CVS and Walgreens seem to always be near each other. They are direct competitors and both hold a huge market share.
But if you’ve walked into both, you’d likely agree CVS and Walgreens are extremely similar. So what is the difference between CVS and Walgreens? Which is better? Which is cheaper? We looked into it and this is what we found…
CVS Vs. Walgreens
CVS (Consumer Value Stores) and Walgreens are both large American health and pharmacy retail chains. Both companies offer health and wellness products, health support and information, photo services and prescription medications. Both companies feature their own range of brand lines. They are completely separate companies.
This article takes a look at two companies, CVS and Walgreens: the differences, the similarities, and the verdicts.
How Are Walgreens And CVS Similar?
Walgreens and CVS provide very similar services. These services are specifically pharmacy retail and the provision for and support of a broad range of health needs.
CVS and Walgreens both sell prescription and over the counter drugs and medications. You’ll be able to shop for cosmetics and beauty products, seasonal merchandise, gift cards, greeting cards, stamps, sun care products, health foods and snacks, and various designer home care tools and products.
Both Walgreens and CVS carry their own private label brands. You can see these clearly marked on both websites.
Health Services offered by both CVS and Walgreens include:
- Pharmacy services
- Photo development and finishing
- Vaccine clinics
- Prescription glasses
- Diabetes devices
- RX coverage support
- Virtual care/home visits
- General health clinics
- Prescription transferals
- Connections with providers
- Pharmacy advice
- Drug management
- Home delivery
Do Walgreens And CVS Have The Same Social Responsibilities?
Both companies claim (and advertise) to uphold a range of social responsibilities. These include:
- Access to quality care for all people
- Environmental care
- Building healthy Communities
- Virtual care solutions
- Mental well being
- CVS Health emphasize a commitment to helping address the misuse of prescription opioids, which they say is “one of the biggest public health issues of this generation”.
- Leading edge health news
- Walgreens have an additional social responsibility they call Valuing Diverse Talent. Walgreens believe that this value, which is based on a commitment to recruiting, developing and inspiring a diverse team, will enhance relationships to the increasingly multicultural consumers and patients that they serve.
- Equal employment
- Product integrity
Do Walgreens and CVS Have Reward Programmes?
Both CVS and Walgreens offer their customers reward programmes. The CVS programme is called ExtraCare, and the Walgreen programme is called myWalgreens. Both were developed to reward customers for loyalty and consistence, and both programmes are free to join.
- Free to join
- Offers exclusive, personalized offers, savings and rewards on nearly everything customers buy (in the form of ExtraBucks)
- Customers accrue points which can be used like cash toward almost anything store wide (with some restrictions)
- Accrued points cannot be used to purchase gift cards including CVS gift cards, prescriptions, alcohol, money orders, and lotteries
- You can join online or instore
- Members receive a plastic ExtraCare card with a unique number
- Pharmacy products show stickers displaying the “ExtraBucks” rewards customers will receive with each purchase, and which they can redeem on their next visit.
- This programme is a subscription programme and costs $5 per month to join (or $48 per year). The programme most suits CVS frequent shoppers.
- Members receive all of the ExtraCare benefits plus a few more, including a reward of $10 of ExtraBucks per month.
- Free same day delivery for prescriptions
- 20% of all CVS health brand items (including wellness products)
- 24/7 access to a pharmacist online at participating locations
- Free to join
- Join online or instore
- Customers save money by “unlocking” sale prices
- Earn unlimited rewards storewide (1% Walgreens Cash reward per $1)
- Earn rewards on Walgreens branded products (5% per $1)
- Exclusive deals and offers
myWalgreens Credit Card:
- Free to join
- Join online or instore
- Customers unlock sale prices
- Earn rewards (5% Walgreens Cash rewards per $1)
- Earn rewards on Walgreens branded products (10% per $1)
- Other purchase rewards
- Other shopping conveniences
- Earn Walgreens Cash reward for reaching health goals
What Are The Main Differences Between Walgreens and CVS?
The main difference between Walgreens and CVS is in company size. CVS is the larger company, with Walgreens running a close second. Both companies work hard to maintain a unique position in the pharmaceutical market.
CVS Health was founded in 1963 (as Consumer Value Stores), and Walgreens (now Walgreens Boots Alliance) was founded in 1901 as Walgreen Drug Co. CVS has slightly more pharmacy outlets than Walgreens, although both chains currently operate over 9000 retail locations across the US.
CVS operates within the United States, the District of Columbia and Porto Rico. Walgreens, however, has 13,000 locations across the U.S., Europe and Latin America.
Walgreens historically have always been the “corner store”, with the store entrance on the street with the most traffic flow. Many of these stores added a drive through pharmacy. Walgreens newer buildings have a more modern layout and general look. Walgreens stores in the bigger cities now have multiple floors.
CVS began as departments within larger department stores. In 1978, they began to open small health and beauty aids stores in enclosed shopping malls, and then in 1985, launched Caremark, a prescription benefit management service. Most of the CVS mall outlets have now been relocated to freestanding locations.
CVS and Walgreens have slightly different in store formats. Walgreens stores tend to all be the same, whereas CVS stores can differ from location to location. Many CVS stores feature MinuteClinics for nurse practitioner care and prescription refills.
Both Walgreens and CVS keep tobacco and alcohol products behind counter. However, CVS made an executive decision in 2014 to stop selling tobacco as part of their pursuit of better health goals for all people. The company thus became the first major drugstore to stop selling tobacco.
Is CVS More Expensive Than Walgreens?
Regular shoppers at both retailers agree that your expenses (at either store) depend very much on what you’re buying and how often you shop there.
This is because, if you’re a regular shopper at either, you haven’t taken advantage of the offered reward programmes, you’re going to be out of pocket anyway.
A rise in demand for protective health products over the last couple of years has seen all major pharmacies working hard to reach record sales. However, consumer feedback was based around the following conclusions:
- CVS was the cheapest for most prescription drugs
- Walmart had the lowest prices for several common vaccines, including the seasonal flu shot
- CVS was the cheapest for over the counter medication and vitamins (although Rite Aid was often cheaper again
- Walmart was better for personal care and beauty products
- Both Walmart and CVS offer their own “store brands”, which are consistently cheaper than other brand names
- Both companies offer rewards programmes that offer significant discounts
- CVS seem to have the widest selection of brands
Which Pharmacy Is Better: CVS Or Walgreens?
As the concept of “retail pharmacy” has developed into the ultra-convenient and ultra-present service it represents today, there is now very little to distinguish one pharmacy super chain from another.
All CVS and Walgreen pharmacies offer conveniences such as automatic prescription refills, text/phone/email reminders, home delivery, and online or app prescription management. They all also feature drive-thru or curbside prescription pickup and long opening hours.
Both companies feature a great deal of shady and shameful history they undoubtedly wish wasn’t there. And both companies now present a complex portfolio of “social responsibilities”, both of which are fairly identical.
Shoppers agree that the pharmacy chain you choose will come down to how your local store treats you; in other words it’s all about customer service, convenience, and support. These qualities are not unique to any one retail chain but are generated instead by the individuals who work in your local pharmacy.
Many consumers are wanting to know where you can best find support and knowledge for ongoing (or sudden) health needs and issues. Walgreens and CVS are the two largest pharmacy and health companies in The United States, and both offer a similar range of products and services.