Commissary customers soon will be able to use their Military Star credit card to pay for their groceries, as officials roll out acceptance of the card over the next month and a half.
The Military Star card is a credit card accepted at all the military exchanges, with 1.5 million cardholders.
On Oct. 3, a pilot test starts at the Fort Lee, Virginia, commissary. On Oct. 9, five more commissaries will join the pilot: Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts; Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania; Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia; Naval Air Station Key West, Florida; and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Virginia. Twenty more stores, including some overseas, join in Oct. 16.
By Nov. 9, the remaining 212 commissary stores are expected to be on board accepting the Star card, if the pilot test of the software is successful. The full rollout is available here.
The fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act required the commissaries to start accepting the card.
Extending this acceptance “offers greater customer convenience while lowering overhead expenses and strengthening commissary, military exchange and quality of life benefits,” said Defense Commissary Agency spokesman Kevin Robinson, in a response to questions about the rollout of the card.
“In focus groups conducted by a third party, military shoppers have expressed a desire for a single non-cash tender type that can be used across the installation,” he said.
The current interest rate on the Military Star card is 11.24 percent. Unlike interest paid to other card companies, any money paid by cardholders in interest charges for the Military Star card (incurred when cardholders don’t pay off their balance each month) goes back to morale, welfare and recreation programs on military installations.
Robinson said he has no information about whether part of the profits from interest charges will be shared with the commissary agency. Defense officials have been taking steps to reduce the amount of taxpayer dollars ― about $1.4 billion a year ― used to fund commissaries.
In addition to debit cards, cash, personal checks, travelers checks, money orders and other types of payments such as government food assistance, commissaries accept other credit cards like American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa.
Shoppers who use the Military Star card at the commissary will accumulate rewards point just as they do at exchanges, Robinson said, but they won’t able to redeem Military Star rewards cards at commissaries.
As always, consumer advocates advise shopping around for the best interest rate and other terms on any credit card. And just like other cards, if you don’t pay these off each month, you’ll pay the interest charges.
Click here for more about the Star card.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.