Bargain hunting is a savvy strategy for saving on everyday essentials, but what if the sale item you're looking for is out of stock? Don't miss out on the deal — just ask for a rain check!
Rain checks allow you to secure the sale price of a product even after the promotion has ended, ensuring you don't lose out on the savings. Getting familiar with which stores offer rain checks is an essential part of learning how to coupon, and it can come in handy when you're learning the art of coupon stacking.
This guide will explore what rain checks are, how they work, and how you can make the most of them during your next shopping trip. And remember — rain checks are a store policy, not something you're going to see in coupon fine print.
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What are rain checks?
A rain check at a store is typically a piece of paper that serves as proof that you visited the store during an advertised sale but the item you wanted wasn't available.
This rain check allows you to purchase the item at the sale price once the store restocks that item. It's a way to ensure you can still get the discounted price for the item even if it's temporarily out of stock.
Why is it called a rain check?
Rain checks were first used in the 1800s when baseball games were delayed or canceled due to bad weather. The stadium would issue rain checks to those who purchased tickets to the game so that they could attend the next game at no additional charge.
Now, rain checks are used by many stores to extend a sale if they are out of stock of a particular item.
For example, let's say that a big-box store normally has granola bars for $6, but they're on sale for $2 each when you buy two. If you go to the store to buy granola bars only to find that they are out of stock, you can ask your cashier for a rain check to buy the granola bars at the sale price when they get restocked. The cashier will hand you a paper voucher, and when granola bars come back in stock, you can purchase them at the sale price using the voucher.
FTC Rules on Rain checks
Over the years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) noticed that stores were not stocking their shelves well enough for sales. People would arrive for the sale and then have to buy a more expensive product because the on-sale item was sold out.
The FTC frowned on these bait-and-switch tactics and created the Unavailability Rule to help prevent it. Stores comply with the rule if they do any of the following:
Order advertised products early enough and in sufficient quantities to meet reasonably anticipated demand
Issue rain checks for the advertised products
Offer comparable products at comparable prices to the advertised product
Offer other compensation at least equal to the advertised value
How to Ask for a Rain Check
1. Ask employees if they have any in stock
If you don't see the item on the shelf, ask an employee if they have any in the back. If they do, you're good to go. If not, make a note somewhere that you need a rain check, so you don't forget about it when you get to the cashier.
KCL TIP: You often won't be able to get a rain check on limited-time offers, clearance prices, or special promotions like Buy One Get One Free sales. If you're not sure about whether your item qualifies for a rain check, check the store's website for their policies.
2. Tell your cashier you're going to want a rain check early on
You'll want to make sure that your cashier knows you want a raincheck at the beginning of the transaction. This will make the whole process smoother for everyone because the cashier will either write you one on the spot, or they'll direct you to the customer service desk.
3. Check your rain check's expiration date
Each store policy is different. You'll want to know when your rain check expires. I'd recommend putting it in your calendar so you remember to come back to the store to get the sale price.
4. Ask for another rain check later if the item remains out of stock
If the item still isn't in stock by the time your rain check is about to expire, you can ask the customer service desk to write you a new rain check.
Again, add the rain check expiration date into your calendar so you don't forget. Keep in mind that not all stores allow an extension, but it never hurts to ask.
5. Remember that most stores only issue rain checks for current ad sale prices, not promotional offers
If the item you want the rain check for is later part of a buy one get one free promotion, you'll want to ensure that the rain check is valid while a promotion is running.
Stores That Offer Rain Checks
Albertsons and Safeway rain checks can be issued for more than just sale-priced items. Albertsons rain checks can also be written for items that have a qualifying store coupon. If the cost of the item is $12 and you had a $3 store coupon, the rain check could be written for $9.
Rain checks expire 90 days after the date issued, but they are accepted at any Safeway or Albertsons store.
Albertsons doesn't give rain checks on clearance items or for sale prices listed as "limited" or "while supplies last." And according to the official Albertsons policy, rain checks cannot be issued for "beer, wine, spirits, tobacco products, fuel, and all fluid items in the refrigerated dairy section."
Best Buy does not offer rain checks for online items, but they will offer rain checks for in-store items.
