Shopping at the Commissary and Exchange


Service member making a purchase at the exchange

Take a look around your military installation. You might notice how much it resembles a small, self-sufficient town, including its own grocery store and department store complex. Just like most things in the military, these stores have unique names: the commissary and the exchange.

The commissary

Commissaries are grocery stores located on military installations worldwide. They're basically your neighborhood grocery, a place where you could run into your boss stocking up on his favorite snacks. The commissary sells food and household items at cost plus a 5 percent surcharge, so on average, shoppers can save more than 30 percent compared to shopping in town. You can also find savings of 50 percent or more during the commissary customer appreciation case lot sales. As an added bonus, stateside commissaries are rolling out in-store Wi-Fi to enhance your shopping experience and enable you to download digital coupons for even greater savings.

You can shop at the commissary if you're in one of these groups:

  • Uniformed-service members (active, reserve or retired, including Coast Guard, and service academy cadets and midshipmen)
  • Medal of Honor recipients
  • Honorably-discharged veterans with 100 percent service-connected disability
  • Department of Defense civilian employees stationed outside the United States
  • Authorized family members

You don't have to be in uniform to shop, although sometimes it might get you head-of-line privileges at checkout.
The Defense Commissary Agency operates 240 commissaries, including overseas, so you will never be without your favorite comfort foods. Check out the DeCA website Quick Links for locations, store hours, contact information, floor plans and special savings.

The exchange

Learn

more about commissary eligibility.

The exchange is a retail store, typically set up like a department store or strip mall with smaller shops and service vendors nearby. You'll find an exchange on many installations. Some include uniform shops, barbershops, laundry and dry cleaning, gas stations and convenience stores, fast food outlets, and lawn and garden shops.

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

  • Uniformed-service members (active, reserve or retired)
  • Medal of Honor recipients
  • Honorably-discharged veterans with 100 percent service-connected disability
  • Department of Defense civilian employees stationed outside the United States
  • Authorized family members
  • National Guard members not in federal status
  • Military members of foreign nations

Each service has a different name for its exchange. Start shopping your service's exchange website (yes, you can shop online), or use the store locators listed below.


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