How To Get The Best Deals At 10 Major Retail Chains

Everyone wants a bargain, which is why more Americans shop at discount chains like Target and Walmart than at any other type of big store. But a new survey of more than 30,000 subscribers by the Consumer Reports National Research Center reveals that folks are also finding low prices at department stores, warehouse clubs, and general-merchandise retailers. We recently reported on why consumers shop where they do.

Here’s how to get the best deals at 10 major retail chains.

The warehouse club ($50 a year for basic membership) doesn’t accept manufacturers’ coupons but distributes its own and offers instant rebates. If you spend a lot at Costco, consider upgrading to an executive membership ($100). You’ll get 2 percent back on almost all purchases, to a maximum rebate of $500 a year.

Use a Dillard’s credit card to earn shopping passes good for 10 percent off all purchases made in a single day up to $1,000. You get one discount pass when you sign up for the card if you spend at least $100 that day. Each $750 you spend in a calendar year earns you another discount pass. When your credit-card purchases in a calendar year top $2,000, you’ll qualify for free shipping and other cost-saving perks.

Maybe best-known for its “white sales,” JCPenney discounts clearance merchandise 40 to 80 percent on its outlet at You can also sign up for e-mail or mobile alerts on coupons, weekly deals, and events.

The discounter is under the same corporate umbrella as Sears and specialty retailers Lands’ End and The Great Indoors. All four share the Shop Your Way rewards program. You earn points equivalent to 1 percent back, which you can “spend” at any of the four stores. Unemployed? Apply online for Kmart’s Smart Assist savings card, which offers 20 percent off more than 1,500 items for six months.

Use a Kohl’s credit card to get 15 to 30 percent off all merchandise. Once you spend $600 in a year you qualify for “pick-a-day” savings six times a year. Special promotions include $10 in “Kohl’s Cash” for each $50 spent on a single shopping trip.

Open a Macy’s charge account and get a 15 percent discount on the day you’re approved and the next day. Cardholders also qualify for special sales and coupons.

Sam’s Club
Regular membership in Walmart’s warehouse club spin-off is $40 a year. Upgrade to the Plus Membership ($100 a year) to get additional automatic savings on select products and services.

If you buy something at Sears and find it at a lower price at another local store within 14 days, Sears will match the price and give you 10 percent of the difference. Look for the “deal of the day” on the Sears website, and on Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail alerts.

Shoppers using a Target REDcard credit card (the store’s or through Visa) or a REDcard debit card this fall will receive 5 percent off at checkout. Pay for five prescriptions with a REDcard and get a coupon for 5 percent off on a future shopping trip.

The discount giant has an everyday low-price strategy, with bigger bargains on “price rollback” merchandise. Check or sign up for e-mail alerts on special offers and new price rollbacks.

This column appeared in Consumer Reports Money Adviser.


Edit Your Comment

  1. leprechaunshawn says:

    I thought this was going to be a post about how to “negotiate” good deals at big box retailers. Not a story advising me to sign up for more credit cards and pay for club memberships.

    • catnapped says:

      Looks like an advertisement for those retailers if you ask me

    • Wombatish says:

      I enjoyed the fact that one of the linked articles is “why you shouldn’t pay with a credit card”.

      Seriously though, this article is a bit out of sorts and also willed with durrr-common sense material.

      I feel a bit like I’ve been punk’d…

    • Bohemian says:

      The Target card doesn’t require a credit card or anything new. They link it to your existing checking account at your bank. The pharmacy rewards used to be a 10% card after 10 prescription refills. They recently split it to 5% all the time and 5% on the prescription reward. It is still a great deal. I use the 10% card to stock up on things like paper towels and condiments. You can use it on things that are on sale and use coupons on top of the 10% thing. It can really add up.
      I have also had really good luck with JcPenney. They have certain things at 60% off during peak times. You can also get 20% off by using a receipt to fill out their survey. I bought my daughter a winter coat that was 60% off on sale that weekend plus the 20% off from a previous purchase so the coat was really cheap.
      The places that let you stack coupons on top of sales and other cost reductions can be a real winner.

      • selkie says:

        Though if you’re stocking up on paper towels, Target’s ‘buy two on sale, get a $5 gift card’ promotions this summer are far better than a flat 10% off if the sale item is your normal brand.

