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Many airlines and hotels offer U.S. military members discounts and perks when traveling. Even when you aren't traveling on orders, members of the military can get free checked bags and priority boarding on airlines, military travel discounts and even elite status at some hotel brands.
To maximize your military travel benefits, you'll want to utilize perks available through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or SCRA. Card issuers like Citi and Barclays offer military members 0% APR, while Chase may waive annual fees completely. Many of these credit cards offer generous travel benefits.
Here, we're going to focus on non-card-related military travel discounts and other travel benefits for veterans.
Organizations offering military travel discounts
Many airlines and hotel brands offer some version of military travel discounts. Some of these travel discounts are available to all military members; however, some airlines and hotels only offer discounts through an organization called Veterans Advantage.
This membership-based organization isn't free. Members need to pay $9.99 per month or $59.95 (plus a $4.95 processing fee) for a full year of membership. So you'll want to make sure that you save more than this from your membership before you sign up.
Active duty military, veterans, retired military and spouses and dependents of active-duty, veterans and retired military can save $30 on a Costco Shop Card. All Costco members have access to Costco Travel, which is an online travel agency that offers everyday savings on travel expenses exclusively for members.
Airline military travel discounts
Via Veterans Advantage
Veterans Advantage offers many airline discounts, including:
Alaska Airlines: Get 5% off flights departing from the U.S. and Canada for up to six passengers.
American Airlines: Up to 10% off economy fares for active-duty members, veterans, retirees, members of the national guard, reservists and their families.
Hawaiian Airlines: Get 5% off round-trip economy fares between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii.
JetBlue: Get 5% off all JetBlue flights, plus two free checked bags and waived service fees.
Lufthansa Group: Get 5% off transatlantic flights originating in the U.S. on Lufthansa Airlines, Austrian Airlines, SWISS or Brussels Airlines.
United Airlines: Get 5% off premium economy, business and first-class flights originating in the U.S. for travel within the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Caribbean and Europe.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards with no annual fee
Airline-specific military discounts
Also, a couple of airlines offer military travel discounts directly:
Alaska Airlines: A special military rate is available to U.S. military personnel and their spouses and dependents. This fare is only available when traveling on an excused absence, within seven days of being discharged or for military reserves on active duty.
Delta Air Lines: Get up to $300 off Delta Vacations flight + hotel packages of at least three nights. Available to active-duty U.S. military personnel and their travel companions.
» Learn more: A beginners guide to points and miles
Free checked bags for military members
In addition to discounts on flights, airlines offer travel benefits for active U.S. military service members such as free checked bags — even when flying for personal travel.
Alaska Airlines: Active duty U.S. military personnel and military dependents with travel orders can check up to five bags weighing up to 70 pounds each for free.
American Airlines: Activity military members and dependents traveling on orders get up to five checked bags of up to 100 pounds each for free. Active military members on personal and leisure travel get up to three checked bags of up to 50 pounds each for free.
Delta Air Lines: When traveling on military orders, you can check five bags up to 100 pounds each for free. For personal travel, active-duty military personnel can check two bags up to 50 pounds each when traveling in basic economy, main cabin and Delta Comfort+, or three bags up to 70 pounds each in first class, premium select and Delta One.
Frontier Airlines: Active duty military, reserves and national guard passengers can check two bags for free plus carry-on a bag and a personal item. Oversized and overweight bag fees are waived for the first two checked bags.
JetBlue: Active duty military members traveling on orders and dependents traveling on the same itinerary can get five bags each. For leisure travel, military members and dependents get two free checked bags each.
Spirit Airlines: The low-cost airline offers active-duty U.S. military members two free checked bags and a free carry-on bag when they present their ID at check in.
United Airlines: United will waive checked bag fees on up to five checked bags up to 100 pounds each for U.S. military members traveling on orders.
» Learn more: How to shop for flights
Other military travel benefits when flying
Some airlines go beyond just offering free checked bags to military members. Here are the airlines that offer perks like priority boarding and lounge access:
Alaska Airlines: Alaska Airlines offers U.S. military members early boarding, complimentary lounge access when traveling on orders and a 15% discount on food purchased in-flight.
American Airlines: American Airlines offers Group 1 boarding to active-duty military members with ID.
