Now you can plan your vacation and buy your luggage from the same Web site — and get military deals on both.
Authorized military exchange shoppers can go to the Exchange Online Mall and book cruises, tour packages and resort stays through a partnership with the Army's Morale, Welfare and Recreation command. As with any other benefits offered by military exchanges or MWR (and Air Force Services) divisions, this initiative, called Government Vacation Rewards, is open to any authorized shopper, regardless of branch of service.
You can search for deals by date of travel and by specific locations. Membership is free, but if you register, you'll get an e-mail once or twice a month about various offerings, said retired Army Col. John Cully, vice president of government sales for GVR.
There are deals for all over the world or close to home. Discounts vary depending on the resort or cruise line. The site lists the regular retail price and the GVR discount. If there's an additional military discount, it will be noted.
There are no booking fees. The site also has a "best price" guarantee: If you find a better price for the exact same resort, cruise or tour package on the exact dates of your travel, GVR will give you that price, Cully said.
And by booking through the site, you earn reward points that you can use toward future travel booked through the site.
Check back often for changes in inventory and offerings, Cully advises. He expects the site to list houseboat rentals soon. "We think houseboats will be great for military families," he said.
To get to GVR, go to the online mall through www.aafes.com, www.usmc-mccs.org, www .navy-nex.com or www .cg-exchange.com. Pull down the menu under "the Exchange Online Mall" to find "Government Vacation Rewards." Clicking that takes you to the sign-in screen for authorized customers. Once you're in the GVR site, you create your free account with a password.
Discover Card is offering automatic double Cashback Bonus or double miles to all cardholders who make purchases with their Discover cards at all U.S. military bases worldwide from May 25 through Sept. 7.
The double rewards — 2 percent Cashback Bonus or two frequent-flier miles for every dollar spent — will be given on up to $1,000 in purchases. If you take the Cashback Bonus, that's $20.
Every bit helps. Just remember to pay off your credit card each month; otherwise the interest you pay will negate any rewards you get.