On base shopping and earning points brings its own unique set of challenges. Most major military installations, both domestic and abroad, will host anything from grocery stores (Commissary) to department stores (Exchange, NEX, MCX, etc.), and anything in between.
The Chase Freedom card currently offers 5x points on department stores, drug stores and wholesale clubs, such as Costco. Since on post Exchange stores are department stores, you can definitely take advantage of that. The problem is, and I can only speak for Army and Air Force Exchange stores, those stores do not code their registers as department stores, but rather as general retail. What that means for us is that the bank does not automatically credit us with the appropriate amount of points after the transaction. But a quick phone call to Chase has always solved this problem for me. Keep in mind that you will have to request point adjustments for every transaction separately, so it’s usually best to call once a week or so, depending on your shopping habbits, to have all transactions from that time period corrected. Just make sure to have specific dates and dollar amounts handy, as having that will speed up the process and ensure accuracy in the end.
Military Clothing stores (MCSS) also fall under the department store category, since they are technically part of the Main Exchange store. But again, the merchant code will usually not reflect department store and a phone call to the financial institution is required to be credited any bonus points.
Dining on Post seems to be pretty straight forward when it comes to earning points. Whether the restaurant is Exchange owned or not, they’re typically all be coded correctly. This may be different overseas when dining at a non-Exchange owned facility, so make sure to keep an eye on that charge and make any required phone calls if disreptancies occur.
All on post gas stations are Exchange operated and coded as general retail when making any purchases inside the store. The transaction should be coded correctly when paying at the pump. The Chase Freedom 5x points category switches to gas stations and local commuter transportation next month. If you end up having to make a major purchase at the Exchange or Military Clothing at any point next quarter, you could purchase an Exchange gift card for that amount at the gas station and still collect the bonus points for that transaction. You’ll just have to call the bank again to have the points adjusted. The same goes for any other transaction; buying gift cards for specific purchases from a store in the current bonus category can be highly lucrative; United Mileage Plus X comes is a great example here. Keep in mind that not all merchants will allow you to buy gift cards with a credit card.
On post shopping is one of our major military benefits. It offers a tax free shopping experience with, at times, significant rebates over retail pricing. Just as with other stores or supermarkets, it pays to be familiar with, and compare competitor prices. Price matching is available at the Exchange and the fact that the purchase will be tax free on post can potentially save you hundreds of dollars. In addition, many high dollar items are usually discounted at Exchanges. Apple and Bose products, for instance, are on average 5-10 percent cheaper than at their off post competitor stores. When buying Apple computers, however, it pays (literally) to look at the Apple Store for Government website, where Apple computers are also 10 percent cheaper, but are customizable. You can combine this option with Chase, Amex, or airline shopping portals by simply logging into the Government version of the website, opening a new tab and going through your preferred shopping portal. Since you’re already logged in, the savings will apply and you’ll earn all of your bonus miles and/or points by following the portal. Chase, for instance, offers 2x extra points if you go through their Apple website link. If you use that link, combined with the Chase Freedom Unlimited at checkout, that’s a total of 3.5x points.
Shopping on a military installation and earning points may require a bit more effort, but the savings in the end can be substantial. Using Exchange gift cards, for example, can ensure you receive the maximum amount of points all year long, plus they yield you a 10 percent discount when used at any of the Exchange restaurants. This is just one of many strategies that are available to save you the most amount of coin, while simultaneously earning you the highest number of points per dollar.
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