AAFES and Military Exchanges to Allow Veterans to Shop Online – Registration Now Open

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Update: Veterans can now verify their online shopping eligibility at VetVerify.org. The Exchanges are also accepting some veterans as beta testers before opening the doors to all veterans. See updates below for more information. Would you like to be able to shop on the online military exchanges and enjoy tax free shopping, military discount pricing, and…

Update: Veterans can now verify their online shopping eligibility at VetVerify.org. The Exchanges are also accepting some veterans as beta testers before opening the doors to all veterans. See updates below for more information.

Would you like to be able to shop on the online military exchanges and enjoy tax free shopping, military discount pricing, and other benefits? Then read on. Your wish is about to come true!

Like all retailers, the Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) and the Navy Exchange (NEX) are looking for ways to improve their business model. But unlike many other retailers, better business for AAFES and NEX means better quality of life for military members, as some of the profits are distributed back to the military community—to the tune of around $300 million annually.

Due to the changing environment and force reductions, the Defense Department’s Executive Resale Board voted to allow online access to honorably-discharged military veterans. The Exchanges opened their virtual doors on Veterans Day 2017. Officials estimate the new customer base could return upwards of an additional $100 million to the military communities.

Currently, only active duty service members, members of the Guard and Reserves, military retirees, 100-percent disabled veterans, Medal of Honor recipients, and the families of these groups are eligible to shop at AAFES locations, either online or on-base.

Note that this new benefit only includes allowing veterans to shop online, not at the physical stores located on bases. There is no current proposal to allow veterans to shop at on-base locations.

AAFES online Exchange access for veterans

Impact of Allowing Veterans to Shop at AAFES Online Stores

AAFES officials estimate there are approximately 13 million veterans with an Honorable Discharge who would be allowed to shop at AAFES online stores under this new rule. Allowing these veterans to shop at AAFES online stores would give these veterans access to savings on a variety of products and could provide an additional $100 million for base Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs and other quality of life programs. Increased sales could also allow AAFES to negotiate discounts on larger, bulk orders of goods.

This new benefit could an important part of supporting the military community. AAFES distributes dividends to the MWR programs and other military activities. Over the last few years, AAFES sales have decreased substantially as military members and their families shop at other locations, and as the size of the military continues to decrease. The continued drawdown will have a dramatic impact on AAFES sales and how much money they can give back to the military community.

AAFES officials estimate their sales could drop to one-third of their current levels within the next few years. Extending the privilege of online shopping to qualified veterans would be a good way to thank veterans for their service, increase sales for AAFES, and increase distributions to base programs.

Exchange Online Shopping for Veterans FAQ’s

Who will have access to the online shopping portal?

Online shopping access will be available to all honorably discharged veterans of the United States Armed Forces (honorable or general under honorable conditions).

This includes veterans of the United States Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard as well as the Air Force Reserve, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, and National Guard.

The VetVerify.org website provides this resource for additional information on discharge types.

How do I get started?

Veterans can now verify online shopping eligibility at VetVerify.org. This website has been set up to verify veterans eligibility by matching the veteran’s service records with the DoD’s Defense Manpower Data Center’s records. More on this below.

The Exchanges are also giving some eligible veterans early access to the online Exchange shopping privileges so they can act as beta testers.

How will AAFES check IDs or proof of service?

The Exchange services developed a verification process with the VA and the DoD personnel centers to verify military service and eligibility by matching the veteran’s service records with the DoD’s Defense Manpower Data Center’s records.

Veterans will be required to provide personal information in order to match their records with the Defense Manpower database. This information includes their last four digits of their social security number, date of birth, and last name.

Most records have been digitized, so the verification process should be quick and easy. However, there may be delays if the veteran’s records have not yet been transferred to a digital format. In the event a veteran’s records are not matched right away, the veteran may need to supply discharge paperwork, such as a DD Form 214, DD Form 256, or other military records. Here is more info about replacing a lost DD Form 214.

The VA is also currently developing a Veterans ID Card. It’s possible there will be a unique Veteran Identification Number on these cards, once issued (pure speculation on my part, but current service members have a unique DoD Identification Number on their CAC Cards).

When should I apply for online shopping privileges?

It’s recommended to start the verification process now, as not all veterans will be automatically verified. It could take some additional time to verify some veterans. And some veterans may be required to submit additional documents or other information.

And the best part—you may get early access. The Exchanges need shoppers to help them test the platform. Thousands of veterans have already been granted access to the online shopping platform.

How will the Exchange profits be shared to local MWR units?

AAFES Online ShoppingBase Exchanges share a portion of their profits with the local MWR units. That keeps the money “in the family” so to speak (local purchases support local MWR units). As of right now, the proposal is to allocate spending and profits based on the zip code of where the veteran who made the purchase lives. That is the easiest and most effective way to keep profits in the area where the purchases are made.

Will on-base Exchange access be offered to all veterans?

