Ask questions in the Newbie Thread at /r/airforce
The monthly pay you will receive is based on your rank and is the same for every branch of the military. You will be paid on the 1st and 15th of every month, unless you opt to receive your check in a one-lump sum per month (not recommended for most people, as it can lead to budgetting problems). For a list of all of the military pay scales as well as all of the available bonuses and allowances, please see the official document from DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Service) here (.pdf format).
For simplicity’s sake I will cover the basic pay information here, as the full list can be overwhelming.
The following information is current as of 16 August, 2016.
E-1 monthly pay: $1,566.90
E-2 monthly pay: $1,756.50
E-3 monthly pay: $1,847.10
In the Air Force you will start out as an E-1, unless you meet certain criteria to enlist at an advanced rank. The above pay information is your normal monthly pay and is taxed and subject to Social Security and Medicare as well, just like a normal pay check. While this looks (and is) a small amount, you must also consider that if you are unmarried you will be living in a dormitory free of charge and your only bills will be for food (which you are given an allowance for) and any other niceties you’d like to have such as a car, internet service, cell phone, etc. All of the basics are already covered. If you are married then you will receive BAH, which is a tax free allowance to pay for a place to live, which is explained more below.
Basic Allowance for Subsistence
Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS): $368.29 per month.
BAS is a monthly tax-free allowance that is intended to pay for the military member (not the military member’s dependents or family members) to eat for a month. During basic training you will not receive this amount, as you will be eating at the dining facility and will not need to buy your own food. Also if you are living in the dormitory even after tech school and there is a dining facility available on base, you will not receive BAS. BAS is only intended to help you pay for the cost of groceries, should a dining facility not be readily available. If you are living off base, married or single, you will receive BAS.
Basic Allowance for Housing
Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH): Varies depending on location
BAH is a tax-free allowance paid every month for an Air Force member who is not living in the dormitories, whether married or not. The amount you are paid varies depending on the location of the base where you are stationed. You can look up the BAH rates for a given zip code online. You also receive a larger BAH amount if you have dependents (wife, children, etc) as you’ll probably require a larger place to live.
Cost of Living Allowance
Cost of Living Allowance (COLA): Varies depending on location.
COLA is paid when an Air Force member is required to live in an area where the expenses are abnormally high and the basic pay and BAH/BAS are not enough to realistically cover all expenses. The COLA amount varies at each location.
Clothing allowance: $352.80 (male), $360.00 (female) per year.
The clothing allowance is an amount paid once per year on your anniversary date to help pay for buying new uniforms/boots having alterations made, sewing on new rank, etc.
Family Separation Allowance
Family Separation Allowance: $250 per month.
Family Separation Allowance is paid when an Air Force member is separated from their immediate family (spouse, kids) for more than 30 days. This usually comes into effect when deployed to remote locations like Iraq and is to help cover increased cost of having the family separated.
Certain career fields also receive extra pay, such as linguists that speak another language and career fields that require flying.
Career Enlisted Flyer Pay: $150 per month (and up, with years of service).
Hostile Fire Pay: $225 per month.
Hostile Fire Pay is paid while serving in areas designated by the President as a war zone or area that faces potential danger. This includes Iraq and Afghanistan among others, currently.