Commissaries and Exchanges are about to undergo their biggest expansion in nearly six decades, and it won’t result in any new location openings. It’s still months from now, but when the ball drops, the New Year strikes, and 2019 is officially in the history books, Commissaries and Exchanges across the country will be welcoming 3 million new customers through their doors, according to Military Times.

With the passing of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, a few groups within the military community have some new shopping options. On January 1, 2020, all service-disabled Veterans, former prisoners of war, and primary caregivers of Veterans will join the millions of MilFams that already enjoy the convenient and cost-conscious shopping on base.

Although the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security have been planning the expansion for more than half of the year, there are still some details to work out. Mainly, how will these new shoppers safely enter military bases? There needs to be a process to ensure anyone coming on-base to shop are who they say they are.

While DoD officials have already confirmed that disabled Veterans and other eligible Veterans will use their Veteran Health ID cards, a process for the other new shoppers has not yet been finalized. Expect more info to come from the VA by October on how caregivers will enter into the bases. Updates will be posted to www.va.gov. DoD officials hope that all of these new customers will eventually have swipeable ID cards like other members of the military community.

One thing to note if you’re one of the new shoppers coming to Commissaries and Exchanges next year: credit cards will cost you. New shoppers will be charged a small fee when paying with a credit card in commissaries. Shop fee-free by bringing cash, a checkbook, or a Military Star card. It’s still not clear how high (or low) the credit card fee will be, but it’s best to avoid it if you can.

It’s also unclear the extent to which these changes will impact current Commissary and Exchange locations, but officials have stated that they don’t anticipate a need for any physical expansion or additional investment in order to keep up. That doesn’t mean the lines won’t be a little longer in 2020, though.

We’ll have to wait and see exactly how this all plays out over the next few months, but more access to affordable shopping for servicemembers, Veterans. and caregivers sounds good to us!


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