Military Money Manual Guest Post

CAPT Spencer of the USAF reached out to me from reddit to write a guest post on his blog militarymoneymanual.com . He also has a book on Amazon, and has great articles on becoming financially independent by the age of 40. I am looking forward to this collaboration, and it should be better than the spotty and sarcastic relationship we got with www.trainwrecktrader.com! So I asked Spencer what the good folks at the USAF are interested in and he wrote:

I was thinking about a blog post on how many AMEX Platinums a smart servicemembers could have, how to get them (PC non Platinum cards, pick up the non-Vanilla flavors of Platinum), and how much all that would be worth annually (Schwab + Ameriprise + Vanilla + Green (PC) + PRG (PC) ) and then times 2 if you have a spouse could be $2000 in airline credits a year, $2000 in Uber credits annually, etc.

Spencer made me realize I never made a combined SOP post on how to get multiple platinums to multiply the annual benefits of the card. So here goes my first guest post to be cross posted to militarymoneymanual.com !


One of the greatest perks of being active duty is the generous interpretation of the SCRA from the good folks at American Express. They are not obligated to waive the $550 annual fee on their AmEx Personal Platinum charge card, but they have been doing for many years. I can only assume they do this because they make money on the back end, on retailers that take AmEx. With more card members spread across thew world, this waiver is the cheapest PR they are going to get when every service-members has one of these in their pockets for no annual fee.

I also like to think that the majority of AmEx Platinum holders do not take advantage of any of their benefits and pay the $550. Where just the savvy few actually maximize these things on an annual basis. We are also some of the most financially responsible members of the workforce seeing how we would lose our security clearance if our credit score started to dip. This post is to outline the many approaches to getting multiple Personal Platinum and Biz Cards to maximize these benefits.

Each AmEx Personal Platinum card pays dividends in the form of these annual benefits:

  1. $200 in Uber Credits (good for rides and uber eats) paid in the form of $15 each month (with a $20 extra bonus in December) into the Uber account the AmEx card is added to. I added all of my 11 personal cards to my wife’s Uber account so she sees a credit of $165 on the first of each month ($385 in December). This credit must be used by midnight Hawaii time at the end of the month or will be lost.
  2. $200 in flight fee reimbursements for an airline of your choosing. This resets every 01 January, which means if you get a new card in November, you can hit the benefit again in January. I use all 11 of mine for $2,200 in AA gift cards, some people use it for Delta or Southwest gift cards. The current airlines and what AmEx pays for are found here: AA Thread, AS Thread, B6 Thread, DL Thread, HA Thread, UA Thread, WN Thread
  3. $100 at Saks 5th Avenue payable in a $50 credit from January to June and another $50 from July to December. This credit expires at the end of each period and does not require any minimum spend.
  4. $100 for global entry which presumably should only be used every 5 years for yourself, but some reports of any charge of $100 for any application will be covered without any limitation (try at your own risk). I would just use one $100 credit per card per 5 years.

Each AmEx Business Platinum card has only the $200 in airline fee reimbursements among other things such as the 35% points back which we have discussed on other posts.

Rules of the game:

  • AmEx has a lifetime (de facto 7 year rule) limitation on bonuses to be paid for a new product. If you ever got the bonus for getting a card at any time in your life they will NEVER pay that bonus again.
  • You can’t apply for a product you already have. If you have a Green AmEx, they won’t give you another green AmEx or if you have one personal Plat, you can’t apply for another.
  • You can only product change after one year of having the card to another card you have
  • Co-Branded cards are considered separate products. the Morgan Stanley Platinum Card is not the same as the Charles Schwab Platinum Card. You can get the sign up benefit for both.
  • Your annual fee will get waived for AD and reservists, but if you are in a state that doesn’t have common property rules your non active duty spouse may not get a waiver.
  • Some co-branded Platinum Cards require relationships to keep open (Schwab and Morgan Stanley, but not Ameriprise)
  • There appears to be no limit to how many CHARGE cards you can have, there is a 5 CREDIT card limit.
  • Manufactured spending will get you shutdown, buying only gift cards and paying with multiple accounts is suspicious for bust our fraud.

Strategy:

  • Always get the highest product first, then the lower compatible product to product change in the future.
  • DO NOT product change to a product you haven’t gotten yet
  • Go slow and make sure you hit the minimum spend for the bonuses, it will take many years to get to where I am now
  • Have a plan lined up and stick with it!

