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Monday, January 16, 2012

How to make drugstore rewards work for you (easily and quickly)

Over the years that I've been writing this blog, the one heart-breaking comment I seem to get on a semi-regular basis goes something like this:

"Sometimes I just throw my drugstore rewards away, because they're too much of a hassle. I usually forget I have them and then they expire before I have a chance to use them."

If you're new to shopping at Rite Aid, CVS or Walgreens and you're not exactly sure how to use your rewards (Extra Bucks from CVS, +UP Rewards from Rite Aid or Register Rewards from Walgreens), I'd like to show you the quickest, most pain-free way to use them to your advantage, and it takes just about no pre-planning at all.

So here's an example of a purchase I made yesterday at Rite Aid (but remember, you can do the exact same type of thing at Walgreens or CVS):

Tom's of Maine 2-pk bar soap - retail: $5.49 at Rite Aid
Maybelline Color Tattoo Eyeshadow in Tough as Taupe - retail: $6.69 at Rite Aid

At full retail price, the above products would have cost me $12.18 before tax.

But I paid $7.01 total for these products without any effort at all, and here's how I did it:

First I bought the Tom's of Maine bar soap 2-pk (I'd been wanting to try their vegan and cruelty-free soaps for a long time now so I couldn't resist this sale). Through 1/21, Tom's of Maine 2-pk bar soaps, deodorant, toothpaste and mouth rinse are on sale at Rite Aid for $3.99 each and you get $3 back in +UP Rewards (these will print on your receipt). 

So here's my first transaction:

Remember, I got $3 in +UP Rewards at the bottom of my receipt for the above transaction, so I immediately turned around and made a SECOND transaction (literally tearing the +UP Rewards from the bottom of my receipt as the cashier was ringing up my second purchase):

The discount of $0.67 came from using my Wellness+ Card. Just for being a Silver member, you get an automatic 10% off most non-sale merchandise, so since Maybelline is not on sale this week, the $0.67 is my 10% discount.

Then you see my $3 +UP Rewards from the Tom's of Maine purchase. So instead of paying $6.69 for the Maybelline eyeshadow, I paid just $3.02.

And THAT'S how to make your drugstore rewards work for you, in the most painless way possible without any real pre-planning required.

If you feel strange about making two back-to-back transactions at once, let me alleviate your fears. I have yet to meet a cashier at Rite Aid, CVS or Walgreens who wasn't already used to this request. In fact, MOST cashiers I come across already know EXACTLY what I'm planning to do when I say, "I'd like to pay for these in two separate transactions". Some cashiers will even go so far as to tear the rewards from the bottom of my first receipt FOR ME, to use on my second transaction! Remember: businesses want your money, in any way that you're willing to give it to them.

The only time I wouldn't suggest making two back-to-back transactions is when there is a large line behind you at the register. I find this to be incredibly rude, so if I see there's a long line at a register, I either wait until the line has died down, or I make the first transaction and then continue shopping and make the second transaction a few minutes later.

The goal is to NOT FORGET THAT YOU HAVE REWARDS. You earned those rewards, so you're entitled to use them, darnit! And the BEST way to never forget you have them  is to use them just moments after you receive them. I try to make a rule that I rarely walk out of a drugstore with rewards in my pocket, because even though I live and breath drugstore savings, even I forget I have them if they're tucked away in my wallet for too long, and that's just like flushing money down the drain.

I hope this post helps those of you who are new to the world of drugstore rewards. Remember that I post the weekly drugstore deals every Saturday, so you can easily plan out your rewards purchases for beauty products just by looking at my post (located on the top menu bar of this blog - just click on "Weekly Drugstore Beauty Sales").


  1. I used to not pay attention to those things until I started reading this blog. Then I got crafty with it! I think my best roll was when I bought a bunch of Lip Butters, rolled the reward on some WnW, and rolled that reward on a Giftmas present for the boyf (Star Wars mug set? Heck yeah!).

  2. love it. i remember one night i was at cvs and i made out great! it was the time when the Sally Hansen Xtreme Wears went on clearance and they also had a $3.00 printable coupon for Sally Hansen products. I scanned my card for it and also got a $5.00 xtra bucks coupon. So i picked up 3 polishes (2 at .75 and one at like $1.50 or something). I also picked up some shampoo and conditioner that was on sale (2/$7.00 something) that also gave $3.00 xtra bucks for that too.
    So my first purchase was the polishes (which ended up being free from the $3.00 coupon) and the shampoo and conditioner, then took the $3.00 xtra bucks turned around and made a second purchase using that and my $5.00 xtra bucks. i bought a bag of coffee (that was on sale for $6.99), creamer, and a couple of other small items that i needed and ended up paying a few dollars out of pocket for. all in all i ended up only spending $11.00 for everything.
    and besides the polishes, everything else i bought was stuff i ran out of and needed, so i think i made out really well that night.

