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The long-awaited commissary rewards card, which offers digital coupons, is being tested and is expected to be available worldwide this fall.
"We are very excited about this new initiative," Defense Commissary Agency Director Joseph Jeu said in a statement announcing the tests. "These free cards will allow our customers to reduce the number of paper coupons they have to clip and carry. That saves our customers time, effort and money and helps us in our efforts to go green."
For now, the test is limited to the Fort Lee, Va., commissary, but officials are rolling out the test to 30 stores in three phases. Further information about those stores was not available Sept. 4.
How the tests work:
Customers pick up the card at their commissary and register it on the rewards card page at http://www.commissaries.com">www.commissaries.com. During registration, you're asked to select a 10-digit identification number. You'll be able to provide this to a cashier if you forget your card.
After you register, you log in to your account periodically to load new coupons on your card. You simply scan the card at the register, and the coupons will be matched with your purchases and the savings deducted from your tab. Typically, new offers will be posted every two to three weeks.
Like paper coupons, these digital coupons have expiration dates and terms and conditions that must be followed to redeem them. When a coupon expires, it will disappear from your card.
You can print the coupon offers that you've saved to your account and loaded to your card to take with you to the commissary, as a reminder of the offers and terms.
Commissary officials note that just because a coupon is available doesn't guarantee the product is available at your local store. The stores work with their industry partners to provide coupons for products that are broadly available, but because of limited shelf space, not all items are available all the time at all stores.
Commissaries will not accept a digital coupon and paper coupon for the same item, because DeCA's policy limits coupons to one per purchase.
In the future, customers may see additional digital coupons tailored to their needs based on their specific usage. And eventually, the coupon site is expected to be able to alert customers to sales at their local stores.
As an incentive, customers who pick up their cards by Oct. 24 will receive preloaded digital coupons for use in the commissary that day.
And customers who register their cards by Oct. 24 also can enter the Commissary Rewards Card "Home for the Holidays Sweepstakes" for a chance to win round-trip airline tickets for four people to any place in the U.S., hotel lodging for six days and five nights, and $1,000 in spending money.
The sweepstakes entry form appears at the end of the online registration process.
Gulfport Navy Lodge expands
The Navy Lodge in Gulfport, Miss., opened a 50-room expansion, bringing the total number of rooms available to 80.
The new lodge offers three types of rooms: 10 new two-bedroom family suites with full kitchenettes and dishwashers and a balcony off of the living area; 12 business-class rooms with a queen bed, microwave and refrigerator; and 28 extended-stay rooms with two queen beds and a full kitchenette with dishwasher.
The lodge features a fitness room, free Wi-Fi, vending areas, guest laundry, patio area with gas grills, and free continental breakfast.
Overall, Navy Lodges offer a 40 percent savings compared with other hotels in the area, according to Navy Lodge officials.
Reservations are accepted on an "as-received" basis, officials said, without regard to rank. Like other facilities on military installations, these are open to eligible customers of all branches active-duty, National Guard and reserves, and retirees.