Best Practices Sequence:

  1. AmEx Platinum Direct Application (100k offers do exist or use my 60k links hereherehere, and here to support the site)
  2. AmEx Biz Plat Direct Application (Use referral links: here, here, and here to toss some points my way)
  3. Open Schwab account with code ‘refer’ for $100 free dollars ($1k min) and then apply for AmEx Charles Schwab Platinum 
  4. Open Morgan Stanley Account ($5K min) then apply for AmEx Morgan Stanley Platinum Card
  5. Apply for Ameriprise Platnium Card Directly without opening an Ameriprise account (No bonus)
  6. Apply AmEx Green then Product Change in one year, use my link here.
  7. Apply for Biz Gold and Upgrade to Plat in one year
  8. Apply for AmEx Gold, then Product Change in one year
  9. Apply for Ameriprise Gold Card Directly then product change in one year

Theoretical Unproven Sequences:

  1. Apply for MS Credit card and PC to another Plat in one year (Have not tried this yet)
  2. Apply for Charles Schwab Credit card card and PC to another Plat in one year (Have not tried this yet)
  3. Apply for another Green and Gold after Upgrading and PC in one year

Unicorn Cards:

  1. Goldman Sachs AmEx Platinum (Been working on this for years)
  2. Mercedes-Benz Platinum (Discontinued March 2018)

Predicting how much free money you need 

I asked my O-6 select friend what he thought the number of cards you need are and he said “infinite”. However I am framing this in the terms of maintenance, as each card requires time investment to maximize the benefit. Otherwise the effort will be for a benefit you have no time to use. Using the below chart you can see how many cards you will need to fit your life style:

# of Pts $ Uber/ Mo $ Uber Dec Airline Saks 6 mo Total Yr
1 $15 $35 $200 $50 $500
2 $30 $70 $400 $100 $1,000
3 $45 $105 $600 $150 $1,500
4 $60 $140 $800 $200 $2,000
5 $75 $175 $1,000 $250 $2,500
6 $90 $210 $1,200 $300 $3,000
7 $105 $245 $1,400 $350 $3,500
8 $120 $280 $1,600 $400 $4,000
9 $135 $315 $1,800 $450 $4,500
10 $150 $350 $2,000 $500 $5,000
11 $165 $385 $2,200 $550 $5,500
12 $180 $420 $2,400 $600 $6,000
13 $195 $455 $2,600 $650 $6,500
14 $210 $490 $2,800 $700 $7,000
15 $225 $525 $3,000 $750 $7,500
16 $240 $560 $3,200 $800 $8,000
17 $255 $595 $3,400 $850 $8,500
18 $270 $630 $3,600 $900 $9,000
19 $285 $665 $3,800 $950 $9,500
20 $300 $700 $4,000 $1,000 $10,000

Take your time, it took me 5 years to have 13 Personal and 3 Business between my wife and myself.

-Derp

26 thoughts on “Military Money Manual Guest Post

  1. Mike says:

    Do you have to open a certain type of account with Schwab or Morgan Stanley? Or can it be any account (such as a free basic savings account)?

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      the rules are any relationship. SO i guess a basic account like the ones i mentioned in the article would work

  2. bc says:

    I have my Plat, Schwab Plat, and Gold (open for more than a year) on my AmEx account. If I remove the Gold and put that on a new AmEx account, will I be able to upgrade it to a Plat? Or would I also have to move one of the Plats to that new account too?

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      don’t remove the gold, just product change the gold to another platinum

      • MP says:

        What are the rules for needing to have different accounts? Can I have all my Platinums on the same account? I just converted my Gold to a Platinum but did so by moving it to a separate login and then upgrading it. Was that necessary? Thanks!

        • uiucderp2011 says:

          no rule on having them all on one account, however things get wonky because there is no way to tell the different platinums apart. You would not be able to use the site to upgrade the gold to another plat, i had to call in to move my PRG to another plat. Also there was no way to add saks to my upgraded card untill i made a new account for it. I suspect it will be the same thing for the green card.

  3. Trey says:

    Great post!

  4. J says:

    First, I generally like reading your blog. However, I fall into the category of churners who heavily criticize those bloggers out there who peddle affiliate links and referrals for a dollar over putting readers first. Like TPG, etc, I will still read, but these sites lose credibility. Let me explain:
    Pushing referrals with sign up bonuses that are less than the best available offer out there and not even mentioning the higher bonus. 100K or 75K personal platinum sign up bonuses are out there, just no referral bonus for them. I’d at least mention there are offers out there. Some people may choose to avoid the hassle of card match and use your link, but at least they are making an informed choice.

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      Valid point, I do need that reality check every so often. There are much better deals out there, with more points on mailers etc. I just want to capture those people who will just sign up without using any link at all without finding the best offer.

      I think I should go the frequent miler route out there, more full disclosure on what the best offer is. I guess I failed to mention, that there are better deals out there, but you are going to have to find them yourself. I tried to host some links on reddit r/churning but I don’t have enough karma.

