You should set up a bank account (either savings or checking) before you depart for Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT).
Direct Deposit is mandatory for military pay. You should already have a bank account set up before you leave for basic training, and bring your account information and an ATM/debit card with you. If you don't have an account set up, one of the first things the staff will do is require you to establish an account at the base credit union or base bank.
During your in-processing, you will complete paperwork to begin your military pay. Military personnel are paid on the 1st and 15th of each month. If those days fall on a non-duty day, you are paid on the duty day, preceding. Your pay is direct-deposited into your bank account.
So, when will you receive your first paycheck? Good question, and one that can't be answered accurately. In general, if your military pay information is entered into the Finance Computer System prior to the 7th of the month, you'll receive your first paycheck on the following 15th. If the information is entered into the Finance Computer System after the 7th of the month, but prior to the 23rd of the month, you'll receive your first paycheck on the following 1st. However, please note that the date you fill out the paperwork during in-processing and the date the information is input into the Finance Computer System are not the same dates. A Finance Clerk is going to take the paperwork you filled out, and enter it into the computer. However, the clerk is entering the information of hundreds of other recruits at the same time, so it may take several days before yours gets entered. I always advise people to estimate that the first paycheck won't be deposited until a full 30 days after arrival. That way, if you're paid before that, it's an unexpected surprise, and if it takes the entire 30 days, it's what you were expecting anyway.
In any case, your first paycheck will contain all the pay you have coming to you at that point. For recruits without dependents, that means base pay, only. If you enlisted with an advanced rank, you will be paid the basic pay for that advanced rank, even though you don't get to wear the rank during basic until your graduation.
For those with dependents, it means base pay and housing allowance. If you have dependents, you'll also receive family separation allowance of $250 per month, but that won't start until you've been away from your dependents for 30 days. Your first paycheck will be "pro-rated" to the number of days you've been on active duty. For example, if you receive your first paycheck 30 days after arrival, you will receive the full-rate of the monthly pay and allowances in that paycheck. If, however, you receive your first paycheck two weeks after arrival, it will contain 1/2 of the monthly base pay, and 1/2 of the monthly housing allowance (for those with dependents). Of course, taxes and other deductions (such as the deduction for your basic training debit card account -- see below) are taken out.
Basic Training Debit Card
Pretty much everything everything you need will be issued to you during basic training. In some cases, however, it's not a "free issue." Only actual uniform items are issued for free. Non-uniform items, such as notebooks, pens, flashlights, etc., are not. A couple of days after arrival, you'll be issued an official basic training "debit card." This card has about $350 worth of your initial military pay deposited in a special finance account. When you need to purchase something that is not issued free (such as the running shoes, soap, shampoo, haircuts, laundry costs, etc.), you'll use this card. Any funds remaining in this card when you finish basic will be added to your next paycheck.
You are allowed to have cash at basic training. How much you can have at any one time is up to your T.I., but it probably won't be more than $40 or so. Except when you're actually using the cash, such as during patio breaks to buy a soda or candy bar, all your bills must be locked up in your secrutiy drawer, and you must enter and keep track of the serial numbers for each bill in your pocket notebook.
Want to Know More About Air Force Basic Training?