25 Best Financial Benefits and Discounts for Military Families

The pay isn't the best, and the job is a challenge, but there are some valuable perks and benefits available for those in the military and their family members.

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When you join the military, it’s usually more for love of country and the honor and pride of serving than it is for the money. It’s no secret that the pay isn’t great. But there are valuable perks for members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families — from movie tickets to retirement savings plans.

Whether you’re already serving, or considering it, check out the many financial benefits and discounts that may be coming to you and your clan.

1. Movie theater tickets

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Everyone needs some R & R occasionally, and if anyone deserves to relax and take in a good flick, it’s people in the military. Many major movie theater chains, including CineMark, Regal, AMC and Showcase offer military ticket discounts. Be sure to ask so you can get the best possible deal for you and your family. (Also, check out “15 Super-Easy Ways to Save Big Bucks at the Movies.”)

2. Low rates for financial products

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The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects servicemen and women in different ways, including an interest rate cap of 6 percent on credit card and other types of loans for those on active duty. There are also opportunities for savings and benefits on financial products with military-friendly institutions such as USAA, not only for those in the service, but their families as well. Their products include cash-back rewards credit cards, mortgages, car loans, rental insurance and others.

3. Family health care

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Health insurance has become one of the most valuable benefits offered by any employer — and the military is one major employer that boasts excellent and affordable medical benefits. The U.S. Military Health System provides coverage called Tricare through the Defense Health Agency for active duty personnel, retirees, reservists and National Guard members called to active duty, along with certain family members and survivors.

4. Housing allowance

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Military personnel typically receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) through the Department of Defense to help cover rent or mortgage payments. For family members, this can apply even if the service member is stationed somewhere the family can’t go, such as a hardship duty assignment, no matter where you choose to live. Usually, this housing allowance covers as much as 98 percent of your housing costs, less any renters insurance. (Check out the BAH calculator to get an idea of the amount, which varies depending on location, dependents and pay grade.)

5. Disney tickets and hotels

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Have you been dreaming of taking the kids to see Mickey and the gang at Disney World? You may be better able to afford the trip through Disney’s discount program for service members. This program offers discounts on tickets for Disney theme parks, for the service member and up to five other family members or friends. It also offers savings on certain rooms at Walt Disney World Resort hotels and Disney Cruises. (Here’s some additional tips for savings at Disney World.)

6. Busch Gardens, SeaWorld and more

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If Disney isn’t your thing, you might want to check with other amusement parks such as Busch Gardens, SeaWorld and Water Country USA in Williamsburg, Virginia, which also provide military families with significant savings. If you have an amusement park in your area that isn’t named there, look into military discounts anyway. Check online before you go, though, because some discounts are available only in advance, not at the door.

7. Military shopping benefits

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Military servicemen and servicewomen and their families are also able to take advantage of military shopping benefits designed to help them save money. Whether it’s groceries from the military commissary, department store items from the exchange, gas or even fast food, the military offers a number of opportunities for family members to save money when they shop. Plus, most items purchased in military base exchanges are tax exempt, which is another way to save.

8. Child care assistance

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One of the benefits that can come in handy for everyone in the family is military child care. Most military bases include full-time or hourly daycare centers. Payment for military day care services is based on the entire family’s income. And although there are usually long waiting lists, another military benefit allows you to use subsidized in-home day care as long as they have been officially approved. If you don’t live near a military base with day care facilities, the cost of care at a civilian day care site can be subsidized.

9. Food allowance and dining-out discounts

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Although the military provides Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) to help pay for food-related expenses, you can also get a discount when you dine out with your family at certain restaurants. While you might expect these savings on holidays such as Veterans Day, you can get a discount at many restaurants any day of the year. Call ahead and ask. Also, if you grocery shop off base, you might want to check out the military discounts at wholesale stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club.

10. Recreation benefits

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In addition to special discounts and savings you get at movie theaters, amusement parks and other entertainment venues, the military offers Military Welfare and Recreation (MWR), which included funded and managed recreational programs and facilities. Gyms, pools, bowling alleys and even horse stables and golf courses are included in the program. There are also programs available for youths that include dance classes as well as sports teams.

11. Space-available flights and discounted airfare

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Space-available or Space-A flights are offered for service members, retirees and family members to fly based on available seats on Department of Defense-owned or controlled aircraft. These flights require time and flexibility. If you prefer discounted airfare, military personnel, spouses and dependents can get discounted airfare with airlines such as Southwest. To get the military discount, you might have to call and speak directly with a representative when you book.

