When Will I Get My First Pay? and How Much Will I Get Paid?

Money in a stack.

When you are new to the military, everything is confusing.  The language, the clothes, the paperwork, and the pay.  I see the same questions repeated over and over:  When will the first pay come?  How much will it be?  How will I get it?

Nearly all the time, these questions come from people who are leaving for basic training and leaving a family behind, or from a spouse who is waiting at home while their new enlistee completes school.   Since I hardly ever hear this question from singles, I’m going to answer it for the married crowd.  Please, please be aware, this is all anecdotal evidence and it is different for each branch of service.  Your recruiter will hopefully give you more branch specific answers, but if he doesn’t, you can use this to help figure it out.

When a new military member enters basic training, they will need some documents to make sure that their pay and allowances are set up correctly.  First, they will need the routing number and bank account number of the account into which they want their pay deposited.  They will need to take marriage certificates, social security cards and birth certificates for the spouse and kids.  In most cases, these get mailed home shortly after arriving at basic.

In my totally unscientific poll, the average amount of time before the first pay was deposited was 21 to 35 days, with just a few people stating that their pay took longer.  The Marines seem to be different, though, and I have heard numerous people say that the Marines didn’t have access to their pay until the end of basic training.

You also need to know how military pay is calculated and paid.  The whole pay period is a month long, from the 1st until the last day of the month.  Most pays and allowances are paid on a monthly basis, including base pay, basic allowance for housing (BAH) and basic allowance for subsistence (BAS).  For the mid-month pay, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will calculate what the monthly amount will be and then pay half, using the information that is current up until that date.   Sometime around the 22nd-24th of the month, DFAS will finalize the month’s accounting and issue a Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) for all the military members.  The LES lists all the pays and allowances, all the deductions for things like Social Security and taxes, and any allotments for savings, bills, etc.  The LES will come up with a grand total for the month, then list the amount paid mid-month, and calculate the amount that will be paid in the End of Month (EOM) pay.

My friend Hank has done a great article explaining the LES at Military Money Might:  The Secrets to Understanding Your Spouse’s Leave and Earnings Statement (LES).

The amount of each pay will be erratic at first, for a variety of reasons.  At many Basic Military Training locations, the new recruits are issued a debit card to use in the military exchange, and that will come out of one of their first pays.  It can take a while for BAH and family separation pay to get properly organized.  In addition, everything gets paid retroactively to the first day of BMT, so you might have a big check, then a smaller one thereafter.

The military doesn’t hand out pay stubs like many civilian jobs do.  Everything is available online at a website called MyPay.  You can learn more about MyPay access at How To Access MyPay.

Please leave comments, errors and suggestions below.  I am hoping to develop this into a really comprehensive guide to help all new military families.  Thanks for your help.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Nicole M


    I very much appreciate the information. I have been told several different dates to expect a first pay check. My husband began his military journey (Army National Guard) on November 22nd. In your experience, would I be correct in assuming we won’t see anything until Christmas? I have been told that I can expect to see it on Dec. 8th, 15th, 22nd and the latest info I received is Jan. 1 but I don’t know who the most credible source is. Any insight you can offer is greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Nicole,

      I hope that my information isn’t incorrect for the Army National Guard – I was writing it from an active duty perspective and honestly I don’t know much about National Guard pay. (I’m working on that but there is a lot to learn!)

      I will be hoping that you get paid before Christmas. With my limited knowledge, I’d say there is a 50-50 chance that it will be on the 15th or the 1st. Welcome to the vagueness of the military world.

    • Olivia
      • KateKashman

        Nothing is guaranteed, Olivia. It sounds like they expect him to be paid on the upcoming pay period. I’m not sure what else to tell you, except to wait until Friday and see what happens. Sorry that isn’t very helpful, but that’s the way this thing works.

      • ken

        There is the matter getting a batch indication new people are being assessed into the army. Next is processing them and DFAS uses cut off dates (a few days before the end of the month) to determine if the transactions made cut off, or wait even longer.

        The national guard have a different pay system supported by DFAS.

  • Jamie

    My husband left for training may 3 2011 and on his mypay account for june 1st it states that he is getting paid $0 what does that mean?

    • Beth

      I am in the same situation as well.. I would like to know what you found out and what eventually happened.

  • Sheaunna

    Hey! My husband left for the Air Force BMT May 29th, it’s now June 15th and he has only recieved $500 (nearly 3,000 less than his contract stated he would recieve monthly including BAH) Who do I contact to find out what’s going on? I need to pay bills and buy groceries for our toddler and myself (I’m 5 mo pregnant). Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you!