  3. Miss Bekka: Your comment was sweet, sweet music to my ears! LOL! Thank you so much for sharing that--I'm thrilled that I had even a small part in getting you to use those rewards. And way to go with rolling them over twice! You're an expert now! Whoo hoo! xo

  4. Kalee: I LOVE IT! You ROCKED the sales/coupons/rewards trifecta!!! Congrats, hun! And I totally agree--the best feeling is when you can buy fun beauty products AND things you need and basically get the things you need (which aren't very "fun" in the first place) for free or close to it. :D

  5. G, with all due respect, I don't think it's rude at all to have two transactions. I get a little antsy if someone has more than two, but if that customer waited her turn in the line, fair is fair. In fact, I think it would be unfair to ask her to line up again. But I'm probably more patient than some.

  6. Sandhya: thanks for the comment! I completely see your point, but I guess I just meant that if there's a long line behind me, and everyone there is presumably making ONE transaction, I feel greedy making two. I'm generally just hyper-sensitive about that type of thing, and in the grand scheme of things, the second transaction really only adds a minute or two on to the total transaction time so I see your point. I just never want anyone to wait longer than they have to, due to something *I'm* doing. Does that make sense? I think everyone should do what they feel comfortable with doing (with respect and politeness of course) and what I said above is just my personal opinion. :)

  7. Haha I always think of you when I manage a good deal. I never knew that you could do two transactions, it has really helped me use my rewards and prevent them from expiring.

    I had a question though, do you know if we can use two extra bucks coupons at once?

  8. This is definitely the only way I remember to use those rewards! If I set it aside for later I know I won't use them. I love CVS especially because they make it so easy to stack manufacturer/store coupons and the extrabucks.

  9. I love RiteAid's rewards program because when coupled with sales and coupons the potential to score free items is there or even near free.

    I remember there is a coupon for the new Maybelline eye products (I think it's a $1 off and it was on a tearpad) which if you can find makes that Maybelline product only $2.02. Who can pass up a deal like that?! So ALWAYS, ALWAYS check for coupons at the displays. If you see a coupon at one store but don't like their price take the coupon with you and either save it for a sale or use at a different store.

  10. Mai: Awww, how sweet of you to say! :) And yes, you sure can use two or more Extra Bucks at once!

    Victoria: I agree. Rite Aid is just as easy--the only tricky one is Walgreens because they require an even ratio of items to coupons/rewards.

    Zadidoll: Yep, those tear-pad coupons make everything so much sweeter! Too bad I haven't been able to find them in my area lately. :(

  11. I've signed up for every drug store rewards card I can get my hands on and it's saved me so much money on the discounts alone. Today I cashed in my first CVS Extra Bucks of $8.50 and picked up a Revlon Lip Butter with it. Your blog is awesome!

  12. Such a great post! I literally do this twice a week! Like today, I went and bought the Tom's of Maine Soap, and I'm using the rewards to buy a WnW lipstick and Revlon quad, both which are 40% off this week. I never used to shop at drugstores, but I've found they have some of the best deals around!!

  13. I pretty much always make a point of making sure my rewards get used whether it's in the same shopping trip or a different one, but I can see why for some people it feels like a hassle. When I'm choosing something to spend my rewards on, I always try to find...

    A) something I actually want and not just an impulse purchase to use the rewards, and B) something that's a reasonable price to start out with, so that the rewards make it a good deal rather than just bringing it down to the price it would be regularly at wal-mart.

    Now, sometimes finding something that meets these criteria is easy, and sometimes I wander the aisles for a good 15+ minutes looking for something. Depending on how busy you are, it could feel like a hassle and pointless to quickly grab something that will end up not being used.

  14. I love the RA and CVS rewards!! I was really into couponing last year and the deals u can score are AMAZING! It blows my mind how some people just don't realize all of the free or super dirt cheap stuff there is to be had out there! It definitely is an art form to be a super couponer but your example showed that you don't have to be one to save a few bucks!

    I am totally in agreement with you about getting back in line if you are doing multiple transactions and there is a long line behind you, especially if you are doing some complicated and intense transactions, I feel that is just common courtesy.

  15. My biggest tip is to pick a program and stay loyal to it. For example, CVS is the easiest drug store for me to get to and has been for the past 4 years. That's why I use their Extra Bucks and Green Bag Tag awards and can easily keep track of all my rewards.

    For those who feel shy about doing back to back transactions--my advice is to go when it's not super busy (like on a weekday afternoon after lunch) or go to self check out.

