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As the holiday season approaches, the Defense Commissary Agency and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service are promoting their gift certificate and gift card programs.

Gerri Young, public affairs officer for DECA Europe, said that while DECA hopes to promote their certificate programs year-round, it is being highlighted now for military families.

“This is a busy time,” Young said. “You don’t have to wrap a gift certificate, you don’t have mail it. It’s an advantage for busy people.”

DECA and AAFES both offer certificate programs and AAFES has recently introduced gift cards, which work in much the same way.

However, the gift cards, which require special scanner registers in order to work, can only be used in a handful of exchanges in southwest Asia and the Middle East.

Both gift certificate programs and AAFES gift cards can be bought by anyone. However, only people allowed to shop in installation stores can redeem them.

Currently, there are no facilities in Iraq that can handle gift cards, said Mike Gerth, chief of retail, AAFES Europe.

Troops can use AAFES Gifts from the Homefront certificates to buy essential items at tactical field exchanges which do not have the card scanners, said Jeanne McDonald, public affairs specialist for AAFES Europe.

While there are no commissaries currently downrange, Young suggested that DECA gift certificates can be used to buy items for a care package to send to loved ones downrange or be used as welcome gifts to new families.

The commissary gift certificate program has been in existence since fall 2001 and has been online since September 2002. Since going online, the program has brought in $1 million in sales.

Commissary gift certificates can be purchased in eight increments from $5 to $100 from www.commissaries.com, by phone at 1-877-770-4438 or by picking up a form from a commissary customer service desk to later fax or mail in.

The AAFES gift certificate program for troops downrange was established in April, and since then more than $200,000 in gift certificates have been purchased, McDonald said.

For information on the AAFES program, see its Web site: www.aafes.com.

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