Good news on the coupon front: Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores now accept Internet coupons.
AAFES joins the commissary system and the Navy and Marine Corps exchanges, as well as many stores outside the gates, that already accept Internet coupons.
"The economy has spurred increased interest in electronic coupons," AAFES Commander Army Maj. Gen. Bruce Casella said in a statement announcing the policy change.
He cited industry projections that online offers will account for 8.7 percent of all coupons sent out in 2010, for an estimated $12.7 billion in savings. AAFES wants to help shoppers take advantage of some of those savings.
In most cases, the new policy even allows an AAFES-issued coupon to be combined with another manufacturer's coupon on the same item.
"Unless either offer specifically prohibits a combined discount, coupons available through AAFES' Mobile Marketing service or sale fliers can be combined," Casella said.
Online coupons can be found at manufacturers' websites and countless online discount websites. AAFES requires the words "manufacturer coupon," a bar code, expiration date, redemption address, usage policy and stated face value to appear on the coupon for the coupon to be accepted.
Officials made the policy change April 29, AAFES spokesman Judd Anstey said.
New online store
The product selection is not as robust as the Exchange Online Store, which is operated by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service by agreement with all the military exchange services. The http://www.myNavyExchange.com">www.myNavyExchange.com site offers about 3,000 items, while the Exchange Online Store has about 18 million items.
There are some Navy-themed items, such as sailor bibs and onesies for babies.
But most of the items are not geared specifically to the Navy community — for example, there are Nikon cameras and Apple iPods and Under Armour clothing, brands that can be found on the Exchange Online Store. So before you buy, check prices at both sites, as both offer sales and specials.
An Under Armour short-sleeve compression T-shirt, for example, was a few cents cheaper at the Exchange Online Store.
To shop on MyNavyExchange, you must be an authorized exchange shopper; the site will verify that, as does the Exchange Online Store. Authorized shoppers include Navy as well as Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard customers.
But while the joint-service Exchange Online Store shares profits with the morale, welfare and recreation programs of all services, myNavyExchange.com will share profits only with the Navy. So if a soldier buys from the site, no profit will be shared with Army MWR.
That's because this online store is an extension of the brick-and-mortar stores, Navy Exchange Command officials said.
Karen Connery, NEXCom's e-commerce director, said the new Navy store is not a duplication of efforts because it is different from the Exchange Online Store.
It provides shoppers another way to get access to a limited number of items, prices and promotions they would find in the brick-and-mortar stores, she said.
It's especially helpful for customers who don't live near a Navy exchange, like many reservists, retirees and deployed service members, she said.
Conversely, nearly all the products sold through the Exchange Online Store are not available in the various brick-and-mortar exchanges, she said.
AAFES spokesman Anstey said the Exchange Online Store's product selection is indeed intended to be complementary to the stores, and that 95 percent of those 18 million items are not available in the stores. "It's meant to be an extended aisle," he said. "It's especially beneficial when you get into accessories."
For example, an exchange might sell an iPod but not all of its accessories — you can find those online.
Get some green for being green
Make sure you've got some reusable bags handy when you're shopping in the exchanges: You can get a 5-cent credit toward your purchase for each eco-friendly bag you use in an Army and Air Force Exchange Service or Navy Exchange store.
The effort is aimed at reducing the number of plastic bags, which will save the stores money and keep plastic bags out of the waste stream, officials said.
The credit does not apply to disposable plastic bags that are being reused.