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On today’s episode, Ashley talks to Craig about overlooked military benefits you should be using.

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SUMMARY KEYWORDS

military, airport lounges, uso, airport, credit cards, websites, people, offer, craig, year, benefits, lounges, housing, military spouses, discount, talking, members, travel, joined, tty

SPEAKERS

Ashley Peebles, Lindsey Litton, Craig Lotito

Lindsey Litton  00:07

Welcome to the milhousing nation podcast where we bring you stories from real military spouses who have been in your shoes, from New spouses to veteran spouses. You’ll get tips, tricks and actionable steps that can help you along your military life journey. Now, here’s Ashley peoples.

Ashley Peebles 

All right, welcome, everyone to the Milhousing nation Podcast. I am Ashley Peebles, and I’m so glad that you’re here with me today, we have a wonderful guest, that I actually just had the pleasure of meeting. And honestly, I had to cut our conversation off and press record. Because you all know that I’m notorious for asking questions, but we were chatting before, and then it never making it on air. So I didn’t want that to happen. He is full of so much useful knowledge, which I know that I always joke around with you all and tell you that I’m full of lots of useless knowledge. I’m just a talking head here. But you guys are gonna love my new friend Craig. So Craig Lotito is so very nice to meet you today. Thank you so much for being with us.

Craig Lotito 

Of course, yeah, it’s an honor to be here. And I’m excited to help out some military members and their families.

Ashley Peebles 

Absolutely. Our, our audience, and our listeners are just the greatest. And what’s beautiful about our audience and our guests that we have on the podcast is, we all come from the same cloth, right? Like we all come from the same background, most of the people that are listening are going to be active duty military, or they’re going to be military spouses, some way connected to the military. So what you’re going to share with us today is going to be super useful. So everyone that’s listening, my friend Craig, has stumbled upon through real life, like real life, probably go over your talking trial and error and seek it out really some of the I mean, maybe they’re hacks, it would probably the kind of hack to me, that would feel like I was getting away with something. But the truth is, what he is going to focus on for us today are some of the lesser known, awesome things that are out there for the military community that really go unused most of the time. But before we get into that, Craig, I know you were born in New York City. But where do you live today?

Craig Lotito 

I currently live in Manassas, Virginia, and I just moved here in the middle of 2020. So the pandemic? Absolutely. You also came to the middle Housing Network, because you were actually a client of the middle Housing Network, right? That I was when I PCs from San Antonio, Texas, I use Milhousing, Housing Network to sell my house there. That’s perfect. So we have a mutual friend, Mr. Chuck gafford, who is fantastic.

Ashley Peebles 

So if you’re in the San Antonio area, and you’re looking for a fantastic realtor, Craig and myself can both tell you that if you get in touch with Chuck, he is a barrel of fun. And he’s so very, very good at his job. My husband actually worked with Chuck Chuck is prior military. He’s retired. My husband worked with Chuck and so did Craig. So we know we know him from another world. And then in this new awesome world with the bill Housing Network. So you just got up to the masses. And how, what is your connection to the military? I think that just spoiled in a little bit. But what’s your connection to the military? Oh, so I’m currently active duty Air Force. I’ve been in for a little over six and a half years, I joined right out of high school. In 2014. I legit, I graduated high school, two months later, I shipped out went to boot camp, but I’m enjoying it. So I initially had a six year contract. And obviously I’m it’s for six and a half years now. So I re enlisted for four years, and I’m planning to do the 20. So I want to do 20 I want to retire. I love that. Well, thank you so much for your service. And anytime I hear about, you know, 18 year old, ladies and gentlemen that joined the military straight out of high school, it really is something it’s a testament to the way you were raised. It’s a testament to your environment that you grew up in. I just think it’s extraordinary. But my husband was someone who joined right after 911. So I look at what you all do and the sacrifices that you make and the things that draw you into the military. And even if you decide not to make it a career, your years in the military are going to pay you dividends for the rest of your life. So I think it’s wonderful. My husband always said everyone asked him if he was going to make it a career. And he said as long as my family’s happy, as long as I’m happy. I’m here for the long haul. So I think that is the best way that you can go about it is you know, take it day by day year. By

Ashley Peebles  05:00

here and if it’s still fun for you, if you still enjoy going into work everyday, you still enjoy the difference that you’re making for our country. I think it’s, I think it’s brilliant. So because you are in the military, and you’ve been in for six and a half years, you have noticed that there are things out there that are benefits to the military community. And like you and I were speaking about a minute ago, not everyone knows about these benefits. And there are things that are out there, that can be super useful. They can save people money, they can save people time, they can save people frustration. So let’s dive into a little bit of that. So how did you how did you come about doing this?

