MCCS - News and Events

Save by combining trips to the commissary and exchange

Bonnie Powell
Release Date: 4/21/2006

FORT LEE, Va. - According to a recent survey released by the Urban Land Institute, more than 80 percent of American drivers say they now combine trips to save gas. Although military shoppers stateside are not totally unique, they do have different shopping patterns from the average American. 

Military shoppers overseas are more used to combining trips or shopping on the installation for familiar products and services, but in the United States, active duty military living off the installation, retirees, or Guard and Reserve families often drive as much as 30 miles or more to take advantage of the tremendous savings offered at their commissaries and exchanges. 

"Higher gas prices may be convincing military shoppers to make fewer trips, but they seem to be buying more when they do make the trip, said Patrick Nixon, chief executive officer and acting director of the Defense Commissary Agency. 

A commissary shopper survey conducted by a major manufacturer in 2004 indicated that while 56 percent of shoppers combined commissary and exchange shopping, nearly 40 percent indicated they made separate trips. 

"Understanding that we share the same group of authorized customers, exchange planners have been focused on working cooperatively with DeCA and installation commands to co-locate the commissary and the exchange whenever possible," said Army and Air Force Exchange Service Commander Maj. Gen. Bill Essex. "By working together we hope to encourage military families to strengthen both benefits by combining them into one visit."  

"Most people know ahead of time what they need to buy and with a little planning they can make a day of it," said Nixon. "By combining trips they can go to the exchange, the bank or credit union, and dry cleaners - and make the commissary the last stop so they can head right home with their groceries." 

A few other tips to increase the savings at your commissary and exchange: 

  • Clip coupons. In 2005 commissary customers used 138 million coupons for a total savings of almost $98 million. 
  • Be selective. In addition to great savings on clothing, electronics and more, the "Exchange Select" program offers more than 450 quality products at prices far below equivalent national brands. 
  • Bring a cooler and stock up on a variety of top quality meats at the commissary. The prices are well below comparable meats found outside the gate. 
  • Log on. The Exchange Catalog and Exchange Online store at offer troops and their families more than 25,000 items via the online site, thousands of items from virtual vendor partners and hundreds of thousands of items from partners. 
  • Virtual Commissary at is also tapping into customer interest for online purchases. The service began last fall with an assortment of gift baskets and will continue to grow along with industry and customer interest. 
  • Guard and Reserve families can get together and take a van trip to their nearest installation. It is a great way to meet new friends and decrease your gas expense. 
  • Find out what's on sale ahead of time at your exchange by logging onto the AAFES Web site at or the NEXCOM Web site at Shopping information for Marine exchanges is located at
  • Check out what"s on sale at the commissary at the "savings aisle" under the shopping link at DeCA is not allowed to advertise prices outside the store, but you can print out a list of items on sale in your commissary. The sale prices will be below regular price. Commercial vendors can advertise commissary sale prices and those commercial circulars are accessible online through the links page at 


About the Defense Commissary Agency 

The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. Shoppers save an average of 30 percent or more on their purchases compared to commercial prices - savings worth about $2,700 annually for a family of four. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America's military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country. 

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