Understanding ration cards in Germany
On our first morning after arriving in Germany, my sleep-deprived husband and I stumbled into the commissary to buy some much-needed coffee. With our bag in hand, we went to the register unaware that our purchase would soon be declined. Why? Not because we lacked funding, but a ration card.
Ration cards have been a staple in Germany (and other parts of Europe) since World War II. Rationing was introduced to help prevent over-purchasing high-demand, low-supply goods such as flour, meat, coffee, tobacco and gasoline. Today, rationing in most European countries has all but disappeared. However, because of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with our host nation, there are still certain items that require a ration card for purchase.
Tobacco, coffee and soluble goods
In Germany, rationing has more to do with taxes than the actual availability of goods. Tobacco, coffee and alcohol are heavily taxed items. In order to prevent resale to the local community without paying taxes, the German government has stipulated rationing in the SOFA. Although purchasing these items at the commissary and shoppette is limited, there are no restrictions when purchasing them on the economy.
Each month, you are limited to:
• Four cartons of cigarettes
• Five pounds of coffee grounds or 20 ounces of instant coffee
• Six liters of alcohol
If you didn’t receive your ration card while in-processing, see your unit representative to obtain one. Your ration card is valid for three years from the date of issue, or until the end of the month and year of the sponsor’s date of return from overseas (DEROS). Each family member or dependent age 18 or older may be issued a ration card.
One of the first things you may have noticed was the seemingly exorbitant price to gas up. In Europe, fuel is another highly taxed commodity. Our SOFA allows us to purchase our gas tax-free and duty-free. Rations are assigned based on the vehicle’s motor size (horsepower), German rating in kilowatts and the German horsepower equivalent, Pferdestärke.
Once your vehicle has been inspected and registered with the USAREUR Vehicle Registration office, you can obtain your fuel card at an AAFES gas station. Fuel cards are assigned to one specific vehicle. If you have two vehicles, you will have a card for each one. These cards are valid on military installations and Esso stations in Germany only.
If you plan on purchasing fuel off base, you will need to add a pre-paid balance to your card. This allows you to buy gas at the tax-free rate. The balance is shared across all cards issued to the sponsor, so make sure to know your balance before you fuel up. You check pre-paid and ration balances at odin.aafes.com/esso, or look on the bottom of your last receipt. To learn more about fuel rations or to find an Esso station, visit www.aafes.com.
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