    • KateKashman

      Sheaunna, I’m actually surprised that your husband has been paid at all when he has only been gone 18 days. First pay usually takes somewhere between 21-35 days before it is paid, sometimes soon or sometimes longer. It sounds like your husband’s unit did a great job of getting the pay started so quickly. In addition, the first few paychecks are a bit erratic as they process all the paperwork, including starting BAH. Did you find the answers to your questions in this post? Were there other questions that were not answered in this post?

    • Grace

      I also have a toddler and am currently 6 months pregnant. My husband left for BMT on July 24th. I currently work at Disney’s California Adventure, but I left for maternity leave early since he would be gone for a while. I only get paid 60% of my normal paycheck. My son just started preschool right before my husband left. I still haven’t received anything at all, and I have no idea how I’m going to be able to pay for our rent, bills, preschool, groceries, etc. either! My question is the same as yours: who do I contact to find out what’s going on?

    • Latrise

      Well it takes time he should be getting paid twice amonth. I’m sure because my friend is getting paid 3,00 twice a month. Depending on his position in the service.

  • Jermaine

    You are not alone…my life left for bmt for the army and I also have to feed my son and pay bills…I recently had 2 transplanted in January…I also have to get my medicine…she left on the 29th as well

  • KateKashman

    Dear real army soldier, we try to be helpful and respectful here at The Paycheck Chronicles. As a military wife who has given up many jobs due to PCSes, and also did not work when our children were small, I am offended by your comment. Many military families find that their lives are improved by having a stay-at-home spouses.

    Also, I think that Jermaine is the husband.

  • Donna M. Robidoux

    Hey, these wives are pregnant and or have very young children to care for. Have you tried to be both mom and dad lately? I can tell you, It’s Not Easy! Lay off these precious souls!

  • mercyme

    Hey, my husband left for BCT for the army august 20th and started august 25th. When will his paycheck including bah go into his account? I am 8 months pregnant and have to pay for bills as well as my sons circumcision before my 35th week.

  • MyHusbandMyWorld

    For “real army soldier” My husband is gone too. We have 3 kids. I have a fulltime job with 20+ employees AND I am in college. Kids, work and college with an active military husband is beyond difficult. All these moms need things just like I do, money or attention or a support system like this site. If I could be home and dedicate myself to my kids and school and not work, I would. Pretty sure anyone would.

  • True Soldier

    Hey “Real Army Soldier,” I am a soldier, and I applaud these mothers who go above and beyond for their families. Why don’t you GET A LIFE AND QUIT TROLLING SITES LIKE THIS, JERK!!

    To the ladies and gents on this site that take care of their homes, thank you.

  • Beth

    My husband left for Army BCT on Nov 7 & actually started on Nov 12…his LES for 121130 has all zeros…why is that? i am trying to support my daughter and myself on just my paycheck and I dont want to worry him, but miney is tight and we needed his pay. thanks.

  • Beth

    *money is tight…excuse me

  • amanda h

    I have a question my husband got to reception on jan 2 and bct started on the 7th of January. When will our first payday probably be , just wondering so I can let the bill people know.

  • Beatrix
  • bonie brown
  • Mufusm

    My fiancee left for basic on january 7th, and i have not seen any money deposited into our account. Would it be safe to assume she will be paid March 1st, 2013?

    I have read it could take 30-45 days and i believe today is the 46th day, and she was taking care of her BAH because she left a lease. Can that have delayed the ENTIRE process?

    • mufusm

      I forgot to say, Im not on her lease so her recruiter came and got it. He has faxed it twice and now she is asking for physical copies. I have to take care of her finances and I feel like finance doesn’t care about things like ruining someone’s credit.

      • mufusm

        Sorry. I also know im not alone. But I would like more information.

  • smith

    im joining the navy but i have so many concerns, people say that the military is a scam and the pay is like working at a fast food resurant. and the recuiters lie so much they say that during boot camp your apost to make 1,200-1,700 dollars a month but that turns out to be a total scam. in reality you only get paid like 300-500 if you are an E-1 or E-2 the higher the rank the higher the pay. but i feel like if someone is going to join the navy or the military than you should tell the truth dont beat around the bush or deceive them because once they agree with you and sign that cantract they are summited to the goverment and they are putting there lives on the line for all of us so they need to stop and the olny reason they lie is because the more recuits they get the more money they get and thats not fair at all. everyone should be equal.

    • James

      i have been in the navy for 2 12 years now and i can assure you that recruiters dont get more pay because of the amount of recruits they put in the navy. they are not car salesman they dont work for commission.

