The Military Star card was the first credit card for many of us. I’m no exception to this and I’m a firm believer that every service member should carry one, for multiple reasons. Although I generally advise against the use of store credit cards, there are some distinct differences between the Military Star card and its civilian counterparts.
Benefits of the Military Star Card
The entire Military Star card rewards program was just recently overhauled. The Chase Military Star MasterCard has been discontinued and a rewards/cash back program was introduced to all Military Star account holders. The core benefits of the card, however, haven’t changed:
- 5 cents per gallon discount at the pump
- 10 percent discount at the Exchange food court
- 0 percent interest on military clothing (with clothing account)
- 10 percent discount on first day purchases
- Deployment policy
What is new is that you now earn 2x points on every military Exchange purchase and other participating locations, such as Express locations, Army and Air Force Exchange Service food courts and others. For every 2,000 points accumulated, you receive a $20 Exchange gift card. Unredeemable points expire every February.
Best uses for the Military Star Card
If you are a frequent shopper on military installations, the Military Star card can quickly become very valuable and the gift cards, when saved, can make holiday shopping much less of a financial burden. The 5 cent per gallon discount at the pump regularly jumps to 20 cents or higher throughout the year, making the already very low Express gas prices even more affordable. Last, but not least, the 0 percent interest on military clothing is impossible to beat. Any service member worth his/her salt will always want to report to duty in a crisp, clean uniform. But that clothing allowance unfortunately only comes around once a year. An interest free loan on these essential items can really mean the difference if you’re 6 months away from your allowance but your current duty uniform is falling apart at the seams now. Just make sure to use that allowance, once received, to the pay the remaining balance. An interest free loan is still debt and you should always strive to repay it as quickly as possibly!
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Chase Military Credit Cards
Chase may have severed its ties with the Military Star program, but it is still heavily involved in the military community and has released several replacements as successors to the expired co-branded Military Star MasterCard. There are currently 4 Chase military affiliated credit cards available; one for each of the 4 largest branches (there is no U.S. Coast Guard version). The U.S. Air Force version also includes membership into the Air Force Club, all others seem almost identical, but the U.S. Army version currently offers a 2,500 point sign up bonus. All 4 cards offer 2 percent cash back at the Commissary, Exchange, and MWR, as well as 1 percent at all other locations, which makes this program almost identical to the card they replaced.
While the cash back points accrued with either of the 4 cards can also be redeemed for travel, they are best redeemed for cash back. There are much more valuable travel rewards cards available on the market. What is beneficial is that neither of these cards charge a foreign transaction fee. They also offer Blue Star Deployment Benefits. The Blue Star benefits essentially eliminate any and all fees and interest while deployed, which can be useful for major purchases before a deployment. However, there are much more lucrative cash back cards available and I have a hard time finding the value in these cards.
The Military Star card is not the most valuable credit card out there. It isn’t meant to be; it’s designed for a young Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine to start building some credit. If used correctly however, it can provide some significant savings at various locations and a decent cash back opportunity. I firmly believe that every service member should have at least a clothing line of credit with the Military Star program, if for no other reason that to build credit and have a “safety net” for essential military clothing items.
What is your take on the new Military Star card? Did I miss any benefits? What benefits would you like to see? Please comment below and share on social media.