Understanding the Commissary Surcharge

CommissaryHave you been to the commissary lately and noticed you paid a “surcharge”? Well, there it is, written in bold letters at the bottom of the receipt…and I finally noticed it! I spent about $200 at the commissary and my surcharge totaled $10. Like me, you’re probably wondering what the heck it’s for.

Since commissaries sell goods “at cost” (no mark up or profit), back in 1825, Congress mandated a surcharge to pay for commissary construction, equipment, and maintenance. In 1952, the first permanent surcharge of 2% was established. In 1974, Congress raised the surcharge to 3% at the Army and Air Force store to provide funds for construction and improvements of store facilities. Overseas commissaries were raised by an additional 1.5%. In 1976, the surcharge was increased to 4%, then 5% in 1983. The surcharge remains at 5% at all commissaries, both stateside and overseas – the same rate set 32 years ago! Even with the surcharge, customers save more than 30% than at the average retail store.

Here are more surcharge facts:

  • It’s not a tax
  • It’s added to your gross total due, before coupons
  • It’s figured into official savings calculations, along with any sales tax or value-added tax applied to retail grocery stores, to accurately determine customer savings – which currently stands at 31.5% overall

The next time you shop your base commissary, check your surcharge amount to see what you personally contributed to “maintaining your commissary.”


By: Nimal Griffin, 2014 FINRA Military Spouse Fellow

One Reply to “Understanding the Commissary Surcharge”

  1. This is a fee. The more you spend the higher the fee. You can buy 1 item and the fee is higher that the sales tax. Not sure what saving calculator the using in the Hampton Roads Va area. Also the money is suppose to build new commissary and update the facilities. I been shopping a Langley AFB since 1994, have not seen any great improvements to justify the 5 percent surcharge (fee)