If you've ever shopped at CVS, Rite Aid, or Walgreens, you may have overheard the clerk ask a customer, "Do you have your card?" It never ceases to amaze me that so many reply, "No, don't have one, don't need one." Do they not understand the power this little piece of plastic wields?!

With the recent changes to Rite Aid and Walgreens rewards programs, this is the perfect time to review the benefits and policies of CVS ExtraCare, Rite Aid Wellness+ and Walgreens Balance Rewards programs.

A rewards card offers regular product discounts, reward points earned through promotional transactions, quarterly bonus payouts, exclusive online promo codes, advance promotional notices, percentage off savings passes, and even free health screenings.

For all cards, there are two ways to register: Complete a registration form at your local pharmacy (the card is attached to the form and can be used immediately). Or register online and a card will be shipped within a week.

The third (and final) part of this series focuses on the Walgreens Balance Rewards card.

Walgreens has recently unveiled their Balance Rewards program and loyalty card. They still provide Register Rewards, but points are now also loaded onto their loyalty card. Enroll in the program, and Walgreens Balance Rewards allow you to save, earn and redeem coupons and points in store and online.

Discounted Member Prices

Items priced in the store have a regular price and a discounted Walgreens Balance Rewards price.

Pharmacy Rewards

Earn 500 points for every prescription and immunization. In three states (Arizona, New Jersey, and New York) where points cannot be earned on certain pharmacy items, get 10 points for every $1 spent in-store on over-the-counter items such as non-prescription vitamins and cough, cold, pain or sleep medication.

Walgreens In-Store Coupons

Walgreens offers numerous weekly in-store coupons. Stack these coupons with manufacturer coupons for significant savings.

Online Savings and Rewards Access

Log in at Walgreens online, link your Balance Rewards card, and view savings and rewards.

Walk With Walgreens Program

Earn 10 points for every mile you walk through Walgreens' program.

Monthly Rebate Program

For qualifying promotional items. After a store transaction, submit the rebate online. You will need the store number, register number, transaction date and transaction number. Then select the product you would like a rebate for and choose the method of reimbursement. Walgreens determines if your transaction qualifies and reimburses within 45 days.

Balance Rewards

Walgreens Balance Rewards are points loaded to your card after purchasing special promotional items. Point Promotions don’t apply to rain check items purchased after the promotion has ended, and Points can’t be earned in a transaction where Register Rewards or store credit is used. Receive one point for every dollar spent on non-prescription items. Reach 5,000 points and earn $5.00 to redeem in-store or online.

Pharmacy Chat

This exclusive benefit for Balance Rewards members can be used to get free health advice.

AARP

AARP members get exclusive benefits each month. Get 5,000 points when you spend $25 in a single purchase, plus 5 special point offers. Link memberships and use AARP membership card or Balance Rewards card to receive these benefits. Note: If your AARP benefit expires, you must first renew your AARP membership and then re-link it to your Balance Rewards account.

Register Rewards

Even with the new Balance Rewards loyalty program, Register Rewards will continue for the present time. Register Rewards are rewards that print from the Catalina machine next to the cash register upon the purchase of special promotional items.

My favorite aspect of Register Rewards is that they work like cash instead of coupons. This means that if you want to buy a $10.00 item, you can use a $2.00 RR, a $3.00 RR, and a $5.00 RR all on that one item.

Limitations:

  • Register Rewards usually expire two weeks from the date they're issued. Balance Rewards expire 36 months after issuance, or sooner with six months of inactivity.
  • Register Rewards are not tied to your card. If you lose them or they expire, they cannot be replaced. Anyone can use them if found.
  • You can receive Register Rewards or Balance Rewards on certain items up to the specified household limit.
  • After purchasing a promotional item and receiving Register Rewards, you cannot use that Register Reward as a form of payment in a new transaction for the same product. Likewise, additional points can’t be earned in a new transaction for the same product.
  • Walgreens limits the amount of rebates received on an item (often between 1 and 4).
  • One Balance Rewards card per household.
  • Walgreens purchases must be equal to, or exceed the amount of, Register Reward or Balance Reward.

Rewards cards can reap big savings on select items throughout the store each time you shop. What will you say the next time you visit your local pharmacy and someone asks, "Do you have your card?"