The best Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits for active-duty military

Nov 11, 2019

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The strains of active-duty military service are unmatched in difficulty and intensity. It’s important in this line of work to arm yourself not only with the required military equipment but also with tools that make your everyday life easier. One of the biggest stressors for myself and my family during active duty was the constant travel, whether it was a deployment or just a week’s business trip.

Today we’ll look at a travel tool I wish had existed in its current form during my service and the benefits it offers men and women in the active-duty military. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card took the credit card market by storm in 2016 and continues to remain firmly entrenched as one of the most rewarding credit cards on the market. It’s currently offering a 50,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Let’s look at the card benefits that are most valuable to service members.

Related reading: Why the Amex Platinum card is best for active-duty military

No annual fee

On Sept. 20, 2017, Chase instituted a significant policy change in order to be in compliance with the Military Lending Act (MLA). Because of the 36% MAPR (military annual percentage rate) cap, including fees, for a credit card account, Chase erred on the side of caution and waived the Sapphire Reserve’s $450 annual fee for military personnel for any accounts opened on or after Sept. 20, 2017.

Chase actually waived all account fees — with the exception of late fees and insufficient-funds fees. That means the $75 authorized-user fees are also waived for Chase Sapphire Reserve military cardholders who opened accounts on or after Sept. 20, 2017. These benefits are also being applied to the accounts of military dependents who are primary cardholders, but they must be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).

The fee waivers are reportedly being automatically added to new accounts as Chase compares Social Security numbers to DOD databases. A letter explaining the MLA benefits usually goes out to a military cardholder or dependent shortly after the card itself. If it doesn’t, you can always send a secure message to Chase through Chase.com or call the Chase military desk at 1-877-469-0110 and request the benefits. Receiving the card, the sign-up bonus and all the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve without an annual fee is an incredible deal for military members.

Redeem points for 1.5 cents each

Chase Ultimate Rewards are points that can be transferred to a variety of airline and hotel partners with the potential of getting outsized value for your redemptions, assuming award space is available. Unfortunately, finding award space typically means planning far in advance. While on active duty, it is rare to be able to plan for vacation travel even eight months in advance without having leave periods shift. That means when the chance to travel comes up, military men and women have exact dates and times they want and need to fly.

Enter the Chase travel portal where you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards earned through the Sapphire Reserve — or combined from other Ultimate Rewards cards to your Sapphire Reserve — at 1.5 cents each toward any travel.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Center portal is great for booking free flights, hotels and more.
The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Center portal is great for booking free flights, hotels and more.

A flight, hotel, rental car, cruise or local experience can be booked with your points at this fixed 1.5-cent rate. So for example, if a plane ticket is $200, it will cost you 13,333 points. This is a fantastic value compared to most other rewards programs that offer the chance to redeem points for tickets at revenue prices. The best part is that the plane travel booked through the portal is treated like a paid ticket (or at least it is most of the time) and you’ll actually earn redeemable and elite-qualifying airline miles on the free ticket.

Priority Pass airport lounge membership

The U.S. military travels the world, meaning you may want airport lounge access in far-flung commercial airports. Priority Pass lounge club membership gives you access to 1,000-plus lounges — and restaurants as well — worldwide for no charge. And as a Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder, you can bring unlimited guests with you for each lounge visit.

I wouldn’t recommend bringing your entire ship’s crew to the lounge, but your entire family should be no problem. I was consistently pleased during my nine years of military travel to find a Priority Pass lounge in almost every airport the Navy required me to visit all over Asia and the Middle East.

$300 annual travel credit

Every membership year (that’s the one-year time period from when you opened your account), you’ll receive a $300 travel credit good for almost anything you purchase that would remotely count as travel. Charge the travel expense to your card and Chase will automatically credit the identical amount to your account up to $300. Who doesn’t love a free $300?

If you’re not quite sure if an expense would be considered “travel,” that term is defined on the Chase website as follows:

“Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.” 

$100 Global Entry credit

If you’re in the military, you need Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. If you stay in service more than a few years, you’re going to travel internationally and there’s a good chance it will be via commercial air. So skip the immigration return line by getting Global Entry and TSA PreCheck now — for free — if you pay the enrollment fee of up to $100 with your Chase Sapphire Reserve.

(Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
(Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images.)

You’ll be reimbursed once every four years for the fee and if you already have Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, you can use this fee waiver to get a friend or family member registered for free. Anyone can use the credit, not just the cardholder.

When should you sign up?

If I were still active-duty and looking for a credit card, this is the number one card I’d get. With no annual fee, valuable rewards and all of the travel benefits, it should occupy the first slot in your wallet. It’s also great to start with a Chase card in order to maximize your 5/24 policy standing before moving to other card issuers.

Anyone, military or not, should make sure your credit is in good standing before applying and be certain your family has clear and consistent personal finance goals and organization, especially before a deployment or travel period.

Bottom line

I’m incredibly jealous of the service members (Go Navy. Beat Army) getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve and its rewards and travel benefits for no annual fee. Don’t forget about other benefits of the card such as trip delay insurance, Luxury Hotel & Resort collection access for free hotel benefits and the primary collision damage waiver insurance when you rent a car. Make sure you learn how to maximize your Ultimate Rewards points in order to get every ounce of value from this great product.

Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson

Featured image by KidStock via Getty Images.

2018 TPG Award Winner: Premium Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,000

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on all travel and dining, $300 annual travel credit, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.49% - 25.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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