Commissary Coupon Rules Explained

At the commissary today, I found a handy little pamphlet called “DeCA’s Quick Coupon Info, Acceptance and Redemption of Merchandise Coupons.”  With a publication date of May 2012, I think it is the most up-to-date information available on the Commissaries’ rules for using coupons.  It is always so nice to have actual rules in black and white!

Directly from the brochure:

About Merchandise Coupons

Coupons come from a variety of sources, such as Sunday newspaper inserts, magazines, store shelves and the Internet.  They are redeemable when purchasing the items specified on the coupon.  Except for Internet coupons for free products, military commissaries accept all valid manufacturer coupons when redeemed in accordance with the terms stipulated on the coupon.

Commissaries may only accept manufacturer coupons.  This includes “military” or “commissary” coupons, which are provided by manufacturers that reimburse DeCA for coupons redeemed in accordance with their policies.  Store coupons from commercial grocery stores are in-store promotions, which are part of their advertising program.  Commercial grocery stores that offer these store coupons use their profits to pay for them.  Commissaries sell their merchandise at cost and have no profit margin to offer store coupons and absorb the loss.  Since manufacturer, military, and commissary coupons are all manufacturer coupons, they cannot be used together on any single product.

For the same reason, DeCA cannot double or triple the face value of manufacturer coupons.  DeCA is required by law to sell all commissary items at prices set only high enough to cover item costs and cannot manipulate prices to generate gains to offset losses associated with double or triple coupon promotions.

DeCA’s Coupon Policy:

Coupons will be accepted only for items purchased by the customer.

Coupons will be either scanned or rung up individually.

“For free” coupons will be rung manually; internet coupons cannot be accepted for free products.

DeCA does not accept or process manufacturer rebate checks, refund certificates, or mail-in offers as coupons.

DeCA only accepts manufacturer coupons; this includes military and commissary coupons.  (see About Merchandise Coupons)

DeCA does not accept commercial store coupons, such as Lucky’s, Food Lion, etc.

Coupons will not be disbursed to customers at the cash register.

Coupons will only be accepted as specified on the coupon.  If the coupon states a particular type, size, or brand, this coupon cannot be used on a different size or product.

If the coupon states that the value is up to, but not to exceed a certain dollar amount and provides a space for the cashier to write in the cost price of the item, the customer will be given credit for only the actual cost of the product.

DeCA accepts one coupon per item or purchase requirement, as stipulated on the coupon.

  • Additional “cents off” coupons cannot be used in conjunction with “buy this, get that free” or “buy item A and Get $X off item B” type coupons.
  • “Military” or “commissary” coupons cannot be used in conjunction with a manufacturer coupon.

Valid coupons will be entered at the value stated on the coupon.  If the value of the coupon exceeds the cost of the product, the customer will be given the full value of the coupon unless prohibited by the manufacturer’s terms and conditions printed on the coupon, e.g., “No cash back if coupon value exceeds retail price.”  Customers will receive any “overage” in the form of commissary gift cards until the remaining balance due is $24.99 or less.

Coupons may be used for “reduced for quick sale” items.

Photocopies of any coupon will not be accepted.

All coupons must be in English; coupons written in a foreign language with an English translation printed on the coupon are acceptable.

Coupons identified as counterfeit by DeCA or the Coupon Information Corporation web site ( will not be accepted.

DeCA may accept Internet coupons.

  • They must be an original print in either black and white or color.
  • Internet coupons cannot be accepted for free products.  Coupons that require the purchase of one or more items to get another for free, such as “Buy One, Get One Free” coupons, are acceptable if they meet all other requirements.

