Couponing at Walgreens
Walgreens (aka “Wags”) can be a little intimidating to a new couponer. It can be more complicated to coupon in than other stores because there are several reward systems. At the same time, once you learn the rules, it can be a fun, challenging, and rewarding place to coupon.
Now, I do have a soft spot for Walgreens, because it was the first store that I learned how to coupon in. I didn’t know it at the time, but it wasn’t the easiest way to learn couponing. However, once I learned and mastered its rules, all the other stores seemed very easy in comparison.
My goal with this guide (and video) is to explain the different aspects of coupon rules at Walgreens. Hopefully, after reading (or watching) this guide, you’ll have a much better understanding of Walgreens. And with some practice, I promise, it’ll become easier.
Let’s learn how to coupon at Walgreens:
Lesson 1: Reward Systems at Walgreens:
There are two reward systems at Walgreens:
- Register Rewards (aka “RR”)
- Balance Rewards (aka “Points”)
Let’s cover each one in detail:
1. RR (Register Rewards)
Register Rewards (RR) is the older of the two reward systems. You do not need a membership card to participate. They are dollar off coupons that prints at the register in return for purchasing certain items. The items that RR will print for and values of the RR printing vary week to week, and you can find that information in the weekly Walgreens ad. The best part about these coupon is that they are not tied to a specific item. That means it’s a certain dollar amount off of your purchase. It’s not “$2.00 off Crest toothpaste” but rather “$2.00 off your purchase.” The coupon isn’t tied to a specific product so it can be used on any future transaction.
It looks like a Catalina, which is a coupon that prints on receipt paper and given to you by the cashier with your receipt. In fact, it is a manufacturers coupon operated by the Catalina company rather than Walgreens. If an RR doesn’t print, you contact the Catalina company to get it reissued. You can do this by calling 1-888-8-COUPON (888-826-8766) or filing a claim here online.
RRs, like a Catalina coupon, have an expiration date of 14 days from the day it was printed.
2. Points (Balance Rewards)
The Points, or formally known as Balance Rewards System, are associated with your account. You can earn points and redeem them to pay for future transactions.
To earn points, you simply enter your phone number at checkout. You can also use the physical card or the barcode for your card on the mobile app. I recommend associating a phone number to your account for quick access.
While RRs have a 14 day expiration, points last much longer. They expire 1 year (12 months) after they are earned and you must shop at least once every 6 months to keep your account active. If your account goes inactive, your points will disappear!.
Every 1000 points is roughly equivalent to $1. You can redeem points at pre-determined dollar levels. You can redeem at $1, $2, $3, $4, $5, $10, $20, $35, $50. The higher the level, the better value for your points. For example, you need only 40K points to redeem $50, instead of 50K points. If you wait to redeem 40k points at once, it means every 1000 points, is worth $1.25 instead of $1.00.
You can see how many points you’ve earned on a transaction by looking at the bottom of your receipt. You can also see your total point balance at the bottom of your receipt. You can access your point balance and point history by logging into your account on Walgreens.com or from the Walgreens mobile app.
Did you know you can even earn Rewards for participating in certain activities? Yes, you can! Earn points to spend at Walgreens by doing easy things, such as walking, quitting nicotine, exercising daily, linking a device, and more! This is called Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices. Read about it here.
If your rewards are not issued, you can contact Walgreens customer service to get them credited to your account.
Lesson 2: Reward System Rules
Now that you know how the rewards systems work, let’s get to the meat of couponing at Walgreens! This is the part that tends to confuse people, so go through it a few times if you need to. Once you become familiar with these rules, I promise you it will become easy, just like learning how to drive.
Rule #1: Limit 1 RR Per Offer Per Transaction
(Photo: Example tags for Register Reward offers)
There is a limit of 1 RR printed per offer per transaction. For example, if toothpaste has a RR on it and you buy two toothpastes in a transaction, then it will only print one RR.
The Solution: If you want to buy multiples, you would split the products into multiple transactions. For example, if you wanted two toothpastes, then you would purchase them in two transactions to receive two RRs.
However, if you are buying other offers that are producing RRs, then you can purchase them in the same transaction. For example, if you want to purchase toothpaste and a can of soup that have separate RR offers, then you can buy one toothpaste and one soup in the same transaction and have two RRs printed, one for each.
Rule #2: Do Not Use RR to Pay for the Same Item That Produced the RR
If you use the RR to pay for the same item that produced that RR, no new RR will be printed. For example, if you buy a toothpaste that is producing a RR in the first transaction, then you can’t use it to pay for another identical toothpaste in the next transaction because the RR for the second transaction won’t print.
The Solution: You spend the RR on other items besides the item that earned the RR on. You can use it on other RR promotions, on promotions producing points, and on clearances. For example, if a can of soup is $1.00 and is printing $1.00 RR and toothpaste is $1.00 and printing $1.00 RR, then you can buy the toothpaste in transaction one and earn a $1.00 RR. Once you receive the $1.00 RR from transaction one, then you can pay for soup in the next transaction and still get the $1 RR from the can of soup.
The Exception: There is an exception to this rule. Every few months, some RR promotions will print RR even if you use RR from a previous transaction to buy the same item in a new transaction. This is what we refer to as “Rolling”. When you hear couponers say “this is rolling”, that’s what they mean. We can never predict when this happens or for how long it will happen. Usually people discover it by accident or by testing and often Walgreens puts a stop to it rather quickly. To be safe, stick to the rule.
Rule #3: Do Not Use Points When You Earn Points (Sometimes)
(Photo: Example tags for point rewards)
Walgreens does allow you to redeem Points on unit offers (such as “Buy 2 Get 2000 Points”) and still earn Points on these offers. This is actually good, because most of the weekly Points offers are unit offers like this.
