Fall is an excellent time to score big bargains on cars, cruises and drugstore items. Here's how:
Drive Home a Car Deal
Traditionally, car dealers either slash prices or offer generous rebates in the fall to entice customers into buying last year's models. But due to shrinking inventory and higher demand, these types of deals "are not as plentiful as in the past," says Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst at Edmunds.com, the auto research site.
That said, Edmunds.com has turned up a few "loyalty" offers (aimed at current owners of cars produced by the manufacturer offering an incentive) and “conquest” offers (for anyone trading in a competitor’s vehicle). In the loyalty category, you can get $2,000 back on a 2012 Chevy Corvette or $2,500 on a 2012 Kia Sedona. On the conquest front, Ford is offering $2,500 back on a 2012 Fusion.
For cut-rate financing, there’s 0 percent for 60 months on Chevy trucks, Traverse crossovers and Suburban SUVs as well as on a cute 2013 Fiat 500. Hyundai offers 0.9 percent financing for 36 months on all models of its certified pre-owned (read: used) cars.
Cruise Incentives Set Sail
Fewer people book cruise vacations in the fall, so that's when incentives set sail. Expect to find two-for-one pricing, free airfare to the cruise-embarking city, complimentary shore excursions and other discounts.
A great place to start your search is Cruising.org, the website of the Cruise Lines International Association. There you'll find a clearinghouse of deals on its National Cruise Vacation Week Specials page.
Among the best discounts is one from Premier River Cruises, which specializes in 7- to 14-day European waterway itineraries, including Danube cruises departing from Budapest and Munich and Rhine cruises from Amsterdam and Cologne. If you book a 2013 cruise before Dec. 31, you can save $2,400 per person and get a free Visa gift card worth up to $500.
Walgreens recently introduced its Balance Rewards program, with discounts for customers who sign up. CVS and Rite Aid have had similar programs for years. Since enrolling can save you quite a bit over time, here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of each:
Walgreens Balance Rewards The program works through a free downloadable app for iPhone, Android or Blackberry phones. After signing up, you just show the cashier your phone’s app at checkout then earn one point for every dollar you spend.
You can start redeeming once you amass 5,000 points, but Walgreens runs promotions that can help you earn points faster, like 500 for every prescription filled or immunization received.
CVS Extra Care Rewards Sign up for an Extra Care card in a CVS store and when it’s scanned at checkout, you get 2 percent back on every purchase and earn $1 for every two prescriptions filled; the rewards are called Extra Bucks. CVS rewards automatically print out quarterly on your receipt as an Extra Bucks coupon or you can opt to have them auto-load to your Extra Care card.
There are many ways to earn more Extra Bucks instantly. For example, when you spend $10 on Halloween candy this week, you get $3 in Extra Bucks. Sign up for the Extra Care Beauty Club on cvs.com and you’ll get $5 back for every $50 you spend on skincare, hair care and beauty products.
One drawback: Some of CVS’ instant Extra Bucks expire as quickly as one week after you get them.
Rite Aid Wellness+ Sign up for a Wellness+ card in a Rite Aid store or on its website and you’ll immediately get a temporary card; the drugstore chain will mail you the actual card. Then scan the card at checkout and earn one point for every dollar spent on non-prescription purchases; 25 points for every prescription filled.
After reaching 250 points, you’ll get a 10 percent discount on Rite Aid brand products for a year, plus a one-time 10-percent-off shopping pass. At 500 points, you can choose from a wellness reward, like a gym membership or health screening, as well as a 10 percent discount on anything in the store for a year; 1,000 points gets you 20 percent off for a year.
You can have your rewards uploaded digitally by signing up for a Load2Card at Rite Aid’s site, freeing you from worrying about remembering to hang on to the rewards coupons printed on your receipt.