Everything You Need to Know About OCONUS Ration Cards

(U.S. Air Force/Alexis Siekert)
(U.S. Air Force/Alexis Siekert)

If you are ever stationed overseas, you will get to experience using a ration card on a variety of items. While some rationed items, like fuel, make sense, others, like coffee, may seem a little strange. Wanting to know more about ration cards? Read on. (Because some limitations and restrictions may vary due to military branch or location, be sure to check with your local installation to ensure you know when your ration card is needed.)

What is a ration card?

The ration card is simply a piece of paper provided to service members and family members that are command-sponsored to live overseas. The card authorizes specific purchases. Some items may vary depending on where you're stationed. For example, I currently live in Europe and use my ration card for coffee, but the card is also needed for alcohol or tobacco purposes.

Some installations in Asia may require a ration card for cosmetics, health and beauty products and certain wines. You will want to check with your installation to find out when you will need a ration card. A unit representative usually supplies the cards.

Why do we need it?

The cards are intended to prevent over-purchasing high-value, high-demand items and selling them to the local community. Some countries, like Germany, require ration cards for tax reasons. Things like coffee, tobacco products and some alcohol tend to be higher-taxed items. You will need to have your ration card to purchase rationed items from the commissary, Exchange or Class Six. Each family member must have their own card. No using someone else's.

What are my limits?

In Germany, you are limited to four cartons of cigarettes, six liters of alcohol (if it contains more than 33% alcohol) and five pounds of coffee grounds or 20 ounces of instant coffee each month. You will want to check with your installation to find out your limits.

Is anything else rationed?

Fuel is also rationed overseas, but you won't use your usual ration card to make that purchase. Instead, you will have your vehicle inspected and then receive a fuel card from AAFES gas stations for each vehicle you own. These cards are not interchangeable as fuel rations can vary by vehicle, so always be sure you have the proper card for the proper vehicle. You can keep it in your glove compartment but you'll need it every time you purchase fuel. No exceptions.

For Germany, specifically, you can use these fuel cards at any military installation fuel pump or any Esso station in Germany. If purchasing off the installation at a host-country pump, you will need to have a pre-paid balance on your fuel card to purchase. If you leave your host-country, however, you will be subject to regular fuel prices, not rationed prices. Plan accordingly.

What happens if I misuse my ration card?

Don't do this. You could face disciplinary action, loss of privileges and a hefty fine.

It may sound confusing at first, but the ration cards are very easy to use and it quickly becomes second nature. If you have any questions, the commissary, AAFES and Class Six employees can help you.

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