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The Difference Between the PX and Commissary

One of the many benefits to Army life (or military life for that matter) is being able to shop on post at the PX and the Commissary. So what’s the difference between the two and what should you know about them?

PX (also known as the Post Exchange)

This is a department style store somewhat similar to a Wal-Mart. You can typically find brand name items at way below brand name prices. The brands and items that the PX carries vary widely depending on each post. Some even carry department store cosmetics such as Clinique. You can usually save money by shopping at the PX.

You will need to have a military ID to check out at the PX. Also, usually in the same building, you will find other shops such as eyeglasses, some sort of fast food establishment, dry cleaners, and uniform shop. The uniform shop carries dress uniforms, PTs, BDUs, etc. as well as all of the badges and insignia that they need for their uniform. They usually also have Army related gift items such as yellow ribbon magnets for the car and the Army Soldier teddy bears.


The commissary is the grocery store on the post. They have very competitive prices and are in most cases lower than the typical grocery store off base. They will also accept coupons and have a weekly sales flyer that comes out with additional savings. Perhaps the most inconvenient thing about the commissary is the hours. Typical hours are from 9:00 in the morning until 6 or 7 in the evening. On Sunday, hours are usually noon to 5. You can check with the commissary on your post for hours.

You must also have a military ID to check out at the commissary. If at all possible, you should avoid the 1st and 15th of the month (i.e. paydays) as it will be very busy. If you must go at these times, prepare for a long line. Also, the people who bag your groceries work strictly on tips so you will be expected to tip this person. There is no set rate. I usually just try to gauge it on the number of bags that I have. For a normal trip to the store, I would tip $3-$5. But this is completely up to you. I know some who do much less and some who I would be willing to take their groceries out with as much as they tip!

Be sure to take advantage of all of your benefits.

About the author: Stacey is an Army wife of a soldier who joined in 2003. He has since been medically retired but she continues to provide information to Army wives and families to make their adjustment to the Army lifestyle easier. Connect with Stacey: Facebook Twitter Pinterest

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Ben June 11, 2011, 2:35 pm

    I’m a veteran with 10% disability. Can I shop on post with my VA ID?

    • Grace December 31, 2011, 3:21 am

      as long as you have a military I.D. that states it under your privileges, yes! 🙂

  • lau September 6, 2012, 2:21 am


    • Air Force Member March 27, 2014, 6:03 pm

      You can only purchase things for your little one. Technically you can’t buy things for yourself since you don’t have privledges. So, the obvious answer is NO for buying for someone who has no base privledges. They need to serve if they want to shop on base.

  • Sally June 12, 2013, 3:23 pm

    My husband has 100% disability. How do I get a list (and prices) of the bases that offer accomodations both domestically and internationally? Also, can anyone tell me how I can make reservations?
    Thank you in advance!

  • Kristi April 28, 2014, 3:22 pm

    my son is an SIT and his debit card is not working to buy things he needs while at basic; could I send him a prepaid VISA card and it will be accepted at the px or commissary… can SITs visit the px or commissary or are their purchases made somewhere else?

  • Christine August 23, 2014, 9:00 pm

    Are the brand-name cosmetic items for sale at the PX authentic? I know that many counterfeit brand-name products are found on Ebay, Amazon Marketplace, and have even been found at Target for a considerable discount, so before I purchase any at he PX, I just want to be sure they aren’t fake. Any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Stacey Abler September 1, 2014, 9:27 pm

      I can’t imagine they could get away with selling counterfeits on post.

  • Barry newby January 22, 2015, 5:22 am

    how do I get id to use military base

  • Richard April 10, 2015, 10:46 am

    I have 30 ptesence disabity can I buy at the commisary with v.a.id.

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