Required Elements for Coupons:

The following elements must be present for a coupon to be valid (see diagram below):

a.  The word coupon

b.  A message to the retailer specifying the terms and conditions for accepting the coupons.

c.  Redemption address.

d.  The purchase requirement, e.g., “Coupon good on any size purchase of…,” or “Coupon good on the purchase of two cans of….,” etc.

e.  A specifically stated face value, e.g., “50 cents,” or an “up to” or “no more than” value, e.g., “value no more than $2.00.”

f.  Internet coupons must contain a typical barcode and/or GS1 DataBar; a Dot Scan Barcode may be printed below the expiration date, but it is not required.

Please note:  An expiration date is not required on the coupon.  A valid coupon may have an expiration date, may be imprinted to state NO EXPIRATION DATE, or not have any information regarding expiration date.  Coupons will not be accepted past the expiration date printed on the coupon, except for locations outside of the 50 states.

(Sorry, I don’t have access to a scanner today to include the picture, I will include it when I am with scanner.)

For more detailed information on DeCA’s coupon policy, please visit our website at

This brochure is great for answering many coupon questions.  I have been told that I can’t used coupons with Dent and Damage items, now I know for sure that is inaccurate.  I have also been told that I can’t use coupons with tent sale items, and that makes a bit more sense since most of those discounts use coupons.


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.
  • Mark

    It’s worth noting, that at Kadena AB (and I assume most or all other overseas locations), expired coupons are only valid 6 months beyond the expiration date.

    • KateKashman

      Yes, Mark, you are correct. Overseas commissaries accept manufacturer’s coupons for up to six months past their expiration date. There has been rumor that the manufacturers are considering discontinuing that courtesy. I hope they don’t – I save at least 10% using coupons.

  • lora

    One typo I wanted to mention: “Please note: An expiration date is not[e] required on the coupon.” Awesome resource. Hopefully more of these brochures will become available.

    • KateKashman

      Thanks, Lora! I find it much easier to edit other people’s writing than my own. I agree, it would be nice to have these brochures readily available at all stores. It would probably save a lot of aggravated customers AND cashiers.

  • Theresa

    Unless I overlooked in info above, why does my commissary limit 4 of the same coupon?

    • Tori

      ALWAYS read the terms of the coupon, they have info for the consumer as well as the retailer…the coupon may state that they wish the retailer to limit 4 like coupons in a single transaction.

  • M J

    why are commissaries handing out coupons a cash registers during case lots ? Why are store personal handing them out I was told before this was not allowed by DECA regulations. And why do some store limit items I read DeCA didn’t limit any items?

  • Terry Lee

    I was publicly humiliated by the store employees at the Ft Hood commissary over what they had to ultimately admit were valid coupons. I submitted a complaint to the DECA HQ but was never contacted. I followed up and was still not contacted. I guess you really dont care how your customers are treated.

    • guest

      I’ve had similar treatment at Davis-Monthan from one cashier in particular who is notorious for her rudeness. I know for a fact many other patrons have complained about her but the management doesn’t seem to care.

  • Amy Price

    Commissary Rewards card. Get digital coupons on the website and no need to carry paper ones. Let’s see if I can remember what ones I put on my card. I think this is a good idea.

    • tori

      I have not heard of that, but it would be awesome- less mess but how would you know what ones you have on there?

  • Marion

    I have and always will use the Commissary if available. Overall I think it’s still the best deal around. It just amazes me though that when an item, i.e. coffee, is on sale and there is a coupon available with it, our commissary always seems to be out of that item. Commissary Reward cards would be awesome. Fewer and fewer paper coupons are available.

  • Tammy

    I hate shopping at the commissary. With few exceptions (meat, bottled water, dog food) I find the prices in my area to be cheaper out in town. Additionally, meat and produce must be used the same day or very next day after purchasing or they go bad. The cashiers are rude, don’t know coupon or WIC policies, items are mis-priced constantly, and the store is not easy to navigate since the “upgrade”.

    Coupons are a hassle to use at the commissary. The cashiers don’t understand the rules they’re supposed to enforce. Additionally, there is one cashier in particular who tells customers…don’t use WIC here, don’t use coupons here, go to Albertson’s or Safeway…better deals and they have things properly marked.

