to protect active-duty military members and their families from certain lending practices.
Among its many benefits, the SCRA forgives interest rates above 6% on pre-service debts. This doesn’t completely erase any debts you may have before entering active duty, but it will at least cap the amount of interest that can accrue on those debts. One of the featured benefits of the MLA is the military annual percentage rate. The MAPR restricts creditors from charging covered borrowers more than 36% in combined annual interest, fees, and other credit-related charges.
Overall, these are helpful credit card benefits that active-duty service members can take advantage of. But if we look closer at certain credit card programs, we can find many additional benefits that go beyond what’s required by law.
Let’s explore Citibank’s military credit card benefits and see how valuable they can be for you.
How Citibank military credit card benefits work
Citibank military credit card benefits are available for any Citi credit card, whether it’s an American Airlines credit card, Costco credit card, or one of the best travel credit cards. If the card was issued by Citigroup Inc., you can get the applicable military benefits for it.
These credit cards and their associated benefits can help you save money in the military, but you must qualify for them. With Citibank, you’re eligible for military credit card benefits only if your Citi accounts were opened before you entered active-duty military service. So if you open a new card while currently on active duty, you will most likely not be eligible for special military benefits on that account.
The military benefits from Citibank are offered only to the current active-duty military member and their spouse. So other family members and dependents wouldn’t be eligible for these benefits.
The most valuable Citibank credit card military benefits
1. Waived fees
As an eligible military member, you can have all of your credit card fees waived. This includes any annual fees and late fees. It’s a straightforward benefit that can save you a lot of money while you’re on active duty.
For example, let’s say you already had the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® card opened before starting your active-duty military service. It’s a great travel card that comes with plenty of premium perks and benefits. However, it also has a whopping $595 annual fee. After entering active duty, you wouldn’t have to pay that $595 each year.
You also wouldn’t have to worry about any other fees associated with already-opened credit card accounts. So if you have the Citi Simplicity® Card, you could avoid the balance transfer fee of 3% of each balance transfer ($5 minimum) within 4 months of account opening; then 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) after the 4 month intro period ends. If you were to transfer a $5,000 balance, that would be $250 in fees you wouldn’t have to pay. Taking advantage of this benefit could save you a lot of money in credit card interest.
2. APR down to 0%
Citibank also offers 0% APR on its credit cards for eligible active-duty military members. This means you won’t accrue any interest on credit card balances you built up before becoming active duty. If you’re paying down a large balance, you could save loads of money on interest each month. In turn, this benefit can help you manage your debt and pay it down quicker.
An efficient way to leverage both this benefit and the waived fees at the same time is with a balance transfer. The way balance transfers work is that you transfer debt from one credit card account to another. It’s best if you transfer to a 0% APR credit card that doesn't accrue interest for a certain period of time. You normally have to pay a balance transfer fee on the amount of money you move to the new credit card. But with these Citibank military benefits, you won’t have to pay a balance transfer fee.
Using this strategy, you can avoid both the transfer fee and paying interest on your credit card balance. This should allow you to get a better handle on your financial situation and get out of debt much faster.
Check out our Citi Simplicity Card review.
3. Free premium benefits
Waived fees and 0% APR are the only official Citibank military credit card benefits, but you can also get heaps of value from each card’s already existing perks and benefits. For instance, in our earlier example about the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, because you get the $595 annual fee waived, that means you’re getting all of the card’s premium benefits at no additional cost.
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard benefits include:
- First checked bag free on American Airlines flights
- TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee reimbursement
- Admirals Club membership
- Opportunity to earn Loyalty Points each year to help earn American Airlines elite status
- Priority check-in, boarding, and airport screening (where available)
- 25% savings on in-flight food and beverages
As you can see, the bonus value you can get from card benefits is huge. With the annual fee waived on this card, you’re essentially getting free profit in the form of card perks. And this same principle applies to any Citi credit card with an annual fee. However, you would likely get the most benefit from the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard because it comes with plenty of high-value perks.
