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Savvy shoppers already know that drugstore loyalty programs can be a great way to stretch your dollar further on everyday items, from makeup to medicine. But navigating those programs, if you’re not familiar with them, can feel a bit overwhelming.
Here’s the good news: Taking full advantage of customer loyalty programs offered by major pharmacy chains does not require managing mile-long receipts. (There’s an app for that.) In general, each program allows you to earn rewards for most purchases, and extra rewards for purchases of specific items each week. You can redeem those rewards and apply the cash value toward most purchases in the stores, excluding certain items like prescriptions or stamps.
Read on to learn the ins and outs of the free membership programs at the country’s biggest drugstores — and get some inside tips on using them to maximize your savings.
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CVS Pharmacy ExtraCare
Number of locations: Over 9,900
Program basics: Join the CVS Pharmacy ExtraCare membership program for free in a store, via the CVS website or by using the CVS app. You can store your membership information in the CVS app, so you don’t need to have the physical card with you to get credit for purchases. Inside the app, you can find your rewards balance and additional coupons.
If you prefer to manage your account offline, you’ll find that info on your CVS receipts, or you can print it out at the in-store ExtraCare Coupon Center kiosk, which you can log in to using your rewards card. In addition to rewards, members get access to additional deals and coupons, which you can find via the CVS weekly ad or in the app.
Earning rewards: CVS rewards come in the form of ExtraBucks that you can spend on most items in the store. You earn 2 percent in ExtraBucks for most purchases. CVS also offers additional rewards for specific purchases, tied to certain items each week. You’ll find info on these deals in the app or in the store’s weekly ad, which is also available online. You can also use the app to scan products to see whether you have an available coupon.
For example, CVS was recently offering an extra $2 in ExtraBucks rewards to shoppers who bought Crest mouthwash, and $10 in ExtraBucks rewards for select gift card purchases of $50 or more.
Using rewards: Your ExtraBucks rewards will post to your account as soon as you complete a purchase, and they’re valid for 90 days after the end of the calendar quarter in which you earned them. Then, the next time you check out, either in the store or online, you can choose to use those rewards as cash toward your purchases.
Pro tips: The trick to really maximizing rewards is to “roll over” your ExtraBucks by combining deals with coupons, says Patsy Smith, who blogs about drugstore deals at ConsumerQueen.com. For example, the store might have a deal for $5 off a $10 package of razors that also pays ExtraCare members $5 in ExtraBucks. Essentially, you’re getting the razors for free, and if you can add in a manufacturer coupon, you might even make money in ExtraBucks, Smith says.
“I went a few months where I was only paying taxes at the register because I kept getting ExtraBucks that I combined with coupons to purchase things,” she adds.
Other tips for making the most of the program: Check the app regularly for additional promotions. Last July, for example, CVS offered member freebies for each week in the month. You can also opt in to get additional deals sent to you via text or email that aren’t available elsewhere.
- ExtraCare BeautyClub: By opting in to this program (through your rewards app), you can get extra perks and rewards for spending on beauty items like makeup and hair care products. BeautyClub members get access to special deals and coupons and a free gift (recent gifts included a bottle of nail polish and a shower pouf) each month for spending $30 on beauty products.
- ExtraCare Pharmacy & Health Rewards: When you opt in to this program, you earn one credit for filling a prescription or getting an immunization at the store. For every 10 credits your earn, you get $5 in ExtraBucks rewards.
- CarePass: This is CVS’s premium membership program. It costs $5 per month or $48 per year. Members get a $10 reward each month to spend in the store, 20 percent off CVS Health brand products, free shipping and free same-day shopping for prescriptions.
Best for: Coupon clippers who enjoy researching weekly deals to figure out how to make their ExtraBucks go the furthest.
Number of locations: Nearly 9,000
Program basics: Join myWalgreens at the register, online or via the store’s app. There is no membership card, but you can use the app at checkout or simply give your phone number to the cashier at checkout to make sure you get credit for purchases.