      • Janessa
        • Bianca

          Look up the pay grades and you will see how much you will make monthly. Then divide it by two as the paydays are the 1st and 15th of every month. Remember that taxes will come out and if you have a family it will be higher due to BAH. You can look up BAH amounts by the location that you will be stationed (if you know). Do a little research if you are going to sign up for something like this. No one can tell you if you will like the pay or not.. be informed and make an informed decision.

          • Samantha

            Also, you pay for your uniforms during Basic, so that comes out of your checks. People may only see 500-600 dollars, but the rest of the money went to the clothes on their back. Military doesn’t pay for that. Out of basic, I think you get an allowance for uniforms yearly. But I may be mistaken.

    • sami

      This is why you do the diligence first. No excuses. Though I am not going into the Military I know your not going to get paid until basic training is over or there of..and costs associated, though my daughter is joining the Army we did our homework. Going in at a E 4. Has a degree.

      • Kate

        Sami, while I agree with you that people should know what they are getting into, almost all military recruits receive their first paycheck between three and six weeks after arriving at boot camp.

  • RealNavyWife&Sailor
  • Mrs. Diaz

    My husband left the 13th & we received a large check in our bank account we set up for direct deposit on the 31st. It was nice to receive pay so quickly. But how OFTEN does he get paid? Once a month?

    • Bianca

      Twice a month.. once on the 1st and once on the 15th.

  • Ivan

    Hi I’m about to in list to the US Army I’m married with 3 baby’s at home and a wife should I satay at my job and work to save money before going into basic training so we don’t have to struggle or do we get paid the BAH right away?

    • Bianca

      That would probably be pretty smart.. it can take up to six weeks for pay to process.

  • Ivan310

    Hi I’m about to in list to the US Army I’m married with 3 baby’s at home and a wife should I satay at my job and work to save money before going into basic training so we don’t have to struggle or do we get paid the BAH right away?

    • Seth

      you should stay to have some money before you go into the Army so you have some money when you go in and so you have money for your family too :)

  • Ashley

    Kate, my husband left for basic training June 11th 2013. He has called twice to see if his money has been deposited. Well it is pending and it’s a huge chunk of change. Was there a mistake? I don’t know how this could be possible.

    • Bianca

      It is retroactive, meaning that the pay will go back to the day he signed his contract. Basically it’s called back pay and that’s why it is so much. The next check will be a normal check amount.

  • Santana

    My fiance left for national guard basic training on june 24th and started july 5th..does that mean ill be waiting til september before he gets paid? we have a joint account and 2 kids..im freaking out.

    • KateKashman

      Honestly, Santana, I’m not sure about the National Guard. Readers, can you help?

      • Bianca

        I don’t really think that the branches differ… they are all paid by DFAS.

  • julie

    i am a mom of someone that left for basic on june 19th he first went to fort jackson was there intil june 26th they ship him out june 26th for ft.leonard wood trying to find out when he will get paid anyone know on how that works i heard on the 1st and on the 15th would be paid is they a chance it may be once a month

    • bianca

      No. It is always on the 1st and the 15th. Twice a month every time.

  • Moe

    Anybody know if you get more money if you just recently got married?

  • Aidyns mommy

    have you ever heard of a stay at home mom… THAT IS A JOB! And trust me, its not easy. children deserve to be raised by their parents… not by someone else because both of the parents “need” to work.

    • guest

      SAHM is not a job, it’s a choice

  • aclark1992

    people throwing out the birth control word. lets talk about these women that join the military and get pregnant right after basic work only part of the time and get full pay, maybe they should quit living off our system. i go to school full time work full time have a small child and im pregnant with another. if it wasnt for family helping me out i couldnt do it. not all these women have families to help them out

  • Jules

    Found this may be useful to those wondering when they may see pay.

  • Vice Admiral
  • Vice Admiral
  • Independent_army_wife
  • Krissy M. Hunt

    Do the 21-35 days start from their ship date to reception or the day they leave reception to actually start basic ??

  • Deanna Joy

    I have a concern. I’m a single mother and will be joining the Marines. Do you know if I will get paid during my basic training so I can send my son money? Or will I have to wait until my training is over? And if I do receive payments during, do you know how much it will be?

    • KateKashman

      Readers, can you help Deanna Joy? I’m pretty sure the Marine Corps does things a little differently fromt he other services. Thanks in advance for any help you can give!

    • bianca

      You will get paid during boot camp but it can take a while for the payment to come through just like all the other branches. You will probably have someone watching your child I suppose and that person will need access to your account. When you set up you direct deposit make sure that the person has access to the account. You will also need to do some research. E-1 pay grade can be found online and also BAH amounts can be found online per the area that your son is living. Goodluck.

