EagleCash provides convenience for troops

Smart card used to pay for small items while deployed

By LISA BURGESS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 2, 2006

ARLINGTON, Va. — Servicemembers and contractors in Iraq and Kuwait have a new way to pay for the little things that help make a long deployment bearable: EagleCash, a pre-paid smart card program co-sponsored by the U.S. Army and the Treasury Department.

Instead of standing in long check-cashing lines at the finance office, and then paying cash at post/base exchanges, post offices, barbershops and elsewhere, EagleCash participants pay for their purchases by swiping plastic cards in a special machine, Graham Mackenzie, Treasury’s stored value card program manager, told Stars and Stripes Thursday.

The amount of the sale is electronically subtracted from the amount of money the soldier has loaded onto his card. When the card’s balance is low, a soldier can go back to the self-serve kiosk and recharge the card with more cash, pulling from his bank or credit union account back home.

Unlike most debit cards, the card is free and there is never a fee for using it, whether to pay for purchases or at the self-serve kiosk, to check an account history and change the card’s balance, Mackenzie said.

Servicemembers “love EagleCash, because it is such a useful budgeting tool,” Mackenzie said.

EagleCash got its start in Bosnia and Kosovo in 1999.

Over the last two years, EagleCash has expanded to U.S. bases in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

And in July and August, the sponsors sent a team to install EagleCash at 12 Army bases in Iraq and Kuwait. In Iraq, those locations are Camps Liberty, Victory, Slayer, Striker, Baghdad International Airport, Speicher, and Balad/Anaconda, Mackenzie said.

In Kuwait, EagleCash is available at Camps Arifjan, Buehring, Virginia, Ali Al Salem Air Base, and the Kuwait Naval Base, he said.

To date, servicemembers in Iraq have signed up for more than 6,000 free EagleCash cards, logging more than 9,000 transactions at the self-serve kiosks and more than 40,000 transactions at the swipe terminals — more than $25 million in spending, Mackenzie said.

EagleCash cards are available to any servicemember at their local finance office, as well as contractors whose companies have check-cashing agreements with the U.S. military, Mackenzie said.