Craig Lotito  05:44

So I originally started making YouTube videos. For everybody that doesn’t know I make YouTube videos. And I started back in like, 2012, I was making like video game videos. As soon as I joined the military, I saw that there was not a lot of content out there for people looking for, you know, to ask questions, like, I was a, you know, a high school senior. And I wanted to see what boot camp was like, I wanted to see expectations. But you know, what was mepps? Like, what was this, like, there’s not a lot of content out there. So it’s like, hey, let me fill that void. And let me give my perspective on things. That’s when I started making YouTube videos around military activities, not diving too deep, not getting in the woods, not trying to get in trouble with anything, but just trying to give my perspective on things and helping people out that are looking to join.

06:32

As I started getting further and further into the military, I started seeing that there has been people in for 1213 years that don’t know about certain benefits that are offered to us. It took me three to four years to figure out that there are these benefits out there. And it blew my mind. Yeah, absolutely. So I think the fact that you figured this out on your own, really organically means that you’re going to be able to speak to our listeners and our community today. From a user’s perspective. You know, it’s not like you developed all of these websites, or you developed all of these benefits out there. But you figured it out from a user perspective. So what do you think is what would you say is the number one thing that when you’re talking to people, what’s the number one like, least used benefit? You know, that’s out there that people just don’t know about? There’s so many, but for the number one I’d have to put on top, as military members, at least in my experience, we travel a lot, whether it’s going TTY, or it’s PCs thing, or you’re going home on leave to see your family. Right. So I think the number one least used benefit is airport lounges. Many people don’t know. And in fact, when I was stationed in Texas, I went TTY like eight times. And there was one time I’m bringing a 13 year tech sergeant into the lounge with me. And I was like, Yeah, all you got to do is show your military ID. They allow military traveling on orders, or you know, PCs, TTY orders, or even on leave orders.

08:05

They allow you access for free. Now, once you’re in this, this airport lounge is like a different world, you get free alcohol free food free Wi Fi, plus, you’re in a nice calm environment, rather than out in the normal like, you know, airport areas where there’s hundreds, if not 1000s of people screaming, yelling, you’re in this nice relaxed lounge. And this is a benefit. This is, you know, something that these military airlines are offering to you. Now, I will preface this with saying that, you know, they’re the military airline or the airline’s, their rules change all the time, right. So sometimes they may allow you in sometimes they will. So what I would say

08:45

in advance to go into the airport look up, depending on which airline you’re flying with, look up their website and see if they offer anything for military, in my experience, United Airlines, American Airlines, and delta, they all have lounges and usually they all offer military members free entry. That is brilliant. And I mean, we’ve I am a military brat. Both of my my dad and my grandfather were Army and Air Force fast. Never knew this. Never. I mean, it’s been a long time. I’m not gonna tell you how old I am. Because I like to devote all that. But it’s been a long time. And I didn’t realize that that was out there. I knew about the USO, which is something I want to talk to you about. I knew about the USO. But I will also be really real with you and tell you that as a spouse, I never taught I never touched the USO. You know if I’m not with my husband, even though there are benefits out there and family members are allowed, you know, with our active duty spouse card that we there are things that we can do. But I always feel a little guilty when I don’t have that activity has been with me. So tell me do for these airport lounges. Do

10:00

You have to be in uniform or just on worse? No. So you do not have to be in uniform. It’s a very like, under used thing. So a lot of the airport lounge employees may not even know about it themselves. But I actually dove deep into this on my YouTube channel.

10:19

With my experience going in some airport lounges, like they know the rules, they know the regulation. So like, Yeah, of course. And they actually have a certain like button on their kiosk machine for checking people in and it says military member. Some airports that are some lounges will say, yes, you have to be in uniform. But

10:37

often, we’re not supposed to travel in uniform. So if you explain that to them, like they understand, I’ve only added like maybe the 18 times I’ve been into these airport lounges, I’ve only run into one problem, where, you know, the employee was giving me an issue, but then it a secondary employee came over and helped her out and explained, no, this is allowed, like, and they’d say that you have to be on order or, you know, present your orders to them, usually that they don’t ask.

