Smarter Military Travel: TSA PreCheck, Hotel Upgrades, Airport Lounges, + More | Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 45

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Travelling in the military doesn't need to be painful! Know your Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) and benefits available to you.

TSA PreCheck is free for military servicemembers. Military spouses can use the right credit card to get Global Entry and TSA PreCheck for free as well.

With the right travel rewards cards, you can access airport lounges, upgrade your seat, upgrade your hotel room, and earn hotel perks like free breakfast, executive lounge access, and other free perks.

Outline of Episode:

  • Booking your flight
    • Personal travel
    • Government travel 
  • Booking your own tickets on DTS
  • Using travel portals
  • Travel insurance on premium credit cards
  • Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) and reimbursable expenses 
  • Getting to the airport
  • Checking bags
  • TSA precheck
    • Known Traveler Number (KTN)
    • TSA precheck vs. Global Entry
    • Clear
      • Process to sign up
      • Military Discount
  • Airport lounge access
  • Boarding the plane
    • Seating upgrades 
  • Hotel Experience
  • Circuitous travel
  • Rental cars

Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 45 Transcript

[00:00:00] Spencer: You can make air travel better. You've got free TSA precheck. You can sign up for global entry. You can get waived fee travel credit cards. You got lounge access. You get fee reimbursements on bags, you can upgrade your flights. There are lots of opportunities there to make your journey much more enjoyable, and you can apply it to both official travel and unofficial travel.

Hello, once again, Spencer Reese here from militarymoneymanual.com, author of the book, The Military Money Manual, A Practical Guide to Financial Freedom. Today, my cohost, Jamie and I are talking about one of our favorite subjects. I think we say that every week, Jamie, but this week is, I think we do actually, yeah, it's actually one of my favorite subjects, how to make your military travel experience better, so how to travel smarter, not harder. Whether you're traveling officially, TDY, or in, I think in the Navy they call it a TAD, or on leave, there are lots of hacks and tips to make the experience much more pleasant. You don't have to have an average or below average or a miserable travel experience just because you're in the military.

[00:01:27] Jamie: That's right. Hello, Spencer. Travel has definitely gotten less glamorous over the past few decades. You look at those pictures of everyone in a suit and tie and getting served like an actual meal.

It's not so much like that anymore so sometimes when you're traveling in the back two rows from the back right by the lavatory in the middle seat it's not very fun sometimes the military makes people take less than ideal flight routes or go to places where there's not a great airport experience.

So that's why we want to encourage you with this episode sometimes as simple as a room upgrade or getting an exit row or the main cabin extra kind of seat with a little more legroom can make your journey a lot easier. 

So our three main ideas and takeaways for today are, number one, you can make air travel better, shorter lines, lounges, and upgrades, we'll share all the details on those. 

Number two, hotel upgrades can include better rooms, free breakfast or dining credits, or guaranteed late checkout, and that can make your experience a lot better as well. 

Number three, take some control back from the military machine. We'll share how to do this and take control of your options so you don't just succumb to whatever's recommended first in DTS or the Defense Travel System.

As always, just a quick reminder, if you have any questions or feedback before we get started, you can send that to us on Instagram @militarymoneymanual or via email at info@militarymoneymanual.com. 

Okay, Spencer, so let's start out with our journey and we're going on a flight. How can we start making our experience more enjoyable?

[00:02:55] Spencer: It all starts when you actually book the flight. If it's going to be official travel, you're probably going to have to use DTS or like you said, the Defense Travel System, or you might have to use a travel agent. I know when we were in Hawaii, we had SATO. Not sure actually what it stood for, something travel, but they were awful.

They were always trying to put you on the absolute worst floor. They're all terrible.

[00:03:24] Jamie: Every base. All of them are bad.

[00:03:27] Spencer: But one thing that you know, a lot of people don't realize is as long as you can, log on to DTS, you can book your own tickets for a lot of TDYs, a lot of official travel.

You don't always have to just call up a travel agent, and sit on hold for four hours while you desperately try to get the ticket booked because you're leaving tomorrow. You can log into DTS and you can select your own flights there if you're traveling on leave on your own, the credit card that you actually make the booking on can have a huge impact.

So first of all, I mean there are the points that you can earn. So on the Amex Platinum card, you can earn 5x Amex points if you book directly with the airline or on Amextravel.com. On the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I think it's 5x points if you book on the Chase travel portal and then 3x points if you book directly with the airline.

And they come with travel insurance. So, a lot of these cards offer trip delay and trip interruption insurance. The Chase Sapphire Reserve, if your trip is delayed for more than 6 hours, it's covered up to $500 in reimbursement per ticket purchase. So if you bought a ticket for yourself, your spouse, and your three kids, then you're all covered up to $500 per person.

So that can be really great if you're going to have to stay at a hotel overnight and it's $200 for a room, heck, you could get two rooms and put the kids in one, and then you and the wife and the other or, get a, maybe it's $400 for a suite with some extra bedrooms and you can do that.

So it's usually up to $500 per ticket purchase. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a lower tier card, so that actually requires a 12-hour delay or a required overnight stay before the trip interruption or trip delay insurance kicks in. On the Amex Platinum Card, and actually, this is true on the Business Platinum Card, the Hilton Honors Aspire, the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, and the Amex Delta Sky Miles Reserve, both the personal and the business versions, they both come with trip delay insurance.

And again, it's $500 as long as your trip is delayed more than six hours, and that kicks in right away. I've had to make these claims a few times, and they're actually usually pretty basic. You just put the charges, usually, it's easiest if you just put the charge on your card and then when you make the insurance claim, you just say, “Hey, here's the information. My trip is delayed. I was supposed to leave at 10 o'clock at night. It ended up leaving at six o'clock the next morning. I stayed in a hotel for a couple of hours. Here's the receipt for the hotel, here are the taxis I took, here are the meals I bought.”

And then they just either send you a check or they just, reimburse your account. The other thing you can do too is book through travel portals. Chase and Amex both have travel portals where sometimes they actually have some really good deals on flights. So Amex has the Amex insider fairs and those sometimes be I think it's 10% cheaper if you use points. So not always the best use of points of your Amex points. Sometimes you can get a lot more value if you transfer them to travel partners, but those are also really good.

[00:06:47] Jamie: Yeah. One thing to watch out for on the travel portals is, especially right now since Covid, almost all the airlines, if not all of them, at least US, are offering free flight changes.

You only have to pay the fare difference. There's no more change fee for most airlines. If you book through a travel portal like the Chase Travel portal, for example, you have to call Chase to make any changes to your flight. Whereas if you book directly with American or Delta or whichever airline, you can usually make those changes yourself online or through their app.

So if it only saves you 10 or 20 bucks, it might not be worth your time to have to call Chase or Amex because everyone's calling right now, travel is a mess and they're limited on people. So I'm sure everyone's seen, two-hour hold times. So if you, just if you book with a travel agent or any other package through Costco Travel or anything like that, you have to contact your travel agent or the travel portal, Expedia, or any of those to make any changes versus booking directly.

Then you can just usually make it in the app, which is, which can be very helpful. The other thing I want to mention with travel insurance real quick is you have to book your trip, your airfare has to be on the card in order for you to make those claims to have the protection. So you can't just be a cardholder and be protected for any trip you do.

It has to be booked on that specific card, whichever one you want to use air protection on.

[00:08:09] Spencer: Yeah. I actually had a success story with Chase Travel Portal where I booked a flight and needed to cancel it. They actually have one of those like text robots that you can just, or chat robots.

