About Military Commissary & Exchanges | Military OneSource (2024)

Benefit overview

Love paying sales tax and full price? Right. Who does? Fortunately, you’ve got a sweet inside deal — the military commissary and exchange systems, with tax-free shopping and discount goods and services.

What’s an exchange?

It’s basically a retail store, typically set up like a department store or a strip mall, with smaller shops and service vendors nearby. Many installations have an exchange, some with uniform shops, barbershops, laundry and dry cleaning, gas stations and convenience stores, fast food outlets and lawn and garden shops.

Every service branch has its own exchange system (i.e., company), similar to what you see in the commercial world (i.e., Walmart, Target, Macy’s). The main exchange store will either be referred to as a PX (post exchange) or a BX (base exchange).

Service branch info and locations

  • AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service): Shop My Exchangeand AAFES store locator
  • MCX (Marine Corps Exchange): My MCXand MCX store locator
  • NEX (Navy Exchange Service Command): My Navy Exchangeand NEX store locator
  • CGX (Coast Guard Exchange): CGXand CGX store locator
Why shop the exchange? Let’s count the reasons.
  1. You save cash. Shop tax-free. Get name-brand stuff for less than department store prices. Keep more of your hard-earned paycheck.
  2. Support your community. A large portion of the profit from your exchange goes right back into the installation. The exchange system also employs a lot of military family members.
  3. Shop safely online. You can shop 24/7 through secure websites. Get free shipping on purchases of more than $49 when you use your Military STAR® credit card.
  4. Pay and return easily. Your exchange accepts all major credit cards, your Military STAR® card or personal checks (with identification). And most exchanges have generous, no-headache return policies.
  5. Get all your uniform needs.You will find everything from standard uniform needs to the perfect shade of shoe polish, as well as gear and wear that shows off your pride.
  6. Get special deals overseas. Discounts can make deployments easier. For example, you’ll save on calling cards. And if you’re stationed overseas for at least 30 days, you may be able to buy a car tax-free and ship it back to the U.S. for free.
  7. Find everything you need in one place. You can find electronics, tactical gear, clothes, small and large appliances, bath and personal care items, cellphones and computers, fitness equipment and food gifts at your exchange. You name it, and you can probably find it.
Who can shop at an exchange?

You can shop at the exchange if you’re in one of these groups:

  • Active, reserve or retired uniformed services members
  • Medal of Honor recipients
  • Wage marine personnel and retired wage marine personnel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Defense Department and Coast Guard civilian employees on service agreements overseas
  • Certain full-time employees of non-federal entities hired in the United States and assigned to work on a U.S. military installation overseas
  • Certain military members of foreign nations
  • Federal government civilian employees who reside on military installations in the United States or the U.S. territories and possessions
  • Authorized family members
  • Delayed-entry program participants
  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities
  • Purple Heart recipients
  • Former prisoners of war
  • Primary family caregivers of veterans enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
  • DOD and Coast Guard appropriated and nonappropriated fund civilian employees in the United States and U.S. territories and possessions (excludes the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products).
  • U.S. citizen employees of firms under contract to the DOD employed overseas
  • All honorably discharged veterans (at online exchanges only and excludes the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products) as of Nov. 11, 2017.
  • Retired DOD and Coast Guard appropriated and nonappropriated fund civilian employees (at online exchanges only and excludes the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products)
So what is a commissary?

Commissaries are basically your neighborhood grocery store, located on military installations worldwide.

  • The commissary sells food and household items at prices that are often below other grocery stores. On average, you can cut nearly a third off your grocery bill compared to in-town prices.
  • Save up to 50% or more during commissary special case lot sales.
  • Added bonus: Stateside commissaries are rolling out in-store Wi-Fi so you can download digital coupons for even greater savings.
Who can shop at a commissary?

Commissaries are exclusively for the benefit of service members and their families.Check here for details. Basically, you can shop at a commissary if you’re in one of these groups:

  • Active, reserve or retired uniformed services members
  • Medal of Honor recipients
  • Wage marine personnel and retired wage marine personnel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • DOD and Coast Guard civilian employees on service agreements overseas
  • Full-time employees of non-federal entities hired in the United States and assigned to work on a U.S. military installation overseas
  • Certain military members of foreign nations
  • Authorized family members
  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities
  • Purple Heart recipients
  • Former prisoners of war
  • Primary family caregivers of veterans enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
  • Defense Commissary Agency employees

The DeCA operates 240 commissaries, including those overseas. Check out its website,Shop.commissaries.com. This site offers rewards cards, coupons, online ordering, curbside pickup, savings, sales events in communities for Guard/reserve members and more.

What’s the Status of Forces Agreement and what does it have to do with military stores?

Bilateral agreements — which address the status protections of DOD personnel — often termed Status of Forces Agreements, determine the framework under which DOD personnel, DOD contractors and dependents may operate in a foreign country. It does not apply to U.S. citizens who happen to live in that country by personal choice. These agreements often address issues pertaining to taxes, fees and customs regulations, and may include limits on who is allowed to shop at commissaries and exchanges and the types or purchasable quantities of certain products.

  • Sales might be restricted because products sold in overseas commissaries and exchanges pass across international borders, making them custom-, duty- and tax-free (limiting them).
  • Depending on location, certain rationed items may be limited or not purchasable (e.g., alcohol and tobacco in some countries).
  • Finally, there are limits on items that could be resold on illegal markets outside the installation.
About Military Commissary & Exchanges | Military OneSource (2024)

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