I'm writing this post because I eat at the DFAC every day at the hospital. I occasionally get frustrated because when checking out, there are always long lines and it's mostly because 75% of people pay with cash instead of a credit card. It takes literally 10X longer to pay with cash than just swiping your credit card. AND if you pay with the right credit card you get 2% off your purchase every time.
So let's compare some places on base and what credit card you should use:
1.) DFAC (Dining Facilities) - This is coded by credit card companies as "government services, not otherwise classified." AKA this means it's not a special category that will give you bonus cash back.
- Recommendation: Use a 2% cash back credit card (Citi Double Cash, Fidelity Rewards, or the Mastercard Gold by Barclay are all examples of credit cards that give 2% back on every purchase)
- My experience: Earlier this year, Discover had a promotion where they gave 10% back on all purchase made by ApplePay and they had a 2X promotion so I technically got 20% back on all my purchases. Unfortunatly that promotion only lasted 2 months and is over now.
2.) Commissary - This is coded by credit cards as a grocery store.
- Recommendation: The American Express Preferred Card is hands down the best card in this scenario. It gives 6% cash back on all grocery purchases. It has a $75 annual fee but that is waived for military members.
- If you are interested, I can send you a referral. I get $50 per referral and will split it with you. It comes with a $150 bonus if you spend $1000 in the first 3 months of having the card. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
- A close 2nd place would be the the USAA American Express Cashback Rewards Plus Card that gives 5% back on all purchase on base. Chase Freedom will also be giving 5% cash back from April - June.
3.) Exchange - The best card to use at the exchange is the USAA American Express Cashback Rewards Plus Card that gives 5% back on all purchase on base. There is the Military Star Card, but that only gives 2% back.
- Recommendation: USAA American Express Cashback Rewards Plus Card
4.) Gas Stations on Base - Again the USAA American Express Cashback Rewards Plus Card gives 5% back on all purchase on base. You could also use Discover/Chase Freedom when they do their 5% cash back quartly bonuses. Sams club and penfed also have essentially 5% cash back cards on gas as well.
- Recommendations: There are alot of different choices that give 5% back on gas. Pick whichever one works best for you
5.) Food Courts on Base - This is typically coded as restaurants/fast food. Depending on locations, the Military Star Card gives 10% back on food purchases made at the food courts on base. If you don't have that card, the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus Card gives 5% and Discover/Chase Freedom have 5% rotating categories with restaurants/fast food
- If your base gives 10% cash back with the Military Star Credit Card then that is definitely the clear winner.
- If you are going to apply for this card, I would do this at the Exchange in person. From March 18-March 24 they have a promotion going on that they will give 15% off everything on your first day. This includes uniforms.
Did I miss anything? Please comment below. Thanks