How to Use Credit Card Rewards | Military Members & Spouses

And so can you. Here’s how.

Due to compliance guidance, there are a lot of military-specific credit card details we can’t mention here on the website. So drop your email below to get the FULL guide to military benefits for FREE, including how to get thousands of dollars in credit card annual fees waived💸

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Getting the Most out of Travel Rewards

Credit card companies offer incredible rewards because they’re banking on people getting into credit card debt and paying enormous fees. To make sure you avoid paying high interest rates and fees:

  1. Treat your credit cards like debit cards — If you don’t have the money in your checking account, don’t spend it. Pay off your credit cards on time and in full every month. The value of your travel rewards will be completely negated if you go into debt and start paying interest on your cards. Ça n’est pas bon.
  2. Set a Goal — Figure out what you want credit card rewards to do for you, then decide which cards will get you towards your goal
  3. Maximize Your Spending — Make the most of your regular spending by putting your spend on credit cards that earn bonus points in that category (e.g., 3x on travel, 4x on restaurants).
  4. Earn the welcome offers — Most cards offer a huge welcome offer after you spend a certain amount within the first few months (e.g., “Earn 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months). This is the fastest way to earn a ton of points and is your key to going on your dream vacation for free. Open cards only when you know you can meet the welcome offer requirements with your normal spending or with a big upcoming purchase coming up (e.g., new computer, tuition, etc.)
  5. Take Advantage of Card Perks — Many cards offer monthly and yearly benefits like free streaming subscriptions, flight credits, and more. Once you have multiple cards with these perks, it’s also fun to pay for a family member’s Disney+ account or their ClearPlus membership since these benefits are free to you. And besides, who doesn’t like giving? 😊
  6. Keep Track of Rewards — There are many apps you can use to track your cards or your points, like Travel Freely and Award Wallet. You can also just create a simple spreadsheet to keep track of when you opened each card, how close you are to earning a welcome offer, and which monthly and annual benefits you still have left to use.


The #1 Card for Military Members and Spouses💯

This card offers thousands of dollars in premium luxury benefits, as well as regular, everyday perks! Every military member AND their spouse should have one. And not just be an authorized user…You should each have your OWN card and you’ll double your benefits. You’ve probably heard of it before…

Follow these tips and you’re set to earn thousands of dollars of free travel without the hassle!

Flight Benefits

Our daughter on her first flight back to the states since we PCS’d overseas, with her trusted travel companion, Monkey🐒

I have flown over 50,000 miles and spent 130+ hours sitting in an airplane seat in the last 18 months–just for my job. If the military is going to send me all over creation for work, the least I can do is make sure I’m earning the most points possible, and maybe even snag a comfier seat than 46E.

  • Frequent Flyer Miles — The Joint Travel Regulation says that all points and miles earned on government-paid travel are yours to keep. Be sure to create a free loyalty account with every airline you fly with. I earned Delta Gold status last year from just my TDY flying.
  • Free Seat Upgrades — Some credit cards will make you eligible to get a complimentary upgrade to premium economy or even first class if there are seats available. You can also use the miles you’ve earned from flying to pay for an upgraded seat.
  • Companion Tickets — Many premium airline cards offer a companion ticket that allows you to book a second seat on your flight for free! Sometimes these are one-time use tickets you earn annually for being a cardholder, and sometimes it’s an ongoing benefit for your account that lasts up to two years! And once your flight has been ticketed in DTS, you should be able to log into your airline account and apply the companion pass to your flight, meaning your spouse could get a free flight to tag along on your next CONUS TDY!
  • Annual Travel Credit — Our favorite credit cards offer reimbursements on travel purchases every year, usually to the tune of several hundreds of dollars.

Best Cards for Flights

Airport Perks

Lufthansa Senator Lounge in Munich, thanks to having United Gold status which got during the January 2024 Status Match Challenge where I matched from Delta Gold status, which I had earned in 2023 for all of my TDY flying across the Atlantic.

Airports are stressful for a lot of people, especially when you’re traveling with kids, and getting VIP treatment at airports has been an absolute game changer. We’ll never go back.