        They’ve even had a number of feminine hygeine products on that promotion this summer, and name brand tampons are one product that almost never seems to otherwise go on that kind of significant sale.

  2. Marshmelly says:

    I can vouch for getting the Kohl’s charge. I have more discounts/coupons than I know what to do with!…I pretty much only go there now if I have a coupon.

    The Target debit card sounds interesting…but I don’t go to Target very often.

    • Michaela says:

      I agree that Kohls has some great deals. My grandmother is always taking me shopping so we can use up her extra Kohls cash!

  3. davidsco says:

    Well, THAT was useless. But then again, sorry to say, so is most stuff from Consumer Reports these days

  4. quail says:

    At Kohl’s you don’t need the credit card to get discounts. With the credit card you do have a shot at the 30% scratch-off once a month, but you can still get 15% if you wait for the shopping pass or the Friend’s & Family, which don’t require the card. (This weekend has a Friend’s & Family event happening. Look on Facebook for any of your friends who might work at Kohl’s to post a coupon or ask someone nicely the next time your at the store and a worker might run to the back room & get you a coupon.)

    I’d suggest signing up for their emails too. Your first email will have $5 off your next purchase in the store and 10% discount online. They also send out shopping passes via email too and you’ll get $5 off coupons from time to time too. The only downside is that they send out hordes of email that you have to search through to find the good stuff.

    Also, consider doing some of your shopping at the Kohl’s Kiosk. The kiosk connects directly to Kohl’ and offers more selections than what they have in store. And for the time being all standard shipping is free when purchases are made from the kiosk (there’s no plan for them to start charging for shipping but you never know). Heavy or bulky items will have a handling charge. The check out process does show a shipping charge but it will drop away at the final purchase screen.

    And yea. I too was disgruntled that this article was all about buying into this or that to reap this or that reward/discount. //snark// well researched article //snark//

    • GrayMatter says:

      And, if you get a 15% coupon, don’t bring it. Just get another coupon at the store; you now have a chance to get the 20% or 30% coupon. I do that, and it happens regularly. At least, you still get the 15%.

      • quail says:

        But you still have to use the Kohl’s charge card to do the scratch off. My point is that you don’t need the card to still get 15% discounts once a month.

        Note to the CC is evil group. Get the card. Use it only during their scratch off events or with your pick-a-day. Then pay by cash or check on your account before you leave the register. No bill. No interest.

  5. MickeyMoo says:


  6. MickeyMoo says:

    ALWAYS Google for the store name + “coupon code” or “discount code” when shopping online – rare is the occasion I don’t save at least 10% or get free shipping (or both – many online retailers allow coupon stacking)

    RE: Costco – shopping there and paying with a Costco branded Amex gets you an additional cash back check and extends the warranty on large purchases.

  7. HogwartsProfessor says:

    You lost me on the credit card crap. I thought the point was to AVOID those store cards.

    • pop top says:

      Some of them can be terrible yes, but if you patronize a store often AND you’re good about paying off bills, then they can help you save a lot of money.

  8. ElizabethD says:

    The Kohl’s card is the only store charge (not credit) card I own, and the coupons/deals and Kohl’s Cash are the reason. Especially useful for people with kids who always need new jeans, shoes, etc. It’s stupid NOT to get their card if you shop there. Just pay off the balance and you’re good.

  9. Zernhelt says:

    That last comment about Walmart just makes this whole post sound like an ad.

    • Chmeeee says:

      Agreed. That’s not advice on how to save money at Walmart. Didn’t Consumerist just recently post about how Walmart’s supposed price rollbacks don’t exist, as their prices have been rising as of late?

    • The Cynical Librarian says:

      No, but you see it’s true.
      They’re rolling back prices on hundreds of items.
      Deals like this won’t last long…

  10. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    …. is worth a $29 subscription to Consumer Reports Money Adviser?
    …. is a disappointing article and not what I was expecting.

    The main benefit I get from my Sam’s Club upgrade is the early opening for Plus card members so I can shop when it’s not crowded and get a free coffee with powdered creamer.

  11. zegota says:

    Wow, thanks Consumer Reports. Get the best deals at Sams Club by … purchasing a membership (which is required!). Get the best deals at Wal-Mart by … Wal-Mart has everyday low prices. ROLLBACK!!

