By Cameron Huddleston, Columnist
With more than 8,000 stores in all 50 states, Walgreens is one of the largest drugstore chains in the U.S. So chances are you've shopped in a Walgreens at least once -- whether it was to get a prescription filled, grab a gallon of milk or have photos printed.
Not only does this pharmacy offer medications, groceries, beauty products and a variety of everyday items, but Walgreens also provides medical care and immunizations at its walk-in clinics in more than 400 of its stores. It also offers customers a variety of opportunities to cut the cost of shopping at its store or on its website. Here are nine ways to save money at Walgreens.
1. Join the Balance Rewards Program
"The easiest way to save at Walgreens is to sign up for a Balance Rewards card," said Kyle Taylor, founder of personal finance blog ThePennyHoarder.com. This program is free to join at a Walgreens location, on Walgreens.com or through the drugstore's free app.
Members earn 10 points for every $1 spent on most items, plus bonus points on featured products. You also earn 100 points for filling 30-day prescriptions at Walgreens, 300 points for 90-day prescriptions and 100 points for immunizations given at a store.
"Once you earn 5,000 points, you will receive a $5 reward to redeem on your next purchase," Taylor said. "The more points you earn, the bigger your reward."
The maximum reward is $50. Points and rewards mean dollars off purchases, and you can redeem them in stores and online. They do expire if you don't use them within three years or if you don't use your Balance Rewards card for six months.
2. Get Rewards for Healthful Habits
Being healthy can pay off if you take advantage of Walgreens' Balance Rewards for healthy choices program. You can link your Balance Rewards account to this program online. Then you can start earning rewards points for setting and achieving health and wellness goals, such as losing weight, and for logging activities, such as exercising or tracking your blood pressure.
You can log activities on the Walgreens site, or automatically earn points by linking fitness apps or devices that record activities to your Balance Rewards account. Ashleigh Evans, of money-saving blog DashOfEvans.com, said she synced her Fitbit to automatically earn points for walking. "It's free money for being active," she said.
You can get 250 points for setting a goal, 250 for reaching a goal, 20 points per mile run or walked and 20 points per day for tracking blood pressure, blood glucose and other activities.
3. Get More Rewards as an AARP Member
Members of AARP, the organization for adults 50 and older, can rack up even more points if they link their Balance Rewards account with their AARP membership online, in a store or by calling 855-225-0400. You'll earn 50 points for every dollar spent on Walgreens brand health and wellness products, and get 1.5 times the points for healthy choices activities.
4. Make Use of Register Rewards
"The Register Rewards program at Walgreens is a great money saver," said Dian Farmer, of GroceryShopforFREE.com. Register Rewards are coupons you'll get at checkout if you purchase qualifying items, which are marked in the Walgreens weekly ad, and offer a certain dollar amount off your next purchase.
Treat your Register Rewards like cash, because you can use these coupons to help pay for most anything in the store, Farmer said. However, there's typically only a short period of time you can use them. "So be sure to keep an eye on the expiration dates so you don't miss out on your savings," she said.
5. Take Advantage of Store Coupons
Each month, Walgreens releases a coupon book that's available at the front of each store and contains hundreds of dollars' worth of coupons, Taylor said. For example, the April 2016 booklet included more than $460 in coupons, he said. So you should pick one up as you enter to see if there are any savings on items you were planning to purchase.
Or you can be more strategic about it. Walgreens also offers these coupons online, and you can clip them to your Balance Rewards card if you log into your account. "Rather than carrying around a stack of paper coupons, simply log onto Walgreens.com, choose the deals that match your shopping list and click 'clip to card,'" Taylor said.
6. Stack Your Savings
Walgreens allows customers to use its coupons with manufacturer coupons. Customers also can use manufacturer coupons with sale items and Register Rewards promotions to get an even deeper discount.
"Walgreens has great clearance sales, so make sure you look for their clearance tags on the shelf -- and don't forget to pair that sale with a coupon and other offers when you can," Farmer said. Be aware, though, that the number of manufacturer and Register Rewards coupons you have can't exceed the number of items you're buying.
7. Get a Rain Check for Out-of-Stock Sale Items
If Walgreens marks down an item, but it's out of stock when you get to the store, you can get a rain check to buy the item at the sale price at a later date. Or a store employee might allow you to substitute a similar product of the same brand at the sale price, according to Walgreens.com. Rain checks can be used only for in-store purchases, and they are valid for only 60 days.
8. Don't Forget to Shop Online
If you just shop at Walgreens stores, you'll miss out on its online deals. Walgreens.com offers up to 50 percent off select items each week. Or you might find special bonus rewards points offers on certain online purchases.
9. Schedule Recurring Deliveries
You can save 10 percent or more off certain items purchased on Walgreens.com if you opt to have them shipped to you on a recurring basis. Plus, they ship for free.
Items eligible for the Auto-Reorder & Save program are marked as such on the product details page and in the checkout cart. You can earn Balance Rewards points on Auto-Reorder & Save purchases, but you can only use points on your first recurring shipment.
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