COMMISSARIES & EXCHANGES
Love paying sales tax and full price? Right. Who does? Fortunately, you've got a sweet inside deal – the military exchange system, with tax-free shopping and discount goods and services. Every service branch has its own exchange system – either a post exchange or PX, or a base exchange or BX – and they"re all operated separately. But if you're eligible to shop at one, you can shop at any of them:
WHY SHOP THE EXCHANGE? LET'S JUST 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
2.Support your community. A large part 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 over $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 an ID). And most exchanges have generous, no-headache return policies.
5.Get all your uniform needs. Everything from standard uniform needs to the perfect shade of shoe polish. Plus, gear and wear that shows your pride.
6.Get special deals overseas. Discounts can make deploy f 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. at no c
7.Everything. Electronics. Tactical gear. Clothes for everybody. Small to major appliances. Bath and personal care. Cellphones and computers. Fitness equipment and food gifts. You name it.
WHATS 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.
WHO CAN SHOP AT AN EXCHANGE?
You can shop at the exchange if you are one of these groups:
• Uniformed-service members (active, reserve or retired) •
• All honorably discharged veterans (at online exchanges) as of November 11, 2017
• Medal of Honor recipients
• Department of Defense civilian employees stationed outside the States
• Authorized family members
• National Guard members not in federal status
• Military members of foreign nations
SO WHAT'S THE COMMISSARY?
Commissaries are basically your neighborhood grocery store, located on military installations worldwide. • The commissary sells food and household items almost at cost (plus 5 percent). That means, on average, you can cut nearly a third off your grocery bill, compared to in-town shopping.
• Sometimes you'll save more, with savings of 50 percent 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 THE COMMISSARY?
Commissaries are exclusively for the benefit of service members and their families. Check commissaries.com/customer- service/faqs-listing?field_faq_categories_target_id%5B0%5D=37 for details. Basically, you're in if you are:
• A uniformed-service member (active, reserve, retired or in training).
• A Medal of Honor recipient.
• An honorably discharged veteran with
• A Department of Defense civilian employee stationed outside the United States.
• An authorized family member and survivors.
You don't have to be in uniform to shop, although sometimes it might get you head-of-line privileges.
The Defense Commissary Agency operates 240 commissaries, including those overseas. Check out their website, Commissaries.com. The site offers rewards cards, coupons, online ordering, curbside pickup, savings, sales events in communities for Guard/reserve members, and a lot more.
WHAT'S THE STATUS-OF-FORCES AGREEMENT AND WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH MILITARY STORES?
With this agreement, your legal status as U.S. military personnel is protected in your host nation. Your privilege to shop in military stores is almost always covered, but sometimes, as they say, "restric tions may apply" for you or your spouse. Here's why:
• 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 where you're traveling, some agreements don't allow you to buy rationed items.
• Similarly, some agreements also impose a monthly spending cap, depending on your situation and family size.
• Finally (not surprisingly), there are limits on items that could be resold on illegal markets outside the installation. Your military command usually publishes the military exchange and commissary regulations for your area. Or you can check with your installation pass and identification office.
AVOID TRAVEL STRESS & SAVE MONEY WITH A STAYCATION
Planning a "staycation" provides the opportunity to discover your local area and do the fun things you like to do while avoiding the time, hassle and expense of travel. A staycation has several benefits, including sleeping in your own bed, bypassing suitcase packing and discovering or rediscovering your local community. You also can spend your money simply on fun. Morale, Welfare and Recreation can help you find the best local activities for you and your family.
Staycations can be whatever you want them to be, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation can help you plan a great one. Here are a few ideas to get started: Have a field day. Set up games in your backyard, invite friends over and make a day of it. If you don't have the gear, check your Morale, Welfare and Recreation rental office for tailgate games, bounce houses and more.
Enjoy a picnic. Your local Morale, Welfare and Recreation department manages the park and picnic areas on your installation. Pack a picnic lunch, or grill-out while enjoying a beautiful day.
Try something new. Visit a rock-climbing wall, take a golf lesson or enroll in a scuba class. Your Morale, Welfare and Recreation program offers lots of new activities you can try.
Discover a local attraction. Information, Tickets and Travel at your installation has the scoop on all of the museums, amusement parks, entertainment spots and sporting events happening in your own backyard. And they sell discount admission tickets too. A staycation is the perfect time to see what you've been missing.
PLANNING YOUR STAYCATION
Just like a vacation, a staycation requires a bit of planning — otherwise it's just a few days off. Follow these tips to maximize your staycation.
Make a budget. Take advantage of local coupons and military discounts to make your money go further. Check with your installation's Information, Tickets and Travel office for discounted tickets to local attractions.
Research local attractions. Amusements parks, aquariums or water parks may come to mind immediately, but don't forget museums, state parks and community centers.
Take advantage of facilities on your installation. Many installations have bowling alleys, beaches with picnic areas or other recreational facilities. You may find out about a riding stable, or a marina that rents boats and ski equipment. Some installations rent out large grills, plus camping and other recreational equipment. Make it feel like a vacation. Take time away from work, email and your normal routine. Budget for a few meals out, or a cleaning service, to avoid stressing over every meal and mess.•