    I still haven’t figured out how DeCA sells “AT COST” and yet their prices are HIGHER THAN SAFEWAY…the most expensive grocery store in this town. Someone is getting stiffed…and it’s the service member!

    • tori

      I dislike commissary shopping as especially since the recent ‘upgrades’. There are always rude cashiers no matter where you go just depends on if you catch them or not unfortunately. Def agree with the not knowing policies, I live in Guam and many of the cashiers don’t speak English very well and depend on the pictures that are on the coupons instead of reading what is valid for use with the coupon. They will make you dig the item out of your bags and then sit there for what seems like forever looking at the item & looking at the coupon & then tell you they can’t accept the coupon because the the item is not what’s pictured, even after consulting with a manager & they tell them the same thing ‘item doesn’t match the picture’… you have to argue with them & read the coupon to them repeatedly! I had to do this exact thing yesterday with a “$3 off gillette cartridge (mach 3, venus, fusion, fusion proglide. 4 ct or larger)” & I was told I couldn’t use it because I didn’t purchase what was pictured, even after I read her the coupon more than once & she consulted with the managers behind the glass twice!!! RIDICULOUS!! If you are going to work at a US AIR FORCE commissary you need to be able to speak & read English.

      I think that ‘at cost’ thing is a load of BS, how else are they going to pay their managers, cashiers & stockers? I know they don’t pay $3 for a pack of hotdogs! Their prices are usually higher than most chains. When we lived in the states we saved more shopping at Wal-mart & Harris Teeter than the commissary but being OCONUS there isn’t much choice but to use the commissary.

  • guest

    One thing I find odd…they just opened a new commissary here in CO…within one WEEK of opening pretty much everything in the store went up 25% from what it was priced at in the old one…a dollar item was 1.25. I’m very interested to know if “at cost” includes the cost of the electricity, water, salaries etc of everything in the commissary. We have 3 commissaries in our area, and this one is now consistently priced hire then the other two.

    • Guest

      After ours got the upgrade prices went up here too. My dog food went from $12 a bag to $17 a bag overnight. Her medicine went from $5.99 to $8.99. Yet, the price off post for the same items remained the same. I think the commissary is a scam.

  • cali_co

    Ft. Carson, right? Almost not worth it anymore….the building costs are now put on the patrons.

  • Evans S

    I live in FL near Jacksonville so I go to NAX Jax. Our commissary is cheaper than Walmart and way cheaper than Winn Dixie. My car was not working over the weekend and I had to go to the Winn Dixie they had Oscar Mayer sliced meat family size 6.47 ballpark franks 3.49. I went to the commissary yesterday and the same size luncheon meat is 2.75 and the hot dogs were $1.50. I used ot shop Walmart for most of our groceries but I prefer the commissary even it takes 45 minutes for me to get there. They usually have meat on special or quick sale and you really can save a lot it you get there at the right time. I’ve never had a problem with them using any of my coupons even when I had 10 coupons for boxes of pasta they took them no problem. I go to Walmart and they always have to look in their Coupon rule binder to make sure that I have legitimate coupons.

  • Karletta Hart

    All these complaints 4 shopping @ the commissary. I have worked @ the commissary as a Cashier, as a stocker when not busy, and, at the door to check ID’s. when I worked I never heard any of the complaints I hear on this page. Our commissary(Moody AFB) is one of the Best in the system. In 78 it was smaller, now, it is one of the Largest around, and, the prices are what they should be. but, I do know, Cashiers have the double duty of checking Exp dates, and, double coupons, to check. If u make a mistake, it is noted in your file, shows up on your countdown at night, This is why Cashiers are so careful. so, if u don’t like shopping the commissary, shop @ Walmart, and, u will pay more for certain items that u get cheaper at the commissary. It is a Privilegem not a right, Your choice. Thankyou Cashiers 4 being observant of the coupons. Its your job, and, u do it well.