Something nice and, in our opinion long overdue, happened for all honorably discharged veterans on November 11, 2017. That’s when The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) extended its online shopping benefit beyond only active duty personnel, retired military, 100% disabled, Medal of Honor recipients and the families of all these groups by opting to give all eligible vets the opportunity to be members for life.

Although this benefit isn’t yet open to the families of veterans that aren’t among the aforementioned groups, and it does not give the these new members access to instore entry or purchases, it does allow honorably discharged vets of all branches to enjoy no sales tax and free standard shipping when shopping at:

  • (The Exchange)
  • (Coast Guard Exchange)
  • (Marine Corp Exchange)
  • (NEX)

So, again, our sentiment is that this was a nice move on the part of the AAFES. But just how nice? Are the deals really that good? And are there other benefits to shopping the exchanges? We decided to take a look.

The Deals

Are there bargains to be had when shopping military exchanges online? Absolutely. For instance, we recently compared the Exchange’s price on Dell Inspiron 500 Notebooks to Walmart’s, with the Exchange coming out the clear winner.

Walmart’s regular price was $649, compared to the Exchange’s regular price of $569. The day of our comparison, both sites were running a sale, with Walmart showing a price of $529 and the Exchange coming in at $499. Of course, when we factored in the sales tax we’d have to pay with Walmart ($33.33), the savings were even greater. Total difference: $63.33.

Even so, it’s always wise to comparison shop, since our research of site reviews indicated that there are times exchange prices can be beat. Thrifty shoppers should keep their calculators handy, since often exchanges beat other retailers simply based on the absence of taxes and shipping fees.

Also, the exchanges we’ve listed all have price match policies, but with some restrictions. For example, each site will only match prices with a select list of other sites (which are listed on their “Price Match Policy” pages), the competing site must be “local” (able to deliver to the customer at the same price), clearance or sale items won’t be matched, etc.

Selection and User Experience

If it’s been years since you’ve shopped at a commissary, you might be surprised. The exchanges offer everything from fashion to refrigerators to jewelry to food. And we’re talking great name brands like Ralph Lauren, Whirlpool, Coach, Harry & David and hundreds more.

Exchange websites are state-of-the-art, beautifully designed and easy to navigate, just like any other big name stores. Users can shop by department or brand and sales, events and special offers are always displayed prominently on the homepage.

Our study of online reviews did show that customer service issues do exist at times (e.g. difficult returns, late/damaged merchandise, unissued refunds), but the exchanges do seem to be actively addressing the problem and working to improve customer satisfaction.

Giving Back

The exchanges not only work hard to keep prices low for U.S. military families worldwide, but they provide funding for military quality-of-life programs like childhood development facilities, fitness centers, affordable school lunches, family recreational opportunities and so much more.

They also make it a priority to hire veterans and their families (85% of the Exchange’s associates are military connected). And perhaps most important, they make sure that our military families serving overseas can enjoy some of the comforts of home, at prices they can afford.

Our Verdict

The positives of online military exchange shopping far outweigh the negatives. Doing so helps military families, the selection is great and savvy shoppers can find great bargains every day.

We’re not sure what would hold any veteran back from giving it a try. Unless, of course, you’re one of the millions of vets who aren’t sure whatever happened to their DD-214 (which confirms eligibility).

In fact, the National Archives receives thousands of requests for lost discharge papers every day, which can make the process of ordering with eVetRecs time consuming, tedious and, often, frustrating. Not only that, but if your records aren’t located in the NA’s system (which happens more often than you think), you’ll be left to try and track it down on your own. The Facts:

  • Each state maintains its own records for the National Guard, as well as DC, meaning that there are 51 separate agencies housing NG records.
  • The Army does maintain its own repository, but the National Archives CAN access Army records on request. However, they can’t do so for the Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, Marine Reserves or Merchant Marines.
  • Air Force Records are housed by two separate agencies which operate independently of each other.
  • On occasion, National Archive-owned records end up in the possession of the VA, which requires a search of one of 50 different VA locations. The ONLY way to find these records is to speak directly to the office in which it’s housed.
  • Unfortunately, when the National Archives receives a request for records that are housed elsewhere, the best most applicants can expect is a letter that basically says, “Go somewhere else.”

At veteran-owned, we’ve worked hard to become the fastest method of ordering, hunting for and delivering DD214s on the planet. Our professional, courteous agents know how to slice through red tape and navigate the government’s record system expertly, whether dealing with the National Archives or any of the other agencies that house military records.

Our competitive, three-tiered pricing allows you to choose your desired delivery speed (we can even email your records!) and our retrieval specialists are ready and waiting. Why not let help you access those fantastic exchange deals sooner than later?

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