And I was able to, on the Chase Travel portal, you just say, “This is the flight I want to cancel,” they say, “how would you like the money back?” It was a fully refundable fare. I said just return to my card and it went through within a couple of seconds and it was all handled through a chat robot. I didn't have to talk to anybody in person.

So that was a pretty successful chase travel portal.

[00:08:52] Jamie: That's cool. I didn't know they had a bot because the main Chase app doesn't, I guess Chase travel does, but again, and these also I want to mention too is these things like travel insurance are for personal travel. If you're booking an official trip on your government travel card, those are, if you're booking the government fair through DTS or through the SATO, the contracting company that handles your official travel on your installation, those will be refundable and changeable.

Fair. So the last couple of minutes we've been talking about personal travel a little bit more.

[00:09:23] Spencer: Yeah. The other thing is finally before we wrap up, making the booking, just know if you're going on official travel, know your JTR, your Joint Travel Regulations. I don't know how many people have, basically, they just go off of rumor and whatever the DTS approving official says in their squadron or in their unit.

But if you actually go read the document, it's like a thousand pages. So it can be a little dense but usually, if you just “control F” and search the PDF for whatever phrase you're looking for, whether it's commercial air travel or personally owned vehicle, POV, you can search and you can find like all of these entitlements that you are entitled to.

And when you go to make your DTS voucher or authorization claim. If you have the actual JTR regulation and the paragraph number, you can say, “Hey, I'm claiming this taxi based on this paragraph. It says that I'm allowed to claim taxis are reimbursable expenses if I'm taking them to get from my home to the airport for official travel.”

Then it's so much easier for your DTS-approving official to hit approve on that voucher. I realized this while I was on active duty, people don't realize that they're not robots approving this. It's humans if you make their job easier, and they're usually underpaid humans.

They're usually GS employees or just, or an additional duty. Yeah, exactly. It's an additional duty that somebody was tasked with in the squadron. If you make their lives difficult or hard, then they're going to make your life difficult or hard. If you can lay out, “Hey, this is my justification from the JTR, here's my receipts,” and you're going to make it so easy for them to hit approve, and you're going to get paid that much faster and you're actually going to get paid.

How many horror stories do you hear of people who are like, “Oh, I haven't been paid for my last four TDYs and I'm owed $10,000.” It's like dude, what? You spend an hour of your time getting that $10,000 that you're owed. That is a $10,000 per hour wage. Nobody in the world other than Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates makes that kind of money

So you need to spend a couple of hours here, even if it takes you 10 hours. Okay, that's a thousand dollars an hour. Make sure you know your JTR, Joint Travel Regulations and they update every month. So the easiest thing to do is just Google it joint travel regulations PDF and you can pull up the PDF straight from the website straight from the source because they do update occasionally.

And it is written in pretty good English. I think it's not lawyerese. I know I found it pretty easy to read when I was on active duty. 

Okay, so we've made our booking. Now we have to get to the airport. How are we going to get to the airport, Jamie? But probably going to take an Uber or a taxi. How does Gen Z get to the airport? Like TikTok Taxi? 

[00:12:36] Jamie: I was thinking more like the older generation, like calling a taxi cab company, I don't know.

[00:12:42] Spencer: Yeah. Like an airport super shuttle or something. Yeah, so if you're going TDY, usually to get to the airport, your taxi is going to be reimbursable.

And I think for those expenses, it's recommended to use your GTC, but it's not actually required quite like airfare, hotels, and other travel-related expenses, like official travel-related expenses. So I think you should probably use your GTC, but sometimes they don't work, so you know. Do that at your own risk.

Always best to use your government travel card for official travel-related expenses. The other thing too is if you got Uber credits in your Uber account, just book the trip and if the Uber credits apply to the trip, that's okay. Make sure that when you claim the expense, you're just claiming the total amount of the trip, not just what went on your GTC.

The other thing too is to remember to tip. Tips are included as part of the fair, so don't be stingy. Give them 15, 20%, 25% especially if it's early morning or late at night, or if you got really good service. Throw them a tip. It's not your money, it's the government's money.

So don't be stingy. If you're on leave, then hopefully you've got some Uber credits. Amex Gold is $10 a month. Amex Platinum is $15 a month, except in December it goes up to $35 a month that's $200 a year right there. I know I've been able to stack my Uber credits, so I think right now I'm getting like $105 a month in Uber credits across a couple of Platinum cards and a Gold card.

So that's a great benefit there that's basically either it's a free meal or two on Uber Eats, or that's a free trip to the airport in an Uber. When I need to go on leave. Sometimes Ubers though can be hard to schedule depending on where you live. I know a lot of places now actually let you schedule an Uber for the next morning, which is a great service.

But sometimes you live in a place where you can't do that. You don't have Uber or there's just a cab company. So just remember that sometimes you have to call them up and actually just use the phone and book the cab, book a shuttle like Jamie was saying, for the greatest generation out there.

The other thing too is if you don't want to take a taxi or you've got a lot of bags or something, or it's just more convenient, you can drive your own car to the airport park and then get reimbursed for the mileage to the airport and back to your house, you can also get the parking reimbursed as well.

When I was an approving official if someone went and parked at the airport for three months, okay, that's ridiculous, man. Why didn't you take a taxi? But if you are just going on a one-week trip and the cost of two taxis, from your house to the airport and back is going to be $150 and parking's $120, then you're actually saving the government money by driving your own car and I think mileage these days is like 50 cents. That probably should probably go up a lot based on inflation and gas and everything.

[00:16:01] Jamie: I actually just saw an announcement tonight that it went up to 60 cents, I think it was 62 cents for TDYs and 22 cents for PCS. So we got a slight bump in mid-June here.

But whatever you choose for getting to the airport, whether a taxi or parking, just know it's reimbursable. I think you know it pains me when I hear people say it's not worth their time to input the expense into DTS. It's the government's job to reimburse you for expenses you have for official travel.

So take the extra 30 seconds, 3 minutes, whatever it is to put in your expenses like taxis and parking. Because you shouldn't have to pay out of pocket for that. If you do, it just hurts your own wealth-building and financial independence journey. That's how to get to the airport. 

So the next topic we want to hit is checking bags.

So each US airline gen offers a very generous bag policy for military members and their families specifics do vary by airline, whether or not you're traveling on orders or on personal travel. So be sure to look that up before your trip the easiest way I found to do it is just a simple Google search like Delta military bags or United Military Baggage Policy, something along those lines, and it should pop right up.

Recently my wife and I flew on American Airlines to and from Cancun for vacation, which I would not recommend. Not the greatest American Airlines experience. That's for another day but their policy for leave travel allowed two free bags for personal travel if you're on orders, it's even more so when we flew Delta on our PCs to Hawaii a few years ago, it was five bags.

I'm pretty sure that's still the policy, but five bags per person listed on the orders. So, my family of 5, could have checked 25 bags for free a lot of times the airlines even allow you to be over 50 pounds as well, especially when you're on traveling on orders, which is great for a long TDY or deployment where your bags are just ridiculously heavy for all the gear that you have to bring.

So we brought 14 checked bags when we moved to Hawaii and they were all covered plus our carry-on bags. So check bags are great. Let's see. Another good tip on baggage is that some airlines I've seen this with American for sure when the agent verifies your military ID at the kiosk, you go to the self-help kiosk and say you want to check bags, and then you hit on military and the light comes on and then you have to wait for someone to come over.

Once they say yes, I verify their military ID. A lot of times the exit rows or main cabin extra seats open up and you can get those for free after they've verified your military ID. It also then prints out your bag tags as priority. So they'll put that bright orange thing in there.

And theoretically, that means your bags come out first at the baggage claim, but that did not happen to us on either leg of our trip with American this time. They were marked as priority. They just didn't actually get any priority. Anyway, I'll try not to complain about them too much today.

