Credit Card Points with a Military Family in Hawaii

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The following is a guest post from Jamie, an Air Force officer who lives in Hawaii with his wife and three kids. Jamie shows us how you can apply military travel hacking strategies to travelling with a family of five! Jamie uses several credit cards to achieve his travel hacking strategy and get his family from Hawaii to the East Coast for 50% off. You can see what Jamie's up to on Instragram @c17jamie

Traveling with kids can be incredibly challenging and often very expensive.  For military members and their families, there are a number of credit card benefits you can take advantage of that will make the budget for your family vacation a little easier to swallow.

With the right tools and a good travel hacking plan, you can save big on your airfare, rental car, and hotels during your next family vacation.  Here’s a recap of how we traveled as a family of four last summer.

Travel Hacking for Military Families with Kids

For airfare, my wife and I each have the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (Amex Delta Reserve review) which normally carries an annual fee.

However, for active duty members like me, this card is free! Amex also waives the fee for my spouse, so we get $4,000 value of these free cards.

AMEX Delta Reserve card free for US military

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

Annual Fee: $650 per year* *see more details on American Express protections for you and spouse

Welcome Bonus: Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • This is my top recommended Amex Delta card for military
  • Enjoy the lounge life with complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club® and bring up to two guests or immediate family members at a rate of $50 per person per visit when flying Delta. Effective 2/1/25, Reserve Card Members will receive 15 Visits per year to the Delta Sky Club; to earn an unlimited number of Visits each year starting on 2/1/25, the total eligible purchases on the Card must equal $75,000 or more between 1/1/24 and 12/31/24, and each calendar year thereafter.
  • Flying with someone? Receive four Delta Sky Club® One-Time Guest Passes each year when you fly together on Delta. After that, you may bring up to two guests at a per-visit rate of $50 per person, per location.
  • When you book a Delta flight with your Reserve Card you'll get complimentary access to The Centurion® Lounge.
  • Want status? Earn $2,500 Medallion® Qualification Dollars each Medallion Qualification Year to get closer to Higher Status with MQD Headstart.
  • You can earn $1 Medallion® Qualification Dollar for each $10 of purchases made on your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card in a calendar year giving you a boost toward achieving elevated Medallion Status for next Medallion Year.
  • Traveling with friends is better, especially in first class. Receive a Companion Certificate on First Class, Delta Comfort+®, or Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights each year after renewal of your Card. The Companion Ticket requires payment of government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and no more than $250 for roundtrip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Make eating out easier with $240 Resy Credit: With the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Resy Credit, earn up to $20 per month in statement credits on eligible Resy purchases using your enrolled Card.
  • Enjoy $120 Rideshare Credit: Earn up to $10 back in statement credits each month on U.S. rideshare purchases with select providers after you pay with your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. Enrollment Required.
  • Save 15% on travel as a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express member by booking Award Travel using miles on Delta flights through Delta.com and the Fly Delta app! Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • Increase your chance for a better seat with your Card. Receive upgrade priority over other Medallion Members within the same Medallion level and fare class.
  • Get on the upgrade list! Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Members with an eligible ticket will be added to the Complimentary Upgrade list, after Delta SkyMiles Medallion Members.
  • 3X Miles on Delta purchases.
  • 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Terms Apply.

The Delta Reserve offers a free companion pass each year after your first card anniversary.  And even better, if you live in Hawaii like we do, Delta allows you to use the companion pass on a flight from Hawaii to the mainland and back. The flight must be a roundtrip starting in Hawaii. 

My wife, two kids, and I can fly for 50% of the normal cost! Most of our family lives on the East Coast, so it easily costs over $4,000 for us to all fly back home to Atlanta or Philadelphia. In fact, in June, the roundtrip cost for four of us would have been $4,600 in economy had we not utilized these strategies!

Any day you can get a $4,600 itinerary for $2,300, that’s a big win, especially since you don’t have an annual fee to pay on either card. One downside of flying Delta though is the Sky Club access that comes with our Amex Platinum cards does not include free guests with us.

My wife and I usually take turns going into the lounge for food or quiet time if there’s not a better Priority Pass or Amex Centurion lounge available. We loved a recent layover in Houston where the Amex Centurion lounge had a separate family room where kids could play and be loud!

