Oahu TLA | Temporary Lodging Allowance for Military PCS to Hawaii

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Oahu TLA or Temporary Lodging Allowance is a benefit provided to all military servicemembers when they PCS to Hawaii.

A PCS to Hawaii is a very exciting time, but will likely be one of the most challenging, complex, and expensive PCS in your career.  In this article we’ll give you some tips and tricks to help ease the transition to paradise.

honu e komo mai oahu TLA
Honu (green sea turtles) are a common friendly site in the Hawaiian islands!

What is Temporary Lodging Allowance or TLA?

Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA) is provided to all military members arriving at an OCONUS duty station, including Hawaii. Eligible bases for TLA on Oahu include:

  • Fort Shafter
  • Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
  • Schofield Barracks
  • Marine Corps Base Hawaii
  • Tripler Army Medical Center
  • Coast Guard Sector Honolulu
  • Wheeler Army Airfield

When you arrive in Hawaii, you’re entitled to up to 60 days of TLA while you settle in, house hunt, and wait for your house to be ready.

It doesn’t matter whether you are going to live on or off base/post. As long as you meet certain easy requirements, you will be eligible to collect TLA when you arrive in Hawaii.

Departing Oahu TLA

When you depart Hawaii, you are entitled to another 10 days of TLA.  TLA includes a lodging portion and a meals and incidentals (ME&I) portion, which we’ll breakdown in a minute.

Each service may have a slightly different procedure for starting your TLA payments or filing for reimbursement. When I first arrived on Oahu as an Air Force family, we checked in with the military housing office on the Hickam side of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to start our claim.  Every 15 days we were able to submit another receipt and claim.

How Much Will I Make from TLA?

Based on the number of people in your family and on your PCS orders, the amount you get paid will vary.  If your lodging facility has a full kitchen (specific definition may vary by command), your per diem (meals and incidental expenses or M&IE) will be cut in half.

When I first used TLA for our arrival in 2018, the USAF definition of full kitchen was pretty forgiving and generous such that it didn’t count as a full kitchen unless it had a full oven and stove, but your mileage may vary.

TLA and BAH in Hawaii

Remember, you’ll also start earning Hawaii Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) as soon as you arrive. Because BAH is typically very high in Hawaii, most people aren’t losing money during a PCS to Hawaii (after the reimbursements finally come in at least), so if you and your family want a full kitchen to minimize eating out or PB&Js, don’t feel bad!

You can see specifics of how to calculate your specific situation in the table below, then I’ll breakdown the TLA computations my family of 5 (with all 3 of our kids under age 12) as an example.

We’re able to spend up to $353.50 per night including lodging and sales taxes.  You aren’t reimbursed more than your cost, so if you only use $230 on a standard hotel room for example, that rate plus taxes is all you will get back.

Note that resort fees, parking, and taxes on those items are not reimbursable.  You can also choose spend more than your allotted maximum ($353.50 in the example above), but will not get reimbursed for anything over that.  Room plus taxes must be below $353.50 to be fully reimbursed. You may accept over this amount though and take some of the extra out of your unused BAH. When you check in and present your PCS orders, the taxes should be only 4.712%.

TLA does not change with your pay grade- just the number of people in your family, so for the lower ranking members with big families, this is your time to make some bank off your BAH, COLA, and TLA powers combined. 

Some families, especially with a lot of kids, choose to get two rooms, and that is completely acceptable.  Again, you’re still limited to your family’s max lodging reimbursement amount, so I would have to find two rooms at $176.75 each (including tax) to have two rooms covered for my family.

TLA Approved Hotels

If you’re using your TLA for JBPHH or Army Garrison Hawaii locations, your command’s website will maintain a current list of TLA approved hotels. Almost all local hotels we would consider are approved… everything from the Hale Koa to the Hilton Hawaiian Village to the Embassy Suites and beyond.

