A prescription discount card is a card that enables the holder to obtain significant discounts on their medications at pharmacies nationwide.
With the cost of prescription medications going through the roof, people need help. Insurance companies cover a variety of medications, but nearly 28 million Americans have no insurance. And for the ones that do, the copay can be prohibitively large. Enter the discount card.
The organizations that issue discount cards strike deals with pharmacy chains who agree to lower their prices for anyone carrying such a card. There are several reasons why the pharmacies agree to do so. And we’ll get to those in the FAQ section. For now, here are the 10 best prescription discount cards for 2021.
1. ScriptSave WellRx
There were several drug discount cards we could have led off with. We ultimately chose ScriptSave because of their wide acceptance, deep discounts, ease of use, and 25 years in the industry. They know the pharmaceutical business and do a great job negotiating discounts for cardholders.
What we like: We appreciate their outstanding discount rates. We like that they are accepted at more than 60,000 pharmacies nationwide. They also offer sizable discounts on some brand name drugs, not just generics.
Flaws: You may have to compare prices at different pharmacy chains to find the best price.
2. GoodRx Prescription Card
The GoodRx makes it easy to use their card and easy to find the right medication. On top of that, they provide discounts of up to 80% on some generic drugs. And they offer you the ability to obtain bigger discounts for a modest monthly fee.
What we like: We like that the 80% discount on certain medications. We appreciate the vast number of pharmacies that accept this card. We like that there’s no application, no expiration, and zero fees. We also like that they give you the option to receive even bigger discounts for just $5.99 a month.
Flaws: The really big discounts are almost exclusively on generic medications.
3. FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card
FamilyWize has been around for more than 15 years and in that time amassed a solid reputation. Their card is really easy to use, provides average to better-than-average discounts on generic drugs, and will also get you discounts on some major brand names.
What we like: We like how easy it is to obtain this card and use it. Their 15 years of experience is also a good thing. And there is no doubt they provide pretty hefty discounts on both generic and brand name drugs. We also like that you can download the card and use it right away.
Flaws: The ‘lowest possible price’ they promise is the lowest possible price for this card. So keep that in mind.
PharmacyCard.org pledges not to share or sell your personal information to anyone. Their card is free, with no health questions or disqualifications for pre-existing conditions. What they offer are significant savings on most generic and brand name drugs.
What we like: Obtaining the card is super easy, and you can use it right away. You get big discounts on generics and decent discounts (up to 20%) on brand name drugs. And they promise never to sell or share your personal information.
Flaws: While pretty widely accepted, other cards have a larger number of participating pharmacies.
5. Blink Health
As we just mentioned, a lot of drug discount cards offer similar discounts on similar drugs. So they need ways to separate themselves from the pack. Blink Health does so by providing free home delivery. That’s a big plus for elderly individuals.
What we like: The Blink Health website has a price comparison feature that makes finding the cheapest meds easy. We like that you can have your medication delivered to your door. And that they work with more than 35,000 pharmacies.
Flaws: That 35,000 pharmacy count is good but only about half what some other cards offer. Still, if one of those 35,000 is near you, it’s worth it.
The SingleCare card can provide some very deep discounts on certain drugs. They also provide discounts on dental procedures, eye exams, doctor visits, and more. They’re pretty much alone in that regard, as the majority of discount cards focus solely on medications.
What we like: We like that they work with most of the major pharmacy chains. We like that they make finding the lowest price easy via their web app. And we like that the card is easy to obtain and is accepted nationwide.
Flaws: The savings on brand name drugs are typically pretty modest. And other cards are more widely accepted.
7. AARP OptumRx Card
The American Association of Retired Persons is the nation’s largest senior advocacy group. They put their considerable clout to work on the problem of high drug prices with their OptumRx card, and the result is deep discounts on a wide variety of meds.
What we like: We appreciate that AARP is a trustworthy entity, that the card can provide significant discounts and that it’s accepted at more than 65,000 locations. We also like that they provide some pretty good discounts on brand names.
Flaws: Unfortunately, you have to be an AARP member to get one of these cards. And that means the AARP hard sell going forward.
8. Discount Drug Network Discount Card
Discount Drug Network features one of the largest networks of any discount program. Their card is easy to obtain and can provide some eye-popping discounts on generic drugs. They also have a feature on their website that lets you find generic equivalents fast and easy.
What we like: They provide discounts up to 85% in some cases. We appreciate their online tool that makes finding generic equivalents a hassle-free process. And we like that the card is accepted at more than 65,000 locations.
Flaws: Most of the meaningful discounts are on generics. So it’s a good thing they provide that generic equivalent finder.