  • Hi my husband left oct 7 but didn’t start basic until the 16th. I have the bills paid for, for all of Nov but not Dec. and don’t have enough saved to make the payments. He is done at basic on the dec. 17th when should I be expected to get paid the recruiter said at the end of oct. but it looks like everyone is saying differently should I get one for sure on Nov. 15th?

    • KateKashman

      Quincie, unfortunately, there is no “for sure.” If your husband started basic on October 16th, it is most likely that his first paycheck will come on November 15th. However, it could be delayed for any number of reasons. I hope that he took your shared bank account information with him to set up direct deposit to your joint account. Good luck, and be sure to ask any other questions that you might have.

  • SSDD

    I leave for BIT Army on November 5, and I know the pay for the first few months can be sketchy but I’d like to know if my pay, assuming everything goes according to plan, should be deposited 21-35 days after I ship out or after reception is over? I just would like to know what to tell my husband to expect. Thanks :)

  • jesse ojeda

    My wife left for basic on oct 27 and I believed she was still in processing until the 4th of this month. We are behind bills. She filed all her paper work for bah long before she left for bmt. We have also been getting the run around as to when she will be getting that money. I just want to know if anyone out there has an idea of when we will get it. It is the 15th of november and Im just trying to keep afloat of our finances.

  • Blanca
  • Ryan d
  • riya

    hiii m going to join miltary army what salary will i get??? nd when???

  • Chiquita

    Hi, thanks for the info. I will like to know will I be getting my regular pay like my rank even though I’m not going to basic training right away. I know there’s a bonus & my pay can be good because I have like 56 college credits. Will I still get paid every month.

  • Armylifearmywife

    Hello, my husband left on the 14 of July 2014, he was processed by the 19, and begun his BCT on the 21. I called DFAS, and they said he would have his pay at mid month, the 15. I am hoping, lots of bills adding up. What I am wondering is will he also receive BAH, and BAS? I know it will be retroactive from the 14 of July. Also, will he receive the bonus for signing up as well on that pay. I am beyond stressed. I work and go to school, but he is the main money maker. This is not our first military rodeo, I just didn’t remember it took this long 5 yrs ago.

  • Amber

    My husband started basic training on October 7th, 2014, and it is now 12/15/14, and I have yet to receive any money from him, and no money shows up in our direct deposit for his paycheck. why is that?

    • Kate

      Amber, I can’t say for sure, but I would guess that the pay is going to a different bank account. What branch of service is he in? If he didn’t have all the correct details for your bank account, then he would have been required to open another account so that he could be paid.

      Have you had any contact from your husband? You should have received a packet with information on how to obtain a military ID to use for your medical insurance and base privileges.

      Readers, do you have any help?

  • keseanna gray

    My husband left for Air Force bmt and I was wondering how does the base pay and bah work into our account? Like will we get the whole bah on the 1st or would it be split.

  • KOtto102714

    My husband left for Basic on June 29, 2015. He has been held in reception for almost 3 weeks. He is supposed to start basic training this Friday. A lot of the guys in his bay have stated that they will receive pay on the 15th of July, tomorrow. Others have been told it will be received on the 1st of August. Should I expect anything any time soon? It was my understanding that the soldiers get paid after 3-6 weeks of being in actual basic training. So, I guess my questions is: Does reception count? Should I expect to receive pay tomorrow or the 1st or later?

    • Kate

      KOtto, I wouldn’t “expect” for your husband to be get paid on any particular date. If I had to, I would guesstimate that your husband will be paid on 1 August, but I would be prepared for the strong possibility that it could be later. My studies show that the average is 3-6 weeks after arriving at reception, but there are always outliers who have paperwork issues. Unfortunately, the only way to know is to see when the deposit is made.

      • KOtto102714

        Kate, thank you for your reply. This is a huge help. I just didn’t know if I should expect to receive anything anytime soon. I do not have any problem waiting, I was just curious because our 18 month old son has spinal surgery coming up so I was hoping to receive it sometime in August at the latest. So, I will keep my fingers crossed. Thanks a bunch for your response, it is truly appreciated! Have a great day! :)

  • Dorsey

    help!! I”m am about to take me nieces three kids Oct 20, she will be deployed. i need to know when can i expected to receives payment due to the fact that I”m on a fix income. My income will support them for one month only with bills going past due.

    • Kate

      Dorsey, you are going to have to talk to your niece about when and how she plans to transfer money to you. She is paid twice a month and can make arrangements for automated funds transfers or an allotment. Please have this conversation with her NOW so that there are no surprises after she leaves.