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Dec 062013
 
 December 6, 2013  Posted by  Features, Health & Beauty, Hot Deals, Money
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Drugstores carry everything from health and beauty items to school supplies and kitchenware, often at relatively low prices. We looked at three nationwide chain drugstores to decipher their rewards programs and let you in on the potential perks and pitfalls.

Rite-Aid

Sign up for a wellness+ account to be eligible for several discounts at Rite-Aid and to earn reward points for non-prescription purchases. (If you sign up in your local store, make sure to register your account online as well.)

The chain’s +Up Rewards coupon savings are loaded onto your wellness+ card and redeemed the next time you shop. If you prefer to choose when to use the rewards, ask your cashier to print them on your receipt instead. You can then use the +Up Rewards coupons with manufacturer or in-store coupons.

There are restrictions: The coupons are not valid on prescriptions or co-pays, stamps, prepaid cards and several other items. Your  +Up Rewards cannot be used the same day you earn them, and they usually expire 14 days after they are loaded or printed. Look in the store’s weekly circular for listings of +Up reward savings, but make sure you watch the shelves for unannounced deals. You can now load e-coupons onto your wellness+ card every month with the Load2Card option. Redeem them when you scan your card at the checkout.

Rite-Aid also has a wellness program for thoses 65 and older. The program includes discounts on the first Wednesday of every month; a program for diabetics; a prescription savings program that can save 15% on brand name and generic prescription drugs; pharmacist consultations and automated refills. If you are an allergy sufferer, you can receive a $20 store certificate every time you spend $75 on Zyrtec or Benadryl over-the-counter medications.

Find other deals and exclusive offers at Rite-Aid’s Facebook page, or on Twitter (@riteaid) Want an app? Download it here. Also, you can “stack” coupons for bigger savings, meaning you can use both a Rite-Aid coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon toward the purchase of a single item. Learn the rules here.

Families with kids looking toward higher education will be interested to learn Rite-Aid has teamed up with the Upromise savings program. Each time you make a purchase at Rite-Aid (or any other Upromise partner), you can earn money for college. Register your wellness+ card with Upromise and scan your card for education.

Walgreens

Brian Chavez, National Deals Editor for Living on the Cheap, gave me these tips for grabbing the best savings at Walgreens. Walgreens introduced its Balance Rewards card in 2012. The card is required for you to receive store sales prices and earn points on the purchase of selected items. Chavez suggests hanging on to the points until you accumulate a large amount. The minimum amount for redemption is 5,000 points, which will get you $5 off your next purchase.

Walgreens’ savings for seniors day for adults 55 and older usually happens in the first week of the month. If you don’t meet the age requirement, Chavez says you should tag along with an eligible friend. You can save 20% on top of sales and coupon savings.

AARP members can can earn bonus points with the Balance Rewards card and take advantage of special offers. Join Balance Rewards online or in your local store and link your membership to your AARP membership. If you need help, call 855-225-9225. You can also earn points for prescription or immunization purchases, or by joining the Walk with Walgreens program.

Combine manufacturer’s coupons with store coupons for greater savings. Chavez says it is easiest to grab a weekly flier and match your coupons as you go through it. The store coupons are usually only good for a week, he says, so act quickly. Watch the company’s Facebook page or Twitter feed (@Walgreens) for special offers.

CVS

CVS (originally known as Consumer Value Stores) has a member rewards card, called ExtraCare. Sign up to receive personalized coupons online or on your CVS receipt. You can also scan your card at the store’s ExtraCare Coupon Center to print coupons for in-store offers. Each purchase with the ExtraCare card earns you 2% in ExtraBucks rewards. There are exceptions though, so read the fine print here.

If you fill 10 prescriptions at CVS, you can earn $5 in ExtraBucks rewards – but you have to join yet another sub-membership called ExtraCare Pharmacy and Health Rewards. TheExtraBucks rewards can only be used with the membership in which they were earned – in other words, you cannot earn ExtraBucks with your card and give them to someone else to use with his or her ExtraCare card. CVS does not accept barcode coupons images displayed from Androids or smartphones at this time.

The company does allow you to combine an in-store coupon or deal with a manufacturer’s coupon. The store’s coupon policy page  includes an example of a “buy one, get one free” shampoo deal, and using two “$1 off one” manufacturer’s coupons to receive both bottles of shampoo free. Here’s a great beginner’s guide to saving at CVS. The company also has a Facebook page and a Twitter feed (@CVS_Extra) that announces exclusive discounts and online sales.

CVS is affiliated with Veterans Advantage, a card benefit program for military members and their families. The Veteran’s Advantage card has a $4.99 monthly fee – a pretty hefty one, in my opinion. There are other plans for longer terms as well as a family plan. If you are already a Veteran’s Advantage member, make use of it at CVS to receive a 10% discount off every order.

But there is fine print: The CVS website says that the offer is intended for Veteran’s Advantage members who click an offer activation link on the Veteran’s Advantage website. The offer expires just before midnight on Dec. 21, 2013, and the discount is applied after other discounts have been taken off the bill. The discount is not applicable to prescriptions, gift cards, photos, pharmacy or optical, and you are expected to pay the full tax and shipping on the pre-coupon total.

image courtesy Pixomar of freedigitalphotos.net.

Rosie Wolf Williams

Rosie Wolf Williams was born into a thrifty family. One of five children, Rosie learned at an early age to save without being miserly. Having fun is an important part of life, too! Her parents use to say, "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without." The mom of two adult sons, Rosie has spent her life saving, spending wisely. She owns her own fixer-upper (paid in full) and creates multiple streams of income, from part-time seasonal jobs to cashing in cans for the deposit. Now single, she's always looking for ways to live within her means and, as she says, "beat the man!" A freelance writer for nearly 20 years, Rosie has written for Woman's Day, U.S.A. Weekend, Boys' Life, AARP the Magazine, and Creative Living.

One comment on “Comparing drugstore card perks: Rite-Aid vs. CVS vs. Walgreens

  1. JulieCC on said:

    I’ve found all of those stores prices, especially Walgreens, are super high, even with a reward card. I did like Walgreens drive-thru pharmacy when my daughter was little (she’s disabled).

    But I prefer Target for its pharmacy. Love the packaging, the color coding, and the rewards – fill 5 Rx (or faster b/c they run 2X specials) and get a 5% off coupon for a day’s shopping in-store and another to use online. You can stack it with RedCard (5%), Target coupons, Cartwheel, and manufacturers coupons.