As the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) celebrates the sale of one million gift cards since 2011, it's also unveiling a new "open value" feature that lets buyers put any amount, from $5 to $300, on a card, DeCA said in news releases Thursday.
Customers have redeemed the cards, originally offered in denominations of $25 and $50, for $32 million worth of groceries over eight years, DeCA said. That includes thousands of dollars that went to Coast Guard patrons during the 35-day federal shutdown that ended Jan. 25.
"Reaching one million cards sold not only validates the need for the program," said Bob Bunch, the agency's gift card manager, "but more importantly showcases the wonderfully generous nature of people."
He said the cards have had a 93% redemption rate, which is well above the retail industry rate and shows how often people use them.
The new "open value" gift cards are available in only about 40 stores so far, but anyone, including civilians, can order them online and ship them anywhere in the United States or to international Army Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO) or Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) addresses for a shipping and handling fee.
Cards are valid for up to five years from the date of purchase, and balances can be checked online or by calling the phone number on the card.
"Separations created by the demands of military service are a tough part of military life," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Tomeka N. O'Neal, a senior enlisted adviser to the DeCA director. "The commissary's quality products and services remind them of home, and they can save their money to use on other things to make their holidays memorable."
The one-millionth gift card was sold at Misawa Air Base, Japan, on Nov. 4, officials said.
-- Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at email@example.com.