If your bags for some reason don't get waived by the airline, this is probably more specifically for your family traveling. Without the service member, cause the service member's covered on all US airlines, I'm pretty sure whether leave or on orders, but your family is not, that's a great use of your $200 airline fee reimbursement on the Amex Platinum card or on the Hilton Aspire card, for example.

It's $250 a year for the airline incidental fees. So that's a good chance to use that if you don't have a better way to use it. For example, in a few weeks, my wife is traveling on Delta without me, just her and the kids. She doesn't have status with Delta right now. So we plan to use our Amex platinum $200 airline fee credit to cover her bags each way.

Again, if you have multiple Amex Platinums or I have one, my wife has one. We actually have, I have three and she has two. Spencer has 14 of them, or 9. I think you can stack. You can double them up. So instead of $200, I have $600 and she has $400 a year you can obviously change them to be with whatever airline you want.

They don't all have to be with the same one. So they don't cover any real military benefits on bags for personal travel unless the service member is traveling with you. So that's an important note when you're traveling on orders, you should be covered by all US airlines. When you as a service member are traveling on leave, you're covered.

Your family, if they're with you on orders is covered. Your family for personal travel is not. The bags all go under my name when we're on leave, for example, if we have a small enough number of bags to be covered by the policy, right?

[00:20:46] Spencer: Yeah even if it doesn't cover all the bags, it'll cover a few of them.

Yeah. So one thing my wife has been really good about teaching me is to travel light if you are going on leave a lot of times you don't want to spend any more time at the airport than you have to just pack a carryon bag if you're going away for the weekend or something, can be a great way both to save time and money.

A lot of these, like we've been talking about, a lot of these airlines are going to reimburse, or sorry, or not even charge you baggage fees, which I can remember a time, it wasn't that long ago, maybe 10 years, where baggage fees were like, never even heard of, but it was only recently that Southwest started advertising, bags fly free because the airlines realized that they had a money-making potential here by charging people to carry their bags.

Okay, so let's picture our hypothetical airmen or marine or soldier here they've booked their tickets. They've used the right credit card if they're traveling on leave. They've used the DTS portal and selected their own flights and used their GTC if they're going on TDY. They got to the airport and their Uber, which was paid for by their Uber credits, or is going to get reimbursed by their approving official when they submit their DTS travel voucher, they went to check their bags in bags are free.

No problem there. Now they're going to get through security. So when, I guess we should have mentioned this when you made the booking, but TSA precheck is an absolute essential, and the way that you're going to see this when you make the booking usually is, it's going to say Known Traveler Number or KTN what that allows you to do is on the back of your CAC ID card, Common Access Card you're going to find a DOD ID number.

And all you have to do is stick that 10-digit number, I think it's 10 digits. Cause the social security is nine digits. You put that DOD ID number into your known traveler number and boom, you should have automatic TSA pre-check applied. A couple of reasons why you wouldn't get automatic TSA pre-check applied is if you've used a nickname or something when you made the booking.

So make sure that whatever name is your official real name on your DOD ID is the same name that you use to make the booking. I found sometimes middle names get confusing whether you use your middle name or you don't use your middle name or use a middle initial. So usually when I make a booking I just do the first name, and last name, and then the other thing that has to match is your date of birth.

I actually made the mistake a couple of years ago where I put my wife's date of birth into her profile and her date of birth and to my profile on Delta so for years, we were like, why can't we get TSA precheck to work on Delta? And it was because we had the wrong birthdays and they still let us board.

So I don't know what that says about their security. So, TSA precheck and that's free if you're a military service member. So as long as you have a CAC ID card, which I think almost all Guardsmen and Reservists are going to have as well. Usually, I know I’m pretty sure in ROTC we didn't have a DOD ID number, but maybe they do now if you're contracted.

Academy Cadets, probably get a military ID. So yep, if you get that DOD ID number, that's free. TSA precheck, make sure you drop that in there. What is that going to let you do? If you've ever traveled, you're going to see there's one line at the airport that's moving quickly and is short.

And there's another line at the airport full of very angry-looking, sad people. You're on the regular line. Even paying for TSA pre-check, which I think is $50 for five years? Or $180?

[00:24:39] Jamie: I think hundred, maybe 80, 80, 89?

[00:24:42] Spencer: Maybe. I think it might have gone up recently, but you pay for TSA pre-check.

It's 20 bucks a year for five. It is the best $20 you'll spend in that year because you're going to get, I remember going through Honolulu Airport and TSA precheck line would take us less than seven minutes to get through I would see people sitting in the regular line for hours I was just like, man, like if you're going to fly once in the next 5 years, sign up for TSA precheck.

But you don't have to if you're in the military because you got that known traveler number, you just drop it in there you can use it for all your airline reservations. Anytime you're coming in and out or anytime you're flying domestically inside the United States, you're going to go through TSA.

Obviously, it doesn't work overseas because they don't have TRA, and then you can also put it into DTS as well. You just put it into your DTS profile, and when you go and make an airline booking, it'll automatically add it. If you forgot to, you can look up the booking using the booking ED, whatever, the record locator, and then, yep.

Usually, you can just do it through the app. So if you're flying Delta, you put the record locator into the Delta app, it'll find your trip, and then you can add your Delta, frequent flyer miles number, which you can add when you make the booking in DTS as well.

And you can add your known traveler number, which again is just from the back of your CAC and you just get that digit DOD ID number and drop that in there. Now, military spouses don't get TSA precheck because they don't have DOD IDs. They're not active duty service members unless they are also active duty service members if you're a mil to mil couple.

But if you're a civilian spouse or civilian-military spouse, then you are not going to get free TSA pre-check. So what should you do? Open up one of those premium travel cards. So like any of them, basically anything that charges an annual fee normally, but for a military service member waives the annual fee.

So we're talking about Amex Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Capital One Venture X card, and Chase Sapphire Preferred. Basically, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, Hilton Honors Aspire Card, Delta Sky Miles Reserve card, or any of those top-tier cards are going to be travel cards, is going to reimburse your TSA pre-check sign-up fee or Global Entry.

And so, what I recommend you do is sign up for Global Entry. The other thing to do is if you're in the military, also sign up for Global Entry by using one of your credit cards and getting the fees reimbursed usually they reimburse the fees every five or four years. So you can just keep it rolling as long as you keep the card open, which is a great deal.

And what Global Entry allows you to do is gives you a Known Traveler Number. You can drop that in when you go through TSA pre-check, or you go through TSA inside the United States what it also allows you to do is when you come back into the United States, you get to skip the normal customs and immigration line, and you go to a special line that has automated kiosks.

You scan your passport and it takes a photo of you and spits out a little ticket, you take that ticket up to the customs officer and they might ask you a few questions and away you go. Jamie, you recently just came back to the US from Cancun, and you said that it was even easier than that, right?

[00:28:05] Jamie: We, like you said, we scanned our passport. It took a picture of us at the self-help kiosk, and then we got the ticket, we had no line at the Global Entry line and we gave our ticket to the customs officer and they looked at it, took it, and said, “Have a great day, welcome home.” They did it like it was no question.

So basically the global entry does a background check that says that this person is no risk of smuggling drugs and contraband if they understand the rules. You have to acknowledge all the, I know I'm not allowed to bring meat and dairy products back into the US and all that stuff is part of your application.

So they mitigate the risk of not checking you as thoroughly as they do the main line by making that all part of your application process. So definitely recommend Global Entry like you said again, that helps coming back into the country where a TSA pre-check helps get through TSA in the normal security line when you're boarding in the US it's a great combo.