  16. Thank you so much for this. I know that I can make more of my trips to Walgreens with rewards. But, I hesitate. Not anymore! Thanks for the simple explanation. You're the best, G.! XO

  17. Thank you for this post! I'm pretty new to all the rewards programs w/ drugstores.

    I haven't ever done back-to-back transactions at the drugstore before but now I will (when it's the right time). Haha

    Before, I rarely visited drugstores for my makeup needs, but now I'm really enjoying all the awesome deals! :)

  18. I forget my rewards or can't find anything I want. I'll admit that it's kind of confusing how to "properly" do the transactions lol. Thanks for the info G. I'll try harder :D

  19. AAGGGHH thanks so much for this! I pride myself on finding great deals but I never could figure out the rewards. You made it seem so easy.

  20. My best drug store score: CVS was having a BOGO 50% off on Revlon. I got a Colorburst lipstick ($9.89) and Grow Luscious mascara ($9.39). The mascara had a peel-off coupon for $1 off. I had a CVS coupon for $5 off the purchase of two Revlon lip or eye products, and I had a CVS coupon for $3 off any $10 cosmetics purchase. SO: $9.98 + 9.39 -4.70 (BOGO 50% off) -1.00 (peel-off coupon) -5.00 coupon -3.00 coupon
    equals $5.58!!! Even with sales tax, my total was $6.39! It was like I got a lipstick for 30% off and a FREE mascara! I was giddy for DAYS. Actually, I kinda still am.

  21. LOL, this method honestly never even occurred to me until you mentioned it, and now I try to do it whenever I can. It's sooo much easier than remembering ExtraBucks and going back to use them. I'm super excited that they're moving ExtraBucks to your card, too, so that you can just apply them at the counter if you have them.

  22. My Rite Aid wouldn't let me roll my up rewards in the same day. :( The cashier said it was a new policy. I needed to get a NYC lip color for $1.99 with a $1.00 up reward yesterday and used it today for 2 79 cent WnW lipsticks today!

  23. Totally not beauty related but i'm a couponer and my boyfriend smokes and he is ready to quit. Last week I saw that CVS had Nicorette on special if you buy one you get a $10 ECB. Well our paper just had $15 off coupons for Nicorette.

    So I went in and purchased my first one:

    Regular price: 49.99
    Coupon: -15.00
    Total: 34.99

    and it spit out a $20 ECB!!!!!

    Second transaction:

    Regular price: 49.99
    Coupon: -15.00
    ECB: -20.00
    Total: 14.99

    And I got another $20 ECB! So essentially I got two boxes of Nicorette for 29.98! I saved 70.02!

    now i'm trying to plan a trip with this ecb + coupons to get a bunch of almost free stuff.

  24. Thank you so much for this! I've always been curious about how those things work but too nervous to ask :-( Now it all makes sense! Can't wait to try it out!

  25. For those who are worried about making back to back transactions: I totally don't. I will save my CVS or Rite Aid rewards for next time I make a purchase. But as soon as you leave with your receipt in hand, tear off the reward and put it in your wallet where your cash is. Because that's what it pretty much is — cash!

    So every time you open your wallet, you'll be reminded. And if you go to the drugstore and open your wallet to pay, you'll be reminded to use it.

    Just make sure they don't expire, which isn't a problem for me since I look at them every time I open my wallet.

  26. Thanks so much G, for all the time and care you put into each of your posts. I'm also really hyper-sensitive about things I do that may inconvenience others so when I make more than one transaction, I try to use the self checkouts as much as possible.

  27. I usually do this. There is almost always something I am lemming and I am always looking for an excuse to buy stuff, so love when I get register rewards and have no shame about doing back to back transactions.

    On my last CVS trip I was in a rush and the register gave me $4 in register rewards, for what? I do not know! But I didn't have time to look for something to use them on and I just checked my's expired. I HATE THAT!!! It's like throwing out money. I'd still like to know what I got the rewards for though. lol

  28. Donna my CVS and many others will take an expired ECB. It does not hurt to ask. :)

  29. Thank you for this post, it explained the process super easy to understand.

  30. It's so easy! I have been doing it for years and it's really not difficult. Just stick with it and try to plan out your trips to make the most of it. I have gotten so many free things it's just crazy

  31. Thank you for this post! And I thank everyone for the helpful comments. I tend to forget about my rewards as well and just end up tossing them out.

    Sometimes (well, actually more often than not), I find myself spending waaay more time than planned browsing aisles. As soon as I realize, I just want to get out of there asap with my items--coupon or no coupon. I suppose the best thing to do really is to plan in advance.

  32. Definitely great advice! I always do this at CVS, and the cashiers are really nice about it. But at Rite Aid I've been told multiple times that I have to wait until at least the next day to come back and use my rewards :( Maybe it's just my local store, I want to switch with you hahaha

  33. Another CVS specific tip. Join the ExtraCare Beauty Club. You can do it online or in store. You get $5 eb back for every $50 you spend. It sounds like a lot but the $50 you have to spend includes any amount paid with coupons or extrabucks. It feels like CVS is almost paying me to buy beauty products.

  34. God wish australia had stuff like this... We dont seem to have many reward systems in beauty shops.. :(


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