9. Drugs.com Discount Card
Drugs.com began life as an internet site providing information on, yes, drugs. They’ve now expanded into the drug discount card sector, which, in a way, seems only natural. Their card is growing in popularity, with more pharmacies are added to their network each year.
What we like: We like that there’s no limit on who can use this card or how often they can use it. The fact that the card is so widely available is also a plus. And pet owners will like that the card can be used for some pet medications.
Flaws: The card won’t get you discounts on a lot of newer brand name drugs. And only modest discounts on older brand name drugs.
10. Script Relief
ScriptRelief has a vast nationwide network of pharmacies that participate in its discount program. Their card is easy to obtain, and you can download their app to find in-network pharmacies and pricing info. They include more than 50,000 meds in their program.
What we like: We like how easy it is to obtain one of these cards and that they can be used at pharmacies nationwide. We like that they don’t disqualify you for a pre-existing condition. And we like that the card is accepted nationwide.
Flaws: The card is not accepted outside the country. There are also rumors the company is about to be bought and rebranded.
What is a prescription discount card?
A prescription discount card is a wallet-size piece of plastic or paper that indicates a person belongs to a program that enables them to claim a discount on medications. Sometimes these cards are sent through the mail. Sometimes they are printed out by the user onto a piece of paper. But whether the card is plastic or paper, the user presents it at the pharmacy to claim their discount.
In most cases, these cards have no expiration date and do not come with any hidden fees attached. In addition, there are typically no deductibles and no copays. Prescription discount cards cannot be used in conjunction with various types of health insurance, however. They only offer their discount when the individual pays for their medication out of their own pocket. While prescription discount cards are typically associated with older individuals, many of them can be used by adults of any age, and some can be used to obtain discounts on pet meds.
How We Ranked
The world of prescription drugs is a complex one. Especially when it comes to pricing. Who determines those prices? Why do some governments seem powerless to reign in those prices (1)? And why are other governments that cap prices still criticized by patient advocates (2). It’s enough to make your head spin.
Fortunately, we have prescription discount cards to provide a bit of relief. The thing is, drug discount programs are a relatively new and still evolving industry. And while they undoubtedly offer significant savings to millions of people, those discounts are still poorly understood and unevenly applied. So when compiling our list, clarity and simplicity were at the forefront of our concerns.
Is the prescription discount program being offered easy to understand? Are there details hidden in the fine print that could nullify some or all of the advertised benefits? Is the card widely accepted? Does the issuing company or organization have a solid BBB record? And most importantly, does the card provide the discounts that it claims it will provide in its marketing? If the program was easy to understand, the card widely accepted, and the discounts within the range claimed, the program made our list.
Prescription discount cards let you save money. Whether you’re a senior on a fixed income or a parent having trouble paying for your child’s medications, a prescription discount card can save you money. Many discount cards allow anyone to use them, not just seniors. This helps ensure that everyone can obtain the medications they need to recover from illness or injury. Not just the well-to-do. With the cost of medications skyrocketing (3) and no end in sight prescription discount cards can provide a necessary counterbalance.
Prescription discount cards allow those without insurance to obtain vital medication. About 8.5% of Americans are currently uninsured (4). That amounts to some 27.5 million people. Just like the rest of us, these people get sick, are disabled, or are involved in accidents and need medical care, including medications. Prescription discount cards provide a way for these folks to obtain the medicines vital to their health and well-being. Without these cards, many of the uninsured would have no way to care for themselves or their family members.
Prescription discount cards enable you to fill all your prescriptions. There are a lot of disturbing stories and trends when it comes to healthcare these days. But one of the most disturbing is that adults in increasing numbers are not filling prescriptions simply because they can’t afford to (5). Not being able to fill a prescription can be a huge deal for the average adult. But when seniors are involved, it often becomes a life or death issue. Researchers have discovered that seniors between 50 and 65 for instance are cutting back on potentially life-saving heart medications (6). Prescription discount cards make it possible for these folks to afford all their medications.
Prescription discount cards enable seniors to live longer lives. Prescription discount cards provide unfettered access to necessary medications for everyone. But seniors in particular. And having access to necessary medications can make a quantifiable difference in the life expectancy of the average person. That’s because medications help a person maintain good health. Research indicates that there is nearly a 12 year difference in the life expectancy of well-to-do individuals and poor individuals in America (7). That is in large part because wealthy people get the medications they need when they need them. Prescription discount cards can help level the playing field and close that appalling life expectancy gap.
Prescription discount cards relieve seniors of a major source of stress. Seniors need increased access to all aspects of healthcare, including access to necessary medications. But for those living on fixed incomes, worrying about whether they’ll be able to afford necessary medications becomes a major source of stress. Stress is known to aggravate health concerns. It can also generate an array of new problems (8) that just make everything worse, including heart problems, digestive issues and more. Knowing they’ll be able to obtain the medications they need can go a long way toward eliminating this unwanted stress.
