Shopping Tips for Military Families

Servicemembers can shop smarter thanks to available military resources and discounts.

By Navy Federal October 17, 2018

Did you know that by shopping at your local commissary, you can save up to 30 percent or more on your grocery bill? This is because, after a 5 percent surcharge, the commissary sells food and household cleaning products at cost, saving you a significant amount compared to a civilian grocery store. Of course, shopping at the commissary is only one way to save money as a military member or dependent. There are a number of military resources that will help you save on everyday purchases, and bigger purchases, as well.

On-Base Shopping

One of the easiest ways to save money is by making purchases at the retailers on base. Keep in mind that if you're not in uniform, you can't make a purchase without an ID proving you're a military member, dependent or veteran—acceptable IDs include your Common Access Card (CAC), Dependent Card (DD Form 1173) or Veterans ID Card (VIC).

The Commissary: Shopping at the commissary automatically saves you money on groceries, but you can save even more by registering for a Commissary Rewards Card. To use this benefit, you'll first need to pick up a Rewards Card at the commissary and then register it on the commissary website. You can also download the Commissary iPhone® or Android™ app and enter the Rewards Card's information there. Then, after registering, you can load digital coupons onto your Rewards Card. However, if you don't want a Rewards Card, you can also check out the Commissary's Savings Center website. There you'll find information on special sales, links to coupons and other ways to save.

The Exchange: Exchanges include gas stations, military clothing stores, department stores and other retailer options. However, unlike the commissary, the Exchange doesn't sell items at cost. Instead, the goods sold at Exchanges are tax-free, making this an easy way to save money. You can also save money at the Exchange by visiting the Exchange website's Savings Center, where you'll find special sales, coupons and weekly ads.

Mobile, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR): At the MWR, you can participate in discounted activities and sports for the whole family, such as arts and crafts, movies and bowling. Your MWR may also offer discounted adventure trips. For a full list of everything available at your installation, visit the MWR office.

Off-Base Shopping

Even though shopping at your duty station is a great way to save money, there are times you'll need something that's not available on base. In these instances, you can still save money as long as the retailer offers a military discount and you have the necessary ID with you—again, this includes a CAC, Dependent Card, VIC, etc. To find out if a particular retailer does have a discount, visit the company’s website or call its customer service center.

Retail discounts: Many retailers offer a military discount, which will vary based on the store.

Car purchases: Some dealerships offer military discounts and/or special pricing on the vehicles in their inventory. To find out if a dealership offers this, either visit its website or call its sales office.

Technology discounts: Tech retailers like Apple® and Dell® offer military discounts on their products. To get this discount, you'll need to make your purchase directly from the retailer's website.

Service plan discounts: Most major wireless companies like AT&T®, Verizon® and Sprint® offer military service plan discounts. To find out what you need to do in order to get this discount, you'll need to visit the company's website.

Other Ways to Save

There are many ways to save money as a military member or as part of a military family. For an extensive list of places that offer military discounts, visit Finally, another great way to manage your money is to track your spending habits and prepare a household budget using Navy Federal Credit Union's mobile and online banking tools. That way you know exactly what you're spending your money on, how much you'll need for upcoming purchases and how much you can save for the future.

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This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.