However, if you redeem Points to pay for a threshold offer (such as “Spend $15 Get 3000 Points”), you cannot also earn Points in that transaction. This, also, applies to Point boosters and special promotions to earn bonus Points.
The Solution: If you are doing a threshold offer in a transaction, do not pay for that transaction with Points.
Rule #4: No Limit on Points Earned
While RR has a limit of one print per transaction, there are no explicit limits on how many Points you can earn. For example, if shampoo is producing 1000 Points for every bottle I buy, I’m not limited to buying one bottle per transaction. You can buy two bottles in one transaction and earn 2000 Points.
However, the coupon policy does state that managers reserve the right to limit transactions and earnings to “prohibit the purchase of excessive quantities,” noting that excessive quantities are “any quantity above and beyond normal household usage.”
Rule #5: Number of Coupons Must Not Exceed the Total Number of Items
The total number of manufacturer coupon cannot exceed the total number of items in a transaction. I call this the “Coupon to Item Ratio”. Walgreens coupons do not count towards this limit. Example, if you have two items in a transaction, then you cannot use more than two manufacturer coupons. You can, however, stack Walgreens coupons with the manufacturer coupon.
RRs are considered manufacturer coupons. If you are buying two items and you have two manufacturer coupons on those item and one RR, that counts as three coupons. You will need to add one more item to meet the Coupon-to-Item Ratio, if you want to use the RR.
The item or items that you add on to your transaction, in order to meet your Coupon-to-Item Ratio, are called “Fillers.”
Fillers are cheap items that you do not have manufacturer coupons for. Good filler items are:
- Cheap items you find in stores; Example: Candy by cashier, pencils, etc.
- Clearance items; Example: Post holiday clearance
- Inexpensive sale items you don’t have coupons for from weekly ad; Example: Tomato sauce for $0.50, milk, or cheap eggs (they have them on sale for around $1 periodically), etc.
Remember that filler items should be less than the value of the RR you want to redeem, ideally as cheap as possible. So, if you have a $0.50 filler item to redeem a $2.00 Register Reward, you’re only getting $1.50 net deducted.
Rule #6: Coupon Value Cannot Exceed the Cost of Item
As of the coupon policy update in 2014, Walgreens is no longer accepting coupons that’s value exceeds the price of an item. For example, you can’t use a $1.00 coupon on an item that is $0.99. The cashiers used to be able to adjust the coupon value down to $0.99 but now you can no longer use that coupon at all, even if it’s just a penny over.
Rule #7: No Coupon on Free Item
In a Buy 1 Get 1 Free sales, you can no longer use a coupon on the free item. So in a Buy 1 Get 1 Free situation, you can only use one coupon.
Similarly, you cannot use a bogo coupon on a bogo sale. They want you to pay for at least one item. If you want to use a bogo coupon during a bogo sale, you could buy 4 items and use one bogo coupon during the sale.
Rule #8: All In One Transaction to Earn Reward
There are things called umbrella promotions, such as P&G promotions, that require you to spend a certain amount of money to earn a reward. It may be something like “Spend $20 on P&G products, get 5000 Points.” To get the reward, you must purchase everything in one transaction because your purchases aren’t tracked (like at CVS and Rite Aid).
Also, you must buy over the minimum at Walgreens. If the minimum purchase is $20, you have to spend $20 or more (pre-tax) on the products that are a part of the promotion. This is contradictory to the 98% rule at CVS.
Rule #9: Only Need One Walgreens Coupon
Walgreens coupons are special coupons because you only need one, even if you are buying multiple items that the coupon applies to. Walgreens coupons are also known as IVCs – Instant Value Coupon or Instant Value Code – because the cashier can enter the code instead of scanning the barcode.
With IVC coupons, you only need one and it will automatically apply to all the applicable items in your transaction. For example, if you have a $1.00 off Walgreens coupon on one box of kleenex and you buy 3 boxes, then only one Walgreens coupon need to be scanned.
Often, I don’t even clip the coupons. I just hand it over to the cashier to be scanned.
Here are some places to find Walgreens Coupons:
- Inside Weekly Ad
- Monthly Coupon Booklet – found at the front of the store. You can also access the monthly booklet from the mobile app. Under Weekly Ads > This Month’s Savings Book
- In-Store Category Coupon booklets – Walgreens Diabetes or Vitamins. Note: Sometimes the coupons within these booklets are manufacturers coupons and sometime they are Walgreens coupons
Additionally, you can stack multiple Walgreens coupons on the same applicable item. For example, if there’s a coupon in the weekly ad and another in the monthly coupon booklet, you are allowed to stack them.
General Rules of Thumb:
- Use points to pay for rewards that generate RR
- Use RR on deals that generate points
Tips & Notes:
- If you don’t go to Walgreens every week, it’s a good idea to spend the RR before you leave the store, just in case you forget to spend it
- If you plan to do multiple transactions that may hold up the line, ask to be checked out in the cosmetics department
- Walgreens does offer rain checks! If sales items are out of stock, you can request a rain check. These are valid for 60 days after being issued. Sometimes, managers may choose to substitute a similar item at the same price rather than issue a rain check; it is up to your store.
- Until 12/31/2017, you get 10 points for every $1 spent at Walgreens. Details here.
Additional Helpful Information:
If you have a problem with a cashier, it’s best to try to resolve it in-store with the manager on duty. If that is not possible, you can also try to contact Walgreens customer service. There are a few direct numbers you can call to get assistance depending upon the issue you’re having.
- Call 1-877-250-5823 for Walgreens.com inquiries
- Call 1-800-925-4733 for Walgreens in-store inquries
- Call 1-800-925-4733, option 4, for customer relations