No. That was not included in the proposal, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon, if ever. There are approximately 19 million military veterans in the US. It would be impossible to open the doors to that many military veterans. Military bases function to serve one need: support military operations.

The support structures simply aren’t in place to support that many more people coming onto military installations. Just think of the lines at the gates, increased need for security guards, checking ID’s, parking problems, infrastructure problems, the hassle of preventing unauthorized access from restricted areas, etc. It would be a nightmare! Good question though.

Will Commissary privileges be open to all veterans?

No, unfortunately not. The Commissary is run by a different organization and only offers brick and mortar stores. They do not offer online shopping. There would be no effective method for providing Commissary access to all veterans at this time (see above).

Why do you continue to write “Base” Exchange when there are also the Post Exchanges, Marine Corps Exchanges, and the Navy Exchange Service Command? Who is asking these questions anyway?

Another great question from the peanut gallery. I’m using the term “Exchange” interchangeably for all services. The Marine Corps Exchange actually funnels all online shoppers through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (see, it even says so here!). But this benefit will allow veterans to shop online at the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy Exchange websites at shopmyexchange.comshopcgx.commymcx.com, and mynavyexchange.com for tax-free shopping.

But to answer your questions, I primarily reference AAFES because it is the largest of the Exchanges, and being an Air Force veteran and current member of the Air National Guard, it makes it easier to reference that with which I am most familiar. Thus “AAFES” and the use of the term “Base.” But you can print this article out and redline the word Base and replace it with Post, Station, NAS, FOB, or anything that floats your boat (drives your tank? flies your plane? OK, I’m going now…).

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Desiree Whitney Esposito

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Leslie Labs says

    I get verified as eligible to create an Exchange Account, but after I enter the information on the Create an Account page it just goes into a du loop (Press next and same page continues to come up with the information I entered still there). Do I have to call to establish an account?

  2. Bob Foss says

    Online shopping is certainly a benefit for honorably-discharged veterans, and does provide additional funding for the military community. I did hear, though, that the Exchange and Commissary system are going to open the doors (literally) to 3 million veterans….anyone who has even the slightest disability…and their caregivers. The security nightmare on base could be daunting as a VA Health Card will supposedly be the only access document needed. These facilities are already crowded. Now, is may not be worth shopping there.

  3. anne says

    We need to stop wasting tax payer dollars on this “privilege”. Many items are double the price you can find elsewhere and their price match guarantee is a joke. The military star card should be outlawed. They don’t have to follow Fair Debt Collection practices. Time to get in touch with our congressmen.

  4. Jerome says

    No shipping to Hawaii, so this is useless to Veterans living here unless you are military retired or 100% VA disabled. One of the largest Exchanges in the country here and can’t buy anything. I get this on anything I try to order:

    This address not available due to shipping restrictions on some items within your order.

  5. Daniel Remy says

    How about veterans living overseas, will they have a similar access to
    a web service for ordering from foreign Based PX/BX all over the globe??

    I am 100% disabled veteran and the VFW article said that 100% Disabled
    are entitled to Shop At the Exchanges in person. Can you verify? Also
    no cards are issued of Disability Status, so HOW does one obtain entry?

    Thank You, Dan

  6. Farnk Booth says

    I served in the regular Air Force about 40 years ago, and learned about the new veteran access to AAFES yesterday. I signed up today online. I was approved almost instantaneously. Haven’t tried to ship anything yet.

  7. Jay Williams says

    I also could not be verified online, so called the number (844-868-8672) and spoke with a nice lady who walked me through the process of sending a copy of my DD214 via email, along with other necessary information. It appears that many who were discharged in the 60s and 70s still do not have digitized records, and that is why so many couldn’t be found. 24 hours later I was approved. It’s always more productive to look for solutions than problems, and this was a great example. I recommend the same route if you are still having problems.

  8. Susan Smith says

    I was verified and told I could start shopping, ordering, and buying immediately. Very nice! Thank you, Ryan. I would not have known of this without you.

  9. Derek says

    Sounds like a very good benefit for active duty military or veterans. It is a shame there are so many issues with registration/verification.

  10. Theresa Benjamin says

    Hello, I’ve been unable to get a reply back from vetverify on my access. The website does not recognize me as a veteran and I have not been able to get any follow up on my emails on how to get this benefit. Anyone know how I can get a response to my request that has so far been ignored? Thank You, Theresa

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Theresa, Thank you for contacting me. Try contacting their customer support via 1-844-868-8672 (toll-free) or chat online with a customer service representative. They may have a way to verify your service through those means, or perhaps offer other suggestions. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  11. bill scott says

    No I have a retired civil service ID card this is only been provided for the last 3 years. Problem is there is no place on VETVERIFY.ORG to report problems or supply qualifying info like DD214 so they can update their data base.

