Theme parks, airport benefits, lawn care and more: Nine military freebies
Several business and government programs provide free or extremely low-priced products for servicemembers at home and abroad. Here are nine in particular that offer significant value:
1. Annual passes to the national parks: Active duty, Reserve and National Guard servicemembers for all four Pentagon services and the Coast Guard are eligible for a park pass, which also covers dependents. This is assuming the parks open again at some point — most are closed as part of the ongoing federal budget impasse.
2. TSA Precheck:Military and Defense Department civilians qualify for the program, which provides expedited boarding at airports, without the $85 fee. Servicemembers can enter their 10-digit DOD identification numbers into the Known Traveler Number field on their flight reservations, and they’re set. Civilians must opt-in through their profile page on the Milconnect website.
3. American Express Platinum Card (with Global Entry credit):Active duty servicemembers who qualify for the card get the $550 annual fee waived. Cardholders receive a $100 fee refund for the Global Entry program, which allows expedited entry after flying back to the United States and includes enrollment in TSA Precheck.
4. Microsoft Office: This one isn’t quite free and the latest Microsoft office suite costs a few dollars more than it used to, but at $14.99 for the latest edition, it’s still discounted by hundreds of dollars. The Microsoft Home Use Program is available to those with .mil addresses and many users have an email about it somewhere in their inbox. You may need a program code, which differs among branches; your benefits administrator can help or try an internet search. Here are some generic codes by service, which may change, that must be paired with a valid .mil address: Army, ABAD560AD0; Navy and Marines, 3ABDFFAB76; Air Force 4A82EF7B8F; Coast Guard, call Microsoft support.
5. Washington Post: The newspaper offers free digital subscriptions to those with a valid .mil or .gov email address.
6. Waves of Honor: Any active duty servicemember, National Guardsman or reservist and up to three dependents receive one free admission per year to either SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, or Sesame Place. Veterans discounts are also sometimes offered.
7. Premium LinkedIn: The social media site used primarily for professional networking offers one-year premium accounts to active duty servicemembers, veterans and military spouses.
8. Lawn care and snow removal: Volunteers in the U.S. will take care of lawns and landscaping for the families of deployed servicemembers at no charge. Families and volunteers are matched up by zip code.
9. Online libraries: Most servicemembers, civilians and family members are eligible to join base libraries, which offer free access to a host of services online. For example, the Army’s online library, mwrlibrary.armybiznet.com, includes free access to Ancestry.com, Consumer Reports and Mango languages. The Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force provide access to thousands of free books and audio books.