Pharmacies offer cash for new, transferred prescriptions

In my last column, I wrote about cash incentives that banks offer to attract new customers, but did you know that pharmacies do the same thing?

In fact, some pharmacies offer larger cash incentives for new customers than banks.

As with banks, some people are loyal to their pharmacy for reasons of convenience, service and quality. Others see competing pharmacies as similar places that offer the similar products, not unlike gas stations.

If you’re in the second group, you’ll likely find it’s worth your while to shop around. Now that pharmacies aren’t just at the “drug store” but also at grocery stores and big-box stores, there’s plenty of competition, and that leads to incentives and promotions.

Rival pharmacies also offer competing shopper loyalty programs, and of course, they don’t all charge the same prices for medications.

I’ll mention a few specific deals I’m aware of in the Charleston area, but be aware that these promotions are always coming and going. My best advice is to price-shop your prescription medications and keep an eye out for promotional deals, because unlike other promotions, you’re unlikely to find them on the store’s website.

Is it worth the trouble, to save $25 or as much as $200? Some people might say it’s not.

On this Labor Day weekend, I would note that the typically American family is earning less today than before the recession, and the minimum wage hasn’t increased since 2009, so plenty of people are deal-hunting and clipping coupons just to keep from falling further behind.

For people who regularly fill multiple prescriptions, comparison shopping and watching for incentives can really make a difference. If you want to transfer prescriptions, the new pharmacy will have some forms for you to sign, but it’s not complicated.

So put a list of your medications in your purse or wallet and the next time you’re at CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Piggly Wiggly, Harris Teeter, Publix, Bi-Lo, Kmart, Walmart, Target, or any other place with a pharmacy, ask what it would cost to fill your prescriptions there and see if there are any promotions.

Here are some examples of what you might find:

At some Harris Teeter grocery stores that have pharmacies, new customers (those who haven’t used the pharmacy previously) can get a $20 credit on their VIC card for every new or transferred prescription, up to $200. Those without a VIC card — that’s the store’s free customer loyalty program — can get one at the customer service counter. The promotion runs through Oct. 1.

Kmart is offering $25 for each transferred prescription, up to $100, or four prescriptions. To get the deal you need a coupon from Kmart, available on the company website and likely in stores. Prescriptions “paid for in whole or in part by any government programs” don’t count.

Walgreens is offering one $25 store gift card to customers who transfer a prescription with valid refills. As with Kmart, the promotion isn’t offered to those using federal health care programs such as Medicare prescription plans or federal employee health insurance. To get the deal, you need a coupon, which most stores seem to have behind the pharmacy counter. The offer runs through Dec. 31.

At Piggly Wiggly stores with pharmacies, customers with a new or transferred prescription get double Greenbax for the purchase. Greenbax are calculated using both what the customer pays, and any amount their insurance pays for the prescription. Greenbax are shopper loyalty points that can be redeemed for merchandise discounts, including discounted gas cards.

Pharmacies also offer shopper loyalty programs, which you often must sign up for in order to get the perks.

Typically, you get shopping discounts or cash back after filling a certain number of prescriptions.

For example, if you’re enrolled in the free Target Pharmacy Rewards program, for every five eligible prescriptions purchased at a Target Pharmacy, you receive a coupon good for 5 percent off a day of shopping at Target.

At Rite Aid, customers who sign up for the Wellness Rewards program get perks that include a yearlong 10 percent discount pass for filling 10 prescriptions that aren’t paid for with a government-funded plan.

Stores that aren’t offering promotions today could be offering them again soon. So keep a lookout for ways to save money on medications.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.

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