  12. bill scott says

    Trying to register is a joke.
    I served active army, am a disabled vet, have 28 years combined active duty, use the va health care system and had a secret security clearance 20 years. Can access military bases with my retired ID card.
    Get a registration error or site is down for maintenance. contacted VA 1 week ago and have not received a reply yet.
    I am not the only one that has been rejected.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Bill, Thank you for your response. If you already have a retired military ID card then you don’t need to register as a veteran. The AAFES system can already authorize you based on your retiree status.

      The Exchanges opened the system early to work through these bugs. While many veterans have had problems, many others have already registered and are able to use the online shopping website. The VetVerify website lists a contact number, which I encourage veterans to call if they are having issues.

  13. Karl says

    Learn to write correctly and you will have a better chance of being heard!

    Just saying… or it goes without saying.

    Merit those that can communicate one paper!

  14. R Cobb says

    I just learned of this shopping benefit from an AAFES employee and went out to http://www.vetverify.org and was successfully verified. (I served in the 80’s.)

    The website says the benefit launches on November 11, 2017.

    Good luck!

  15. don says

    I believe that this is a farce-have tried numerous times to register-vetverify can’t find my record-good give me those years back!

  16. Debrah Belk says

    What about widow? I am a surviving spouse of an active duty military member.
    I have an active ID card with all my privileges. Will I be able to shop on line?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Debrah,

      Thank you for contacting me, and I am sorry for your loss. This is a great question. According to the AAFES website: “If you can shop for retail merchandise at your local Exchange, you are authorized to order from the Exchange Online Store. If you have any questions about your eligibility, call toll free in the U.S., 1-800-527-2345.”

      So it does appear as though you are authorized to shop on the online stores. You may wish to call to see if there is a process to gain access or to verify your eligibility. But according to the website, you should be eligible.

      Again, I am sorry for your loss, and I wish you the best.

    • Jesse says

      Kenny, I just read in the VFW magazine that this is going to start this November. It also said that we can sign up for it in the middle of May, though I have not seen where yet. Thanks brother

      Jesse

    • Ryan Guina says

      No updates as of January 2017. So far as I am aware, they plan to open online shopping to all qualified veterans in November of 2017. I’m not sure the exact specifics of which veterans will be qualified, but usually that would everyone except veterans with a dishonorable discharge, or some similar qualification. I will update this article when we have the full details.

      • Yvonne says

        I am an honorable discharged Army Veteran and also Army Civil Service Retiree. I did not retire active but my active duty was added to my civil service when I retired making my service 27 years. That’s 27 years DoD Army. I do have MWR privileges as a retired civil servant and I am able to go on post with my retired CAC ID. However considering both together do you think the option to shop on post will open to someone in my position? And not just a n line.

      • Chris says

        Ryan – plenty of updates on this front I’d be happy to share with you (I work in Public Affairs for the Army & Air Force Exchange Service).

        Thanks!

        Chris

    • Susan Smith says

      @Frank Bayer,
      There are those of us who would reenlist in half a heartbeat, if we only could. We served, were honorably discharged, and I, for one, am sorry you feel that we somehow deserve less. Consider yourself lucky, that you get/got to serve longer.

  17. Elizabeth Reed says

    I use the BX and commissary. The commissary is a savings. The BX has many high end products that I buy very little there.
    It is of little savings to veterans.
    I would not get too excited about this change. Most time it is easier and less expensive to shop near your home. Yes the tax free is nice but like I said I shop very little there. I go to the base to get ” I miss the military fix”. I love sitting in the food court and people watch. See uniform changes and attitude changes. I go home and shop for bargains in my area. Like I said, the commissary is still a savings.

  18. phillip sisto vallejos says

    will I still be able to go to the exchange stores on post where I go to in madison wisconsin I’m 100%service connected and have a card to go on posts please let me know if I’ll still be able to or will I have to just go online ?? or both ?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Phillip, Thanks for your comment. There have been no proposed changes to on-base access. The only proposed change would be to allow veterans with an honorable discharge to shop at the online Exchanges. So far as I am aware, you would be able to shop both on base, and online. Thank you for your service!

      • phillip sisto vallejos says

        thanks for your prompt answer that helps knowing I can do both and wount loose my card privlegies and can do both and your very welcome

  19. Charles Martin says

    There are lots of veterans that are living in poverty and below. This would certainly help they’re burden. This should have been done 40 years ago, after the Vietnam War ended. Too many vets are suffering and the people at the top, as usual are benefitting and the one’s at the bottom have to wait for the crumbs to trickle down. If you let the greedy ones at the top get a larger share they’ll pass it overnight and let us shop on base. That’s the whole PROBLEM!!!

  20. dave martin says

    I believe this is a “forward thinking” idea that will provide positive economic benefits for all eligible veterans and active duty personnel. Having a portion of the website profits go directly into programs that help our soldiers, sailors and airmen is a step in the right direction. I would prefer to support the AAFES Online Stores instead of other online commercial venues because I will know my purchases will make life a little better for the defenders of the USA.

  21. larry lebda says

    the only problem will be collecting sales tax on transactions. the individual states will want their cut of the action…

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