  • Priority Check-In — If you’ve flown enough to get even a low-tier status like Delta Gold or United Gold, you’ll be able to use the priority check-in lines not only for the US carrier, but for their foreign partners as well. For example, if you have United Gold status, you can use priority check-in when flying Lufthansa because United and Lufthansa are Star Alliance members.
  • Expedited Security — No need to stress about getting through security in time to make your flight when there’s an absurd amount of people all taking the same red eye flight as you. Most premium credit cards offer full reimbursements for ClearPlus, TSAPreCheck, and Global Entry. Breeze through security with ease and zero stress. Some airports have separate security lines for Star Alliance Gold members and other airline elite status. The sooner you get through security, the sooner you can get to a lounge.
  • Airport Lounge Access — Airport lounges are your new saving grace. You’ll have access to 1,400+ lounges worldwide, offering some peace and quiet and room to stretch out in a comfy chair while you enjoy free cocktails, full meals, snacks to go, and better Wi-Fi. No need to spend $37 at the Chick-Fil-A in SFO for nugs and a sandwich when you can kick back in a lounge and catch the game with a couple drinks.
  • Baggage Fee Savings — Military members generally get checked bags for free, but what about when your spouse travels without you? Most airline credit cards offer a free checked bag just for having the card.
  • Boarding perks — While there aren’t any airline cards that automatically give you elite status, if you earn elite status through regular travel and TDY travel, get ready to reap the rewards. Depending on your level of elite status, you’ll get priority boarding and complimentary upgrades to premium economy, domestic first class, and sometimes even business class, when available. Some credit cards will make you eligible for complimentary upgrades even without elite status.
  • Expedited Customs — Hello, Global Entry, my old friend. Global Entry is a trusted traveler program that allows you to skip the customs line when returning the US, saving you hours of having to wait in another long line after you just got off a long flight back to the states. Check your credit cards to see if they offer a Global Entry credit.

Best Cards for Airport Perks

Due to compliance guidance, there are a lot of military-specific credit card details we can’t mention here on the website. So drop your email below to get the FULL guide to military benefits for FREE, including how to get thousands of dollars in credit card annual fees waived💸

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Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side, fall of 2018. One of the most breathtaking sights of my whole life.

If there’s anything we know about the military, it’s that plans change every day. Credit cards are the best way to protect your travel plans without having to pay for expensive travel insurance.

  • No Foreign Transaction Fees — When you travel abroad, you’ll need to make sure your credit card does not charge foreign transaction fees. Most premium travel cards waive these fees.
  • Global Entry — I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Global Entry is your best friend when you fly back into the US. Global Entry lets you skip the customs line when you come back to the US. Global Entry also comes with a free TSAPreCheck account, as well, so if you’re thinking about using your credit card’s $100 trusted traveler credit to get your military spouse TSAPreCheck or Global Entry, sign them up for Global Entry and they’ll get TSA PreCheck, too.
  • Trip Insurance — Many cards offer Trip Delay, Interruption, and Cancellation insurance as part of your cardholder benefits. Coverage varies based on card, but typically includes reimbursing you for hotels if your flight gets pushed a day, or even reimbursing your tickets if someone gets sick or your active duty member can no longer go on the vacation because of military duties. With the right credit card, you’ll never need to pay for the airlines’ travel insurance ever again.
  • Luggage Insurance — Bags get lost and need to get new clothes and replace the bag itself? Your premium travel card has you covered, offering lost baggage insurance on trips paid with the associated credit card.

Best Cards for International Travel

Hotel Benefits

The Palm Suite, Manfredi Collection in Rome, Italy. A room similar to the one we stayed in as a surprise for my mom’s first-ever trip to Europe in 2023. Hyatt SLH partner property with Michelin-star breakfast across the street from the Colosseum.

Trying to find the right way to tell your spouse “Thank you for taking care of the kids alone for 3 months while I was TDY/deployed”? How about a $3,000 vacation to a 5-star resort on a Greek island that you paid for entirely with points?

Parents in town willing to watch the kids for a night so you can go out with your spouse? How about a free stay at the Four Seasons with $150 in massage credits and a room on the 39th floor?

Broke airman who just got married and needs to scrounge pennies together for a honeymoon? How about free hotels and room upgrades so you can spend your money on a nice dinner?

The hotel benefits you will get from credit cards is out of this world, and will seem to everyone else like it’s out of your budget. But free is always in our budget 😎

  • Free nights — Get a free hotel night from nearly every major hotel credit card. These free night certificates can be used worldwide and can be worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
  • Hotel Reward Points — Once you earn the welcome offer on your hotel card, use those points to put together the vacation of a lifetime. Many programs will offer the fourth or fifth night free when booking with points. This can be a fantastic way to make a long vacation truly affordable for anyone.
  • Hotel Status — Hotel credit cards offer top tier elite status just for being a cardholder. Elite status benefits include complimentary room upgrades to deluxe rooms and even suites when available, free breakfast, and free drink credits.
  • Annual Credits — Some hotel cards offer hundreds of dollars a year in credits that can be used for booking hotels or property credits that can be used at on-site restaurants and spas. This is in addition to the free night certificate, so you could book a night using your free night certificate and then use your annual resort credit to book a massage for two or pay for a meal at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant.
  • More Perks — Some hotel cards also offer airline credits, dining credits, and other credits that can be used outside of just hotel stays.

