Getting Free Stuff at Walgreens

By Linsey Knerl on 16 November 2009 (Updated 4 February 2011) 14 comments

This article shares tips from the 13th episode of Dealista, our podcast that'll help you get more for less.

We’ve loved getting free stuff from national pharmacy chain Walgreens for some time. (In fact, it was because of their past rebate program that I had been able to amass quite a lot of my free toiletry stash!) With their new rewards program, called Register Rewards, there is no longer any need to wait weeks or even months for a rebate check. You can get money towards your next purchase right in the checkout line! (And that means even more free stuff than before.) We teamed up with Clair from MummyDeals.org to provide you with the ins and outs of the new Walgreens program, and we’ll share some extra tips for paying next to nothing for everything from cleaning products, to food, to makeup!

Register Rewards Explained

During Walgreens' weekly promotions, Register Rewards are advertised as a great way to earn cash back on regular purchases. The rewards come in the form of a coupon that prints out of a Catalina machine next to the register when you complete your purchase. The coupons are good for a certain dollar amount off your next Walgreens purchase (in-store only) and give you about two weeks to spend them before they expire.

Like any good promotion, there are restrictions and rules to using these Register Rewards:

  • You can only earn one Register Reward per promotion per transaction. (If you were to participate in a program that earns you $4.50 from the purchase of a tube of Colgate toothpaste, for example, you could NOT purchase 4 tubes and expect 4 coupons to print out. You would only get one, regardless of how many you bought.) You can, however, space them out over 4 separate purchases (preferably on separate visits), and get all four coupons for $4.50 on your next purchase.
     
  • Register Rewards can’t be used for purchases of alcohol, stamps, and a few other excluded products. Check the back of the coupon for details.
     
  • You can use your Register Rewards to buy other things that will generate Register Reward coupons, but not if they are the same product. (You can use your newly acquired $4.50 Register Reward to buy deodorant, but not to buy more Colgate.)
     
  • You will always need to spend more than the value of the Register Reward. If your Reward is good for $4.50, but your purchase only comes up to $4.00, you’ll need to find an extra something to toss onto the checkout stand. (Gum, candy, or another small item works great.)
     
  • You can roll those Rewards to create even more Rewards! While you can’t use that $4.50 Reward to buy more Colgate, you can use it to buy a deal on Chapstick that will generate a $2 reward and a pack of hairbands that will generate $2. Then toss in a $.50 filler, and you’re good to go! (You’ll have spent 50 cents out of pocket for both the Chapstick and hair products.) You can do this over and over again, as long as you alternate between product types.
     
  • Walgreens cashiers consider Register Rewards to be coupons, and they don’t allow you to have more coupons than items purchased. To avoid any problems, you may need to add one of those filler items we discussed before to keep everything working smoothly.

Many frugal bloggers (like Clair) go out of their way to help their readers find the best Walgreens deals and match them with manufacturer’s coupons for an even better find. By checking sites like MummyDeals, you can often see what Sunday’s paper will have in store, as early as Thursday or Friday! Here are some additional tips for getting every last bit out of the money you spend at Walgreens:

  • Each Walgreens has the right to institute their own coupon policies, so if you find that your closest store is not too fond of your frugal ways, consider another store. (There are usually several within a given area to choose from.)
     
  • If your manufacturer’s coupon is worth more than the price of an item, Walgreens will usually still take it. You will have to let the cashier know to adjust the coupon value down to ensure that it is accepted.
     
  • To be sure that you get all the savings from all your coupons, present the manufacturer’s coupons before the Walgreen’s store coupons (the ones found in their circular and monthly catalog). Do this at the end of transaction.
     
  • Some shoppers have reported being able to use Register Rewards at competing stores like Jewel’s and Kroger, since they seem to have a very liberal coupon-matching policy. Ask to see what the local policy is at your competing store.
     
  • Always be polite. This seems like a no-brainer, but acting entitled does nothing to help earn the respect of the Walgreens staff and the community in general. If you have any problems with getting a Register Reward to print, contact Catalina directly at 1-888-8COUPON (1-888-826-8766). They’ll get you taken care of!

Note: The author has no vested or affiliate interest in Wallgreens.

Dealista is a collaboration between Wise Bread and Quick and Dirty Tips, the producer of popular podcasts such as Grammar Girl, Money Girl, Winning Investor, and Mighty Mommy.

If you enjoyed these tips you can find more in our show's archive.

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Guest's picture

Great tips! I live a few steps from a Walgreens and visit often. I grab coupons and head there every weekend to stockpile on certain products that are already on sale. I bought 10 packs of foil wrapper the other day for $1.50. Should last me a while!

Guest's picture
Guest

can also be found at I heart Wags Right now you can see the previews for the weeks through 11/29-12/05.

Guest's picture
Carrie

From my understanding, when other stores take Register Rewards it's not because they accept competitor coupons per se, it's just that RR actually are manufacturer's coupons. It says right on them, "manufacturer's coupon." Any store can get reimbursed for them, so theoretically any store should be willing to take them.

