DARMSTADT, Germany — Credit and debit card processing downrange is literally miles ahead of where it was a year ago, according to Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials.

More than 90 percent of AAFES facilities have point-of-sale processing capabilities now, ending potentially long delays between purchases and account debits or charge card bills.

Grant Morris, the AAFES treasurer, said it used to take weeks or months for credit and debit card purchases to be processed with the old “good faith” method.

The initial infrastructure only allowed AAFES officials to copy down card information and then take it to the nearest processing facility. In Iraq, that meant sending receipts to Kuwait. Receipts generated in Afghanistan were processed in Germany.

Now that most AAFES stores have point-of-sale capabilities, those at remote sites without a credit card swipe machine only have to go a few miles to the nearest location to process the sales.

Morris said this means funds for purchases are either collected at the time of purchase or days later, easing headaches for some troops who may have forgotten about past purchases.

In one of the more extreme cases, the Cravens family was surprised when $500 was deducted from their account more than year after a purchase was made in Iraq.

It took awhile for Sgt. Rebecca Cravens’ husband to remember making a large purchase while deployed to Camp Muleskinner, Iraq, 13 months ago, Cravens wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

Cravens only noticed the money taken out of their account when she was trying to balance her checkbook.

As a word of advice, Cravens suggests troops pay close attention to their account activity and always keep enough to pay for purchases — even if they were made months before.

“I felt I should warn others because I’ve seen how people spend their money after they return home,” Cravens wrote in the e-mail earlier this month. “If we had spent our savings from Iraq like we really wanted to we would have been in a lot of trouble.”

Morris said this incident is unusual and could have been a case of the receipt falling through the cracks for a while. Though he said he was sorry that it took so long to take the funds out, the money was still owed to AAFES.

“If there’s any issue like this again with a major delay, we will notify the customer in advance,” Morris said during a telephone interview from the United States on Tuesday.

He also noted that before there were credit card machines, AAFES kept signs up as reminders that it could take a while before purchases cleared.

Now, only the most remote sites have to worry about these delays in paying for AAFES merchandise.

However, that may change soon. Morris said AAFES is looking into getting satellite capabilities for these camps within the next year so bills can be processed immediately.

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