Military SCRA MLA AMEX Platinum

The Platinum Card® from American Express
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • Annual fee of $695* See more details about military protections for you and your spouse 
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership
  • Earn 5x points on airfare booked directly with airline or on amextravel.com up to $500,000 per calendar year
  • Earn 5x points on prepaid hotels at amextravel.com
  • $200 Annual Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Note that The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on Uber Eats and rides every year. Only available to the basic card member, Terms Apply
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at 1 qualifying airline
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: CLEAR® Plus helps to get you to your gate faster at 50+ airports nationwide and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Card. CLEARLanes are available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues.
  • This is a MAJOR time saver–$100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 year period for TSA PreCheck® application fee for a 5-year plan only (through a TSA PreCheck® official enrollment provider), when charged to your Platinum Card®! Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
  • Complimentary access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection® lets you visit more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting. You can love the lounge life with more airport lounge options than any other credit card issuer on the market. As of 03/2023.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax.
  • Up to $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit, enrollment required
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express – learn how to apply
  • Read my full review of the Amex Platinum card for military, terms apply

While on board the flight, we used our Amex Platinum $200 annual travel credit to cover in-flight snack purchases and other incidental fees that come up during the trip.  On the way home from Philadelphia to Honolulu, I upgraded my wife to first class from PHL-MSP and to Delta One from MSP to HNL.  It was incredibly roomy and comfortable for a pregnant and tired mom, but because of all the tricks we used to save money, I didn’t feel guilty about the splurge.  

Car Rental Discounts for Military Families in Hawaii

When we land, we were all tired, so we used our Hertz Gold Plus benefit via our Amex Platinum to head straight to our pre-reserved car and skip the lines. My wife and I each have an Amex Platinum card as well, which are also both free for military members and their spouse.

Traveling with kids will likely prevent you from renting a small car, which is usually the cheapest option.  We like to travel in minivans because it makes it easy with all the bags, strollers, toys, iPads, snacks, etc. that the kids need. Ignore losing some cool points because you’re a parent now and enjoy the comfort!  We like to use AutoSlash to find the cheapest rental car available.

Auto Slash allows you to select possible discounts for your rental, then it’ll e-mail you the best deals for your itinerary via the Priceline interface. You can book right there via Auto Slash, on Priceline, or you can view what coupon code they’re using, and book directly from the rental car company.

Then, when you book a car, Auto Slash will track it for price changes for you, all for free!  For an added bonus, use the newer version of eBates called Rakuten (Jamie's referral link) to get free cash back.  For example, Hertz reservations bring in 2.5% cash back just for activating their Google Chrome plugin or starting your online shopping from their site.)

Costco Travel is usually very competitive as well.  We paid for the rental car with our Chase Sapphire Reserve card (full Chase Sapphire Reserve review).  My wife and I each have one of these cards as well, and again, we pay nothing.  Chase waives the $550 annual fee for both of us too.

My favorite part of the CSR is the $300 annual travel credit.  This credit is available immediately upon card approval and activation, and it will trigger for any travel related expense such as a hotel, rental car, airfare, etc.  So, the $300 credit often covers our rental car or at least a huge part of it, and the CSR also has nice insurance for the rental car.

Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • $550 annual fee waived to $0 for US military + spouses with Chase MLA policy
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually.
  • 3x Points on other Travel (airfare, hotels) after earning the $300 travel credit
  • 3x Dining restaurants, takeouts, delivery
  • Chase Ultimate Reward Points redeemed through Chase Travel℠ are worth 1.5 cents, a 50% bonus.
  • Priority Pass lounge and restaurant access with over 1300+ airport lounges worldwide
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry every 4 years
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Primary coverage with Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • No foreign transaction fees, Member FDIC
  • Learn more in the Chase Sapphire Reserve review

Hotel Credits Cards for Military Families

Lastly, for hotels, I have both the Amex Hilton Aspire (full Amex Hilton Honors Aspire review) and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card (Amex Bonvoy Brilliant review).

I personally prefer Hilton family of hotels when traveling with my kids. We love the Homewood Suites or Embassy Suites as each offers free breakfast, evening reception (most week nights), and larger rooms (sometimes even with a separate bedroom).

