There are many great reasons to shop at your military commissary and saving money on groceries is usually No. 1. The commissary is able to sell products on average for 30 percent less than those at civilian grocery stores because all items are sold at cost. This is a great savings for customers, but some still question the real savings when they see the 5 percent surcharge added at the checkout.
Why is there a surcharge at the commissary and what does it cover?
It goes right back into the stores, paying for new construction, renovations and repairs, equipment and store-level information technology systems such as the checkouts. This provides modern facilities for service members at a reduced cost to taxpayers.
According to the Defense Commissary Agency, “the surcharge does not diminish commissary savings, because it is included in our savings calculations along with any state sales tax applied at the retail grocery stores, to show how much our customers actually save at the register.”
The surcharge isn’t new. In fact, Congress set the surcharge in 1952 at 2 percent in order to make commissaries more self-sustaining and less reliant on appropriated funding. It was raised three more times over the years and has stayed at 5 percent since 1983. This surcharge covers all stateside and overseas commissaries now.
The law requires the surcharge to be added to all items sold at the commissary and is therefore applied to the total purchase before coupon deductions are made. For example, if you have $50 worth of groceries before coupons then the 5 percent surcharge would be applied as $50 x .05 = $2.50. If you then have $10 worth in coupons the total at the end of your bill will be $50 + $2.50 surcharge = $52.50 – $10 =$42.50
The next time you buy groceries at the commissary look at your receipt. That surcharge is the amount you personally contributed to improve your commissary.