Let’s dig a little deeper into some of this card’s best assets:
Free checked bag
Your first checked bag is free on all domestic American Airlines flights. Even better, this benefit is extended to up to eight travel companions on the same reservation. Considering a checked bag can typically cost around $30, that's up to $60 saved for you on round-trip flights. And if you're traveling with a large group, you might save as much as $540 on a round-trip flight with eight travel companions.
TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee reimbursement
Once every five years, you can receive a fee credit for either the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry programs. TSA PreCheck applications cost $78, and Global Entry applications cost $100. So, you can save yourself up to $100 in application fees to a program that can improve your overall airport experience.
Because a Global Entry membership includes TSA PreCheck benefits, it would make the most sense to use this benefit toward Global Entry fee reimbursement. Make sure you pay for the fee with your Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard and you’ll receive an automatic statement credit to cover that cost within two billing cycles.
Admirals Club membership
Admirals Clubs are airport lounges that offer loads of amenities while you wait for your flight to depart. This includes a more comfortable and relaxing area to sit and relax while enjoying food and beverages, as well as free Wi-Fi. American Airlines advertises nearly 50 Admirals Club locations worldwide.
Since an Admirals Club membership typically costs upward of $650 per year, this is easily one of the most premium benefits you'll find on the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.
Admirals Club lounges can include:
- Free food and drinks, including alcoholic beverages
- Wi-Fi internet access
- Comfortable seating
A special note on spousal benefits
Active-duty military members and their spouses are eligible for Citibank military credit card benefits. That means you could potentially double the value of your military benefits if your spouse has Citibank cards as well.
For example, you could both have the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard and leverage its premium benefits, such as the Admirals Club membership and TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit (up to $100) — all without having to pay an annual fee. With those two benefits alone, that’s up to $1,500 worth of value.
Consider these Citibank credit cards for active-duty military
The best credit cards for military members will vary depending on each person’s situation. You may want a cashback credit card for rewards on everyday purchases, or a travel credit card with unique perks and benefits. Our list of the best cashback credit cards is a great place to start.
Although every Citibank credit card could be useful for active-duty military, we think these are some of the best choices:
- Citi Double Cash® Card
- Citi Rewards+® Card
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
- Citi Prestige® Card (no longer available for applications)
Both the Citi Double Cash and Citi Rewards+ cards are some of the best no annual fee credit cards, so the waived annual fee for military members wouldn’t add anything extra to these cards. Still, these cards are a few of the best rewards credit cards if you want to earn rewards on everyday purchases.
If you specifically want a card for grocery and gas trips, the Citi Rewards+ earns 2X points on supermarkets and gas stations (on the first $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1X points thereafter). For a broader selection, the Citi Double Cash earns 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases; plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24.
If you like travel benefits, it’s hard to go wrong with the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard or Citi Prestige. They both have large annual fees that will be waived to save you a bunch of money. Here’s a closer look at who would benefit most from each of these cards:
- The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is co-branded with American Airlines. Cardholders earn AAdvantage miles so this card is best for frequent flyers of American Airlines. You’ll receive Admirals Club airport lounge membership and up to $100 in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit. This card also provides priority check-in and boarding privileges for you and up to eight companions on the same American Airlines (or another eligible airline) reservation.
- Because the Citi Prestige isn’t co-branded with an airline, you can apply its rewards and benefits more generally. This makes it a better fit for someone who isn’t as brand loyal. Its $250 annual travel credit is great for airfare from any airline, and earned ThankYou Points have flexible redemption options.
The SCRA and MLA provide helpful financial benefits for active-duty military members, but some credit card issuers such as Citibank go even further than what’s required. If you’re in active-duty military service (or about to be), you can leverage Citibank’s military credit card benefits to save on fees and interest. You can also get some additional card benefits at the same time.
To be eligible for these benefits, your Citi credit card accounts must have been opened before you go on active duty. And keep in mind, your spouse would also be eligible for these benefits.
Admirals Club Membership and More
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Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first 3 months of account opening (limited time offer)
10X miles on hotels booked through aa.com/hotels and eligible car rentals booked through aa.com/cars, 4X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases (after spending $150,000 per calendar year this increases to 5X for the remainder of the calendar year), and 1X miles for every $1 spent on other purchases