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Whether you’re just getting started with couponing or a veteran at it… figuring out what your total is going to be at the register is pretty important. The worst part of couponing is when you think you’re going to pay next to nothing, only to end up paying way over that. That’s where knowing how stores calculate discounts comes in handy.

Instead of digging through all of the couponing policies at your favorite stores yourself, we did the hard work for you. We went through the major policies at Amazon, Target, CVS, and more, and pulled out the meat and potatoes. With this guide, you can feel confident walking into any store and knowing how to calculate the discounts yourself. But if you’re totally a beginner at couponing, we can help you there, too.

For more smart shopping tips and savings hacks, text HACKS to 57299.


Here’s How Stores Calculate Discounts:

1. Amazon takes the guesswork out of couponing, but offers vary.

If you’re intimidated about going into a physical store after learning how stores calculate discounts, Amazon may be your best friend. Not only can you shop in your pajamas, but you can save in them, too. Amazon offers savings in multiple ways:

The kicker with Amazon is that not everyone sees the same discount offers. And not every item gets the same discount savings from Subscribe & Save. But for the most part, when you have a minimum of five items in your subscription, Amazon will take 15% off your entire order.

Occasionally, you’ll find a digital coupon that you can pair with the Subscribe & Save discount. That’s when the real Amazon savings come to play. And when you can stack a sale price or promotion with it… that is the absolute best!


Here’s an example of a digital coupon + a sale + your Subscribe & Save discount:

Example: 2 Honest Mascara + Primer
As low as $18.88 $35.98 (48% Off)
5% or 15% off with Subscribe & Save
15% Off - Honest Beauty with Subscribe & Save, Amazon Coupon, Limit 1
As low as $9.44 each

2. Target math isn’t as bad as algebra, but it’s pretty darn close.

A person's hands holding a phone displaying the Target mobile app's Offers page in front of a Target shopping cart's basket filled with products.

The way Target subtracts your savings at checkout isn’t as easy as the PEMDAS trick we learned in school. But no worries, we’ll help you figure it out so you feel confident when you go to the register.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty math stuff, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

When shopping at Target with coupons, you can combine one Target Circle offer and one manufacturer coupon on any item. The percent-off discount will get deducted first, followed by the manufacturer discount. You can also stack a Circle offer and a manufacturer coupon with a Target gift card promotion.

One thing to remember is manufacturer coupons will be adjusted down to the price of an item at Target. So no moneymakers coming from Target with just a coupon.

Here’s how the savings get calculated for this sample deal at Target:

A calculation table showing the Target math for a deal. It reads, " Buy 2 Detergents, get $5 gift card, use 10% Target circle offer on detergent

Related: Now that you’ve gotten a feel for it, learn more tricks for how to coupon at Target!


3. Couponing at Walmart is pretty easy.

coupons held outside walmart

If you need a little break from the crazy math at Target, Walmart might be your spot. There’s really nothing too wild about Walmart math since they typically don’t have any kind of special coupons or percentage-off storewide deals. Walmart does accept BOGO coupons, but not if there’s a percentage involved.

Where Walmart wins over Target is here: Walmart does offer overages when you pair coupons with a low price. For example, if you’ve got a manufacturer (MFR) $1.00/1 coupon to use on a $0.95 item, that $0.05 difference won’t go to waste like it would at Target. According to the Walmart coupon policy, any overage is first applied to your transaction total and then they’ll give you what’s left.

Walmart doesn’t offer digital coupons you can clip, but they do have Walmart Rewards, which work like a rebate and show up in the Walmart app (iOS / Android). To earn Walmart Rewards, make sure you add all of the relevant offers to your account before you check out. Then at checkout, scan your Walmart Pay QR code in the app to get credit for the Rewards.

Here’s an example of how Walmart discounts get calculated in-store:

Example: Rimmel Brow this Way
In-Store Deal
$1.47 $3.47 (58% Off)
$2.00/1 - Rimmel Eye product from Save March 26
EXPIRED 04/08/23

Related: We can teach you all the best hacks for Walmart couponing.


4. CVS accepts various coupons, and you don’t need to present them in a specific order.

Someone holding a Buy one get one free coupon cut out of a newspaper

Before you buy anything at CVS, you need to make sure you have a free CVS ExtraCare account. ExtraCare is the CVS loyalty rewards program, and it’s how you start earning ExtraBucks (basically store credit) — one of the best things about shopping at CVS.

CVS accepts digital, printable, and newspaper manufacturer coupons and store coupons. Only one manufacturer coupon is allowed per item, but you can stack most store coupons with each other. Any applicable store or manufacturer coupon(s) should automatically apply to an eligible item.

Although you can present your coupons in any order, below is the order that the CVS register applies them.


CVS calculates discounts at the register in this order:

  1. Manufacturer coupons
  2. CVS dollar-off coupons
  3. ExtraBucks
  4. CVS percent-off coupons

TIP: Percent-off coupons from the CVS Coupon Center or from CVS emails will only discount regular price products.

When you participate in a spend promotion at CVS (for example: Spend $20, receive $5 ExtraBucks), you’ll only need to reach 98% of the CVS spend requirement in order for you to receive the ExtraBucks. This is called the CVS 98% rule. If you use any coupon, it won’t affect the total amount spent toward the ExtraBucks threshold. You just have to hit the amount before any coupons.