And if your military spouse or any other dependents don't have a DOD ID number, like you said, they get global entry. It also comes with TSA precheck. So there's, for the spouse, there's no reason to not get global entry because it's killing two birds with one stone, and if you live in along the border, there's another is it Nexus?

Or there's another one where if you're driving across the border that's covered. Yeah.

[00:29:28] Spencer: Yeah then the other thing with Global Entry is you usually have to go for an interview I found that if you try to make an appointment for a remote interview, there's no availability for the next two years.

I don't know what's up with that. Maybe their system is broken, but usually, you can be conditionally approved, and then you can go for your interview on arrival. My wife actually did this when she came back to the US a few years ago. She flew in through LAX and went to the global entry line there was just a little sign, and it was like an interview on arrival because she had applied for global entry.

So she went up to the person, they asked her a few questions, took her picture, and then a couple of weeks later she got her card in the mail and she was approved for global entry. So you can either go to a customs and border protection CPD office and do the interview which is how I originally did it when I applied for global entry.

I was living just outside of Philadelphia and I think the easiest way to do is just to do the interview on arrival. So apply for global entry, get conditional approval, leave the US and then come back to the US when you come back to the US you can go do your interview and then get approved for global entry while you are coming back to the US.

And you can also do it. There are a lot of pre-clearance facilities around the world. So I think there's one in the United Kingdom. I know there's one in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. There are a bunch of other places that have US immigration, and pre-clearance facilities. So basically you go through US Customs Immigration in that foreign country, and then you're put into a little holding area and then you board your plane and then you fly in.

And when you land, you are just like a domestic passenger. You just walk off and you don't have to go through immigration and customs again and that's a great way to do it. You can do your interview there while you're waiting, and then you're done and you're in global entry then next time you come back to the United States, you just use your global entry.

[00:31:34] Jamie: Yeah global entry can be used even TDY travel or leave travel. So if you have a TDY overseas or a PCS where you're coming back to the US so you might be, with a group of coworkers and you're the only one that has global entry. It's not a given with your DOD I D, just to hit that point home, this is, I think, probably one of the most underutilized benefits for people that have an Amex Platinum but don't fully understand some of the fringe benefits like this one.

Another good one that's nice to pair with TSA precheck is the Clear membership. Clear is a company that charges you a fee, basically, it's another biometric scan, and it's not really a background check as much as they have an agreement with TSA to verify your identity and once they take your fingerprints and take a picture of you Clear says, yes, TSA, this is who they boarding pass says they are. Then they walk you right to the front of the TSA pre-check line. So instead of standing there waiting for the TSA agent to check your boarding pass and your driver's license, the clear representative does that and then takes you right to the baggage inspection thing where you used to have to take off your belt and your shoes with TSA precheck you drop your bag on the belt and then you're right through the line. So there's no waiting in line unless there's a small backup at Clear. 

Clear is really easy to sign up for. You can sign up for it online then the next time you fly through an airport that has a Clear, then you just have less than 5 minutes for them to take your initial picture and do your fingerprints and stuff like that.

And then, on future trips, it's like a 30-second, 45-second process to get recognized by Clear then they escort you to the front of the line, right to the scanner.

Spencer, you had a recent Reddit post about Clear that has a pretty good hack. Do you want to share that with the listeners?

[00:33:29] Spencer: Yeah. Clear has a military discount, which drops the price to, at the time of this recording in 2022. It goes from $189 to $99. So that's a great discount right there of $90 you can also add a family member when you sign up for the membership. So that's $60 to add a family member.

So now you have $99 plus $60, $159, and that's below the Amex Platinum $189 fee credit reimbursable. So use your Amex platinum card, sign up for clear, use the military discount add your spouse, and now all of a sudden you've got two clear accounts and you're all set you got you and your spouse covered.

And then anyone under 18 I think is free as well to bring through. I think it's only one per adult. I'll have to double-check that. I'm not sure. Then you could also link your clear account to your United Miles or your Delta Sky Miles account then they're running a promotion as well where you can, I think it's buy one get two free or buy one get one.

So again, fully covered by Amex Platinum. Amex Platinum is currently doing a $189 Clear fee reimbursement credit if you link it to your United or Sky Miles account, then you can sign up yourself and someone else, whether it's your partner or your spouse, or whoever.

[00:35:02] Jamie: Yeah look for clear promotions as well.

I know United a lot of times has promotions where there was one I've seen in the past where you would get a hundred dollars in your United account, like a United Travel Bank account for signing up with Clear. Sometimes they offer like 2,000 points. I think I saw one recently. It was maybe like 15,000 United Points.

So pretty decent just to sign up through their link. It doesn't cost any more. One other note, the Amex Green comes with Clear reimbursement as well, but it's only $100. You compare those cards and work that. Okay, now that we're through security, we're at the airport, we're through security.

One of the biggest quality-of-life boosts that I personally have experienced and I know my wife would agree, is using airport lounges. It's nice to save on money and food, relax away from the hustle and bustle of the gate, and the chaos of people standing up way too early and blocking the hallways 20 minutes before their zone is even called.

So frustrating, and that's one of the many reasons why getting access to premium lounges is an incredible benefit. 

Spencer how do we get into lounges and what do they provide for us other than the things I mentioned? Food and getting away from the people standing at the gate.

[00:36:16] Spencer: Jamie, your problem is you're not flying in first or business class.

Cause they don't call zones when they call first your business class, they just call you, and then you go up and you don't have to worry about everybody, back in zone copper snake or whatever.

[00:36:32] Jamie: That's the problem. Everyone in zone 9 standing up before they even call zone 1

[00:36:36] Spencer: Exactly. Hey, it's a fight to the death for that, those, that overhead space. So yeah, airport lounges. I would agree, Jamie. I remember like when I first started traveling with my Amex Platinum card and Priority Pass membership and I started going to airport lounges, I was like, oh my gosh.

This is so much better. It just makes the experience actually enjoyable and sometimes, I think now it's kind like it's, the goose has been overcooked where you go into Centurion lounges now and you're just like, oh yeah, the entire, 82nd Airborne is in here right now but that's okay. Like we're all getting our credit cards for free, so that's fine. Yeah. 

So what are you going to get in an airport lounge, like Jamie said, free food and drink? Usually, sometimes alcoholic, sometimes they'll have beer on tap. Sometimes they'll have a barista there making fancy cappuccinos and espresso drinks.

A lot of them have takeaway options, which I find is really convenient. Cause a lot of times you get there and you're like, ah, I'm not actually that hungry I know as soon as I board the plane the door closes, I'm going to be like, oh my gosh, I'm so hungry. I want to eat right now. Yeah, my favorite lounge at the moment is the capital One Lounge at DFW.

It's if you have the Capital One Venture X card, and if you Google Capital One Venture X Military, I'll walk you through why I applied for this card. You can get the annual fee waived if you open it before you join active duty. Under their Service Members Civil Relief Act, SCRA benefits. So if you're like a senior in ROTC or one of the Air Force ACA or the Air Force Academy of Naval Academy or something you can open up this card and then when you go active duty, send them your orders that you entered active duty, and then you should be able to get the fees reimbursed on the card.

It's a great card it comes with a whole bunch of benefits that I think take care of the annual fee. Anyways, just Google “Capital One Venture X military”, and I should be the first result and if I'm not, let me know. Yeah. What are we talking about? Airport lounges, free food, and drink.

Usually, you get like little seating areas. The Capital One lounge, like I was saying. You get free takeaway food and then usually it's actually pretty nice. It's like salads and like a little bit of veggies and maybe like a sandwich, but I just find airport food, in general, is usually so terrible, but a lot of times these lounges have really nice options.