Free Diamond Status at Hilton Hotels for Military
Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Military

There isn’t much room for upgrades as these brands, but there are other Diamond member benefits from your Amex Aspire to take advantage of.

These hotels are great for families, so we can use points or our free weekend night that the Hilton Aspire offers to book the room. You can also compare the 4 best hotel credit cards for military servicemembers.

Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Military

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • $650 Annual Fee* See details about American Express protections for you and your spouse 
  • Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Each calendar year, get up to $300 (up to $25 per month) in statement credits for eligible purchases made on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card at restaurants worldwide.
  • Upgrade and enhance your views when available at select properties with Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status, when booked with a Qualifying Rate.
  • Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 3X points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines.
  • 2X points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enjoy a night away when you receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Free night can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. (Certain hotels have resort fees)
  • Get rewarded each calendar year after spending $60,000 on eligible purchases on your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. Select one Brilliant Earned Choice Award benefit per calendar year. See https://www.choice-benefit.marriott.com/brilliant for Award options.
  • Elevate your stay when you receive up to a $100 property credit for qualifying charges at The Ritz-Carlton® or St. Regis® when you book direct using a special rate for a two-night minimum stay using your Card.
  • Save time traveling with either a statement credit every 4 years after you apply for Global Entry ($100) or a statement credit every 4.5 years after you apply for a five-year membership for TSA PreCheck(R) (up to $85 through a TSA PreCheck official enrollment provider) and pay the application fee with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Receive 25 Elite Night Credits toward the next level of Marriott Bonvoy® Elite status each calendar year with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. (Limitations apply per Marriott Bonvoy member account. Benefit is not exclusive to Cards offered by American Express. Terms apply)
  • Lounge Access! Enroll in Priority Pass(TM) Select, which offers unlimited airport lounge visits to over 1,200 lounges in over 130 countries, regardless of which carrier or class you are flying. Escape the busy airport and enjoy snacks, drinks, and internet access in a quiet, comfortable location.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
  • Safeguard your phone with Cell Phone Protection. Receive reimbursement for your repair or replacement costs (the lesser of) following damage, such as a cracked screen, or theft for a maximum of $800 per claim when your cell phone line is listed on a wireless bill and the prior month's wireless bill was paid by an Eligible Card Account. A $50 deductible will apply to each approved claim with a limit of 2 approved claims per 12-month period. Additional terms and conditions apply. Coverage is provided by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.
  • Terms Apply.

If you don’t want to use points, you can also use your annual $250 Hilton Resort statement credit available immediately upon approval and activation.  I would recommend saving the free weekend night for a romantic one-night get away at a swanky hotel in a big city or something like that.

This year, we plan to use our free weekend night in Maui at the Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort where a standard room often runs for 95,000 Hilton Honors points or more than $800 per night.  

Maybe with your Diamond status, we’ll get an upgrade to a premium room! As another bonus, when you redeem points or an award certificate at a Hilton brand hotel, they waive any resort fees.  

Amex Hilton Honors Aspire Card Military

American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • $550 annual fee waived for military servicemembers and military spouses
  • Complimentary Diamond Status at all Hilton brands (suite upgrades, breakfast, check in gifts, etc)
  • 180,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points welcome offer after $6,000 of purchases in the first 6 months offers ends 17 January 2024
  • 1 weekend night reward after opening your account and every year on renewal
  • $400 Hilton Resort Credit – $200 each semi-annual period
  • $200 airline fee credit – Earn up to $50 statement credit each quarter
  • $189 Clear Credit
  • 14x Hilton Honors Bonus Points at Hilton properties
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • The information and associated card details on this page for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by Military Money Manual and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
  • Full review of Amex Aspire card, terms apply
  • All information about American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Card has been collected independently by MilitaryMoneymanual.com

On this trip, we’ll pair it with a second night at a Marriott hotel using our Free Night Award from the Bonvoy Brilliant (you get this after your first card anniversary).  You can also use your $300 annual Marriott Bonvoy statement credit to cover a room or two and hope for a nice, space available upgrade with your Bonvoy Gold Elite status the card gives you.  If you do pay for your room, Rakuten gives Diamond members 1% cash back on Hilton and Marriott stays.

Traveling with children can be so expensive and exhausting to even think about planning.  However, with a little bit of research and strategy, you can maximize your card benefits and keep working your way towards financial independence!

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