Southwest Airlines: Southwest Airlines allows military members to board between the A and B groups, allowing them better access to seats.
United Airlines: United Airlines offers United Club lounge access to active duty military members in uniform or with leave orders and their families. You must be traveling on a United-operated flight and present your boarding pass and papers to the lounge agent.
Hotel military travel discounts
Active military members and veterans can also save at many hotel brands.
Via Veterans Advantage
Veterans Advantage also partners with many hotel brands to offer a discount to paying members:
Choice Hotels: Get 15% off at the following brands: Ascend Hotel Collection, Cambria Suites, Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Sleep Inn, Quality Inn, Clarion, MainStay Suites, Suburban Extended Stay, Econo Lodge and Rodeway Inn.
Diamond Resorts: Savings of 20% off the best available rate at Diamond Resorts destinations in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean.
Hilton: Get 10% off for military members, veterans and family members.
Kimpton Hotels: Save 10% off the best available rate.
Motel 6: Get 15% off.
Red Roof: Take 20% off at all Red Roof properties (Red Roof Inn, Red Roof Plus+, Hometowne Studios and The Red Collection Hotels).
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts: Up to 20% off — including at the following brands: Wyndham Grand, Wyndham Garden, Days Inn, La Quinta, Ramada, Super 8, Howard Johnson, Baymont Suites, Travelodge, TRYP, Microtel, Wingate, Hawthorn Suites and Wyndham Vacation Rentals.
Other hotel discounts for service members
Here are some of the best military travel discounts available at hotels in North America:
Atlantis Bahamas: Up to 15% off hotel reservations.
Best Western: Save at least 10% by booking the military rate. Available to U.S. and Canadian military personnel and civilian military personnel, including veterans with an official ID or work orders.
Choice Hotels: Active duty and retired military members, their dependents and members of military associations are eligible for military discounts for leisure travel.
Hilton Hotels: Active and retired U.S. and Canadian military members, veterans and their families can save on leisure travel in the Americas through the Military Family Rate.
Hyatt Hotels: Save 10-15% off the standard rate at participating hotels in the U.S. when you enter code MILVET in the Special Offer Code. Available to veterans, active duty armed service members and immediate family members.
IHG Hotels: Active and retired U.S. and Canadian military members — and their dependent family members — are eligible to book IHG's Military Appreciation Hotel Rate.
Marriott Hotels: Active-duty military members are eligible for discounts when using Special Rate code GOV.
Red Roof Inn: Get 15% off if you're permanently changing stations or 10% off on leisure travel or for military friends and family.
Super 8 by Wyndham: Get 15% off the Best Available Rate at participating hotels in the U.S. and Canada. Available to active, reserve, veteran and retired members of the U.S. or Canadian military.
Wyndham Hotels: Get 12% off the Best Available Rate at most Wyndham brands at hotels in the U.S. and Canada. Available to members of the United States or Canadian military with active, reserve, veteran or retired status and/or the spouses of those military members. You must use rate code SML at booking and present a military ID at check-in.
Free hotel elite status for military members
In addition to discounts and perks, members of the U.S. military are eligible to get elite status with a few hotel chains.
Choice Privileges offers lifetime Gold elite status for active-duty military, veterans and military spouses. This elite status grants you a 10% point bonus on stays, an elite welcome gift and access to an elite phone number for reservations and customer service. Plus, you'll get 2,500 bonus points for completing your first qualifying stay after enrolling. Visit this page for full details and to enroll in the program.
Similarly, Best Western Rewards offers Gold status to members of the military and armed forces through its Best Western Service Rewards program. In addition to a 10% discount, you'll earn 10% bonus points, receive either bonus points or a welcome gift on arrival, get early check-in and late checkout (subject to availability), and potentially even score a room upgrade.
Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy
Here's how it works. Members of the military may be eligible for waived membership fees for The Platinum Card® from American Express through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. You’ll likely have to apply for relief directly to AmEx to get the fee waiver. Once you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can enroll to receive complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold and Hilton Honors Gold elite status. Terms apply.
» Learn more: The best hotel elite status programs
The bottom line
Many airlines and hotels offer some sort of discounts or perks to members of the U.S. (or Canadian) armed forces, veterans and reserves. If you're an eligible service member, it's worth double-checking the perks and discounts available before booking your next trip.
To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card