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Consumer Watch: Stop clipping and load your savings onto a commissary coupon card

Jun. 9, 2011 - 11:56AM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 9, 2011 - 11:56AM  |  
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Shoppers can expect to see two new incentive cards at commissaries over the next several months — a digital coupon card and a gift card.

The digital coupon card, also called a loyalty card, is expected to be introduced in the fall, according to commissary officials who spoke at a conference recently in Norfolk, Va.

Digital coupon offers from manufacturers and third-party coupon issuers will be uploaded directly to the Defense Commissary Agency's contractor on the project.

Before their commissary shopping trip, customers will visit the DeCA website to peruse the coupon offerings, then click on the coupons they'd like to redeem to digitally load them to their coupon cards. Customers swipe their cards at the register to redeem the offers. The uploaded information contains all the coupon rules, such as redemption value, expiration date, number of redemptions per purchase and any other terms and conditions.

Commissary officials say it's too early to know how many coupons will be offered, but they told the Norfolk conference audience there has been interest in such a program from manufacturers for years.

The card will let customers take advantage of more coupons that apply to their commissary, say officials, who also hope it will reduce fraudulent coupons and redemption errors.

Commissary shoppers' coupon use has declined a bit this year, according to Chris Burns, DeCA's director of sales. Between Oct. 1 and April 30, customers redeemed 71 million coupons for a savings of $64.6 million. Over the same period in fiscal 2010, they redeemed 76 million coupons for a savings of $67 million.

The good news is that the average value of a coupon has risen to 91 cents — from 87 cents in fiscal 2010 and 83 cents in fiscal 2009.

The perfect gift

Commissary officials also expect to introduce the new commissary gift card this summer.

It will be available in denominations of $25 and $50, and will be sold in stores and online.

As with the previous paper gift certificates, anyone will be able to buy the gift cards, but only authorized customers will be able to redeem them in stores.

Paper gift certificates are available now in $25 denominations at customer service areas, cash offices and full-service checkout lanes.

Pointing to savings

New signs will point you to savings in your commissary, starting in July.

"Extra savings" signs will tell you the price of the item and how much you save over the regular price. Other items will be marked with "Hot New Item" and "Everyday Savings."

The signs are designed to more quickly communicate the savings and to be more durable — for example, no more curling in refrigerated cases.

June coupons for a cause

Commissary customers will find some extra savings in June, and purchases will help support several military-related charities.

DeCA's industry partners — manufacturers, suppliers and vendors — will donate part of their profits to different groups.

Procter & Gamble, for example, is offering a coupon booklet with $60 in savings. For each coupon redeemed, the company will donate 25 cents to the USO's Operation Enduring Care, a program to help wounded warriors recover, spend time with their families and prepare for their transition back into the community. Look for "The Family Unit" displays identifying participating products.

Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck, along with their broker, Overseas Service Corp., are offering in-store sales identified by signs in the commissaries. For every dollar spent on a certain product, the manufacturers will donate 5 cents to the Soldiers' Angels organization's Adopt a Soldier program.

Email staff writer kjowers@militarytimes.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Karen Jowers with your questions or comments.

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