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How to Be Frugal Using Store Loyalty Programs (How to Be Frugal Series Day Two)

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Day two in our How to Be Frugal series is all about store loyalty programs and rewards. Savings can really add up over time, but you do need to know just a few tips and tricks on how to gain the most savings.

At first it can seem a bit overwhelming to keep everything straight, but once you get a handle on things, it becomes much easier.

Many of these programs have certain commonalities, and while I can’t cover every store that you have in your area as many stores are regional, the basics will stay the same nearly everywhere.

Here are some ways that you can make the most of what places of business want to offer YOU for being a loyal customer through their loyalty programs.


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Store loyalty cards

The list of stores that have loyalty programs seems endless these days. In almost all cases, these loyalty programs are free, but they have numerous benefits. Oftentimes you need to have their loyalty card in order to get sale prices, but you also can earn points, which equate to money in other ways, too. In addition, you can get special coupons whether in the store or in mailers, special percentages off, or rebates by shopping on certain days. Sometimes you get coupons to use in your birthday month or “just because” percentage off coupons in your email. While it can seem cumbersome to sign up for all these programs, the payoff is almost always worth it.

Let’s talk about how a few of these most common loyalty programs work.


At Walgreens you can get some savings in a few different ways. Let’s unpack them one at a time:

  • Register rewards. These are the little coupons (called catalinas) that print our from the little machine along with your receipt. These are actually coupons in the form of a certain dollar amount off that are given by the manufacturer. You receive them on certain products only, and you can always find out what products have a register reward offered each week by looking in their flyer on Sundays. These do expire within two to three weeks, so make sure you use them before that date as they will not take them after.
  • Balance rewards on certain products. Similar to their register rewards, these bonus points are on certain products only and generally change from week to week. For every 1,000 points you have, it is worth $1.00.
  • Every day balance reward points. For every dollar you spend, you now get 10 points regardless of what you buy. It’s not much, but it does add up considering it is on everything you buy.
  • You can get additional balance reward points for making healthy choices. You can go online and register the heathy things you do. For instance, you get 20 points per mile when you walk, run, or cycle. Plus, get 20 points per weigh-in, blood pressure test, blood glucose test, and earn points while you quit smoking/tobacco with Balance Rewards for healthy choices. You put forth the effort in these things anyway, you might as well get credit for it. It just takes a little bit of time online.
  • I’m going to give you a tip about these bonus or balance points that you may not know. You can start redeeming them in smaller increments, but don’t. Save your points until you get to 40,000. When you get there, you can redeem 40,000 points for a $50.00 value. That means that you are getting $10 extra, free money, just for saving them. It pays to not give in to the instant gratification 😉 These points never expire.


At CVS they have a loyalty card that earns you what they call Extra Care Bucks on certain items only. Like register rewards, they do expire after three weeks and are generally not taken much beyond the expiration date. CVS does regularly send bonus savings in the mail as well. You do need to have their card in order to receive sale prices.

Be sure to scan your card at their “magic coupon machine” every time you enter the store since this is where you get bonus coupons on certain items. Occasionally, you do just get extra points, too.

Rite Aid

Rite Aid was recently purchased by Walgreens so I am not sure exactly what that means. However, in the past their program was almost identical to the loyalty card program at CVS, minus the “magic coupon machine.”

Various grocery stores

There are many grocery stores that require you to have a loyalty program to get the sale prices. These are on a case by case basis, so do take the time to explore what programs are at even the grocery stores where you shop.

Savings on store websites

Take the time to check the websites of the various stores you shop at. Sometimes they have additional digital coupons that you can clip and then redeem in store. Target, for instance, has additional coupons that can be printed and then used in store on their website. They also have another coupon program called “cartwheel” which are more coupons you can clip online and then use in store by printing them or downloading the app and then having the cashier scan them right on your phone. It does payoff to glance at the websites of the various stores where you shop.

Loyalty programs at restaurants and anything else you can think of

The bottom line here is: ask. Ask everywhere you go if they offer any kind of loyalty rewards. This could also be a punch card for a free something after a certain number of purchases. You can often just sign up for emails and get something free for your birthday. Just ask. The sky can be the limit.

Store credit cards

I put this last and want to say to use this in caution because you must be disciplined to payoff your store credit cards in full rather than pay interest. Generally, these cards have a high interest rate, but carrying and using them can be lucrative. For instance, if you have a Target credit card or a Target debit card, you get 5% off everything just for using your card. You also get coupons at other times in the mail. Just today I got a free $15 to use in the store at Meijer as long as I use my Meijer credit card to pay the balance of the transaction.

I will go into more detail of what my favorite store credit cards are later in this series, but for now when we are talking about store loyalty programs I had to at least mention them.

Every place wants your business, but these days stores and businesses are willing to pay to come there by rewarding you in some way for the things you buy. Knowing a few ins and outs about how these programs work can get you on your way to some savings today!

Are you looking to really take these concepts to heart, applying them in your every day life? If so, my ebook is just what you need!

How to Be Frugal: How to Be Frugal Online, In the Store, and In Your Home

This book is everything I’ve learned in 20 years of living frugal!

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