Military families have come to rely on the products offered through their installation's commissary and exchange, but they may not be as familiar with some of the services these stores provide. These "extras" benefit the military shopper and in many cases, contribute directly to the well-being and morale of military personnel. Military families choose where to spend their hard-earned dollars. However, there are benefits beyond cost savings when they choose to shop at the commissary or exchange on their military installation.
Your military commissary
Defense Commissary Agency offers a wide variety of opportunities to support the military patron.
- Scholarships for military children - The Defense Commissary Agency and Fisher House Foundation provide at least one $2,000 scholarship per commissary location where qualified applications are received. In the first 13 years of this program, more than $11 million in scholarships has been awarded.
- Gift cards - These are a great way to provide necessities for a military family or a service member overseas. Anyone can purchase gift cards online or eligible patrons may purchase the cards in the store to avoid the shipping and handling charge.
You can easily find information to help you save time and money:
- Sales promotions -Learn about sales items and exclusive brand-name savings.
- Shopping trip planner -Use the online tool to create a shopping list with specific products and amounts. Get coupons specifically for military shoppers. Learn about the Commissary Rewards Card, which enables you to download and redeem coupons electronically.
- Location-Locate the closest store to you and view store information including store hours of operation (including holiday hours), directions, phone numbers, contact information, floor plan, savings and available services.
- Recipes - Kay's Kitchen offers a variety of healthy recipes and cooking tips.
- Prizes - Participate in contests, sweepstakes or shopping sprees.
By shopping at a military commissary, patrons not only save money, since products are sold at cost plus a five percent surcharge, but the surcharge is used to fund the building or renovation of commissary stores. So by shopping at the commissary, patrons ensure that military families will continue to have affordable, high quality stores. This is especially valuable to military service members who are stationed in areas where there is a high cost of living.
Your military exchange
Unlike the commissary system, which serves all military branches, each service branch has its own military exchange system. However, all military personnel are welcome at each exchange. Check individual branch websites for their unique programs and opportunities.
- Calling cards and gift cards - Anyone can show support for military personnel by purchasing prepaid gift and calling cards. (Note: gift cards are not valid for use at Coast Guard Exchanges, the Exchange Online Store or the All Services Exchange Catalog.) The cards may be donated to unknown military recipients by simply selecting one of the four military support organizations listed in the checkout process.
- Family programs - The Army and Air Force Exchange System offers a variety of contests with prizes for military families, such as patriotic pet photos, recipes, treasure hunts and coloring contests. The Marine Corps Exchange offers a Superstar Student Program and Navy Exchange offers an A-OK Student Reward Program that reward good grades with a chance to win monetary awards of $2,500, $1,500, $1,000 or $500 for a total of $5,500 per quarter.
- Family employment opportunities - The exchange offers employment to many military family members. Additionally, through the Spouse Preference Program, employees who PCS with their military spouse are offered employment preference in the selection process at the new duty station.
- Quality-of-life programs - When you shop at the commissary or exchange, you are supporting the military community. About 70 percent of the exchange system earnings fund military morale, recreation and services programs.
- "We go where you go" - Exchange employees also serve as retail workers overseas when military personnel deploy. Both AAFES Tactical Exchange Support, supported by AAFES employees and MCX Tactical Field Exchanges, supported by active-duty Marines, provide products for the war-fighter overseas.
- Savings - Customers save over 20 percent when they shop their military exchange, not including sales tax.
More than a hundred years ago, out of concern for the poor quality and high prices of the goods sold to military personnel, the government mandated a system to procure goods to support the troops. Today the commissary and exchange system continues to be an important benefit for active-duty and veterans alike.