Editor’s Note: This is not an endorsement of any mentioned credit card by MilitaryShoppers. Nor is this article intended to serve as sound financial guidance. It is simply to inform military troops and families about additional benefits of which they may be unaware. Proceed at your own risk.
If you’ve ever tried to break a rental agreement with your PCS or deployment orders, you’ve used the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA). In short, it’s a group of protections that gives military members a little bit of wiggle room and grace for when the DoD throws a wrench in their plans.
But there is a little more to the SCRA than just breaking your lease. Did you know that there are credit cards that give you a break, too?
Credit Card Benefits Many Military Families Don’t Know They’ve Earned
There are hidden perks and benefits, especially with some exclusive or high level cards, available only to military members! And you might be missing out on this deal.
Lower Your Interest Rates
If you have debt, like a loan or credit card payment, from before you joined up, you can use the SCRA to lower what you owe monthly.
For example, if you bought a car before you enlisted with a higher interest rate, you can use your SCRA benefits to lower that rate to below 10%, according to Military Benefits.
This is true for pre-service credit card debt, too.
But be warned: any debt you incur post-enlistment or commissioning is yours. Avoid payday loans and car dealers located right outside of base. Many people have learned hard lessons trying in invoke SCRA interest benefits on expensive loans from these types of places.
More Than Interest Lowering
Did you know that you can get a whole lot more than your interest lowered?
Many credit cards, especially higher end ones, offer free annual fees and/or lower interest rates to qualified applicants.
For example, American Express and Chase both offer a break on annual fees. That’s a big deal since these cards both charge several hundred dollars to members, just to have the card!
But membership with both companies, and several others, comes with additional perks that make life easier for military families.
Airport Perks with High-End Credit Cards
When my family traveled back from OCONUS last summer, we enjoyed open bars and buffets at the airport. And we didn’t pay a dime. How?
Our AMEX Platinum and Chase Sapphire cards. Both cards offer active duty troops free membership, with verification of course.
According to CreditKarma, AMEX Platinum is the best choice for military families on the go (which is all of us, am I right?).
Honestly, we travel so much more often and so much easier than before. All because AMEX waived the $550 annual membership fee based on our active duty status.
Instead of hunting for an uncomfortable seat at our gate, we lounge in plush easy chairs. You get premium airport lounge access, baby! That means yummy nibbles at the buffet and often an open bar, too. Plus, and best of all, sparkling clean restrooms!
AMEX Platinum cardholders have free access to several networks of lounges at airports around the world, including many in the US. With complimentary membership (as a cardholder) to Priority Pass, you can find lounges from Providence, RI to Bangkok. Plus, many international airports also host Centurion Lounges. These exclusive clubs are open only to AMEX Platinum members or higher.
Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders also get access to Priority Pass Lounges, according to Military Money Manager.
Both cards also offer options to get a certain amount reimbursed during travel.
AMEX Platinum gives back up to $200 in baggage fees and other expenses on one qualifying airline per year. You select your preferred airline annually. Sapphire Reserve reimburses up to $300 per year in travel expenses. Military Money Manager shows receipts from Uber and Priceline being reimbursed!
Before You Get to the Gate
Want to fly through airport security like a VIP? Your cards have got you covered!
Both AMEX Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve offer reimbursement on your TSAPreCheck, up to $100 every four years. PreCheck is free with your active duty CAC, but your dependent and kids might enjoy joining you in the faster line.
Both cards also offer the option to enroll in Global Entry. This program means that in certain countries, you’ll be able to breeze through immigration quicker and more easily. All you need is your passport and fingerprints! Global Entry is for low-risk travelers and everyone is screened prior to enrollment.
Once You Land in Your Destination
We stayed at the St. Regis in Bangkok and Osaka – for free. Thanks to the benefits programs of our Chase Sapphire and AMEX Platinum cards.
Yes, you read the right. St. Regis, Bangkok and free. There was a champagne toast offered at sunset. Also free.
Both cards offer great perks for points, hence the super upscale hotel stays. Trust me, we couldn’t have stayed at either property otherwise. Military family, remember?
Your hotel benefits aren’t limited to just those ultra-classy establishments. As a cardholder, you get upgraded status at Bonvoy properties, which combines the old Marriott and SPG groups of hotels, as well as Hilton. Upgrades mean you can get access to complimentary upgrades on rooms, free internet, expedited check-in, complimentary cocktails or even a free breakfast buffet.
Big Savings on Travel with a Free Credit Card
With how much much our family travels, even just every few years for PCS season or home for the holidays, keeping our AMEX and Chase cards on hand has saved us a bundle.
- We haven’t paid for a meal at the airport in years
- Checking email or social media between flights is free on high speed internet
- Keeping our kids entertained during travel is easier with enclosed lounges that offer food and space to stretch
- Our hotel rooms are larger (again, kids)
- We love our free breakfast buffets
- We turn our everyday spending into tangible benefits
On that last one, we saved up enough points just through normal spending on groceries, gas and other typical purchases that we were able to upgrade my seat to business class on a trans-Pacific flight.
While you still have to pay your credit card bills, having a card that makes your on-the-go military life a little better is 100% worth it. Just be sure to budget smartly and pay your bills on time!