BMT: Money Matters

While service to the country and a sense of duty are huge, most of us would like to be compensated for our military service.

Before Leaving for BMT
There are a couple of things beyond the normal establishment of direct deposit that you’ll want to look into prior to leaving.  The more prepared you are, the less you and your family will worry while you’re away.  When you’re at BMT, there’s really no chance to deal with financial emergencies.  You’re not going to be able to handle any bill pay, online or off, nor will you be able to check your accounts.  You may have a chance to check the balance on your debit card, but that’s only when you’re on a mini-mall run, which is once every other week, at best.  If a dire emergency comes up, your MTI may allow you to make some additional calls, but don’t depend on it. 

Find someone to manage your financial and personal affairs.  Select a spouse, parent, or another very trustworthy individual.  Get this person a Power of Attorney (POA), which can be done for free through JAG on base.  This is especially important if you have children or if you’re married and some of your accounts are only in your name and not both of yours.  They have separate POAs if you need someone to take care of your children’s medical and educational needs.  Take note that a POA will allow that person to be you, legally, so you don’t want to give that power to just anyone.  If anything comes up, they’ll be able to handle anything in your name.  Make sure this person you’ve designated has access to any accounts that may need to be paid during your absence (if you haven’t set up automatic bill pay), as well as your bank account.  I manage the finances in my household, so I made a 45+ page PowerPoint presentation for my husband with all of the necessary information.  Yeah, a little over the top, but better safe than sorry!  The less you have to worry while you’re away, the better.  BMT is stressful enough without having to worry if your home/financial life is in shambles. 

After Arriving at BMT
When you go to BMT, you will be paid during that time period according to the regular active duty schedule and chart, which you can access at  Depending on what rank you’re entering service as (typically E-1 through E-3), as written in your enlistment contract, you’ll get the appropriate pay.  You may also receive BAH if you have dependents, and you may have money being taken out if you opted for SGLI or FSGLI.  Military paydays are the 1st and the 15th, however, your first pay date will depend on how soon they get you through in-processing.  Hopefully, the ones you’ve left behind aren’t desperately waiting for that first paycheck so they can eat.

The first paycheck you receive will also be $400 less than expected, as you will already have been “given” this money in the form of a pre-loaded debit card (EZ Pay card).  Trust me on this one, you’ll use it all.  Don’t bother inquiring about whether or not you’ll be able to withdraw the money.  By the time 6th or 7th week rolls around, your cash will be gone. 

You’ll use this card for all of your purchases, in and out of the squadron.  During your first mini-mall run, you’ll use it to pick up the supplies you need to have your security drawer equipped and looking uniform with the other trainees.  Depending on how much you brought down with you to BMT, you can easily spend $150 on that first mini-mall run.  I managed to save a little bit of money because I brought my own spandex/compression shorts with me.  When you hit the register, you’ll be rung up not only for the goods you’ve acquired on that trip but also for all of the items they’ve stocked your personal area with at the dorm, including your flashlight, laundry bag, mesh bags, ruler, pens, pencils, highlighters, Sharpie, etc.  It adds up quickly, to say the least.  We bought the following items on our first trip to the mini-mall.  The MTI can’t force you to buy these items, but some are essential to making your personal area pass inspection – damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  You’ll also have an option to pick up other miscellaneous stuff.  Keep in mind that the selection of hair supplies is limited and all of the squadrons shop at this mini-mall. 

  • toothbrush holder
  • extra mesh bags
  • extra brown towel
  • extra white towel – this will be the “liner” on the bottom of your security drawer.  This is white, so buy liquid products that are clear or white and save yourself the hassle, trust me.  If the towel can conceal spills, you’ll be in better shape.
  • Tupperware containers – for keeping things organized in the back of your security drawer.  Get at least two.
  • Bath and Body Work body spray – you’ll use this both a body spray and an air freshener.  You’ll use this for the impression of a clean environment in your wall locker.  If you get the “Fresh Linen” scent, it’s clear – again, for spills.
  • spandex/compression shorts
  • full-sized bottle of body wash – get the Suave Coconut, which is white.
  • toothpaste – get a white paste in the small plastic container with the flip top, not the standard tube.  It’s easier to keep clean.
  • full-sized bottle of shampoo – the Suave 2-in-1 is a good, cheap option.
  • hair products – grab some extra-hold gel, if you didn’t bring any with you.
  • stationery – if you want some AF or Lackland-branded stationery to send home.
  • stamps – ask for them at the register.
  • steno notepad – this is great for notes in class and it slips into your BMTSG folder and satchel.  Don’t bother getting the writing tablet (sized similarly), it falls apart.
  • pens, highlighters, post-its, etc – grab any study materials you might want for use in class and with your BMTSG.

