Understanding your military pay is a lot like understanding your first algebra class. To start, there are two basic types of enlisted military pay. There are many more benefits and advantages to receiving military paycheck. It's nothing less than you deserve, as US military service members.

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Military Pay

Understanding Military Payday, Everyday

Understanding your military pay is a lot like understanding your first algebra class. At first glance it looks complicated, but upon closer examination, you'll find that it's all based on simple, logical rules.

For enlisted military personnel, there are two basic types of enlisted military pay. Basic Pay, sometimes called Base Pay, is the amount you earn per month for your military service. Base Pay is a flat rate based on your time in the military and your current rank.

The other type of money considered to be part of your career pay is military allowances. Military allowances can include money for housing, for "subsistence" which basically covers food, and for cost of living expenses during overseas assignments.

What is the major difference between your military basic pay and your military allowances? Military allowances are tax-free. You read that correctly. Military allowances for housing, food and cost of living are not taxable by the federal government.

One of your biggest expenses - housing - can be paid for by a military allowance, above and beyond what the IRS considers to be your total, taxable wages for the year. This benefit is your Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).

For example, if you pay $1,000 a month rent in a high-cost area like Chicago, San Diego or elsewhere, and your military BAH is $1,000/month, your military BAH supports your housing cost - and you get that 12K per year allowance with no tax consequences whatsoever.

Officers pay charts can seem more challenging to understand. In fact, officers pay is more complex because it includes different pay scales for warrant officers, and for officers who started their careers as enlisted personnel. But again, once you figure it out, it's not tough to understand it all.

Knowing the difference between a commissioned officer (also known simply as an officer) and a warrant officer helps. According to Army.mil, "Warrant officers possess a high degree of specialization in a particular field in contrast to the more general assignment pattern of other commissioned officers." Warrant officers have their own separate training schools and their own pay scale.

The commissioned officer military pay chart is based on time in service, and rank. Warrant officer pay charts works somewhat the same as commissioned officers, but warrant officer pay doesn't "flatline," even at the lowest ranks, until the 20 year mark.

And there's more. If you choose to serve in the Guard/Reserve, you will earn what's called Drill Pay. Drill Pay is money earned while you're training on weekends and during full-time training events.

Then there are changing military incentives and special military pay, which all add to the total financial package that comes with being part of today's military.

In fact, there are many advantages to receiving military pay, in all its forms. It's nothing less than you deserve, as US military service members. And we'll help you understand the details, keep track of the changes and sort it all out in this section of Military Hub.


Earning your military salary is one thing; managing it well enough to cover your military lifestyle can require some maneuvering. The military comes with great additional financial support: allowances, benefits and more, all in addition to your military salary.


To successfully recruit the more than 175,000 soldiers per year required to sustain the All-Volunteer Force, the Army continues to offer military pay and army enlistment incentives in exchange for service, allegiance, and commitment. Today's Army incentives are designed to attract quality applicants with needed critical and hard-to-fill skills.


Everyone in uniform knows the military's retirement pay isn't enough to live on. Even first term airmen, soldiers, sailors and marines soon learn that even a 20-year military career (or beyond) is a gateway to a new life and a new job. With a bit of planning, you can set yourself up for a very comfortable military retirement; one that goes far beyond the numbers on your retirement check.

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Disclaimer: MilitaryHub.com and MilitaryRates.com are private websites that are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, any U.S. government agencies, or any U.S. military branches. Our sites contain basic information about veteran benefits, pay tables, current events, and news for active duty military personnel, military veterans, and their families. You can find additional information on these topics at the official website for U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.