As we all get knee-deep in the holiday shopping season, let’s not forget the most obvious retail store available to military families. It’s easy to dismiss, especially for newbies that may not know all the benefits and savings the Army & Air Force Exchange (PX) and Navy Exchange (NEX) can offer.
I was lucky to get insider knowledge on the Exchange as a military brat, so I understood a lot of the positives and realized early on that it doesn’t suck. Seriously, there are some huge Exchange perks for military spouses.
Here’s the top 6 reasons the Exchange doesn’t suck:
- No Tax. Duh. This is my No. 1 reason I shop at the PX. A handful of states and cities are tax free on clothing or only at certain times of the year, but the Exchange is tax free all the time on everything. It’s the perfect time to really bank on big ticket items. In the long run, military families can save hundreds (or maybe more) a year depending on the purchases made. For example, my husband’s big birthday gift this year was an Xbox One. I bought him a bundle package that included a game plus the Kinect for $499.95. It’s the same exact price on other retail stores I searched at the time. If I purchased it elsewhere, Virginia’s 6% tax would have been added to make the total $529.95– and this is one example of many that adds up over time.
- Convenience. There are more than 2,400 stores worldwide in all states and 30 different countries. The PX provides a relatively reliable offering of goods to OCONUS families. When my husband was stationed in Korea, the Exchange was practically the only retail store available to him to purchase necessities like shampoo and conditioner. Honestly, I don’t think he talked about shopping anywhere else the entire year he was there (besides local shops for more souvenir type items). In addition, the Exchange was short walking distance from his barracks (double win).
- Online Store. The online marketplace adds to the convenience factor because it can be accessed anywhere at anytime. When I was living far from a military installation last year, I personally used the online store to make several purchases. I enjoyed getting my items shipped directly to my door, not to mention benefited from no tax (NYC’s sales tax is 8.875%. Yikes!) and my purchases qualified for free shipping. Online shopping from an OCONUS location? Don’t fret because goods can be mailed to your APO or FPO.
- Reduced Retail Rate. This is my favorite benefit because military families can save some cash on clothing and other accessories. I’m a closeted handbag lover. I change out my purse, practically everyday, depending on my mood or activity. Recently, I was able to calculate the savings from an Exchange purchase. An adorable Coach wristlet was $52 at the Exchange and retailed at $65. I hopped on the Coach website and it was still marked at $65. That’s a $13 dollars savings straight up on a small designer item, not including tax savings. Want to splurge on a larger designer handbag or jewelry? Hopefully the savings on the retail price will help you out a bit and don’t forget the savings on tax too!
- Exchange Price Match. If you find the same item at another local retailer for a lower price, the Exchange will price match. I would bring the retailer’s ad or maybe take a picture of it on your phone. The Exchange needs to clearly see that ad’s date and match the item exactly. This is awesome for bigger ticketed products like a TV when the Exchange might not necessarily have a cheaper rate. With this program, you’ll be able to match the competitor and reap the no tax benefit too. Double win!
- Profits Support Military Programs. By far, the most important benefit (in my eyes, at least) is the service the Exchange provides for military members and their families. As part of the Department of Defense, the Exchange’s mission is to ease the livelihood of military families. According to the Exchange, the company shares about two-thirds of their earnings to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and other military programs. In the last 10 years, they have provided more than $2.4 billion to those said programs. That’s some crazy awesome numbers.
And finally why not support fellow spouses and family members in arms by shopping at their place of employment? Twenty-four percent of Exchange employees are military spouses or family members and 36% of Exchange employees are associated to the military in some way. The Exchange system offers a stable work environment for military dependents and fully understands the nature of our lifestyle.
Although the Exchange does offer taxfree shopping and discounted prices to military families, don’t forget to do your research and crunch numbers before any major purchases.