11:03

But I don’t know if you know, but whenever we’re pcsing, or on TTY or even on leave, we do have paper orders that we print out. So if they do ask for that, you can present that to them.

11:14

But all in all, it’s been a great experience. And like I said to you, I was traveling with a 13 year, tech sergeant, right. He’s been for 13 years. And that that was the first time he figured that out. He was like, I could have been using this the whole time, right? And I’m not saying like, oh, take it that you know, don’t overuse it or whatever. But it’s there for you like these lounges. These airlines are providing this for military members. And sometimes if they’re traveling with their family members, they may allow you in as well if they have room. Absolutely, we’ll be right back after this message.

Lindsey Litton 

And listeners, I’m Lindsey Litton, the co founder of mill Housing Network, and fellow military spouse. And today we’re briefly interrupting this episode to bring you this month’s marketing update courtesy of caliber home loans. And today’s update is brought to you by my friend, that trend and advocate for military families. Brian Virginia, Ryan, what’s happening in the VA business this month for Lindsay, I’m not a fortune teller. But I will tell you, for all the folks watching this that if you’re working on a refinance right now, for your property that you live in, my suggestion would be just due to market volatility, the new administration housing policies that will be coming out and the Fed. If you are happy with the rates that are being offered to you now, I will go ahead and lock in and take it just because it’s not worth the headache or the stress to flow is a term used in the lending industry that does not lock in and ride the waves in the market. I wouldn’t trust it. I would just if you’re happy, go with it, lock in, close the deal. and move on. That would be my my market update for this month. Well, thank you, Brian, I appreciate your insights on that. And if you have questions on where to start the home buying process, I encourage you to download our things I wish I would have known before buying a home planner planner literally walks you through the entire process. And we’ve got a special link for you in the show notes. And now back to the show.

Ashley Peebles 

We’re back on mill housing nation podcast. Okay, so do you have anything up? So we talked about the airport lounges, whether it’s Delta or united? Or American Airlines? What about the USS? Is it just more is it underutilized? Because people don’t know that they’re in most airports? Or what do you think? I totally agree, right? So I think it’s underutilized because a lot of people don’t know that they’re in the airport. And if they know that it’s an airport, they may not know where it’s at. Airports nowadays are humongous. And you may be in, you know, a one side of the airport and the USA is on the other side and it takes you a 30 minute walk or a 20 minute train ride to get there. Right. I feel like maybe they’re in weird areas, whereas airport lounges are spread out throughout the entire airport. They have multiple lounges. But I do love the USO. It’s similar to an airport lounge. They offer you know, everything for military families and a military member video games, food drinks, relaxation.

14:23

I actually volunteered at the USO in Pensacola, Florida for a year and a half. And I did I work there or I volunteered there like almost on a daily basis. I was going through a tech school like a military training in school Florida. So every day after class, I’d go there to hang out and, and volunteer and help out. It was actually I think, ranked the Lord one of the largest us O’s

14:48

out of all the ones they have. And it was a great time great experience. There met some great friends that I still talk to you today. I think the USO is a great

15:00

place for military members and their families. But like you said, it is underused, because there’s not as many of them. And usually when they are in that area, it’s hard or difficult to get to know that totally makes sense. But I will tell you, I, my kids were born in consecutive years in 2005 2006. So when we were pcse, or when we were going to visit my husband overseas and things like that, when I would travel with a one and a two year old two, and a three year old three and a four year old, it was just me, it would be me, these two itty bitty babies, two car seats, two strollers, a kajillion bags, like it was terrible. And we got stuck in an airport for over 24 hours, just me and these babies, and had it not been for the USO, I’m pretty sure I would have lost my mind. You know, I’ve got these two little toddlers, and I just needed somewhere that I could relax, and that I knew that they were contained in the TV that they could just look towards the TV while I handled the business. So I just wanted to underline that and kind of highlight it because there are so many military spouses that travel with their children alone, because the military member has to go ahead of them. And when things go wrong in an airport, the adult has to handle it. But you got extensions of yourself running all around the airport, the USO really saved me in that one instance, it’s the reason that I will volunteer anytime I can. Because I really felt like they saved my sanity.