Several Waikiki hotels offer perks for a TLA booking but you may have to e-mail their reservation office or use a specific reservation code for TLA rate to get these benefits.

TLA benefits may include free or reduced parking, a waived or reduced resort fee, or free laundry. In 2023, the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach offered me reduced parking and waived resort fee. (I'll update with a review of this hotel after our stay.) The TLA approved hotels list has details on any special things the hotel may offer under TLA in Oahu.

If you have pets, your options will be more limited. There are also options like the Aqua family of hotels that offer very big rooms that are great for families.

Rabbit Island and Shark Fin island in the distance from the Windward Side
pcs to hawaii
Koko Crater Arch, Oahu, Hawaii

Maximize Hawaii TLA

The best bang for your buck will come if you get a non-availability letter. Also known as a “non-A” or sometimes a “Certificate of Non-Availability” or CNA.  If you get a non-A, then you can take your TLA money and head to Waikiki allowing you to earn lots of hotel rewards points.

If you desire to stay off base, don’t rush to call the Navy Lodge on Ford Island.  When calling to try to secure a non-A, ask about the availability for the full 60 days your entitled to.  If you do want to stay on base in the Temporary Lodging Facility (TLF), call early.  They usually fill up very quickly.  

Be smart about which hotel you choose. You can maximize your hotel benefits by getting one or all of my top recommended hotel credit cards. I also recommend my 100% free, 5 day course on maximizing your travel benefits in the Ultimate Military Credit Cards course. I explain how to get your annual fees waived on all Amex and Chase personal cards.

You may choose a Hilton hotel which is great because the Hilton Aspire card from Amex gives you Diamond status, 14 points per dollar spent at a Hilton family hotel, and a $250 a year resort credit.  Diamond status usually comes with other perks like free breakfast and room upgrades too.

You could also use your Chase Sapphire Reserve that offers a $300 a year travel credit. This travel benefit can help cover generic travel-related costs like your off-site parking bill, rental car, or Ubers.

If you choose a Marriott family hotel, use your Amex Bonvoy Brilliant card benefits including Gold Elite status, a $300 per year credit at a Marriott family hotel, and 6 points per dollar at Marriott Bonvoy hotels.

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TLA Waikiki Plan

Sunsets on the west side are beautiful! Pokai Bay

Here’s a quick scenario of a nice TLA plan from 10 August to 9 October for 60 nights of TLA.

You could book the Embassy Suites Waikiki Beachwalk for $259 a night plus taxes, for a city view room. This hotel is in a great location and an easy walk to the best parking for military members (at the Hale Koa) and all of the famous Waikkiki Beach spots and dining. For a family of 5 like mine, you maximize your lodging reimbursement and get a bigger room with a pullout couch and still be under your max rate. 

Note this Hilton resort’s $30 a night resort fee and the taxes on the resort fee would not be reimbursed.  I’d use my $250 a year Hilton credit from my Hilton Aspire card and also hope for a room upgrade upon check in with my included Diamond status.

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Another Hilton brand hotel in a good location is the Hilton Hawaiian Village.  This massive resort has 8 types of room to choose from below my max lodging rate, but comes with a hefty $50 resort fee per night.

There are plenty of hotel options in Waikiki to choose from.  When we PCS’d into Hawaii, we stayed at the Honolulu DoubleTree hotel and got a junior suite with a separate bedroom and pull out couch while still staying under our limit.

The best part of this plan – with the current Hilton Honors promotions and the Diamond status from my free Hilton Aspire card, we’re set to earn more than 100,000 Hilton Honors points from 10 days of TLA!

Remember, if you do want to splurge a little for either your first or last days in Hawaii, under the Military Lending Act (MLA), Amex waives the annual fees for both you and your spouse.

You can each have your own free card with your own $250 per year credit, your own free night certificate, etc.  This card also comes with an annual $250 airline fee credit which you could you use your flight out for a better seat, overweight or checked baggage fees, or extra snacks and drinks.

