The military discount: History, best practices for offering one, and military perks

Last updated
Jan 29, 2024
Get the history of the military discount, tips on how to offer one, and a list of companies currently offering discounts.

Today, the majority of major retailers, restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, and transportation services offer some form of military discount. These are typically 10-15% discounts offered to active duty, reserve, retired, and veteran members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and National Guard. 

According to a 2021 SheerID and Military Times survey of 521 members of the military community, including active duty, retirees, veterans, reservists, guards, and military spouses and dependents:

90% have used a military discount
74% said they actively seek out brands that offer military discounts
66% said they would feel valued if they received a personalized military offer

Why offer them?

  • It's a powerful act of appreciation for those who have served our country. With the sacrifices military members and families make, a discount shows you value their service.
  • It can build strong bonds with military members and veterans in your area. This creates brand loyalty among those who take advantage of the discount.
  • For businesses located near major bases, a military discount is almost a necessity to attract those customers. Military families have significant buying power.
  • It generates positive public relations and goodwill. Customers may look more favorably at businesses that honor the military with discounts.
  • Online, it’s easy to offer military perks through Paylode’s perk centers. Curate exclusive deals and discounts that we negotiate on your behalf, to offer your military audience. 

To obtain the discount, military members normally need to show a valid military ID card. Some businesses require dressing in uniform. 

Other ways to show proof are

  • VA Benefits Card
  • Veterans ID Card
  • DD-214 form
  • A state identification card with military designation
  • Online, you may have to sign up for a third party like to submit proof before purchase.

How do military perks work?

If you have an existing audience, whether its customers, members, or email subscribers, you can offer a privately accessible military perks page through Paylode. Our marketplace of 1000+ partnerships means that we can build curated collections of discounts for your audience that go above and beyond normal discounts. Schedule a demo to see examples of live “military perks pages” through Paylode. 

Personalized perks are valuable to military members

Source: SheerID
Most companies don’t publicize their military discount program. Even if you decide not to formally move forward with a program, decide how you’ll answer the question, “do you have a military discount?” – plan out what you’ll say in response. If that’s simply “no,” that’s fine too – Not every business must offer a military deal. 

If you decide it’s part of your company values and marketing strategy, follow best practices.

  • Check your state laws. Some states have regulations regarding military discounts or require certain posting practices.
  • Decide what percent discount to offer. 10% off is common, but some offer more. Make sure it provides value without severely cutting into your profit margins.
  • Determine what forms of ID to accept. Most businesses accept the standard military ID cards for active duty, retired, and family members. Some may accept discharge papers, Veterans Affairs cards, or other proof of service.
  • Promote the discount in-store, via email, online, and on social media. Let military members in your community know how much you appreciate them.
  • Train employees on how to properly apply the discount. Also equip them to graciously handle any requests that aren’t covered in your policy.
  • Pair it with a perk center. Add your existing deals to your Paylode perk center and make extra revenue on complementary offers. 

Residential military communities can also create a resident perks portal to be able to offer discounts beyond the basic 10% offering, to a broad range of brands. Create move-in and move-out bundles with movers, utilities, furnishings and even more discounts to help the members who are moving often.

History of the military discount

The military discount has a long history in America, with roots stretching back to the colonial era. Early taverns and inns would often offer reduced rates to soldiers and veterans as a show of gratitude for their service. This practice continued through the Revolutionary War, with businesses providing discounts to Continental Army soldiers.

While not officially codified into law, the military discount became an unofficial standard among many businesses. Following World War II, the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 (known informally as the GI Bill of Rights) helped formally establish veterans' benefits, in the form of farm and business loans, education stipends, and unemployment compensation. In the first five years of the bill, by 1949 almos $4 billion in benefits were paid out to roughly 9 million veterans. 

This cemented the military discount as a cultural norm for honoring veterans. Over the next six decades, the GI Bill would undergo a few transformations, until what it is today, extending many benefits to include family members and purple heart recipients regardless of length of time served.

With Veterans Day today, it's worth a question to ask, how is your company going above and beyond for those who serve our nation and communities in vital ways?

About the author
Adrienne Kmetz
Adrienne is a marketing expert with a career history of working in startups of all sizes, from early stage to series A. She has 17+ years of experience writing about business, finance, and entrepreneurship. She went to Colorado College where she majored in skiing.
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