CVS has the best rain check policy anywhere. Not only can you get a rain check for any out-of-stock item in the store, but you can also get that rain check written in such a way that you could actually get a better deal than you would have if the item were in stock. Here's how:
If the rain check is for an item that's part of an ExtraBucks promotion, CVS rain checks are written so that you can still get those ExtraBucks after the fact. And, if you have a CVS store coupon, the rain check can be written for the price minus the CVS store coupon's value.
Let's say that body wash is on sale for $5 and you have a $3 CVS coupon. When you find the item out of stock, your rain check for body wash will be written for $2.
And CVS rain checks never expire. EVER. This is right in the official CVS policy.
TIP: Save your CVS rain check for the next time you have a manufacturer coupon or digital rebate, and you could end up getting the product completely free.
Hobby Lobby offers in-store rain checks when specific items are on sale. However, when a whole set of merchandise is on sale, rain checks are not available. If you have questions about a particular item, you can ask guest services and they will help you out.
There is no policy anywhere stating that Kroger does or does not offer rain checks, so rain check law applies.
As long as your coupon/sales flyer does not say "limited quantities" or "available at select locations" (or the coupon has other exclusions, like they cannot be used on clearance or specially priced products), they are legally obligated to give you a rain check if the item is entirely out of stock.
Publix offers rain checks for items that are advertised outside the store at a reduced retail price. This means if the reduced price is advertised on radio or TV, or in the Publix ad, co-op ad, mailer, or website, you can request a rain check if it's out of stock. Each household can receive one rain check per day for a promoted item.
Publix rain checks must be redeemed within 30 days at any Publix location that carries that product. They are valid only for the retail price and can be issued for up to eight single items or four deals (not exceeding 20 items). Rain checks are for single use, and any remaining items are forfeited if not redeemed in full.
Rite Aid offers rain checks for the sale price on items that are out of stock; however, whether you earn BonusCash on the product when it becomes available again depends on the store.
Say the OxiClean detergent you want is out of stock this week, but if it were in stock and available for you to buy, you'd earn $1 BonusCash and get the $3.99 sale price. Instead you find it out of stock, so you'd have to ask for a rain check, and you are only guaranteed the $3.99 sale price.
While some stores will also give you the BonusCash in the form of a reduction in price (the manager may write $2.99 instead of $3.99 in consideration of the $1 BonusCash you're losing out on), other stores will not. This is where it pays to be friendly to your Rite Aid manager and cashiers.
While they do not offer rain checks for their online products, Sears will offer a rain check if demand outpaces their supply and they run out of a popular item that is on sale.
Target has so many exclusions that it makes getting a rain check nearly impossible. Clearance items, price cuts, temporary price cuts, everyday low prices, and items that state "no rain checks" can't be rain-checked.
For in-store shoppers, Target offers you a rain check valid for 30 to 45 days. You can use it at any Target location. But there are loads of exclusions.
TIP: Do you know about Target price matching? It requires that Target has the items in stock, so you can't try to play the system and get a rain check for a competitor's price.
Walgreens only issues rain checks for out-of-stock sale items in stores, not online. When requesting a rain check, know that a substitute item with a higher retail cost may be offered for the price of the out-of-stock item.
If the item was producing Walgreens register rewards during the week it was out of stock, your rain check will not get you those savings. If the item was producing Walgreens points, it's worth asking the cashier to write the rain check for the after-points price. Your mileage will vary based on your store.
Walgreens rain checks are valid for 60 days, according to the Walgreens policy.
Stores That Don't Offer Rain Checks
There are quite a few stores that do not offer rain checks for sales. However, these stores still must comply with the FTC's Unavailability Rule. Here are a few:
Rain Check FAQs
When should you use a rain check?
You should use a rain check within the time period that it's still valid and when the item is back in stock. Rain checks vary from 30 days to 90 days, so make sure you check the expiration date when you get one.
How do you ask for a rain check?
You just ask your cashier! If the cashier is unable to issue you a rain check, then they'll direct you to the customer services desk.
Do rain checks expire?
Yes, they do. They normally have a 30- to 90-day expiration window. Make sure that you write down your expiration date in your calendar so you can cash in your rain check when the product is back in stock.