Even if you’re new to military life or are just a casual shopper around your base or post, you’ve probably noticed there are big differences between shopping at an Exchange (more like a department store) and shopping at the Commissary (the grocery store). You can read about Commissary shopping here, but below is information that will help you make the most of shopping at an Exchange, also known as an AAFES or BX/PX.
As pointed out in the Commissary post, DeCA runs as a non-profit and is part of your military benefits. In contrast, AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Services) is for profit, and they pump their earnings back into the military community. AFFES also runs things like the movie theaters, Shopette and gas station and works with the fast food restaurants and other businesses that might be on your base.
Coupon Policy: Will Accept and Stack Military & Manufacturer Coupons
- The Exchange provides a great summary of their coupon policy.
- In short, they will stack Military Manufacturer or coupons issued by AAFES with manufacturer coupons, which at first glance seems like a better deal than the commissary. But remember, the AAFES has a mark-up, unlike DeCA. So items you can get at the commissary, like shampoo or chips, could be more expensive at the Exchange. You’d have to do the math to see if the ability to stack coupons make it a better deal at the Exchange. For example, if a bottle of shampoo is $4.00 at the Exchange and you have a $1.00 off manufacturer coupon and a $0.50 cents off AAFES coupon, you could buy it for $2.50. However, if it’s only $2.00 at the commissary, you’ll get a better price using the $1.00 coupon there.
- You can’t use “commissary” coupons at the Exchange, only the “Military Only” or “Military Manufacturers.”
- The Exchange has a price matching policy where they will match any “local competitor on an identical item.”
- The Exchange will NOT price match the commissary.
- If the price challenge is less than $10.00, they’ll take your word for it and give you the competitor’s price.
- If it’s more than $10.00, bring in the ad that shows the price of the item, or the sales associate can call the store and verify the sale.
- The Exchange accepts local competitor coupons as part of this Price Match policy. And guess what? You can stack your manufacturer or military coupons on top of the Price Match!
Where can I find AAFES coupons?
- The first place to look for AAFES coupons is in the stores. AAFES frequently puts out store coupon books and ads, including coupons for other shops and restaurants that may be in your Exchange. If you can’t find them, ask around.
- The Exchange also offers coupons and deals on their Facebook page.
- Check the Commissary for coupons that say “Military” or “Military Manufacturer” and take them over to the Exchange to see if you can get a better deal there.
- And of course, always keep your eyes open for tear-pads and stickies. Sometime they have special ones just for the Exchange – which means you can stack it with your manufacturer coupon!
If I’m writing about savings at the Exchange, I have to put a plug in here for the clearance racks. At first glance the Exchange clothing department doesn’t look like anything amazing, but if you wait for the clearance racks – and then wait for the extra mark-down days – you could get up to an extra 75% off. I’ve bought clothing items for as low as a $1.00. I’ve been trying to figure out the rhyme and reason behind when the extra 75% off days occur. I don’t have it down to a science yet, but it seems like it always tends to be on weekends. On my base, we’ve worked out a network of friends to spread the word when the best BX sales pop up. It’s kind of fun to get a phone call saying “The Baby clearance is AMAZING! Get down here!”
You can use your coupons on sale or clearance items, too.
Navy, Marines or Overseas?
I only have experience shopping AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Services) but if you’re in another branch, here’s the Navy Exchange policies. While I wasn’t able to find the overall Marine Corp Exchange coupon policies online (it appears you might need to look at your MCX’s store site), I did find a page on MCX savings programs.
This is just a summary of the Exchange policies. For best shopping results, read the policies, print them up, learn them inside and out, and add them to your binder.
This has been a guest post by Rachel from Ellsworth AFB, SD
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