Best Hotel Rewards Cards


Top 5 Cards for Military Members and Spouses

Discover the world with these premium credit cards that offer special protections and lucrative benefits exclusively for military members and spouses!

Rental Car Benefits

I booked a small sedan at Hertz for my 4-month TDY, but I used my Hertz President’s Circle status to pick out the car of my choice at no additional cost. I “settled” on the brand new white Dodge Challenger and when I showed up to the TDY, everyone was quite jealous…2022

Getting a rental car for month-long TDY? Or just getting a car for a couple days when you fly home for your buddy’s wedding? Be sure to create a free loyalty account with every rental car program you use because you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll rack up points with rental cars.

  • Elite Status — Some credit cards give you elite status with rental car companies. Elite status benefits include skipping the check-in counter and walking straight to the lot, as well as 4-hour grace periods on your returns and even free upgrades.
  • Free Car Upgrades — Most elite statuses offer free upgrades, including the chance to just walk around the lot and pick the exact car you want. Want a 2023 Mustang Convertible? New Dodge Challenger? Pickup truck? Minivan or full-size SUV? Just book a regular sedan and when you arrive, you’ll be able to pick the exact car for your needs, subject to availability.
  • Rental Car Insurance — No need to pay extra for rental car insurance. Many travel cards offer primary or secondary car insurance if you get in an accident in your rental car, as long as you paid for the rental with that credit card.
  • Roadside Assistance — If you get a flat tire on the freeway in your rental, some credit card companies will send you a tow truck for free up to a certain number of incidents a year.
  • Uber and Lyft — While not a rental car, per se, many cards offer Uber and Lyft credits when you pay with your card. They’ll also offer premium memberships for free and up to 10x points when booking a ride.

Best Cards for Rental Cars

TDY Travel for Military Members

Another day, another TDY…

Uncle Sam is going to ask you (or your spouse) to go TDY all over the place while you’re in the military. The least he could do is let you travel in a little more comfort than row 96 of the jam-packed red eye flight.

Well, Uncle Sam won’t give you any hand outs…but credit card rewards will, and the perks are incredible. Here are a few of the ways you can upgrade your official TDY travel with credit card rewards:

  • Complimentary Seat Upgrades — If you have either elite status or a credit card with the airline, military members are eligible for complimentary seat upgrades to premium economy, domestic first class, or even business class when available. While this is permissible per the JTR, if you’re traveling in uniform, avoid booking, upgrading, or receiving a complimentary upgrade into business or first class as it may lead to the perception that you are receiving special treatment for being a servicemember.
  • Earn miles on commercial flights — Always add your loyalty number to your reservations in DTS and confirm at the check-in counter that your loyalty number is on your reservation. This will ensure you earn all the miles you’re entitled to. Then, use those miles to pay for future flights or to upgrade your seat on your next TDY!
  • Earn Airline Elite Status — If you’re a TDY Warrior, consider booking all your DTS flights on the same carrier to pool all your points in the same loyalty program. It’s better to have all your points in one program than a few points in every program.
  • Earn Hotel Elite Status — Unlike airline cards, most hotel credit cards offer top tier elite status just for having the credit card. If you travel a lot, it is well worth opening the top card at each major hotel chain to make sure you maximize your benefits no matter where the military sends you around the world.
  • Room upgrades — With the right credit card, you can be eligible for free room upgrades to deluxe rooms and suites when available, even if the trip is booked on CED orders or centrally billed accounts. When you check in, simply give the front desk your loyalty number, tell them you have the elite status offered by your credit card, and ask if you are eligible for any room upgrades. Better yet, shoot the hotel a kind email a few days before your trip telling them you’re excited to stay, and ask if you are eligible for any room upgrades in the email.
  • Free Breakfast and Drinks — The elite status offered by your hotel credit card will likely come with free breakfast or a free daily drink credit. And if you get upgraded to a room with club-access, you’ll get to enjoy plenty of free drinks at the hotel club, usually while sitting around a pool or watching the game.
  • Free massages and spa credits — Some hotel cards come with on-property credits that can be used (surprisingly) at a ton of hotels you probably wouldn’t have thought of. If you have an upcoming TDY, check the hotel your staying at and see if your credit card’s property credit can be used there for a free massage, spa treatment, or even just a free dinner at the hotel restaurant.