      In the future I am going to put that disclosure, that better offers do exist, and the links I provide may not have the best offer out there. I hope that you haven’t felt deceived, and I haven’t lost too many readers.

      -Derp

  5. Sheraz says:

    Incredible post. I found this through your guest post on Military Money Manual (been reading it for years). Just of curiosity…what’s your FICO score after having all these cards? I have 5 myself, but only one AMEX Platinum. I’m in the 772-790 range depending on the credit bureau and small monthly fluctuations. I’m not in a position to acquire any additional cards as I am about to finance a Model 3 and buy a house. Once I have secured those loans, I will start getting additional cards. Thank you for the valuable information!

    BTW, do you have an email list? I would like to subscribe and continue following your posts. I didn’t see a subscribe button on your website.

  6. Marcus says:

    How do you go about enrolling your addtional Platinums for the Uber credit? I have added two Platinums to my Uber account but on the AMEX site it says I need to enroll the card to receive the credit. However it won’t let me enroll it using my Uber account since it says that email and phone number are already taken. I’ve been getting the $15 credit each month but I don’t know if I will get my second $15 in Aug from my second card.

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      I just added them to the uber account and the credit shows every month. Never had to enroll it on the Amex site. You might need to make multiple logins.

  7. Alex says:

    Hi Derp, do you know about any changes to upgrade procedures of business cards? I have business gold that I had for 15 months and I just called to amex but wasn’t able to upgrade the card. The lady tried to upgrade the card but it won’t let her do it. After she spoke with supervisor she told me that no more upgrades are allowed to platinum cards. Have you heard about it or maybe have experience working it out?

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      Woah, this would be a big deal if that is the case. I will have to look into it, but always try to hang up and call again, or even create your own log in for the gold biz card and see if you can upgrade it from there.

      • Alex says:

        I already have it under separate login, but I don’t get any upgrade offer under new cards…

        • uiucderp2011 says:

          Just to make sure you are turning you Business gold to a Business platinum, not a personal platinum?

          • Alex says:

            Correct. Just called a second time and that csr was able to upgrade my card. Your advice about hanging up and dialing second time actually worked.

  8. Alex says:

    I am currently in the process of obtaining all the Platinum cards as well, and have some questions. For the Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab, does it have to be any type of brokerage or retirement account, or can it be a simple checking account as listed on there?
    Do you have to have the accounts opened a certain amount of time prior to getting the respective Platinum cards, or can you get the Platinum cards first, then open an account? The Membership Rewards signup bonus are for American Express itself, correct?

    Also, on an unrelated note, do you know how long SCRA and MLA benefits last after you ETS? (I have heard anywhere from a few months to a year) If I were to rejoin active duty after ETS, would I receive retroactive pay from the annual fees paid during that time?

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      Morgan Stanley needs $5,000 min for their brokerage account so that is a bit steep, but it’s a lot cheaper than the $250,000 that they want for their private client side. I did $1,000 for Schwab because they were giving away $100 if you kept it in there for one year. Not sure about their checking product, but the $100 for the code “refer” is already 10% ROI.

      You would open the account first, then apply for the card. My friend had the account open only for a day and was eligible to get the respective cards. However when he didn’t fund the Schwab account, it was closed and they closed the Plat card.

      Currently both cards offer 60K MR points for $5K spend in 3 months.

      Not sure about ETS, but I know the reservists get the waiver, hope that helps!

      • Alex says:

        Do you have any info of closed Morgan Stanley Platinum cards if the brokerage account was never funded and closed in 60 days?

        • uiucderp2011 says:

          Yeah I think frequent milergot shut down for not funding

          • Mike says:

            I just got approved for the Schwab platinum after opening an account a couple weeks ago without any funding. I was planning to never fund it, but I think I’ll load $1000 and get the $100 bonus, to be safe.

      • Alex says:

        Can the Morgan Stanley or Charles Schwab brokerage account be funded with a credit card, or does it have to be linked checking account (to meet signup bonus)?

        • uiucderp2011 says:

          I funded mine with cash money my friend, but schwab you can fund with MR points at 1.25 cents per point, not sure if it would be valid with the bonus. Morgan Stanley you can fund with MR but not sure the transfer rate

  9. uiucderp2011 says:

    Failing to fund the Schwab account is what got Doug’s card and account shut down. He wasted his one hard pull and then might be ineligible for the bonus. Not sure if he ever got it the first time. Don’t mess with Schwab, they are diligent on shutting down deadbeats. Ameriprise on the other hand has no problem giving you their gold or Plat cards because they don’t come with any bonus.

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