In practice, I get flack from almost any cashier and the store director at my local Jewel nixed them as well. However, I did use some successfully at Target recently. I'm planning to try it at Dominick's since the manager there told me "as long as it's a manufacturer's coupon" about a different kind of coupon.

Guest's picture

Now that they have streamlined the process, I will go full force into this. My Mom always did it, and I always had a "Walgreens" drawer full of toiletries to choose from whenever I went home for the holidays.

Guess I can stat having my own "Walgreens" drawer now.

Guest's picture
GT0163C

I've found Walgreens' Register Rewards (RR) program to be more restrictive than their previous rebate program. RRs expire two weeks from when they are printed and the need to not have more coupons than you have items can be very tiresome. This is especially the case if I have multiple, small value, RRs when I am purchasing other items with coupons.

That said, the RR program is still a great way to get many products for cheap, free or even while making money. The making money part comes when you purchase an item with a coupon and receive a RR. If the coupon and RR amounts are higher than the price of the item, it's "better than free" or you're "making money". I haven't paid for most of my toiletry items in years thanks to Walgreens and a few other stores.

Guest's picture
Guest

So Walgreens now wants to follow CVS in forcing its customers to come back to claim their "rewards?" This is just another way to get you in the store to buy something you don't need or want. I refuse to even look at the CVS ads since the prices do not represent what I would actually end up paying for the items. Having to return to the store to buy fantastically overpriced items to realize the savings is just a joke. And limiting the valid period to two weeks, that just adds insult to injury. So long, Walgreens.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Good point about the RR's being honored as "manufacturerer's coupons."  I guess I had seen that, but didn't put it together.  My competing store wouldn't probably honor it anyway, as they don't take anything that isn't cut from the Sunday paper (seriously), but it's good for those of us who live in areas with a bit more educated competitor stores.

Thanks for the comments!

Linsey Knerl

Linsey Knerl's picture

This could be seen that way, or you could look at it as a super way to save even more money if you are already shopping at Walgreens.  There are some items that I can ONLY purchase at Walgreens (certain OTC meds and a few health accessories.)  Since I live in a very small town, and I have no Target, Walmart, or CVS nearby, my options are limited.  I see the Register Rewards as a way of making sure that I save even more money on my everyday purchases.  Last month, my favorite brand of mascara (with a price tag of almost $9 -- even at Walmart) was free after RR.  Even though I only did ONE RR last month, this one offer allowed me to get the mascara I wanted to get anyway AND my husband's super-spendy supplements for the price of one.  For those of us with very limited incomes, you will always have days where you have to choose between things.  (In my case, supplements or makeup.)  The RR's allowed me to have BOTH, with no detriment to my budget.

Thanks for your feedback!

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Liz M.

Great tips guys, here are a few more that I know from experience:

1. RRs must be more than your subtotal That means that you are counting on tax to put you over the amount, it's a no go.

2. Using an Instant Value Coupon from the monthly book does NOT count towards your number of coupons.

3. P&G RRs can not be used for other P&G items, so know your manufacturers otherwise you are out RRs.

4. When you get a RRs for a free item on next visit, using that RR on the next one will not generate a new RR. In other words, no rolling.

5. Never let the cashier say that the reason you didn't/won't get a RR is because you used coupons. Simply not true.

6. Check quantities, types, and styles carefully. Sometimes the item next to it won't be eligible for the RR, so be careful.

7. Some stores only let you use one RR per transaction. So plan ahead and be flexible.

Guest's picture
Liz M.

One more thought. The article mentions that you can't use the RR on the same product and still generate a RR. It is actually the same manufacturer. So if Wyeth made the cough drops that gave you a $2 RR and also made the lip balm which should give you a $3RR you bought with the $2 RR, it won't give you the $3 RR.

Guest's picture
Tasha

If the excuse about using a coupon when the RR did not print, then what is the deal?? I called the Catalina number today to complain about not getting my RR for two different things. The total of the RR was $7.50. I asked the cashier about why they didn't print and she asked the manager to come over. He told me it was because I used coupons. I told him that it shouldn't matter. I had just done that earlier in the week and got my RR. We will see if they send me the RR or not. It will take 8-12 weeks to get them though. If I have to go through this much trouble to get my RR every week, then it isn't worth it for me. I will shop somewhere else. Anyone have any suggestions on what I might be doing wrong?? Do the cashiers need to scan in the products and coupons in a certain way to get the RR to print??

Thanks!!

Guest's picture
cecilia cano

I like to now when is a good dial in wagreens and so day can alort me off.

Guest's picture
Guest

The part about using coupons that are more than the item and having the cashier make the coupon to the price of the item is wrong. This is considered coupon fraud. I have worked at 3 walgreens and have seen several people fired for things like this....just saying. Is it really worth getting a good deal when people lose their jobs for you?

Guest's picture

One more thought. The article mentions that you can't use the RR on the same product and still generate a RR. It is actually the same manufacturer. So if Wyeth made the cough drops that gave you a $2 RR and also made the lip balm which should give you a $3RR you bought with the $2 RR, it won't give and Ur RR IS about 5 .

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