If you are new to shopping at drugstores or new to using coupons, you may be confused as to why people shop at places like CVS and Walgreens. CVS and Walgreens are two of the three major drugstores where couponers shop. Rite Aid is the third, there are none of these in my area so I won't include Rite Aid in this post.
Why would you shop at CVS or Walgreens when their prices are so high? It's true, regular prices at CVS and Walgreens are sky high. The reason for shopping at the drugstores are sale prices, in-store coupons (which can be used in conjunction with a manufactures coupon, or "stacked",) and rewards programs. In this post I will tell you a little more about these two stores and where there differences are. With this knowledge in hand you can decide at which store you would prefer to shop, or if you'd be up for tackling both.
So what are the differences between shopping at CVS and shopping at Walgreens?
Rewards Programs: Both CVS and Walgreens have a rewards program. Walgreens has Register Rewards, which print on a catalina machine separately from your receipt. CVS has Extra Bucks which print directly onto the bottom your receipt. Both stores have similar sales (ex. spend $5.99 on lotion, receive $5.99 Register Reward/Extra Bucks) but they way they are redeemed is different. Walgreens considers RR's (Register Rewards) to be manufactures coupons. With all stores you are required to have as many items as manufactures coupons, so you may need to use cheap "filler" items if you are using coupons for every other item you are buying. At CVS, EB's (Extra Bucks) are redeemed more like a gift card. Meaning that you don't need to have extra items. This means redeeming EB's is somewhat easier than redeeming RR's, at least until you get the hang of it. Keep in mind that Walgreens coupons are not manufactures coupons, so don't count them in your coupon total.
Item Limits: CVS has a shopping card (like a store loyalty card) that must be used to receive sale prices or Extra Bucks. Walgreens does not have a similar card. CVS usually has limits on it's reward items (usually 1 or 2) and Walgreens does not. A few Walgreens stores require that you only buy one Register Reward item per day, but without a store card there is no way to really enforce this rule, and it only applies to that store so you can always check another store for the same item. The item limits are both a good and bad thing. This means that CVS usually has better stock of an item that is a particularly good deal, but you can only buy one or two. Walgreens will usually sell out of items that are very popular, but if you find a store that is completely stocked you can buy as many as needed. Many people take advantage of this and will clear shelves at Walgreens, it may not be against the rules but it certainly isn't nice.
Number of Stores: In my area (and most that I've been to) there are more Walgreens stores than CVS stores. That means that it may be more convenient to shop at Walgreens because there are simply more of them. It also means that if one Walgreens is sold out of an item that you want, another might have it. I regularly go to about four Walgreens stores and about 75% of the time at least one of them will have what I am looking for.
Friendliness of Staff: It may not seem like a huge factor, but if you are using coupons it is always good to have staff that is coupon knowledgeable or at least open to the use of coupons. I have personally found that cashiers and managers at CVS know more about their coupon policy and are more helpful than those who work at Walgreens. This may not be true in every area, but it certainly is where I live.
"Magic Coupon Machine:" This is a little red machine at CVS that prints coupons automatically when you scan your card. Sometimes it will even print coupons for FREE items. CVS has this, Walgreens doesn't.
In-Store Coupons: Both CVS and Walgreens have in-store coupons. Store coupons can be "stacked" with a manufactures coupon for great savings. Walgreens has more of them, and they are usually easier to find. Walgreens has a little book every month that is out by the weekly sale ad with lots of coupons. They also regularly have coupons in the newspaper, as well as other little booklets in the store. Some of these booklets are seasonal, or found near the pharmacy. CVS occasionally has coupons online or in the newspaper, as well as coupons that print from the "magic coupon machine." I heard that Walgreens will soon have mobile coupons, I'll update when I have more information.
So with this information in hand, you should be able to understand the differences between these stores a little better. Which store is "better" is entirely up to you. I prefer CVS if I am in a hurry, because there is no figuring out filler items. However if you are really looking to stock up on a product Walgreens may be the better option.