The chance to earn $40 to $60 in gift cards was a tempting offer from Target. By transferring or establishing prescriptions, it was possible to earn a $10 gift card for each order. It's not the only retailer to make such an enticing offer: Prescription transfer programs are increasingly popular, and CVS, Walgreens and other chain stores with pharmacies offer similar deals.
But hidden costs could diminish the value of prescription transfer offers. Here are five ways to get the most from pharmacy transfer programs.
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Study the details
Save time, money and energy by reading the rules. Each program operates with a different set of restrictions and requirements. For instance, I squandered 20 minutes on the phone with Target’s toll-free call center, before the transfer application was rejected. The problem? The medicine was for a child and the paperwork had to be completed in a traditional store because the patient, my child, was younger than 13. The fine print varies from store to store. Read the rules before you begin the process.
Watch the clock
Paperwork, lengthy checkout lines and commuting costs can reduce the value of free gift cards. Spending several hours, including a two-hour wait for a prescription to be filled, may not be the most economical use of your time.
Measure the miles
Convenience counts. A chain store with locations near your home, especially within walking distance, may represent a better bargain when you factor in the time and fuel needed for later refills.
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Check pharmacy hours
Many chain stores are open all night, but the in-store pharmacy department may not run on that extended schedule. Although CVS and Walgreens operate 24-hour stores in my neighborhood, their pharmacy departments shut down in the early evening and their all-night backup locations involve a longer commute.
A free gift card represents an attractive one-time bonus. But with each refill there can be additional financial risks in your shopping cart. The money saved on transferred prescriptions can be wasted on impulse purchases. Shop with a list and maintain discipline. Keep in mind that there are countless other ways to get the most out of your healthcare dollar.
Sharon Harvey-Rosenberg is a special financial news contributor for Wise Bread. She is the author of "Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money” and a contributing author to ”10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.”