PCS’ing and the large amount you’ll spend during your Oahu TLA is a great time to each open a new card or two. It’ll be easy to meet your minimum spending requirements, and you’ll be able to enjoy the new benefits and perks of your card.

Tips For Using Hawaii TLA Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines

  • Start saving up for your PCS as soon as you find out you’re coming to Hawaii.  Many families will have $5,000 – $10,000 saved before starting the move.
  • If you are registering a child for public school, your temporary address will be used to determine what school your child(ren) will go to. If you're still in a hotel downtown when the registration deadline comes, and the home you move into is in a different district, you'll be forced to change schools once you sign your lease. They are very strict about this. If you want Hickam Elementary school for example, you need to be in Air Force side lodging or get into an Onizuka Village or Officer Field house ASAP.
  • Book your hotel early and check back for rates. Try to book all 60 days at the resort if you can. Most understand the TLA and won’t mind you leaving early, especially with a few days’ notice.  You may have to change hotels during your TLA to stay below your max.
  • Take advantage of your top-tier credit cards to maximize reward earnings during your PCS. The Hilton Aspire card, the Bonvoy Brilliant card, the Amex Platinum, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Amex Gold are my go-to PCS cards right now.
  • Attempt to get a Non-A from the Navy Lodge if you’re interested in staying off base.  Don’t delay making a hotel reservation off base- you can always cancel it if the non-A doesn’t come through.
  • Within 20 days of your departure date, you can request an advance on your Dislocation Allowance or DLA. An advance is not a loan or a debt- your DLA amount is fixed based on your pay grade.  This maybe a vital buffer for your wallet.
  • Pay close attention to your command’s TLA process and file for reimbursement as soon as (and as often as) they let you.  Keep detailed records of your expenses. PCS expenses add up, and remember to NEVER carry a balance on your card.
  • Parking in Waikiki can be very expensive. Military members can park at the Hale Koa parking garage here or at 358 Maluhia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815 or the extra outdoor lot. It costs $100 for a 30-day pass. Even if you’re not using it for 30 days, this is much cheaper than most resort’s parking.  Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve to cover this travel expense since it’s not reimbursed.

Your assignment in Hawaii is going to be amazing.  Be sure to start it off on the right foot enjoying modern and comfortable accommodations, playing tourist, and saving big bucks with all the travel hacking you’re about to do.  

Any other comments or questions?  How did you maximize your TLA?  Share in the comments below!

Whales visit Hawaii every winter. You can see them breaching from Oahu!

Oahu TLA FAQ

What is the TLA rate for Hawaii?

The current per diem rate and TLA rate for Oahu which includes Honolulu, Kapolei, and Kaneohe is $202 lodging and $157 meals and incidentals. That's a maximum TLA of $359 per day for a servicemember alone or servicemember plus a spouse.

Can I get TLE and TLA?

Yes, you can get TLE or Temporary Lodging Expense up to 7 days at your CONUS duty station before PCSing to your OCONUS duty station. At your OCONUS duty station, such as Oahu, Hawaii, you can then receive TLA.

How is TLA paid out?

TLA is paid out through your normal military pay via direct deposit into your checking account. You can see it on your Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) on MyPay. It will show up under “Entitlements” and a line called “TLA.”

How is TLA calculated?

TLA is calculated by adding up your eligible dependents and the servicemember and multiplying by the percentages listed in the JTR.

Is TLA taxed?

No, TLA is not subject to state or federal income tax because it is a reimbursement for expenses, not earned income.

Can I use my GTC for TLA?

You can use your GTC to pay for your hotel and meals while collecting TLA, but I recommend you use one of my top recommended cards for military servicemembers and military spouses.

2 thoughts on “Oahu TLA | Temporary Lodging Allowance for Military PCS to Hawaii”

  1. Thank you for all the advice. I heard from a friend that the TLA policy may have just changed and they are requiring service members to use their GTC now for lodging costs. Is this true?

    Reply

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