The Centurian lounge. So that's, you get access to that. If you have the Amex platinum card usually there can be a little bit overcrowded and they're trying to deal with this by implementing rules. Like you can't show up to the lounge and get access until I think it's within, you're within three hours of take off.

Yeah, but it's worth stopping by just to see what they have. I know back when they first opened, they were offering free massages and some other really nice benefits like yoga or something that's I think with Covid a lot of that stuff's gone away, but hopefully they start bringing it back, especially as they have to start competing against Capital One.

I know Chase is opening up their own lounges, so there's a lot of competition that's starting up in the lounge space, which I think is good for the consumer. Like we said, don't be surprised if you see a lot of military types in the Centurian lounge. The fact that the Amex Platinum is annual fee waived is pretty common knowledge now for those who go TDY in the military, which is pretty much everyone.

Sometimes they have showers and stuff too, which can be really nice, especially if you're like on a long, multi-day trip or multi-time zone trip. If you get it. If you're connecting two or three times you're traveling internationally, it can be nice to just, check into the lounge, drop your bags off, go take a shower. Just feel human again a little bit. 

One thing, for all these lounges that you want to do is just represent the military well. Don't just be the typical Joe in there and grab all the beers and be loud and rowdy. No, this isn't the place for that.

[00:41:06] Jamie: Just jean shorts and a cutoff shirt and a camo backpack. You stand out like a sore thumb in those lounges.

[00:41:14] Spencer: Yeah. The camo. Yeah, the camo backpack with all the patches on it. We've all been there, but it's tough, but a lot of times it's like you're going to have to wear it anyways right?

When you're in your uniform.

Like I talked about, a lot of the credit cards are doing their own lounges now and then but then there's Priority Pass and so that's a great option. The best card for Priority Pass right now is the Chase Sapphire Reserve because it offers you the highest tier level of the Priority Pass.

The Amex Platinum, I think is one tier down, and I can't remember what you lose with that one tier down.

[00:41:55] Jamie: It's mostly the restaurants in the airport that cover. So a lot of restaurants on the Chase version of your Priority Pass membership may have a $28 voucher for you and a guest at a restaurant at the airport.

So instead of having to pay $20 for a hamburger or whatever, you can sit down and have a nice meal. $56 between the two of you is a pretty nice benefit. Again, that's on the Chase Sapphire Reserve version of the Priority Pass membership, not the Amex Platinum.

[00:42:24] Spencer: Yep. Over 1,200 lounges participate.

So if you're in, Istanbul or in Abu Dhabi or something, there'll be a Priority Pass usually in the airport. It might be the business class lounge of another airline that just doesn't have that much business coming through so they want to generate more money by joining Priority Pass.

You can get Priority Pass access with tons of cards. As I said, the Capital One Venture X Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the Amex Platinum. Basically, any of the top-tier travel rewards cards are going to come with a Priority Pass membership. Like Jamie said, you get in airport restaurant access sometimes.

So I know there's this I think it's at Gatwick Airport. I don't think it's at Heath. It's one of the London airports and there's this awesome restaurant it was like $35 per person credit and they don't tip in the UK so it was great. It was like 70 dollars. So my wife and I went there and we had lunch and it was completely covered.

Yeah. Great. I think Priority Pass is an awesome benefit. I probably received definitely hundreds if not thousands of dollars of freebies from my Priority Pass membership when I travel. 

Then the only other thing with the Priority Pass, I'll mention before I turn it back over to you Jamie, is it doesn't make sense to stack your Priority Passes. With a lot of things, it makes sense to get multiple Priority Pass memberships. If you have the Amex Platinum and you get their Priority Pass, that's fine. I really recommend you get the Chase Sapphire Reserve and get that Priority Pass the reason it doesn't make sense to stack is that they'll have rules about you can't use more than one pass per day per restaurant.

So you can't just walk into, one of those Ruby Tuesdays and buy everybody in the bar dinner or lunch.

[00:44:20] Jamie: For sure. Yeah. So you could really almost just activate the one through your Chase Sapphire Reserve account if you have a couple of cards, most people, if they have one, they have the Amex Platinum.

If they have two, they have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and then they start building from there. So you could just have your Chase Sapphire Reserve card activated through your Priority Pass account through that card then don't even bother activating the ones from your other cards.

[00:44:46] Spencer: Yeah, I made the mistake very early on when I activated my Chase Sapphire Reserve, but I also activated the Priority Pass on my Hilton.

I don't think it was the Aspire card. I think it was the Hilton Honors card, which meant it was the lowest-tier Priority Pass. They have no identifying marks on them. So I couldn't keep track of all the cards in my wallet. Yeah, I pulled out the wrong one. When I went to Priority Pass and I was charged like, $56 or whatever for using an airport lounge.

I was like, “What the, Ugh.” Cause I use the Hilton one, so don't be me, just open up one account, have one Priority Pass account, and don't be tempted to open up multiples. Use the Chase Sapphire Reserve one and you'll be all set. 

[00:45:28] Jamie: Yep, no benefit there. I like to research a tip for you. I like to research ahead of time what lounge options we're going to have for our airport and then our layover and our destination.

For example, the Priority Pass app will show you all the lounges that you can use with your membership a lot of them, if not most of them, include two guests for Priority Pass. It's different for some of the airport airline-specific ones like Delta. I think Spencer will talk about that in a minute.

And Amex, right now, you get a guest, but that's changing in 2023. So anyway, that'll all be in the app. It'll show you what they have, it'll show you their hours and what terminal they're in, all that stuff and then in the Amex app, they own the software company lounge buddy. So in the Amex app, if you go to your benefits tab on there or on their website, you can see lounges by airport.

And it will also give you the. Hours, the location and guest access, and things like that. So definitely just take a couple of minutes as your plane's taxiing to the gate, if not before your trip, depending on how anal of a planner you are figure out which lounges you have. I will say at an airport where there are multiple lounges, you might have to do some either Reddit or Google reviews and figure out which lounge is worthwhile. At Honolulu, for example, I think they had two or three options and two of them were just absolutely terrible. There's 1960s cheap furniture in there with like bottles of water and that's it.

Most of the lounges are great a lot of them have full bars, food, and stuff like that. Every once in a while in Priority Pass you'll get one that's basically just a room with some couches in it and nothing else. So just pay attention to which one. 

Spencer, you mentioned earlier, Chase is building its own lounges, so we're excited to check those out soon.

And like you said, more competition's good, and then the last lounge I'll mention is the airline lounges. So United Club, American Airlines Flagship lounge. You can usually access those if you're flying the airline in uniform. So definitely represent the military well on those days. If you're coming home from a deployment or whatever, go chill in the lounge if you want for a couple of hours on your layover.

A lot of times for Delta specifically, if you have the Amex Platinum card, if you're flying a Delta delta ticketed route, you can get into the Delta Sky Club. With your Amex platinum card, as long as you're flying on Delta on that day, they have different rules. For example, right now, Delta, you can go to the lounge upon arrival.

Like you, you land in Atlanta, and then before you go get your car, you can go into the lounge and get a meal, get a shower, or whatever. When those finally come back in the Amex centurion lounges, you cannot ar you cannot go to the lounge on arrival. It's only before your flight or during the layover.

So there's a lot of kind of gotchas there. Just pay attention to it. It's worth, I promise you, it's worth 15 minutes of research before your flight to figure out what lounge option options you have.

[00:48:30] Spencer: The other thing too is when in doubt, just Google it. I think it was United Lounge I tried to get access to and I wasn't in uniform, and so I just looked up the policy and it was like, yeah, you have to be in uniform in order to access the lounge.