Ok, enough of the shopping tangent.  Point is, you’re going to be working on that EZ Pay card.  During the first clothing issue, you’ll use it to buy your running shoes, which will run you about $70.  You’ll use it to pay for your dry cleaning expenses, which add up quickly.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly you go through full-sized toiletries in BMT.

Your MTI will be emailed a payroll list, organized by social security number, where you can see the amount of your paycheck.  They’ll tell you to be prepared for the first check to see “off,” due to the EZ Pay card amount being taken out, but if it seems grossly off by the 2nd check, you’ll want to bring it to your MTI’s attention.  Don’t depend on the payroll list always being there – sometimes your MTI won’t receive the email in a timely fashion, and by timely, I mean a week off.

In summary, settle your affairs before leaving for BMT.  Make sure everything is ironed out and that there are clear expectations about who will be managing your finances and the procedures for doing so.  Like most everything else in life, the better prepared you are, the better you’ll fare in the end.


  • Tarynsaid

    Oy — I think the idea of leaving the responsibility of my finances to someone else is nerve wracking. Not that I doubt their ability … I'm just that OCD about it.

  • Megansaid

    I have a question.. I saw your list of stuff to get post, so basically would we be saving money if we just bring all of this stuff with us? I mean they aren't going to take it all away if we bring the stuff on the list right? Or make us use something different?

  • Erinsaid

    @Megan – If you stick to the list on the "What To Pack" post, you should be pretty good. As for the items on this list that you'll pick up during the first mini-mall run, hold off on them as your MTI will have recommendations to make your flight uniform. The only things they took away from me that didn't get returned were unmarked toiletry items – don't bother bringing those. Bring travel sized items of shampoo, body wash, and toothpaste to hold you over until you visit the mini-mall. Hope this helps! Let me know if you need other clarification!

  • Erinsaid

    @Megan – I would bring a small one to start, and then buy a full-sized one at the mini-mall. Realistically, we never had time to wash our faces in those first few weeks. You have a bit more time in the evening to tend to your skin, but not a lot in the beginning. If you have really specific skin care needs, bring your face wash from home, but understand that you'll have to shove it in the back of your security drawer, where you don't have a lot of room. The mini-mall has brands like Biore, Neutrogena, Ambi, etc. Have you read my "Beauty and the BMT" post? I tried to bring a gentle body wash (Phisoderm) that had salicylic acid in it so I could use it on my face and body, but I put it in a unmarked container, so it got confiscated.

  • Megansaid

    I use Noxema…and no I haven't read it yet I will right now!! BTW you're blog is soo helpful I love it! Thank You so much! I leave March 6th!! I'm just soo ready to go! lolThanks againMegan

  • Erinsaid

    @Megan – I'd go ahead and take it. Noxema isn't super pricey, so worse case scenario, it gets thrown away, you can easily replace it. Thank you so much for the kudos! I remember being BEYOND excited at your stage too – I think I'd been packed for months!

  • Sabine Ohsaid

    Curiosity, is it possible to run out of money on your ex pay card? If so, do they issue you like another chunk of money or are you s.o.l? Lol

  • Erinsaid

    @Sabine – Yes, it is possible and everyone does. Most started running out around the time of BEAST, especially the week after. They do not "give" you any more money, and I say that in quotations because the money comes from your first paycheck. At that point, you need to start using your own personal debit card that you've brought with you.

  • Franshesca Apontesaid

    When someone enlists i understood that they are automatically enrolled in CCAF which i would assume you would attend after BMT training.(right?)When a person enlists i know they are listed at an E-1. What sort of prior education grants you a higher rating? and on they have a list of payrolls, but they dont specify if they pay you that amount monthy or yearly (yearly i assumed). Do you think you could tell me after BMT, what would i be enlisted in (CCAF?) i want to be a Pilot which i know "has" to take some sort of big schooling… 🙂 sorry for soo many questions. I feel like im bombarding you with tons of stuff. please forgive me!