Best Cards for the TDY Warrior

Online Shopping Portals

You can earn thousands of dollars a year in easy to use cashback from online shopping portals on all of your favorite purchases. Whether you’re buying another Stanley cup for your collection, Magnolia plates at Target, or buying your favorite cat litter from because they ship to APOs, you simply add a browser extension for the portal, shop like normal, and the rewards will be applied at checkout. Then, you simply redeem these points for whatever currency fits your lifestyle:

  • Cashback — Many shopping Portals will offer between 1% and 20% on all sorts of websites and will simply deposit your cash back directly into your PayPal account. You can transfer your cash from PayPal directly to your bank.
  • Gift Cards — Other shopping portals will offer even bigger returns for online shopping, but instead of cash back, you can redeem your points for gift cards to your favorite stores like Nordstrom, Cabela’s, Old Navy, and more.
  • Credit Card Points — In addition to the points you earn by spending with your credit card, one shopping portal lets your earn transferrable credit card points on all of your purchases instead of cashback. Meaning if your credit card earned you 2x points for using the card, the shopping portal might also offer an extra 10x points that you could transfer to your credit card, for a total of 12x points!
  • Airline Miles — Many airline programs offer their own shopping portals where you can earn points towards elite status and miles that can be redeemed towards flights.


The #1 Card for Military Members and Spouses💯

This card offers thousands of dollars in premium luxury benefits, as well as regular, everyday perks! Every military member AND their spouse should have one. And not just be an authorized user…You should each have your OWN card and you’ll double your benefits. You’ve probably heard of it before…

Earn Rewards on your upcoming PCS

April 18, 2020 – My first PCS

PCS season is a great time to open a new credit card or two and earn the welcome offer because the PCS process often comes with some large expenses. Whether you’re renting a U-Haul, buying plane tickets, or getting some new furniture for the new house, you want to maximize these large expenses to earn a couple hundred thousand points to use on your next vacation.

  • Earn a welcome offer — The fastest way to earn a mountain of points is to earn welcome offers on new cards. Most cards only require you to spend $3,000-$4,000 in 3 months to earn the welcome offer, or $6,000-$8,000 in 6 months—which many families find easy to do on a PCS.
  • Refer your spouse — If you have enough expenses projected that you might be able to earn 2 welcome offers, consider opening a card for yourself (using one of our MTR referral links, of course😉) and then referring your spouse to that card as well. When you refer your spouse, not only will they get their welcome offer when they hit their minimum spend, but you’ll also receive a referral bonus of a few thousand points, as well.
  • Travel Protections — Sometimes the final out day for military members changes because of unforeseen circumstances, so consider putting travel related expenses on a premium travel card that offers trip delay/trip cancellation insurance as an included perk.
  • Self-procured Travel — If you’re constructing your own self-procured travel itinerary because of taking leave en route, that’s a great time to earn points on your flights. And if you’re flying overseas, those expensive flights can at least go towards a good welcome offer.
  • Shipping Pets — Getting your furry friends to their new home is not a cheap endeavor, especially when crossing oceans. If you’re going to have to spend $2,000-$2,500 to ship your dogs to your next base, you might as well earn a welcome offer in the process.
  • Keep money saved — Moving always seems to cost more than we anticipate, even when the military pays for most of it. Be sure to start setting aside some money in the months leading up to your PCS so that you’re not caught on your heels when the time comes.

Best Cards for an upcoming PCS

Free Subscriptions

Some of your favorite subscriptions can get reimbursed with travel rewards and credit card perks. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Streaming Subscriptions — Disney+, Hulu, ESPN, Peacock, and Paramount+ can all get reimbursed if you have the right credit cards.
  • Newspaper subscriptions — Some cards offer The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal for free when you pay with your card.
  • Food Delivery credits — Credit card companies know you’ll order food delivery when you get into your hotel late and you’re starving. That’s why many offer monthly food delivery credits with services like Uber Eats, DoorDash, GrubHub, GoPuff, and more.
  • Dining Out credits — While not a subscription, per se, some cards offer monthly dining rebates at a variety of restaurants and take-out joints.

Due to compliance guidance, there are a lot of military-specific credit card details we can’t mention here on the website. So drop your email below to get the FULL guide to military benefits for FREE, including how to get thousands of dollars in credit card annual fees waived💸

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My Favorite Travel Rewards Cards

While I have over a dozen credit cards, these are the cards that I use regularly to travel the world and save thousands of dollars in the process.

The #1 card for military members and their spouses!

My everyday card (when stationed CONUS)
My everyday card (when stationed OCONUS)
My choice for international travel
My go-to for U.S. Flights
My go-to for International flights
My preferred card for hotels
My business card