Don't pick a fight with the gate agent but, if you're in uniform and you look up the rules and it says Hey, you're on a united ticket and you're in your active duty military and you're in uniform and you can access the lounge, just ask, you might want to ask the gate agent or the lounge agent, “Hey, is this policy changed?”

Or, something polite, but. It's not worth picking a fight over and again, remember that who you're representing and that if the business person standing next to you who's also checking in if you start, whining and complaining that they're not letting you get lounge access, it's not going to reflect well on the military. 

So the last lounge I'll mention is the USO. So who can forget the USO? It's like the original airport lounge and yeah, a lot of them are great. A lot of them have like big corporate sponsors. Like I know the one in Seattle, I think is Boeing, and the one in San Francisco, it might be Lockheed Martin or maybe it's one of the tech, Apple, or Google or something.

But, they're great a lot of times they'll have like bunk beds, which, if you're on a really bad, like red-eye flight or something, it can be great just to roll in there, take a little nap for a little bit, and then and then go catch your flight. If you've got kids, they're very welcoming to kids.

They usually have a kid's play area. They usually have an Xbox or something set up so that older kids can game for a little bit then they're all staffed by great volunteers. I actually used to volunteer at the USO at Boston Logan when I was in ROTC at Boston University.

And it's free with a military ID to access it and a lot of times they have donated food or other goods or little travel bags are sometimes fantastic. I remember the Philly USO had these little toothbrushes and like little toothpaste and everything and it was great because then you could just grab one and then when like after your next flight, you brush your teeth and you're like, “Oh, I just feel like so much better and so much cleaner.” Then you can just throw it out. You don't have to keep it forever. So think USOs are great and I think a lot of people should patronize them. Even if you are going to go to the Amex Centurion lounge just swing by and just have a look around and say hi to the volunteers.

A lot of them are veterans or military-affiliated in some way. They'll have a brother or sister or a mom or a dad or a husband or wife who served in the military they're usually just like the nicest people. So just swing by. Say hi, and sign in. Cause every time they sign in, it gets them a little bit, they can say, “Hey, look at all the traffic we're getting,” and then their corporate sponsors will give them more money then if you have the ability, maybe when you're doing your charitable giving at the end of the year, kick them a hundred bucks, like what would you pay to have airport lounge access?

I mean for the top-range Priority Pass, it's a couple hundred. It's, I think it's like $500 a year. Just consider the USO, it's one of the organizations that I've supported in the past before, and just kick them a hundred bucks and, you'll support a couple of days of a USO lounge somewhere that's open.

I know the one in Honolulu, it can be intimidating. Like it could be the first overseas assignment for a lot of people and they don't know anybody it's just nice to have welcoming, smiling people who know what you're going through and who have also been in the military. So I think the USO is great. 

Okay, so you've enjoyed your time in the airport lounge, and I think we've just spent like 25 minutes talking about airport lounges, but they really are great you can get access to all of them by signing up for the premium travel credit cards, as I talk about my website, militarymoneymanual.com.

If you want to learn how to maximize your military credit card benefits, I've got the military Ultimate Military Credit Cards course. It's at militarymoneymanual.com/umc3. You can check that out. 

So let's talk about boarding. All right, so usually a lot of airlines call either military service members or military and uniform to board with group 1. If your like ticket is like zone 9 and you know that you're in the back of the plane and you're not going to have any overhead space, it might make sense for you to just do it. Just mosey on up there and if you're in civilian clothes, just flash your military ID.

It's a little bit of a walk of shame sometimes with everybody else staring you down and thinking, “Oh, he's going to take the overhead space,” but it's fine, don't worry about it. If they wanted to do it, they could have signed up. Personally, I usually don't when they call it if I'm not in uniform, and in the Air Force, we don't really travel in uniform that often.

I guess unless we're coming to and from a deployment, but I usually don't take it if they call the boarding group and I happen to be an economy for some weird reason. Yeah, I think, especially if you've got a lot of kids or you got a family, take advantage of it.

Whenever I hear them call active duty military and some family comes up with three kids. I'm like, you go, get up there, get in there and get set up because it is a pain. I know I have traveled with small children before and it can be a pain, 

So let's talk about upgrading seats to make your in-flight experience a little bit more comfortable.

So you can upgrade your government purchase ticket as long as there's no cost to the government. So when you purchase your ticket, usually it's going to be contracted airfare or a fully refundable contracted airfare it's usually like when you go to book and you're on DTS, usually, your seat selections are middle seats in the back of the plane and that's it.

One tip I will give you is after you make the booking through DTS, make sure you add your frequent flyer number. I did this the other day on a United flight from Honolulu to Guam, where I booked it through DTS, added my frequent flyer number, and it populated into my United App, within seconds.

And then I was able to switch the seats just in the United app I could pick whatever seat I wanted and I could go premium seats. You had to pay a little bit extra yeah, as long as there's no cost to the government, you can upgrade your seat, you can change your seat.

And what that means is just you have to pay outta pocket like you're responsible, but you can use points. So that's the other thing too, is, so two examples I had of upgrading my seat. I was on a 12-hour flight to South Korea from Honolulu to Seoul when I checked in, I asked how much it would be to upgrade to Hawaiian Airlines business class.

And she types on her computer and she was like, it's going to be 500 bucks and at the time, I had Hawaiian Airlines selected as my airline fee credit airline on my Amex Platinum card. I thought, “Oh, I'll see if it triggers the airline fee credit. Oh, and plus it's 500 bucks for 12 hours. It's 50 bucks an hour. Eh, that sounds pretty nice to me for a long flight like that.” So I took the upgrade, I just spent the 500 bucks, put it on my own card, and it didn't cost the government anything. It was a nice lie-flat seat all the way to South Korea. 

The other time I was able to upgrade was from Hawaii to Guam. I was on a United flight, and after I made the booking, I logged into the website and there's usually a little button, once you go manage my booking or whatever, it says upgrade your seat. So I click on that and it says, you can spend, I think it was something absurd, like $6,000 to upgrade to United Polaris lie flat from Honolulu to Guam, or 20,000 United Miles. I already had a couple of thousand United Miles already in there so all I did was transferred some Chase Ultimate Rewards points from Chase to United enough to top me up to 20,000. Then it was just 20,000 miles and I was able to upgrade my seat and fly in a business class lie flat from Honolulu to Guam, and again, didn't cost the government anything.

So when I go and claim my DTS voucher, obviously I don't claim those 20,000 United Miles. I just claim the cost of a ticket as I booked through DTS. The other thing is like sometimes when you check in at the airport, at the kiosk you'll get a little popup sometime on your phone.

Actually when you're physically at the airport, like checking your bags and it'll say, “Hey, do you want to upgrade, to first class for 170 bucks?” If it's a cross-country flight, that might be worth it. Like 6 hours at 180 bucks. What's that? Like $30 bucks an hour?

Yeah. It depends on what your time is worth and how much you value getting on the plane first and getting off the plane first. Maybe then you don't have to buy any food, right? Because they're going to feed you as well. So, it depends on how much the upgrade is.

And one time my wife and I were coming back from Abu Dhabi to London and we asked when we checked, we always ask, when we check in, “How much is it to upgrade the flight?” And the guy said, “$600”. We were like, “Oh that's way too much money.” Then we were like, “Wait a minute, are you talking about in the local currency? Are you talking about US dollars?” He said,  “No, the local currency.”

 It was like 200 US dollars. We're like, oh, okay. Yeah. Now you've got us intrigued. So yeah it just depends on, what you want and if travel's a priority for you. I know plenty of millionaires that don't upgrade like they only fly economy.