Prescription discount cards leave money for other things. If you take the time to investigate the issue you find the amount of money seniors are spending on medications these days is staggering (9). There’s really no other word for it. Some are spending $10,000 a year out of their own pocket on meds. And a half million senior Americans are each spending upwards of $50,000 a year. While most people don’t spend that much, the fact is the cost of medications is impeding the quality of life for many seniors. Sure, they feel better when they get the medications they need. But they can’t do other things like travel or even go out to dinner because medications are consuming all their available income. Prescription drug cards can reverse that trend.
Prescription discount cards typically have no expiration date. They are not ‘limited time offers’ or only valid until you reach a certain age. They are valid as long as the organization running the program continues to operate. And with the need for relief from high medication costs becoming more acute by the year, it’s reasonable to assume such programs are not going anywhere anytime soon.
Prescription discount cards can be used by other members of the family. This is not the case with every prescription discount card. But there are quite a few that allow any adult member of the family to walk into a participating pharmacy and claim a discount. This is important for one big reason: seniors aren’t the only ones dealing with high drug prices. Medicare provides some relief for those over 65. But those 50 to 65 exist in a kind of pricing limbo and are often in desperate need of some relief. Also, without help, parents whose children need expensive treatments and medications are often financially overwhelmed, even if they have insurance (10).
Prescription discount cards make for stronger communities. Let’s face it. We’re all better off when we’re all properly taken care of. If there’s a segment of the population that’s receiving inadequate healthcare, that’s a drag on the whole community. Because those unable to afford prescriptions get sick like everyone else. If they are unable to get the medications they need, they suffer, and their families suffer. Also, when they finally show up in the emergency room, they are sicker than they would have been had they had access to medication earlier. They also require more intense – and expensive – care. Someone has to pay for that (11).
Q: How much does it cost to get a prescription discount card?
A: In the vast majority of cases, the prescription discount card doesn’t cost anything. In fact, if the issuing company tries to charge you for it, you should try a different company. Also, you should not have to provide any type of personal information to receive one of these cards. So no lengthy sign-up forms, no social security number, no email address, home address, or phone number. Also, you should never be asked for a credit card number, and the card should not require that you make a co-payment. You should also never be asked about the state of your health. Just make sure you read the fine print before you either request a card or download and use one of these cards. That way you know exactly what you’re getting into.
Q: Does every card offer the same discounts?
A: No. Every card does not offer the same discounts. And there are many reasons for this. The main reason is that each company or organization offering such a card conducts its own negotiations with the various pharmacy chains. Some companies employ better negotiators than other companies. But it also matters which pharmacy chains they’re dealing with and where those pharmacies are located. Some chains are willing and able to provide bigger discounts. But drug stores located in large cities on the east and west coast typically have higher overhead costs. Rents, delivery costs, staff salaries, utilities and more are always more expensive in these cities (12). So stores located in places like New York City aren’t able to provide the same degree of discount as a store located in Independence, Missouri.
Q: How much can I save using a prescription discount card?
A: As we’ve just seen discounts are affected by a number of factors. Those include the negotiating power and prowess of the company issuing the card and the location of the drug stores where you would purchase your medication. So it is pretty much impossible to state with any authority that you will receive X discount on your meds. In addition, discounts vary from drug to drug. More commonly prescribed drugs will typically have a larger discount associated with them. In some cases, as much as 80 – 85%. However, when it comes to other, newer brand name medications, the discount may only be 15 or 20%. As a general rule, generic drugs tend to be discounted more heavily than their brand name counterparts.
Q: Why should seniors get a prescription discount card?
A: Seniors who already have health insurance or who receive discounts via Medicare often wonder why they should get a prescription discount card. But the reasons are actually simple and clear. Many prescription discount cards allow you to buy medication for less than the insurance copay amount alone. For example: let’s say you purchase meds with your insurance and are required to pay $20 of the total cost out of your own pocket. There’s a chance that if you use your discount card instead, your total out of pocket expense may be only $15 or even $10.
Q: Why do pharmacies participate in these discount programs?
A: This is a good question that lots of people ask. But the answer is really quite simple: because they make more money by doing so. Of course, the next question people have is: “How can they make more money if they’re charging less?” And the answer lies in human nature. The most important aspect of running a successful store is getting people into the store. Once in the store, it’s human nature for people to buy things. So, if you can draw them into your pharmacy by offering a discount on their meds, chances are good they’ll also buy other, non-discounted items while they’re there. Therefore, the choice for the pharmacies is clear: no customers, or customers that generate a smaller profit on one item and a regular profit on other items.
