Military PCS Guide
Helpful information for service members who are moving

Permanent Change of Station (PCS)

For most military families, the biggest issue with the PCS is the move itself. Packing, home inspections, house hunting, the waiting list for government housing, and traveling with pets are just a few of the tasks that can make the process daunting.

Understanding your rights, responsibilities, benefits, allowances, and the overall impact on your pay can help elevate some of the anxiety. The PCS guide was designed for that specific reason; to help you understand all the aspects of military transfers. This guide will take the mystery out of unfamiliar acronyms, provide easy to follow checklists, links to important resources, and helpful tips and insights that can help you on your journey to a new station.

5 Things to Do When You Get Your PCS Orders

  1. 1. Set up a meeting with your base transportation office.

    Depending on your service branch, the name of the government office that handles your relocation varies:

    • The Department of Defense: Joint Personal Property Shipping Office
    • Air Force: Traffic Management Office
    • Army: Installation Transportation Office
    • Navy and Marine Corps: Personal Property Shipping Office
    • Coast Guard: Household Goods Shipping Office
    2. Contact the family center at your new location.

    Family centers offer relocation assistance programs that provide moving information to you and your family. Ask questions, and learn about your new community and what it offers.

  3. 3. If you’re living in government quarters, notify the housing office of your projected move date.

    Make sure you also know all the regulations about cleaning your home before you move out.

  4. 4. Make an appointment with your finance office at your current installation.

    Making a move will be a drain on your bank account. The finance office can give you the lowdown on your options, as well as relocation benefits that you’re eligible for.

  5. 5. Use the PCS Moving Checklist

    In making preparations for a move, it’s easy to be bogged down with all the details and things to do. Stay on top of it all with this handy checklist, which covers everything from packing to setting up in your new location. These ready-to-print lists will remind you what you need to do.

Saving Money for Your PCS

When you combine moving costs with the difficulty of uprooting your life every few years, relocations can take a big toll. While some moving hassles are unavoidable, you can ease the financial pain of PCSing with a little advance planning:

Avoid Budget Blues

Whether your move is days or weeks away, develop a moving budget in advance to keep your finances on track and avoid last-minute costs:

  1. 1. Find out exactly what the military will cover, and what costs fall on you. You can visit your family center and base transportation office for more information.
  2. 2. Budget for shipping charges, temporary housing expenses, and start-up fees for utilities.
  3. 3. Make a list of things you’ll have to buy when you move in and estimate those costs.
  4. 4. Use this budget to determine how much you should save for your next move

Prevent Moving Mishaps

Some moving horror stories result from damaged or lost property. When you PCS, insurance can mean the difference between disappointment and financial disaster.

  1. 1. Find out how much of your personal property the government movers will insure. If it’s not enough to provide full protection, a temporary renters insurance policy could be an affordable way to cover the difference.
  2. 2. If you’re shipping a vehicle, review your auto insurance policy to find out if moving-related damages are covered. If they’re not, ask your insurer about purchasing shipment coverage.

Fine Tune Your Finances

Once you settle into your new place, consider fine-tuning your finances to make your next move easier. The stop-and-go that comes with a PCS — stopping everything and starting over again in a new area — can be a shock to your finances. Military members can find some relief by working with companies that “move with you” and serve your needs wherever you go.

Consider using online banking so you don’t have to worry if there’s a branch bank near your new home. You can also set up automatic bill payments to make your life easier during future transitions.

  1. 1. Choose an insurance company that offers coverage in all 50 states and abroad, so you don’t have to change providers with every move.
  2. 2. Open a separate savings account and contribute enough each month to ease the cash crunch before your next move.
  3. 3. Set up automatic transfers for investment accounts to ensure your savings habits won’t slip.