  12. D0rk says:

    Meh, i’ll pass on more credit cards. I have a Kohls card because it’s pretty much the only place I shop for clothes and some home/kitchen items, but I never keep a balance on it.

  13. theyoungandthebetrayed says:

    Every Costco member should have an executive membership and AmEx card. If your annual cash back is ever less than $100 you can just go to guest services and they will give you the difference, in cash! Basically your executive membership will be free but you’ll still get the cash bank from your Costco AmEx. A Costco employee told me this while (successfully) trying to upsell me on an executive membership and I’ve done it the last 2 years.

    • jefeloco says:

      My wife and I have been Costco members for almost seven years without really paying for it because of the executive member card. We first got a gold for $40 (with an employer discount) but quickly upgraded to the executive card after realizing how much we shopped there. In the first year we saw a $240 check which effectively paid for the first and second year memberships.

      After that, we have received checks every year that covered the entire membership and then some every time. Of course, we still shop at Winco and a local Paul’s too since a little comparison shopping never hurt anyone.

    • Silverhawk says:

      We’ve done this for about 4 years, and only one year was the Costco rebate actually less than the membership fee, by about $5. The Amex rebate more than made up for it though.

      I bought a new TV with last year’s rebate.

  14. CaptCynic says:

    Consumer Reports just lost 10 credibility points in my opinion. Pimping house brand credit cards (with a huge interest rate), and cuttting and pasting Ad copy from walmart.. They should be embarrased to put their name on this crap.

  15. framitz says:

    May I have my wasted time back, please.

  16. Outrun1986 says:

    They didn’t even mention anything useful, and 2 things they forgot:

    Sams fixes flat tires for free if you are a member, just make sure your store has the auto department and sells tires. We just had one fixed for free. Considering most places here charge $30 just for a flat repair, this pays for the $40 membership very quickly.

    JC Penny’s also has a rewards program if you use your credit card, any credit card. Just register it online and pay for your purchases using that credit card and earn points or whatever.

  17. Donathius says:

    If you spend a LOT of money at Costco the Executive membership is totally worth it. I worked at a Costco for a summer and there was a guy that came in every other day to buy supplies for his restaurant. He had 2 Executive memberships and maxed them out ever year. So minus the membership fee he was getting $800 a year back from Costco.

    I don’t know if this is still true or not but we also used to guarantee that the Executive Membership would at least pay for its own extra cost (the cost above the standard membership). If it didn’t you could get your money back. They’ll also usually prorate the membership if you’re partway through your renewal period.

    I know this sounds like a sales pitch but I was selling these for a couple months.

  18. penk18 says:

    Macy’s coupons are worthless. Just about anything one would want to buy is excluded, there are hidden exclusions that magically appear at the checkout counter, and a waste of time and energy.

  19. You hate your job but you're still working there? says:

    Since I’m relatively young and was looking to start building credit but don’t have a good cosigner, I found myself shopping around for a good retail card with a low spending limit about a year and a half ago. I found Wal-Mart’s card (the general GE Money Bank card, not the dual card) to be useful despite the fact that they don’t offer discounts on Wal-mart’s merchandise. It doesn’t seem like they advertise this perk much, but I like it because of the $0.03 off of gas at Murphy stations, which are usually cheaper than most stations in my area anyway. I’m always buying gas so the savings has added up quite a bit over just a year and it’s having a noticeable positive impact on my credit score(s) without placing any strain on my budget.

    I hate the added weight to my keychain and wallet from cards, but some loyalty programs are pretty good, and these free programs are better than adding cards to my credit report that won’t benefit my actual credit standing. I find Toys R’ Us stuff is usually overpriced, but they have some neat collectibles online, their sales provide good opportunities to go holiday shopping in advance and their loyalty program provides additional discounts. It seems like the big chain pharmacy stores like Walgreens have the best programs, and while I haven’t used it myself I’ve heard a lot of folks rave about Giant Eagles’ Fuel Perks program.

    Maybe I’m just a different demographic, but I’d rather have discounts on everyday stuff like gas and groceries than household items that I only buy every once in a while.

  20. rkramden says:

    Why did I just read this article?