CONTRIBUTED BY CHRISTINE BRUNS
If your family is anything like mine, worrying about finances – or at least trying to keep things under control while in the military – is a constant effort. With each PCS and all of the costs that are associated with them, carefully watching your debt, savings, and investments is a must. If only it were all as easy as creating loose change seems to be.
No matter your situation – new to the military, large debts, no debts, about to retire – one thing that’s sometimes not easy to do is keep track of all the benefits available to military members and their families. Case in point, my husband has been in the military for over ten years now and we had not realized there was a very important credit reduction benefit we could take advantage of. We were always careful with paying down debt, but life can throw you curveballs and things happen. One phone call to our credit card company has made a world of difference, however, and I just want to share that with all of you, in case it helps even one more family.
The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides a large range of benefits for active duty military. The part that deals with your credit cards is what I’m going to focus on here. The SCRA limits credit card interest rates on debt incurred prior to active duty service, lowers interest rates on new charges, and reduces or eliminates fees that can be charged to an account, such as international transaction fees or late charges.
If you are active duty, contact your credit card companies and ask them to review your accounts (all of your accounts – sponsor’s and spouse’s) for the SCRA benefits. They will ask for information to confirm military status and it takes a few weeks for the process to be completed.
That all sounds fine and dandy, but what can it translate to? Well, for one, if you had any debt prior to active duty that you’ve been slowly paying off (paying interest on), they will review that amount and you could receive a nice chunk of change back, like we did. It may mean that previously charged fees will be refunded, and lower interest rates will be established. Each credit company has its own policies on refunds and fees within the guidelines of SCRA, so be sure to ask questions about them. And again, this is just one financial benefit out there – I am sure there are more, but I just had to share this one.
If even one thing is changed for the better, it’s worth the time of a phone call. Happy saving!
For the full details and benefits offered under SCRA, see this Military.com article.