The key to stacking coupons at CVS is to make sure you’re meeting the threshold for each coupon. If you have two threshold coupons and each requires you to hit $15, you’ll have to reach $30 to use both. P.S. We wrote a crash course in stacking coupons at CVS!

Also, keep in mind… you’ll want to use your entire ExtraBucks amount at once, or else you lose it.

Example: 2 Covergirl Eye Pencils
In-Store Deal
Example: 2 Covergirl Eye Pencils
-$2.02 $9.98 (120% Off)
Buy 2, receive $6 ExtraBucks, limit 1
2 - $3.00/1 - Covergirl Eye product from SS March 19
Pay $3.98, receive $6 ExtraBucks
EXPIRED 04/01/23

Related: This is how to coupon at CVS.



5. Use multiple coupons at Walgreens to save the most.

A person holding a cell phone displaying an online coupon next to a paper coupon from a Walgreens ad

When couponing at Walgreens, you can use digital, printable, and newspaper manufacturer coupons and store coupons. Only one manufacturer coupon and one store coupon are allowed per item.

Walgreens has Monthly Savings Booklet Coupons. These are store coupons that can be combined with manufacturer coupons, Register Rewards, Walgreens Cash, and sales. The coupons can be clipped digitally in your myWalgreens account to be used multiple times. For example, if you have a coupon for M&M’s and you purchase two packs, your Walgreens Savings Coupon will come off of both packs.

Using manufacturer coupons doesn’t affect store coupon or promotion thresholds at Walgreens, but store coupons, promo codes, and Walgreens Cash do. This means if you have a percent-off store coupon, it will only work on regular-priced items, not sale items. They come off after other coupons have been deducted. If you have multiple store coupons for the same product, you can’t combine store coupons. You can only use one store coupon per transaction.

You’ll earn Walgreens Cash and Register Rewards after your purchase, which can then be used on a future purchase.


6. Stack up to four Kohl’s coupons at a time for big savings.

Scan paper coupons with the Kohl's app to redeem online.

According to Kohl’s coupon policy, they allow you to use up to four promo codes per order in a store, or a limit of two if you’re using a mobile device. But be sure to note two big catches:

  1. You can only stack one percent-off coupon per transaction. (And your Kohl’s Cash will come off before any percent-off coupons do.)
  2. Kohl’s coupons are subject to a long list of brand exclusions (yet another reason why I love Kohl’s Cash, which only has a few exclusions).

Regardless of the order in which you present your coupons in-store or apply them online, below is how they’ll be calculated in Kohl’s system.


Kohl’s calculates discounts this way:

  1. Department-specific, dollar-off coupons (like $5 off a $20 fragrance purchase).
  2. Percent-off, Kohl’s coupon codes (like 15% off a women’s beauty purchase) will get applied to qualifying items.
  3. Dollar-off coupons get subtracted from your subtotal (Kohl’s Cash gets applied first, then Kohl’s accepts sitewide coupons like $10 off an entire purchase of $50 or more).
  4. Only one sitewide, percent-off coupon will be applied (like 15% off an entire purchase).
  5. Free shipping code will be applied if you’re spending at least $75 after all other discounts.

When looking at Kohl’s deals on KCL, you’ll notice that we don’t factor in any Kohl’s Cash you’ll earn when we list the final price. That way, you can truly see how much you’re spending on the product itself. But don’t forget to use your Kohl’s Cash before it expires!

Example: Blender Duo with Auto-iQ
$99.44 $179.99 (45% Off)
Spend $50, receive $10 Kohl's Cash
Shipping: Free on orders of $49+
Pickup: Free
Pay $99.44, receive $10 Kohl's Cash

Related: Check out these Kohl’s Shopping Hacks.


7. Couponing at Rite Aid is a lot like the other drugstores.

Hand holding a coupon with three boxes of colgate toothpaste in a Rite-aid cart

Once you get one drugstore’s couponing policy down, you’ll begin to feel more comfortable with the others. Rite Aid accepts digital, printable, and newspaper manufacturer coupons and store coupons. You can use one manufacturer coupon and two store coupons per item. (Rite Aid’s store coupons have “RC48” or “RC49” followed by a bunch of numbers printed below the coupon’s barcode.)

When you use manufacturer coupons and store coupons at RiteAid, it won’t affect the amount you need to spend to earn the BonusCash promotions. And there’s no specific order you need to present the coupons, either. The coupon order doesn’t matter at Rite Aid.

Similar to how other drugstores treat their money-back offers, at Rite Aid, the BonusCash is received after your purchase and can be used toward a future purchase.

Example: 2 Colgate Products
In-Store or ONLINE Deal
Buy 2, receive $7 BonusCash, limit 2
$1.00/1 - Colgate Toothpaste 2.1 oz or larger, Rite Aid App Coupon
$1.00/1 - Colgate 360 Manual Toothbrush, Adult or Kids Battery Powered Toothbrush OR Mouthwash or Mouth Rinse 500 mL or larger, Rite Aid App Coupon
Pickup: Free
Pay $5.98, receive $7 BonusCash

Related: Learn how to coupon at Rite Aid.



How Stores Calculate Discounts: Your Quick and Easy Guide