Being in the military comes with its own rewards: honor, respectability, accomplishment, a sense of pride. But military service also comes with some added perks that can slip beneath the radar; notably, exclusive financial benefits that could help you save money and make the most of your military salary.
Offered directly through the government or by private organizations, these perks can have an impact on everything from home loans and life insurance to recreation and retirement. Military service can serve you well when it comes to financial perks.
Military service can serve you well when it comes to financial perks. Here are 25 financial perks every Veteran and active service member should take advantage of.
1. Travel Discounts
Planes, trains, and automobiles: However you plan to travel, the wheels should be turning in your head as to how you can get to your destination while saving on transportation costs. Ask about military discounts at Amtrak, Greyhound, National Car Rental, United Airlines, and others before you book your trip.
2. Hotel Room Savings
You get to stay in the comfort of a welcoming hotel — while more money gets to stay in your wallet. Many hotels offer discounted hotel stays when you present a military ID. Check out hotel chains like Best Western Hotels and Resorts, which offers a 10 percent discount off its rooms.
3. No Down Payment For Mortgages
Home sweet home without the need for a down payment? That’s a sweet deal. Service members, veterans, and eligible surviving spouses can apply for a VA home loan, which does not require a down payment as long as the sale price doesn’t exceed the appraised value. VA home loans, available through private lenders, come with additional financial benefits when compared to traditional mortgages.
According to Amy Stuhr Paterson, military spouse and loan officer at NBKC Bank, “VA rate pricing is very competitive, allows for as little as no money down if purchasing a home within VA county loan limits, and has no private mortgage insurance considerations if [you’re] putting less than 20 percent down.”
4. Discounted Child Care
When an active-duty military member is deployed outside of the home, child care becomes an essential consideration; so, too, is the cost of seeking out and securing a caregiver that’s reputable, trustworthy, and compatible with your family’s needs.
Military families in need of au pair services can receive a discount of over $1,000 with Cultural Care Au Pair, an agency that offers a large selection of prescreened, CPR certified au pairs across the country.
5. Free College
It’s worth learning more about VA education programs because you could save a substantial amount on tuition fees. Veterans, service members, and their spouses and family members could be eligible for educational benefits that can be used towards undergraduate or graduate degree programs.
For example, the Post-9/11 GI Bill covers all tuition and fees for an in-state public college and up to $23,672 per academic year for a private or foreign college.
6. Zero- And Low-Interest Loans
Military members can apply for an emergency loan that carries no interest or fees directly from an emergency fund for their specific branch. In addition, low-interest VA home loans are available through private lenders; for example, NBKC Bank offers interest rates as low as 4 percent for those with good credit.
Stuhr Paterson suggests that in order to qualify for the best loan rates you should maintain a good credit history, avoid hard credit pulls, pay bills on time, and avoid maxing out your credit before you apply for a VA home loan.
7. Housing Subsidies And Property Tax Discounts
Service members receive a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) that helps them cover the costs of rental housing near their duty location. Some out-of-pocket housing expenses aren’t included but the BAH typically covers 96 percent of housing costs (as of 2018). Additionally, depending on where they live, military members and veterans looking to own their homes might be able to save on property taxes.
“Many states offer discounts or property tax relief for active military personnel as well as disabled veterans,” said Stuhr Paterson. “Military members are encouraged to contact their local property tax collector to find out what discounts, if any, apply in their area.”
8. Free Online Tutoring
With a little extra online help things can suddenly just click, regardless of the subject matter. The U.S. Department of Defense and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance offers active-duty service members and their families’ free 24/7 access to Tutor.com, an on-demand platform for online tutoring and homework help.
One-to-one sessions allow for personalized attention from experts ranging from Ph.Ds and teachers to professors and pilots, and more. So whether you’re struggling with Statistics or contending with Chemistry, free help is readily available.
9. Income Tax Breaks
This should leave you in a state of euphoria: Active military members who enlist while living in a state that doesn’t have income tax won’t have to pay income tax if they’re relocated to a state that does, according to CNN.
Plan to use your tax savings on paying down some long standing bills, purchasing an item or two that have been on your wishlist, or treating your family to some fun recreational activities that allow for relaxation and reconnecting.
10. High-Interest Savings Accounts
A Savings Deposit Program (SDP) is available only to those serving in designated combat zones, qualified hazardous duty areas, or certain contingency operations. Eligible members may deposit all or part of their pay, after all deductions and allotments, into a Department of Defense savings account.
These accounts earn up to 10 percent interest on up to $10,000 in deposits annually, a significantly higher interest rate than that of the average savings account rate of 0.08 percent.
11. No Taxes On Certain Roth IRA Deposits
If you’re looking to actively save, you might want to consider a Roth IRA. Active-duty service members deployed in a tax-free combat zone can contribute that non-taxed income into a Roth IRA account; because distributions from a Roth IRA account are also tax free, military members enjoy a double tax benefit.
