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