Your Military Exchange Benefits

The military Exchange program offers tax-free shopping and discounts on goods and services. Every branch of the military offers its own exchange system – an Airforce Base Exchange (BX), an Army Post Exchange (PX), Marine Corps Exchange (MCX), Coast Guard Exchange (CGX), and the Navy has the NEX. All operate separately, but if you’re eligible…
Advertising Disclosure.

Advertiser Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone. This article may contain links from our advertisers. For more information, please see our Advertising Policy.

The Military Wallet has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. The Military Wallet and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on The Military Wallet are from advertisers. Compensation may impact how and where card products appear, but does not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations. The Military Wallet does not include all card companies or all available card offers.

The military Exchange program offers tax-free shopping and discounts on goods and services. Every branch of the military offers its own exchange system – an Airforce Base Exchange (BX), an Army Post Exchange (PX), Marine Corps Exchange (MCX), Coast Guard Exchange (CGX), and the Navy has the NEX. All operate separately, but if you’re eligible to shop at one, you can shop at all of them.

An exchange is a retail store set up like a department store or a strip mall with several small shops and service vendors selling a variety of goods. Some exchanges, especially those abroad (OCONUS), will have kiosks set up that offer several different items, ranging from locally produced garments and trinkets to alcohol and decorative items.

The majority of all installations have at least one exchange. Depending on the size of the installation, there may be several located on post or on base. Exchanges typically include a barbershop, coffee shop, food court, alterations shop, dry cleaning facilities, a gas station, and lawn and garden stores. Other amenity shops also include hair and nail salons, auto repair, car rental services, and banks. Sometimes these various amenities are spread across multiple locations.

Who Is Eligible?

If you belong to one of the following groups, you can shop at an exchange:

  • Uniformed-service members (active, reserve or retired)
  • Authorized family members
  • All honorably discharged veterans (at online exchanges) as of November 11, 2017
  • Department of Defense civilian employees stationed OCONUS
  • Medal of Honor recipients
  • Military members of foreign nations
  • National Guard members not in a federal status
  • Surviving family members
  • Disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients, former POWs, and eligible caregivers (see below for more info).

Additionally, Red Cross personnel and their dependents are authorized to use the exchange at OCONUS MCX locations.

Disabled Veteran Eligibility: Starting in 2020, Purple Heart recipients, former POWs, all service-connected disabled veterans and caregivers enrolled in the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program are eligible to shop at the Exchanges and Commissaries. Veterans must present their Veterans Health Identification Card to purchase the exchange.

Is Shopping at the Exchange Worth It?

For most shoppers, the number one benefit of shopping at the exchange is the money saved by shopping tax-free. Name brand items are often deeply discounted at exchanges, making it easier to keep more of your money in your pocket.

A large portion of the profit of exchange sales goes right back to your installation. And, since exchanges primarily employ military spouses and dependents, you can rest assured that your purchases on your installation directly benefit your community. MWR services and other installation-wide initiatives are funded, in part, by some of the proceeds of exchange sales.

You can even shop online. Free shipping is eligible when you use your MILITARY STAR credit card. Returns are simple and easy, with generous policies in place. Most exchanges will offer store credit if you need to return an item and don’t have a receipt.

Exchanges also serve as your one-stop-shop for everything relating to your hectic military life, from standard uniform needs to regulation handbags, shoes, and more.

SOFA Limitations for Active Duty and Dependents

Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) are unique to each region and country in which US forces are based. SOFAs help provide the basis for the legal status of military, US civilian employees, and dependents who are stationed abroad.

SOFAs affect military exchange and commissary privileges. When you purchase something from an overseas exchange, it’s considered duty, customs, and tax-free when it crosses international borders.

However, some SOFAs don’t allow you to buy certain items in bulk. For example, in Germany, you’re allowed a preset limit of how much coffee, alcohol, and tobacco you can purchase in any given month. These limits are in place to prevent the reselling of items on illegal markets outside the installation. Some SOFAs impose monthly spending caps as well, depending on your installation and family size.

To find out specifics about your installation and current SOFAs, check with your military command.

SOFA Limitations for Retirees

Exchange privileges in overseas installations are at the discretion of the host country, so the local exchange can’t determine shopping privileges and access to duty-free goods. In some instances, overseas commands, per the host country’s SOFA, will work with local nationals to determine who can be extended shopping privileges. Check with your overseas command with specific questions.

For instance, retirees and dependents have limited authorization to shop in AAFES military exchanges. Countries in both Europe and Asia allow limited access to retirees, with more flexible options found in Japan, Korea, and Germany. But there are restrictions you should research before making the trip.

A complete list of current conditions for retirees wishing to shop at overseas locations can be found below:

Shop Your Military Exchange

Utilizing exchanges on your installations can help you save money by offering discounts on items you regularly purchase, and you’ll be helping to support your local community in the process.

Army and Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES) locations: Shop My Exchange

Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) locations: My MCX

Navy Exchange Service Command (NEX) locations: My Navy Exchange 

Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) locations: Shop My CGX

About Post Author

Get Instant Access
FREE Weekly Updates! Enter your information to join our mailing list.

Reader Interactions

Leave A Comment:


About the comments on this site:

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

The Military Wallet is a property of Three Creeks Media. Neither The Military Wallet nor Three Creeks Media are associated with or endorsed by the U.S. Departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs. The content on The Military Wallet is produced by Three Creeks Media, its partners, affiliates and contractors, any opinions or statements on The Military Wallet should not be attributed to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the Dept. of Defense or any governmental entity. If you have questions about Veteran programs offered through or by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, please visit their website at The content offered on The Military Wallet is for general informational purposes only and may not be relevant to any consumer’s specific situation, this content should not be construed as legal or financial advice. If you have questions of a specific nature consider consulting a financial professional, accountant or attorney to discuss. References to third-party products, rates and offers may change without notice.

Advertising Notice: The Military Wallet and Three Creeks Media, its parent and affiliate companies, may receive compensation through advertising placements on The Military Wallet; For any rankings or lists on this site, The Military Wallet may receive compensation from the companies being ranked and this compensation may affect how, where and in what order products and companies appear in the rankings and lists. If a ranking or list has a company noted to be a “partner” the indicated company is a corporate affiliate of The Military Wallet. No tables, rankings or lists are fully comprehensive and do not include all companies or available products.

Editorial Disclosure: Editorial content on The Military Wallet may include opinions. Any opinions are those of the author alone, and not those of an advertiser to the site nor of  The Military Wallet.