Saving a few dollars by taking advantage of military discounts when shopping, traveling or eating out can help stretch your budget, no matter what time of year it is. So what’s the best way to get a military discount? The answer often is simply to ask for one.
As a “thank you” to service members throughout a decade-and-a-half of war, numerous retailers ranging from Home Depot and Lowes to Jiffy Lube and Michaels have made 10-percent or larger discounts standard fare for military I.D. holders. While some businesses post in-store signs publicizing the price cuts, many stores do not, meaning you are unlikely to get the discount unless you ask.
For service members looking to stretch their budgets, asking for a military discount is no different than someone else benefiting from an AAA, AARP or student discount.
“We always ask,” says Andi Wrenn, whose husband recently retired after serving 27 years in the Air Force. “I have had places that didn’t have a military discount say they should have one and give us a discount anyway. We are always surprised by this and grateful. We’ve have had as high as 50 percent off at a pretty expensive restaurant.”
Taking advantage of military discounts has enabled Andrea Anfinson Clark’s family to “run our household more efficiently” and enjoy “niceties” the Air Force family otherwise might not have been able to afford on one income.
Clark says her family enjoyed some of their best discounts while stationed in Vermont during her husband’s tour as an ROTC commander.
“Vermonters in general have all kinds of discounts for military,” says Clark, who now lives in Colorado. “Mostly because they don’t have military installations there so when they have military people around it is kind of surprising to them. The ski resorts offered amazing discounts. We could ski so cheap there. Otherwise it would have been cost prohibitive for the whole family to have [season] passes and ski as much as we did.”
While Clark admits, “My mother-in-law jokes I don’t buy anything unless I have a coupon or a discount,” she says asking a business for money off a purchase often creates an opportunity “to share our military life experience with people who don’t come into contact with
military all the time.”
Yet not every military family is comfortable asking businesses, especially mom-and-pop restaurants and stores, for a lower price. Army spouse Meredith Galloway of Fayetteville, N.C., admits to being “conflicted” about asking for a military discount unless a sign is displayed at check out or a cashier inquires.
“If I were to be completely honest, I guess it just feels uncouth,” explains Galloway, whose parents were small business owners. “It feels somewhat greedy. I am asking a business, especially a local business whose profit margins are small, to offer me a discount that isn’t available to the public atlarge.
“It always seems somewhat demanding in a way — because we are in the military, you should honor us specially. It seems like asking for applause,” she adds. “In my view, it is part of the problem with the military-civilian separation.”
Army spouse Bobbi Pack, however, believes most military families do not expect special treatment and are appreciative for any price breaks they receive.
“We are resilient as military families,” says Pack, who is social media marketing manager for MyMilitarySavings.com, a website providing coupons for use at military Commissaries and Exchanges. “We move so often we don’t expect anything from anybody. If we get an extra perk or have some great things going on on-or-off-post, we’re grateful but we don’t expect it.”
Many small retailers, national brands and other companies are offering discounts as a way to attract and generate long-term loyalty from the nation’s more than 23 million active duty service members and veterans. In response, numerous websites now list military discounts and smart phone apps connect military families with under-the-radar savings.
SCOUT Military Discounts, a free mobile app, offers one of the best ways to discover savings no matter your location. SCOUT uses GPS and other technologies to automatically alert users to discounts in their area. Users can add discounts they find, which are then verified and shared on the app. Veterans Day and other special discounts are uploaded as well. In addition, SCOUT features two military friendly nonprofits a month that benefit service members and their families.
Army veteran Cody McGraw founded the company because there was not a military discount app “that filled the need of letting soldiers know which stores honor them with savings. I said once I got out of the military if it is still not a thing, I am going to make it.”
In addition to listing both national and neighborhood discounts and flagging discounts in map view, SCOUT is adding “beacon technology,” which will “ping” users to alert them to military savings after entering a store.
“We want to make it as effortless as possible for soldiers to look for discounts,” McGraw says. “They will immediately know if a store is doing something special either with a promo code or coupon. They can control which notifications they receive.”
Marine Corps veteran Aaron Serrano created Military Cost Cutters, a website at www.militarycostcutters.com, in 2007 as platform for bringing together military-friendly businesses, service members and veterans. The program also includes a mobile ID that verifies a veteran’s eligibility for discounts from participating businesses.
Serrano views the program as a “win-win” for service members and retailers.
“The military doesn’t pay the greatest, so every little bit counts,” he says. “More importantly, these military-friendly businesses appreciate what our military and our military families go through. If you can connect these two, the businesses have a customer for life and the military enjoy the savings.
Here are a few deals worth checking out:
1. National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass —
U.S. military, dependents, Reserve and National Guard members qualify for a free annual pass that provides entry to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. The pass covers entrance fees for a driver and up to four adult passengers. Permanently disabled veterans may present a Summary of Benefits or Award Letter from the Department of Veterans to qualify for an Access Pass that provides similar benefits. $80 value.
2. Build A Sign —
Buildasign.com offers free customizable homecoming banners, yard signs and jumbo cards to military families, who pay shipping and applicable sales tax. Go to www.buildasign.com/troops.
3. Busch Gardens, SeaWorld and Sesame Place amusement parks —
Under the “Waves of Honor” program, active duty military as well as activated/ drilling Reservist and National Guard members and up to three family members receive complimentary one-day tickets.
4. Great Wolf Lodge —
Members of the armed forces receive up to 20-percent off the best rates at 11 Great Wolf Lodge locations from Virginia to Washington state. When booking online, use the promo code “Heroes.”
5. Microsoft —
Military members can purchase Microsoft Office Professional Plus Suite, Office 2011, Office Language Pack 2013, Visio Professional 2013 or Project Standard 2013 for their personal computers for only $9.95 through Microsoft’s Home Use Program. A .mil email address is required.
6. Apple —
Active duty, retirees, National Guard, Reservists and their family members receive discounts on products for their personal use. Purchases can be made online or in an Apple retail store.
7. Tutor.com —
Active duty military, activated Reservists and National Guard members and their dependents and dependent children of Wounded Warriors/Survivors receive free on-demand tutoring in a wide range of subjects, including college level coursework and foreign languages. Tutors are available 24/7, 361 days a year. Go to www.military.tutor.com.
8. LinkedIn Premium Job Seeker account —
Active duty military and veterans can receive a free one-year premium “job seeker” subscription by adding their military experience to their LinkedIn account. Go to www.specialedition.linkedin.com/veteran-job-seeker/ for details.
9. Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s Warehouse —
These warehouse stores offer military memberships that include either a reduced rate or additional bonuses when joining.
10. Overstock.com —
Offers free Club O membership, which includes free shipping and 5% in reward points, to active duty, retires, veterans and Reservists. A $19.95 value.
11. Cinemark Cinemas —
Offers a military discount at participating theaters in 28 states.
12. American Express —
Annual fees are waived on any of their charge cards, including the Platinum card, for active duty military, National Guard and Reservist who request a refund under the Service Members’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA). (Note: An American Express card is a “charge card,” not a credit card. Balances are due in full at the end of each billing cycle so late fees are higher than the annual percentage rate on most credit cards.)
13. Barclays, Chase and other credit card companies —
These companies also may refund annual fees for military members, though many card issuers more strictly interpret SCRA and waive fees only on cards obtained prior to entering military service.
14. PGA Tour —
Active duty, Reserve, National Guard and retirees receive up to two complimentary or discounted tickets to PGA Tour events throughout the year.