Now that commissaries and exchanges are all onboard with accepting the gift certificates known as CertifiChecks, even though the contractor for the program is defunct, customers need to be aware of the requirements for redeeming them, including time limits.
CertifiChecks Inc. went out of business Feb. 26, leaving customers of hundreds of businesses and associations around the country holding worthless gift certificates that had already been purchased.
A week later, the Defense Department agreed to allow commissaries to continue to accept the gift certificates, and the Defense Commissary Agency will absorb the losses through its retail stocks account in the Defense Working Capital Fund.
Military exchange officials, who have more leeway because they don't operate with taxpayer dollars, decided shortly after they found out about the problem that they would continue to accept the gift certificates.
When you're making your purchases, aim to get as close to the value of the CertifiCheck as you can because you won't get cash back from the military exchanges. For example, if your gift certificate face value is $50 and your purchases add up to $35, you won't get the other $15 back in cash.
Commissary officials will give the difference in change if you don't spend the full amount — but they are hoping that you will spend within $2 of the face value of the CertifiCheck.
It's unclear whether the commissary and exchange systems will be able to get any money back from CertifiChecks Inc. Its Web site has said the company is filing for bankruptcy. Exchange officials said they are considering their legal options.
The Ohio attorney general filed a lawsuit against the company for failing to honor its gift certificates. Officials noted that the bankruptcy court will determine the amount of reimbursement each consumer is entitled to receive.
The deadlines for redeeming your CertifiChecks are:
• Commissaries: July 31.
• Army and Air Force Exchange Service: no deadline.
• Navy Exchange Service Command: May 31. After that, Navy exchanges will offer customers NEX gift cards in exchange for the full value of the CertifiCheck.
• Marine Corps Exchange: May 31. After that, Marine exchanges will offer customers MCX gift cards in exchange for the full value of the CertifiCheck.
• Coast Guard: at this time, no deadline.
New savings, affordable luxury
Through May 31, Universal Studios Hollywood is offering discounts to military personnel in two ways:
• Service members with a valid military ID will receive two annual passes for the price of one. The Value Pass allows guests daily entry to the park except for 11 blackout dates and can be used through Dec. 31. Both passes must be activated at the same time, but guests can enter separately after the first visit.
• Service members can "buy one, get one free" for a single-day park admission with the purchase of a regularly priced park ticket. The free ticket must be used on the same day, and the person with the free ticket must enter the park with the military person who bought it.
These discounts are available only through installations' tickets and tours offices operated by morale, welfare and recreation officials, or Air Force Services officials.
Universal Studios Hollywood includes a movie-based theme park and studio tour, with attractions such as "The Simpsons Ride," "Revenge of the Mummy — The Ride," "Shrek 4-D," and "Jurassic Park — The Ride."
‘Affordable Luxury' catalog
With everything from home-theater equipment to Coach handbags and Waterford lamps, the "2009 Affordable Luxury Exchange Catalog" has been released. Exchange officials bill it as "the lap of luxury without the high price tag."
The catalog offers other brands such as Bose, Canon, TAG Heuer, Tiffany, Samsonite, Sony, Apple and more.
Prices are good through May 31.
You may order by mail, fax or phone, as well as online.
While you're browsing through catalogs, don't forget that the exchanges' Home Décor Spring Catalog prices expire April 28.