16:36

Well, that’s an awesome story. Tell me about you were talking to me earlier. And this is one that I’m really excited to hear about. You were talking to me about different credit card benefits. So tell me about that. Oh, definitely. So this is a perk that I stumbled upon maybe four or five years after joining the military. One of my supervisors actually told me about it. So there is a federal act out there a federal bill that’s called the SCA act. And I told Ashley that I would provide documentation for everything you can look it up on Google, it explains everything in detail. But the base overline is it helps you with credit cards, right? So if you join the military, and you have a 24% APR, and you can enact the SCA act and get that lowered to as low as I believe like under 16%, or even lower, right, so it helps with your your credit card debt, lowering your APR. But what it also does is gets rid of yearly

17:40

annual membership payments. So for these premium, I became like a credit card junkie, or guru. So there’s like different tiers of credit cards depending on if they offer bonuses or offer route rewards. So the top tier that was offered to normal people is the American Express Platinum card, and the Chase Sapphire reserve card. Now with these cards, usually you have to pay annual fees just to have that, like with the Platinum card you have to pay. I believe right now it’s $550 a year just to have the card.

18:15

But with military members and enabling the scribe, as long as you’re an active duty military member on active orders, you can get those fees waived. Right, so now you get that fee waived you get this premium credit card what comes with it. So with the American Express Platinum card, you get 200 a year $200 a year statement credit for travel. So that can be you know, baggage fees, lounge fees, or you know buying a guest pass or whatever you have it’s 200 year for travel, you get 200 year for Uber. So Uber Eats or Uber travel, you get 200 a year statement credit for that, the list goes on and on. For that one, you get to the chase, Sapphire reserve the Chase Sapphire reserve, again, you get a $300 travel credit that can be used at gas stations, tolls, toll booths, EZ Pass, if you go and park in a parking garage, like that all goes into that $300 statement of your credit. And you also get a lift credit. And like other like little The list goes on and on what these credit cards offer because it’s like a premium tier and they’re offering these rewards. And for military, you get these rewards without even having to pay the annual fee. It’s like a little known secret. It’s there. If you go to their websites, you go to chase and you go to American Express, they have these military benefits and they say if you an act describe act, you will get these and a lot of people just don’t know about it. It took me four years to realize and as I go through, I’m not a professional financial advisor. I’m not trying to push anything on anybody but I tell my troops and my my co workers about these programs. I’m like yo these are out there for us. Take advantage of them who doesn’t want a $200 $3

20:00

Take me credit each year. That’s, that’s a free plane ticket, you know, and that’s $30 back on gas. It’s, it’s amazing. It’s, it’s crazy, I love it. On top of that, what some of the credit cards, you might be able to add your spouse on for free, you have to go into their terms of service and see, make sure but you might be able to give your spouse that core two, and now you just doubled the bonus. That’s it’s insane. That’s phenomenal. And I knew when you mentioned it earlier, that’s the reason I didn’t want to talk to you about it till we press record, because I knew that I didn’t know about this.

20:33

You just don’t know what you don’t know. That’s the reason I’m so thankful for people like you that figure it out for me so that I can just live off of your goodness that you figured out or I can benefit from all of your research. So let’s see, there was military discount websites, which is different from the different from airlines different for credit cards. So tell me about those. You mentioned two in particular, there was Gov IX, and Id me so what about those? Yeah, so these are websites that were built to partner with hundreds, if not 1000s of brands. So you’re talking, I have a northface hoodie on right now northface, Yeti, you name it, like any big brands, these websites have partnered with and brought the discounts on to these websites. But in order to get access to them, you have to prove your military status. This is legitimate, look them up for yourself. I’m not pushing any websites on you, I’m not telling you go do this, put your information in here, look it up yourself, do your research. But Gov x, you make an account, you prove your military status, all they ask for is like your your date of birth your name. And they’re able to like look into the military records and see that prove that that you want to have access to these websites go back up to 50 60% discounts on North Face jackets and stuff like that id.me some of the discounts that I currently use. If you’re talking Verizon internet bills, they give you a 25% discount for military members, phone services. So you’re talking about saving 50 to $60 a month using this website iv.me. And so the combination of the two of them, you’re getting access to like 1000s of brands, everything discounted. So this is great for holiday season and stuff like that, I actually made a YouTube video on my channel, diving deep how to enter each website. And I went into how to make an account, the kind of offers that you can see on there offers that I use myself. And then there’s referral offers too. So if you make an account, and you know all your colleagues might want access to that you can refer them and each one of you each gets $15 every time somebody signs up, so it’s just more free money. It’s insane. I love using these websites. I personally use them for this past Christmas or holiday season. And I got the bang for my buck. It was insane. I got all these top brands for like 50% off. Yeah, you’re like the coolest family member?