  • Erinsaid

    @Franshesca – Correct, you are "enrolled" in your CCAF degree program, however it's not a physical location/school. You can complete college courses at a school of your choice, or take DSST/CLEP tests to earn credits. Those credits will be applied to your CCAF degree and once you earn enough credits and technical education credits, you'll earn an AAS degree.Depending on if you have college credits, you can go in at a higher rank. I believe it was 60ish credits to go in as an E-3. Most of the pay charts tell you your monthly salary. As for your CCAF degree, it'll depend on your AFSC. As a Personnelist, my CCAF program is Human Resources.

  • Dixie Carnleysaid

    My mom actually brought this question up, and because I didn't know the answer, I decided to bring it up here. She wanted to know if I would be able to touch my first paycheck at all while I was still in basic.

  • Erinsaid

    @Dixie Carnley – Yes, you will if need be when you're at the mini-mall and have your debit card (if you run out of the money on the pre-paid card). If you're talking about paying bills of any kind, make arrangements to put them on auto-pay or have a trusted person access your accounts and pay them for you. You will not have time/resources/access to look up your account balance and pay any bills. The MTIs are supposed to post a roster of how much your paycheck is, but they get the sporadically, so you can't rely on it.

  • Nuihokusaid

    Question… Do they allow females to bring tweezers and razors to BMT or will they be confiscated? Just something I'm curious about

  • Holly Newvillesaid

    Hi Erin! What about sanitary needs (pads) I wish she would wear tampons but she wont. My daughter wont need them right away but may need them within a few weeks after arriving at BMT should she just wait and get them at the BX? It seems like they will take up alot of room in her bag. Also do they have a good variety for them there? She likes the ones with wings.

  • Erinsaid

    @Holly Newville – If she won't need them right away, she can definitely wait. They'll make that first mini-mall run that first week, before they wear ABUs for the first time. I don't know off the top of my head, but they should have a decent selection. Good luck to her!

  • Jaleesa Davissaid

    also, can i wear my own pair of running shoes when i leave to basic and just use those? my feet tend to need more support than most.

  • Erinsaid

    @Jaleesa Davis – Not totally sure I follow you – are you wanting to transfer your military paychecks into two different accounts? I would think that they best way would be to set up a reoccurring transfer to another account after military payday. Yes, you *should* be able to use your own shoes, given a few factors – check out my post on running shoes!

  • Heather Garlandsaid

    I think what Jaleesa was trying to ask is: Can we have our pay from BMT directly deposited into our personal bank account back home? I really need to know this as well.

  • Heather Garlandsaid

    I think what Jaleesa was trying to ask is: Can we have our pay from BMT directly deposited into our personal bank account back home? I really need to know this as well.

  • Erin Carpentersaid

    Yes, of course, with the exception of that $400 they'll put on your EZ Pay card. You will set up direct deposit with your recruiter before you leave, typically.

  • BritJsaid

    I'm new to your blog (it has helped me out trememdously!)and I'm leaving for BMT May 27th! I have a quick question concerning money. Since we have the EZ Pay card, does that mean we shouldn't worry about bringing any extra cash?

  • Erinsaid

    @BritJ – There are times when you will need some cash, but you generally have enough time to access an ATM before it is needed. I needed cash to purchase my squadron t-shirt and coin, a BEAST challenge coin, and pay for my 5K registration dues. You can bring some cash, but don't feel like you need to bring a bunch.

  • parad0x Msaid

    Greetings Erin. first off, thank you so much for giving your time sharing your insight to us all. I have a question regarding the EZ paycard, ONE person from reddit declared that the excess $$$ left from the card expired after BMT and isnt transferable to your bank accoubt, not one other active member told him that he has ut wrong. Can you shed some light on this matter? I've spent my savings for my packlist already so i dont havec to spend that much while at BMT

  • Erinsaid

    @parad0x M – My pleasure! It's been so long since I dealt with that card, I don't remember too many of the fine details. I doubt it's transferable to your bank account. You'll use it up eventually, I promise. You could always try asking in AF WingMoms on Facebook to see if they've updated any policies on the card. Good luck to you! It'll all come together.

  • Heather Veilleuxsaid

    As of 2016, 45-60 college credits will bump you up to an E-3. I believe it was 20-25+ for E-2. Not sure when the increase in pay kicks in, since you won't get your stripes until the end of BMT/beginning of tech school.

  • Erinsaid

    @Heather Veilleux – As a Reservist, I was paid at the E-3 rate for the entire time I was at BMT. I'm not sure if it's different for Active Duty. We didn't get to wear our stripes until Parade (the day after we got our Airman's coin).