12. Military lodging and hotel stays

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When you travel, lodging can be just as important (and as expensive) as airfare. Fortunately, there are many opportunities for discounts on military lodging. There is space-available lodging on military bases, but you can also get luxurious accommodations at a discount at Armed Forces Recreation Centers, hotels owned or operated by the U.S. military, often at top vacation destinations. These include the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo, the Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu and the Shades of Green Resort within Walt Disney World. Also, Hilton and Best Western offer discounts and savings when you and your family members stay at participating hotels.

13. VA home loans

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Military personnel and family members have access to Department of Veterans Affairs home loans and other help for buying a home. Some options include loans without a down payment or private mortgage insurance. You can also get lower interest rates when refinancing with a VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL), and adapted housing grants help disabled veterans purchase or build homes that accommodate special needs.

14. Car discounts

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If you’re looking at purchasing a new vehicle, many car dealerships offer military discounts or incentives. Military.com lists some deals here. No matter the brand of car or truck you plan to purchase, however, it’s worth checking to see if there are any military discounts or rebates available for you or family members before you purchase.

15. Motorcycle discounts

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If you prefer two wheels for getting around, you might be able to get a motorcycle discount as a service member or family member. For example, you can get up to 40 percent off motorcycle and motocross gear with AXO. Harley-Davidson offers a military discount that you can apply to financing, parts and accessories. Benefits also include no down payment, reduced rates and flexible terms.

After you park those wheels, you should check out “10 Ways to Slash the Cost of Motorcycle Insurance.”

16. Car loan assistance

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In addition to the discounts provided by individual car, truck and motorcycle dealerships, you can also get assistance with your car loan if you go through a military credit union. As an example, when I wrote this, Navy Federal Credit Union was offering 36-month loans with rates as low as 1.79 percent.

17. Education benefits

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Among the most valuable financial benefits for military servicemen and servicewomen and their family members are the education benefits. You can get help paying for your education while you are in the service or after you leave. Benefits also include tuition and educational assistance for spouses and other family members. As the son, daughter or spouse of a service member who has died, is missing or was permanently disabled, you also could qualify for Survivors’ and Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA).

18. Cell phone savings

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AT&T offers service members and their spouses a savings of as much as 15 percent on monthly services. Further, AT&T provides military personnel and their families with services such as help suspending phone service during deployment abroad and employment resources for veterans. Check cell phone discounts from additional companies here.

19. Spouse career development

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For spouses, the military not only provides access to free resources for career development and employment, but also other options to help you prepare for your career. For example, the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) Scholarship provides as much as $4,000 in tuition assistance to help you get licenses, certificates and other degrees that help in your career field.

20. Employment assistance

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Spouses and family members of military personnel who have left the service in the past 180 days get access to the Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, which offers online career tools, job fairs and other resources to help you get a job. For spouses and family members who have been unemployed for long periods of time or have gaps in work histories because of the military, these services can make a significant difference in finding work.

21. Legal assistance

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Everyone knows legal assistance can become costly, whether you need help drafting a will, preparing other types of legal documents, or representation in a lawsuit. U.S.military personnel and their families have access to free legal assistance services, which in many cases could be worth thousands of dollars.

22. Retirement savings

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Spouses and family members of service members can also get savings on retirement accounts. Thrift Savings Plans (TSPs) are among the lowest-cost plans available and help you save for retirement with lower annual fees and expenses. You can also get a 10 percent guaranteed return on your savings with the Savings Deposit Program, which lets deployed service members invest up to $10,000 and earn annual interest rates of up to 10 percent.

23. State tax breaks

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Depending on the state where they live, there could be tax breaks to help service members and their families save money. For example, in Minnesota, veterans’ retirement pay is exempt from state taxes. Combat pay is free of state taxes in every state except New Jersey. Some states provide tax breaks on military pay if you are active-duty military or a reservist.

24. Emergency loans and resources

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No matter which branch of the service you’re in, there are emergency relief funds available to help you with no fees and no interest. Services include grants, loans and scholarships for active and retired personnel and their family members. For emergency loans, check your community service office, like the Army Emergency Relief. Credit unions may also offer loans at lower interest rates and without credit checks for members of the military and their families.

25. Business loans

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If you’re planning on starting a business, you can get no-fee loans with low rates from the Small Business Administration. These loans are offered to veterans, active-duty service members in transition, reservists, National Guard members and spouses. They are designed to help pay startup and expansion costs at lower rates than are offered by many financial institutions.

What’s your impression of the pay and benefits provided to U.S. military members? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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