Families across the country (and world) recently found out military pay is set to go up by 1.3% starting in January 2016.
Though the increase is welcome, it’s still less than the rising cost of living, which has increased 1.9% in the last 12 months. For hard-working service members, that means stretching their dollars even further.
We were thrilled to see so many restaurants and stores offer free stuff to veterans last week — but we all know free food doesn’t pay the bills.
So we chatted with Capt. Arron Conley, a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army, and retired Brig. Gen Daniel Bader, who served 27 years in the Air Force, about how service members could bring in some extra money. They gave us a really simple idea you may not have considered…
Change your credit card.
It might sound far-fetched, but both Conley and Bader have managed to earn cash back — we’re talking hundred of dollars — just by using a PenFed Visa Defender card.
They gave us a few insider tips on how this works for them. Have a look:
Tip #1. Save $100s By Avoiding Annual Fees
Most rewards cards carry annual fees (often as high as $95), so switching cards will lead to savings — both now and in the years to come.
Why? Because the PenFed Defender cards have no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees.
Of course, if you carry a balance on the card, there are interest charges — right now, between 8.99% and 17.99% — but you should pay off the card in full each month anyway. (Remember: If you can’t be responsible with a credit card, no rewards are worth going into debt over.)
Tip #2. Increase Your Cash-Back % to Make Some Extra Money
Bader, the retired brigadier general, used to have a credit card that earned him 1% cash back. When he learned about the PenFed Defender Visa Signature® card, he decided to switch.
That’s because the Defender cards give you 1.5% cash back on every single purchase — with no limit.1 That’s pretty high for a cash-back card, especially one with no fees.
In the six months Bader’s had the card, he’s earned more than $500 in cash-back rewards, which he (smartly) uses to help him pay off the card in full each month.
Sure, most of us won’t be able to earn rewards as quickly as Bader, but that 1.5% still adds up. If you spend $1,000 on the card each month, for example, you’ll earn $180 by the end of the year — just for making purchases like you normally would.
Bonus #1: You Can Take It With You Overseas
Have you heard of chip and pin cards? All American credit cards were supposed to migrate to this technology, but many still haven’t caught up.
The PenFed Defender cards already have a chip and pin, which makes them not only more secure — but also a solid choice for international travel. (As you may know, many foreign vendors don’t accept swipe cards.)
Conley got the PenFed Visa Defender card specifically for international travel. He’s been to more than 40 countries, both for work and pleasure; most recently, he traveled to Dubai, Rwanda and South Africa.
Though he brought the Defender card as his backup (he’d only received it a few days prior), it soon became his go-to.
“I tried to use my other MasterCard, and it kept declining,” he says. “I ended up only using the PenFed Visa Defender card my entire trip when I was in Africa, so it really did save my butt.”
Bonus #2: You’ll Help Make a Difference
Want to do business with a company that supports the armed services?
PenFed’s nonprofit arm, the PenFed Foundation, offers a variety of programs to help military members and their families, including no-interest emergency loans, financial counseling and home-buying assistance.
“I’m extremely satisfied with the Defender credit card,” Conley says. “So much so that I am cancelling two other credit cards I have. I would definitely recommend it for other service members… Especially if you’re going abroad.”
Interested in getting a cash-back credit card? Click here to learn more about the PenFed Defender credit cards and decide if they’re right for you.
For more information, visit PenFed at http://www.penfed.org/military-cards or call 1-800-247-5626.
Your Turn: Do you have a military credit card?
Sponsorship Disclosure: A huge thanks to PenFed for working with us to bring you this content. It’s rare that we have the opportunity to share something so awesome and get paid for it!
Disclosure: These cards have variable interest rates, which can change at any time.
1 Cash advances, checks drawn from the account, and balance transfers are excluded and do not earn credit toward rewards.