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The strains and stresses of active duty military service are unmatched both in difficulty and intensity. When you’re undergoing everything this line of work throws at you, it’s important you arm yourself not only with the required military equipment, but also with other tools that can make your everyday tasks and family life easier. One of the biggest stressors to 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 active duty service and the benefits it offers active duty service members. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card took the credit card market by storm in 2016 and continues to remain firmly entrenched in the battle for the most rewarding credit card on the market from any bank. It’s currently offering a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. Let’s look at the card benefits that are most valuable to service members.

No Annual Fee (With Recent Developments)

On September 20, 2017, Chase instituted a significant policy change in order to be in compliance with the Military Lending Act, which had an enforcement deadline of October 3, 2017. Because of the 36% MAPR (military annual percentage rate) cap, including fees, for a credit card account, Chase looks to have erred on the side of caution and waived the sizable $450 annual fee for military personnel for any accounts opened on or after September 20.

In fact, the bank is actually waiving all account fees, with the exception of late fees and non-sufficient funds fees. That means the $75 authorized user fees are also waived for Chase Sapphire Reserve military account holders opened on or after September 20. These benefits are also being applied to the accounts of dependents who are the primary cardholder (they must be enrolled in DEERS). I haven’t read any reports of service members who opened their card before this date having their fees waived, even with repeated petitions.

The fee waivers are reportedly being automatically added to new accounts as Chase compares social security numbers to DOD databases, and a letter explaining the MLA benefits usually arrives 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. There’s no doubt that receiving the card, the sign-up bonus and all the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve without an annual fee is incredible.

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, not having leave periods shift or being able to plan a firm date even eight months in the future as a definite vacation day is a rare occasion. That means when the chance to travel comes up, we have exact dates and times we want and need to fly.

Enter the ability to 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 booked through the Chase travel portal.

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 which allow you to redeem for any travel 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 the vast majority of the time) and you’ll actually earn redeemable and elite qualifying airline miles on the free ticket.

Priority Pass Airport Lounge Membership

The US military certainly travels the world, meaning airport lounge access could be utilized in the most far reaches of commercial airports. Priority Pass lounge club membership gives you access to the 1,000-plus lounges — and now 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.

Now, 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 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 each membership year. 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. 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 now — for free — if you pay the membership fee with your Chase Sapphire Reserve.

You’ll be reimbursed once every four years for the fee, and if you already have Global Entry, 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, there’s no doubt this is the number one card I’d get. With no annual fee, extremely valuable rewards and all of the travel benefits, it should occupy the first slot in your wallet. It’s also great to start with Chase in order to maximize your 5/24 policy standing before moving to other card issuers.

As with anyone, military or not, 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 like trip delay insurance, Luxury Hotel & Resort collection access for free hotel benefits and the primary collision damage waiver insurance when you rent a car. Finally, make sure you learn how to maximize your Ultimate Rewards points in order to get every ounce of value from this great product.

Featured image by KidStock via Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

This is one of the top premium cards out there since you earn 3x on all travel and dining and have access to great perks like a $300 travel credit each cardmember year, 50% more value when you redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and you get elite travel benefits like Global Entry application fee rebate, Priority Pass Select and special rental car privileges.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50K 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®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Named a ‘Best Travel Credit Card for 2017’ by MONEY® Magazine
  • 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, no 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
17.49% - 24.49% 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 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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