Q: This sounds too good to be true. Is it?
A: It’s not. This type of business model – where a company gives something away or accepts a loss on one item to generate a profit on other items – has worked for centuries. Restaurants and sweet shops that give away samples to passersby use this model all the time. They lose money on the food they give away. But if one out of 10 people who accepted the giveaway goes in and buys dinner or dessert, they more than make up for the loss. Cell phone providers use the same model. Most are willing to give away a free smartphone to get you to sign up for their service. They lose money on the phones but make it back and then some by getting you to sign on for a year or more of service.
Q: How do I know my pharmacy is giving me to maximum discount?
A: You will only know that if you do a bit of comparison shopping. You’ll need to check the various discount claims of the different cards. You may even want to try several different cards to see if one routinely performs better than another. Sure, it may take you a while to figure out exactly which card is best for you. But you’ll still be able to enjoy discounts while you test the various cards. And in the long run, you’ll end up with a program that provides you with all the benefits laid out above and more.
Q: Can I use a prescription discount card with Medicare Part D?
A: Yes. A prescription discount card is a good way to minimize the gap between what is covered by Medicare and what you have to cover yourself. Typically, Medicare requires you to pay 20% of the cost of a given drug (13). And if that’s not bad enough, there are many drugs that Medicare doesn’t cover at all. So it always helps to have a prescription discount card on hand.
Q: Why do different pharmacies charge different prices?
A: It has to do, at least in part, on the nature of the store where the pharmacy is located. If it is a straight-up drug store, then they are making most of their money from the medications they sell. As such, they may be less inclined to offer steep discounts on those meds. On the other hand, Walmart makes most of its money on other items. So they can afford to take a bigger hit on medications. As long as it gets you into the store to buy other things. Another factor driving the size of discounts is the size of the chain. A massive international chain like Walgreens deals with incredibly high volumes of medications. So, they can negotiate better prices with drug companies.
Q: Can you transfer a prescription to a cheaper pharmacy?
A: Of course. If your doctor’s office automatically forwards a prescription to a pharmacy that you know will not offer a meaningful discount, you can transfer the prescription to your preferred pharmacy. In some cases, you’ll be able to do it by phone. Or you can go to your preferred pharmacy, tell them and they’ll call the other pharmacy and transfer the prescription for you. It usually only takes a few minutes, and you’ll be sure to enjoy the biggest discount possible.
Q: Is there a downside to prescription discount cards?
A: In the vast majority of cases, you’d be very hard-pressed to find a downside to saving 80% on prescription drugs. The tiny number of cases that might present a problem usually have to do with cards that have limited lifetimes or which can only be used X amount of times. But none of the cards on our list are like that. Also, cards like this can’t be used in concert with Medicare, Medicaid, or other government-sponsored health plans. But that’s more a limitation than a downside.
Q: Do you have to give up your privacy to get a drug discount card?
A: Not entirely. But there’s a better than even chance that the company who issues the card will wind up knowing exactly what medications you are on at any given time (14). What they do with that information then is crucial. Do they sell it? Do they keep it confidential? If they hold onto it, then how long do they store it? And why are they holding onto it in the first place? Are they going to sell it to marketers who then barrage you with spam related to your health condition? A health condition you thought was only between yourself and your doctor? Something to think about.
Q: Is the ‘lowest price’ promise just smoke and mirrors?
A: Not at all. It is understandable that people might think so. After all, we live in the age of ‘bait and switch’. But drug discount cards are an entirely legitimate way of obtaining significant discounts on a host of drugs. Discounts, in some cases, up to 80% off the standard retail price. Many cards also offer a guarantee that if you can find the drug for less at a non-network pharmacy, you can pay that lower price.
Q: Do I have to inform my doctor I’m using a discount card before he or she writes the prescription?
A: Absolutely not. Your doctor does not have to know about your drug discount card. The drugs he or she prescribes are entirely separate from their practice. They simply write the prescription. You take it where you feel comfortable filling it and pay for it in the way that works best for you.
The price of prescription medications is out of control. This represents a particular threat to the health and wellbeing of seniors who are often on a fixed budget. Prescription discount cards can help a person obtain the medications they need to maintain or return to robust health.
These programs leverage the power of numbers (as in the number of people using the card) to negotiate lower prices from pharmacies. They then pass those savings on to you. But not all drug discount cards are created equal. And while seniors are most often associated with this type of discount card, the fact is any adult of any age can use most of them.
To be sure you enjoy real, tangible benefits from this type of program, make sure you select one of the cards on our list. Each one has proven its mettle and will provide you with significant discounts on most medications in most cases.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended prescription discount card, click here.