They're like, it's just not worth it to me. The plane gets there at the same time I understand. I understand that, but for me, I think the experience, the upgraded experience can be worth it. Now if they were like, a thousand dollars for a cross-country flight, then it's no dude, that's way too much money.

But the other thing, like Jamie mentioned, main cabin extra, sometimes they'll just upgrade you that for free, but if it's filled before you get there, then they can't, obviously can't put you in there if you're not a paying customer. The travel credits sometimes do trigger for seat upgrades, but sometimes they don't.

It just depends on the airline. The thing I would do is just Google it before you do it. If you're counting on that airline fee credit or just take the gamble and see if it works if it doesn't, then you have a data point and if it does, you have a data point and you got a free upgrade as well.

But being towards the front of the plane could be worth it if you got a tight connection too. So that's another thing to consider. 

All right, so Jamie, we've got our young airmen. It's a smooth flight so far. They made the booking, correctly through DTS, used their GTC, they got their TSA pre-check number and Known Traveler Number in there.

They got to the airport in their Uber. They stayed at the airport lounge. They're having a great time. They upgraded their flight with points. They were in lie flat from Hawaii to Guam. 

Now they're about to show up in Guam and go and check in at the hotel. How are they going to make this experience better?

[01:00:49] Jamie: So when you're traveling TDY, a lot of times you have to first try to book on base if there's a base or an installation there and if not, then you have to book through DTS sometimes. There are some exceptions like group travel, like aircrew or conference where it's reserved by the conference or the meeting host.

Or if you're on leave travel, then you're on your own. This is where some of these premium credit cards and even honestly some of the no annual fee credit cards, like they're not even, they don't even charge an annual fee for civilians either. Have great benefits, but definitely, the premium ones allow you to get things like room upgrades, free breakfast, welcome drinks free gifts when you check in, access to executive lounges or executive floors, and sometimes even after a long day of travel, something as simple as the Hampton Inn giving you two bottles of water, an apple, and a bag of chips. It's just a nice way to finish off the day. It seems so simple, but just having those little things, like if you're traveling with a group of 10 people and you're the only one that gets handed a welcome bag and no one else has, then people are going to wonder like, “Hey, how'd you do that?”

And you'd be like, “Because I have this credit card that my buddy Spencer told me about. I clicked on the link on his website. I took this course or whatever, and I have status with Hilton or with Marriott, or with IHG or with Hyatt.” So there are credit cards for all four of those large hotel chains.

Some of them have status just for opening the card. You don't have to have a minimum number of nights. Any other requirements that other people have to have status are waived just by having these cards open. So I know Spencer and I both have Hyatt cards, IHG cards, Marriott cards, and Hilton cards which all have incredible benefits.

For example, the Hilton Aspire card, which is free for military members and also free for their spouses to have their own account, gives you automatic diamond status with Hilton. So at select brands, you check into your hotel, or even now, 72 hours prior to your check-in for select brands under the Hilton umbrella, they'll give you an upgrade to your room if it's available.

Sometimes it's like I mentioned before, executive lounges or other gift things like that. So whether you're a TDY or on leave, you get to keep those points. You can get upgraded, you get freebies just for holding the right cards. One other note I mentioned earlier about people not wanting to take the time to put expenses in DTS.

A lot of times people don't want to take the time to sign up for loyalty programs. So make sure you're signing up for these loyalty programs at the hotels and at the airlines, because according to the joint travel regulations, you get to keep the points when you travel on official TDY or PCS or obviously leave or personal travel as well.

So you can sign up usually at the front desk or you can sign up after. They usually have a few months or weeks where you can credit your last trip to your new account, but they're all free to join. Just to be a basic member. Add your frequent flyer number or your membership number to all your reservations or worst case give it to the front desk and check-in.

But you'd be surprised at sometimes just having a credit card, which gives you free status, makes you stand out from the rest of your group you're traveling with, and gets you some of those fringe benefits.

[01:04:01] Spencer: Yeah, for keeping track of all of those numbers, frequent flyer numbers, and membership numbers, and club memberships.

Just keep a spreadsheet with all my numbers in there then I've also got Award Wallet is a great website, awardwallet.com. You can keep track of all of your points and miles and stuff in there except for American Airlines, which is suing them, and the Points guy. Cause they don't want people to be able to keep track of their points outside of American Airlines.

The other thing too is just to have the app on your phone. If it sends you annoying notifications, just disable the notifications, I don't know how many times I've checked into a hotel and on TDY and they're like, “Can I have your Hilton Honors number?” I'm like, “Just a second.”

And I pull up the Hilton app and it's two clicks and I can pull up my Hilton number and just show it to them. Same thing for Marriott. I don't have those numbers memorized. I know some guys I've you can actually order this on award wallet where it, it's a little credit card size like a business card and it has all of your loyalty numbers printed on there. It's so nerdy, but I appreciate it. I think it's pretty awesome. There was a guy I worked with out in Abu Dhabi who, we checked in with the Marriott. He pulled out his loyalty card number and was able to give them his Marriott number.

So that was pretty awesome. Okay, two topics to wrap us up here. One of our longer episodes. So thanks for hanging out with us listeners. Circuitous Travel, LICWO Travel, and then Jamie's going to take us through rental cars. 

So we talked about this in detail in episode 29, but what circuitous travel allows you to do is when you're making an OCONUS PCS, you don't have to take the route that they dictate to you.

If the needs of the Air Force or Navy or whatever army can be met with your proposed routing. So this is great for families. If you've got a report no later than date at the end of the month, you can leave your present duty station in the middle of the month, take some leave and go wherever you want and get reimbursed for some of the cost or all of the cost depending on how expensive your tickets would've been.

And yeah, that's called circuitous travel. So the details are pretty in-depth. As I said, go back to episode 29 and you can listen to it just allows you to take some control back. I know it's so many people in the military and I felt this way too, but you just feel like you have no say in where you go and when you go, and how you go.

And I don't want to take a rotator out of Baltimore at 2 in the morning. That just sounds horrible, so a lot of times it'll stop in four different places that you are not going to. So why not, take a different route where, hey, I'm going to go see my family in Connecticut, and then I'm going to fly out of New York City, and guess what?

It's a direct flight to Berlin and I'm going to see some family in Berlin, and then I'm going to take a train down to Frankfurt or wherever I'm going to go check in at my unit at Ramstein. Hey, that is completely legitimate routing depending on the cost of the flight that it would've, the government would've paid for you might be able to get the whole thing for free.

And then the other one too this one I just got an email the other day, a guy stationed in Guam and he's going TDY back to the mainland and he's like, “Can I take some leave to go see families and friends?” And I'm like, “Yes, absolutely you can if you take leaving conjunction with the official travel you can book your own tickets and then get reimbursed for whatever the government contract fare would've been.”

And I think it was like from Guam, it's pretty expensive to get back to the, yeah, to the US $1,600 or $1,800 one way. So that's a $3,200 round trip right there I'm guaranteed that you can find tickets, for Guam, Honolulu, and then Honolulu, wherever you want to go in the. That we're going to be under $3,200 round trip.

So that's what I advise them to do, is like, Hey, make sure, you have to talk to your approving official and you have to talk to your commander and make sure you get your leave approved, take a couple of days of leave on the front half, take a couple of days of leave on the back half, and then you can book your flights however you want.

And that program's called LICWO, so Leave In Conjunction With Official Travel. It's not always available. If you're aircrew for instance, right? And you're doing a TDY where you're flying an aircraft from Honolulu to Japan, it's not like you're going to be able to take leave on that trip.