23:10

Yes to everybody asked me to buy the gifts for them to get the discount. They’re like, hey, I want to get this for dad. But can you order it so it’s at a discount price? Exactly. You know, we used ID me when we work so I probably ran into you in the Pensacola uso because our previous duty station before this was Fort Walton Beach. So we were at hurlburt. And when we were down there we use the Addy me to get concert tickets. So that was something that I did not know about it me. I had no clue what it was. But I remember there was an email that circulated around it was like, hey, go here, do this, because they’re giving away X amount of free concert tickets in wherever. So we’ve paid attention to it since then, because you can get discounted tickets, you get free tickets. And there’s no it’s a an astronomical amount of money for anything that you legitimately get a discount. I would tell all the viewers all the listeners right now go and check it out. It’s a free service. go sign up, see what they have to offer. I mean, right now I’m planning a Disney trip. And there’s Disney offers on there. Right? You’re talking 35 40% off Disney tickets. Disney hotel stays just go there. Check it out. Trust me. You won’t regret it. Like every single telecom service and phone service that is out there spectrum, Verizon, at&t, T Mobile all on there. Check them out. Like you won’t regret it. I just think this is brilliant. I’m so thankful that we’ve been able to have you on today, Craig. So when we’re talking to our children, and we’ve been raising them too, we tell them that if you find a need and fill it, you will never want for work. And I think that that’s never been more perfectly demonstrated than with you like you found a need a

25:00

Your affiliate for people like you could do this all the time. If you want to, I don’t want you to leave the military. I really like you taking care of us and protecting our country. But you can already see that you have this beautiful entrepreneurial spirit about you and that finding the need and filling it is one more way that you’re able to serve the community and serve our country. So we’re so thankful that you were here today. So if you don’t mind before you go, how, what is how can people find you on YouTube? How can people make sure that they connect with your videos? Oh, yeah, definitely. So on YouTube, if you type in my name in the search bar, Craig Lotito. So that’s CR AIG and Lotito is l. o. Ci, to if you search on the search bar, my channel will come up. And there’s videos on there that range from everywhere you have military benefits, you have military, you know, background, like maps, Bootcamp, videos, and all that. So if you know somebody that’s looking to join, maybe refer them here. And then there’s a bunch of video game videos on there, too, because I started making videos back in 2012. But yeah, so that’s my YouTube channel. You can comment on my videos, I respond back to almost all the comments.

26:17

And then if you I don’t think there’s an option to privately message on there, but I do have a Facebook page as well. Same thing, if you type in Craig Lotito, it’s a public Facebook page, you can go there and like it. And then you can actually private message me there. If you have questions. And I try to post on there. Every time I post a new YouTube video, I’ll post them on there as well to try to get everybody to know that it’s posted. That’s perfect. Well, Craig, thank you so much for taking time today to really bless our community because that is what you’ve done today. I learned an awful lot I know that other people have to. And as you stumble upon these different things, and you figure it out, please let us know Housing Network. No, we would love to have you back anytime. Like you tell us more about the things that we don’t know anything about. And then if you’re listening, make sure that you subscribe to this podcast. But also make sure that you head over to YouTube, and you subscribe to create channel on YouTube. That way as he finds more things, he figures it out for all of us. He can figure it out for us and then we can just benefit from all of his hard work. But Craig, thank you so much today. I really, really appreciate you being here with us. Thank you for having me. Thank you for listening to the Milhousing nation podcast. To connect with no Housing Network, visit us online at milhousingnetwork.com

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