Be aware, however, that certain limitations pertain to the amount of annual contributions you can make to a Roth IRA account: $5,500 for individuals under the age of 50; $6,500 for those 50 years of age or older.
12. Low-Cost Life Insurance
Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is a program that provides low-cost term life insurance to eligible service members. Military personnel can receive up to $400,000 in coverage at a rate of 7 cents per $1,000 of insurance.
If eligible, you’re automatically issued the maximum SGLI coverage but you’re allowed to make changes to your coverage. For example, service members can decline SGLI coverage, opt for a lesser amount of coverage, designate beneficiaries, and make other changes.
13. Low-Cost Retirement Savings Plans
The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a retirement plan offered by the government to members of the uniformed services and their beneficiaries. You contribute to the TSP from your own pay; currently, the services don’t match contributions.
Your contributions and the earnings on your investments belong to you; special conditions may apply for contributions by uniformed service members.
14. Legal Benefits
For service members, not having to worry about certain legal arrangement comes as a relief. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides safeguards to active-duty members for a variety of financial services such as security deposits, rental agreements, evictions, installment contracts, mortgages, credit card interest rates, income tax payments, civil judicial proceedings, and more.
Some of the benefits and protections covered by the SCRA include: 6 percent interest rate cap on financial obligations; protections against default judgments, non-judicial foreclosures, and vehicle repossessions; and benefits regarding early lease terminations for apartments.
15. Clothes And Shoes Discounts
You’ve worn the uniform proudly; now it’s time to transition to civilian wear, but you might not want to spend a small fortune on getting decked out now that you’re out of the service.
As a military member you can save money on clothes when you shop at certain retailers; for example, certain well-known brands like Champion and Hanes offer up to 20 percent off their products to members of the military community.
16. Phone Plans For Less
You make the call when it comes to choosing a mobile phone provider but know this: Some providers offer military personnel big discounts that can add up to substantial savings on your bill. One example: Qualified military service personnel and veterans can get up to 50 percent off T-Mobile ONE plans. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
17. Tech Discounts
Tech products can be pricey and they can take a bite out of your budget. But Apple offers military personnel and their families special pricing on its products, and Microsoft gives military members a 10 percent discount on some of their products as well. Check with the company before you make a purchase to determine which product, and price point, works best for you.
18. Restaurant Discounts
High food prices can be tough to swallow — good thing that several restaurant chains offer discounts to military members.
You might want to think about heading to international fast food chain Wendy’s, which gives exclusive year-round discounts on burgers, chicken sandwiches, and classic menu items to veterans and military families, all through its WendyMail program.
19. Free Theme Park Tickets
Go along for the ride: Members of U.S. armed forces don’t have to pay to take their family out for fun and festivities at certain theme parks.
Plan a day at Busch Gardens or SeaWorld, two parks that offer one free admission per year to military members and up to three free passes for their direct dependents. Disneyland and other theme parks also offer discounted tickets to military members.
20. Cheap Movie Tickets
High-priced movie tickets take a back seat with this military benefit: Some movie theaters, including Showcase Cinemas, offer discounts to military members.
Beginning in July of 2018, general admission tickets at Showcase Cinemas cost only $7.50 for all active-duty personnel as well as their dependents. You must present an appropriate Active Service ID at the theater box office to receive the discount.
21. Sporting Goods Discounts
Present your military ID at select sporting goods retailers and you could save on camping equipment, fishing gear, and more.
Big 5 Sporting Goods offers a 10 percent discount for all active-duty and reserve military personnel, retirees, veterans, their spouses and dependents, which means you can stock up on all things outdoors without doing your budget in.
22. Free National Parks Entrance
It’s a beautiful thing: the national parks as well as the discount that allows you to enjoy them.
With an America the Beautiful Pass, current U.S. military members and dependents are able to enjoy some of the most breathtaking natural sites across the country absolutely free.
The annual pass grants entrance to over 2,000 federal recreation sites, which means you’ll have plenty of locations from which to choose.
23. Car Savings
Even if money is tight, you don’t necessarily have to put the brakes on buying a new car. Several car companies offer discounts to service members and veterans to help make financing a car easier and more affordable. Chevrolet is just one of the U.S. car manufacturers that offers a military discount on its line of vehicles.
24. Spa Discounts
It goes without saying that serving in the military can be stressful, so where do you go when you need a little ‘me’ time and a lot of pampering? Consider Massage Envy, which is committed to helping service members ease both their personal stress as well as stress on their wallets. ME’s military discount allows all active military personnel to join Massage Envy at a savings of $60 per year.
25. Shipping Discounts
As a military member you’re not boxed in when it comes to shipping expenses. USAA members who ship with FedEx can save up to 36 percent on personal shipping costs, a discount that can add up to significant postal savings over time. So gather up your holiday gifts, care packages, or business bundles and head to your local FedEx location — savings are on the way.