But if you have like a scheduled TDY, you need to go to training somewhere for us Air Force officers, Maxwell Air Force Base, right? We're always going there for SOS or ACSC or whatever if you know those dates. So just take some leave a week before, take leave a week after you graduate, book your own flights, go see your family, go see your friends, go on a ski trip, and do whatever you want.

You can get those flights reimbursed up to the cost the government would've paid to get you to Maxwell and if you're going to Maxwell from like Germany or Japan, those are not cheap flights. Have a look at that, those programs, episode 29 Circuitous Travel or LICWO Travel, and you can take some leave, see your family and friends, and usually not pay anything out of pocket.

[01:09:45] Jamie: Yeah, that's great. That was a good episode. Really detailed. I think probably the only podcast out there that goes into circuitous travel or LICWO at all, but definitely, in that much detail, I think. 

All right, our last topic for this episode of how to make your travel experience better is going to talk about rental cars.

So a lot of times your rental cars, if you're on official travel, will be booked through DTS. If you're on leave, obviously you're on your own. Amex platinum and other cards earn status, just like we talked about with hotels, with rental car agencies as well. So Amex Platinum, for example, gives you Hertz gold status.

It gives you an Avis Preferred and National Emerald Club executive just by being an Amex Platinum card holder, which as we said a million times now, is free for you, the service member, and your spouse. You can have your own accounts. So for example, Hertz Gold. You walk past the counter, you find your name on the electronic board.

They'll have you in an assigned parking spot or have a spot number or a vehicle number and you get in the car and drive off at the exit gate, they'll look at your ID card and scan the little sticker on the window, and then you're done. All your preferences are saved in your profile and everything like that.

Very simple and very quick usually, and saves you a bunch of time. It also allows for free upgrades. So if you're Hertz gold level, if you are, if you book, I think it's an intermediate or above, you can get upgraded and there'll be a Hertz Gold section of the parking garage.

You can just pick any car in there. So there are all kinds of benefits and things like that. Typically, if you're booking official travel, then you're in an economy car. In very rare circumstances that JTR provides for different circumstances like I think it's if multiple members are sharing a car on TDY, then you might be able to get approval to get a larger car or things like that.

But if you're in an economy car, you're probably going to be stuck in an economy car no matter what your status is but with Hertz, I was able to get, earn, and keep Hertz President Circle for several years now. It got extended for Covid, which helped as well. So I think I've had it for like over three years total.

And there's a different President Circle area in the parking garage, and I can just walk up and pick any of those cars, which is really nice. If you're booking through DTS, you can't go in, you're not allowed to go in and say, “Oh, I like Budget. I've, I'm trying to accumulate points with budget or with Enterprise.”

You have to pick whichever one is cheapest to the government and they'll be in order filtered by cost to the government. Now what I've done, and I've seen work several times, is you can go back into your reservation, into your DTS, and check. If you like Hertz or you like Budget, just go back in there and check it out.

And if it's not cheaper, then you don't have to make any changes. If it is, then you can cancel your other car and book a new one then you're saving the government money and getting to accumulate your status and points with the airline. So you can't really play games with rental cars as much on official travel.

But that's really the only hack that I have is just by going back in there and checking. The other kind of tip, I want to say, is primarily for personal travel because you would use your Amex Platinum for that the discount code for the Amex Platinum on Hertz gets you a four-hour grace period.

Usually, the rental car company has a 15 or 45-minute grace period. So if you are supposed to turn it in at 12 o'clock and you show up at 12:40 you're still okay if they have a 45-minute grace period but like I said, with Hertz and the Amex platinum rate, they have a four-hour grace period. So if you needed a car for 28 hours or for 15 hours, that's a great discount code to look at.

And that can make it better than paying for a whole second day. So there are some options out there for your rental cars, especially on personal travel the more status you can accumulate with a rental car agency, the less like you are to have a reservation and then show up and there's not actually a car available for you.

So a lot of great tips today. I think it's important to remember that when you're saving money and you're making your travel experience better, one of the great benefits of making your experience better and saving money is letting those accelerate the savings, accelerate your savings rate and the amount of money you're able to put towards building wealth in your long term investments.

So if you save $200 on your travel somehow, try to put $200 more into your long-term savings goals if you can. So that's where the line meets between our travel credit cards passions and our financial independence and building wealth passions is, they go hand in hand because as you save money, you then use that money to save more in the long run.

[01:14:34] Spencer: Yeah, the way I think about it is for me, I've set up all these automatic savings programs, and so I know that 25% of my pay is going into my TSP and I'm maxing out my Roth IRA every year and that's all automated, that's all set up. I don't have to think about that.

But the travel credit card stuff, if I can reduce the costs of my travel, that's just more money that I have to play with all the other things I want to do. Whether it's mountain biking or, other hobbies or giving more money to charities I support, or being able to, take my family out for dinner.

And so I think that's where it really comes, for me, the joy of optimizing and of travel credit cards, of getting all these benefits for free or for a really reduced cost and making travel easier and fun. It just all feeds back, like Jamie said, to accelerate your journey to financial independence, being able to maintain a high savings rate, but not sacrificing quality of life.

So thanks again for joining us today for this episode about our favorite ways to travel smarter and more comfortably. Life's short and when you're on those long flights if you're sitting up in the front, if you're in a lie-flat seat, if you just spent a couple of hours waiting for the flight in a lounge, if you got through security in a couple of minutes versus a couple of hours, if when you land and you're going to go through customs in the US, if you can scoot through in, 5 minutes, one time my wife had to wait four hours in line at JFK in New York City.

That's just, that's no fun. Brutal. Nobody wants to do that. So if you can skip all that, and use some of the tactics and techniques that we talked about today, it's just going to make life so much better you're going to want to travel more honestly and so much of what we do is about getting places, but if you can enjoy the journey and the getting there, that just makes life so much better.

Yep. We hope today's discussion will help you keep well on your way to achieving financial independence while you're serving the military and help you maximize your military benefits. Just to review some of the main ideas from today, you can make air travel better. You've got free TSA precheck, you can sign up for Global Entry.

You can get waive-fee travel credit cards. You got lounge access, you got fee reimbursements on bags, and you can upgrade your flights. There are lots of opportunities there to make your journey much more enjoyable and you can apply it to both official travel and unofficial travel. You can upgrade your hotels with, if you have the right card, you have the right membership.

And that can be an upgraded room, that can be a free breakfast, that can be executive lounge access, where, hopefully, everybody on your crew or who you're traveling with also has that access then you go in there for happy hour and have a few drinks together those are some of my favorite memories from traveling with guys and gals in the military.

And then finally you can take some control back from the military machine. It doesn't always work, but I have so many success stories of people who are like, “Oh, I was scheduled to be on the 3:00 AM rotator out of Baltimore to Germany I'd said, Nope, I'm taking some leave and I'm booking my own tickets.”

And they got reimbursed and they were able to go have a great trip. I've done it myself personally. When we came back from Abu Dhabi and moved to Hawaii, we went on a, I think it was like a 17-day trip all through Europe and Canada, and it was awesome. So take that power back when you can. Don't worry, the military will still have plenty of control over your life, when you can within the balance of the laws and the rules and regulations, why not make your life a little bit more enjoyable?

[01:18:16] Jamie: For sure. A final reminder, if you have any questions or feedback, we are so grateful for the questions we get the opportunity to share our passions with you guys and the feedback. Keep them coming. You can message us on Instagram @militarymoneymanual or via email at info@militarymoneymanual.com. We appreciate you joining us today.

As always, we're grateful for all of you. Keep sharing with your friends, please. We appreciate that a lot as well. We'll catch you on the next episode of the Military Money Manual podcast.

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