Debit and credit cards used by U.S. troops and Department of Defense civilian employees are getting a compatibility upgrade.

As of next year, cards issued by military banks and credit unions will be usable at 935,000 teller machines and 7 million merchants as a result of an alliance between the Armed Forces Financial Network and MasterCard International.

That means the 89 million cardholders belonging to base banks and credit unions will be able to use their cards at stores or cash machines affiliated with the Maestro and Cirrus networks. Customers won’t need new cards, even if their current plastic isn’t currently labeled as compatible with those systems.

Gift certificates on sale

Commissaries in Europe are selling gift certificates in time for the holidays, and are asking ambitious elves, such as military relief organizations, to stock up early.

“Last year, we had to go to some extraordinary measures in order to fill large requests made very close to the holidays,” Gerri Young, spokeswoman for Defense Commissary Agency Europe, said in a news release.

Young asked bulk purchasers to e-mail requests to Everyone else can buy them in stores.

The certificates are worth $25 and are available at customer service offices. Commissaries charge a $1 handling fee to offset printing, shipping and handling costs.

The in-store holiday vouchers do not replace the certificates sold online, which also remain available. They can also be used at commissaries outside Europe.

‘Star’ winner to perform in Europe

The winner of USA Network’s “Nashville Star 2” contest will tour bases in Germany and the Balkans over the Thanksgiving season.

Brad Cotter will perform Sunday through Nov. 29 at military installations and share turkey dinner with troops. Exact stops and dates on the tour, organized through the United Service Organizations and Armed Forces Entertainment, were not released.

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