**UPDATE January 21, 2018: I recently published my thoughts and a little math regarding Ulta’s NEW Diamond rewards tier!
Let me just start by saying: I LOVE makeup! However, I am all about getting the best deals on the things I love. For example, just check out this post I wrote about getting the best deals on Lululemon!
I WISH Lululemon had a rewards program, but since 2014, nothing has materialized. I hope to update this post with a retraction, but I digress…
UPDATE: Editing this post to add a photo of the HeyLululemon.com link, since HeyLululemon is being closed down on the 16th of May 2016.
This post is going to be about how to get the most out of the Ultamate rewards program, how to save money at Ulta and how to get the most out of the money that you do spend. I love their rewards program, as well as the extra savings I’m able to get- and because of this, I almost never shop at Sephora anymore!
If you play your cards right, you can accumulate tons of points at Ulta, and the more points you get- the more money you can save!
UPDATE: FEB 25/ 2016
This post is over 3,000 words long! And although I think the information is valuable throughout, I also think that 3,000 words is too long for one post! So, here are the main points, summarized, for busy people who don’t have time to read this entire post.
When you reach 2,000 points, spend your points 2,000 at at time, this is when they have the greatest per point monetary value.
Wait for 3x and 5x the points offers to make purchases.
Once a year, Ulta has a 10x the points Platinum Member Appreciation Day- it’s at the end of August each year.
Wait until Wednesdays for the best “Gift With Purchase” offers.
If you want to know the whys behind the points listed above in bold- please read on below!
Steps to getting the most out of Ulta and the Ultamate Rewards Program
Creat an account on Ulta.com and sign up for the rewards program! Simple enough!
Subscribe to emails:
When you sign up, be sure that the box is checked for “Yes! Please send me emails with current offers,new products and over $250 per year in saving coupons!” This way you can be sure that you’re receiving all your offers. I would also say that it’s likely that these offers are worth way more than just $250 a year, depending on how much you spend.
Take Full Advantage of the Offers You Receive!
Since you’ve signed up to be an Ultamate rewards member, and you’re now receiving email offers, you’ll want to be sure that you’re leveraging those offers for all they’re worth! There are a few different types of offers to consider, and I will discuss them below. I also created this excel sheet to show how often I received offers from Ulta from February 19, 2015 until Platinum Appreciation Day, August 24th, 2015.
From the same data, I also created this Pivot table, which shows us that the most common day to receive offers is Wednesday, and that the most common requirement was either a $40 or $50 Ulta purchase in order to receive the perk.
Pivot Table of Ulta Offers
1.) 4-Hours Only Free Gifts, aka “Beauty Breaks”
These are extra gifts usually requiring any $50 purchase on Ulta.com between the hours of 10:00am and 2:00pm on the day that you receive the email. One great thing about these is that they can be combined with other offers including 5x the points offers and other GWP offers. Ulta also offers so-called “Extended Beauty Breaks,” that can last up to 12 hours, however, the most common are the ones that are four hours in length.
2.) Earn Extra Points with 2x, 3x, and 5x the Points Offers
In addition to all the other coupons, gift with purchase offers, and other perks, Ulta will often offer double, triple or even quintuple the points on certain items! This is the best way to build up your points balance quickly! Remember, points are as good as money at Ulta so it’s worth doing your best to activate offers and combine them with GWPs to maximize what you get for every dollar spent at Ulta.
Just as an aside, a lot of the time, when I’m offered 3x the points for Platinum members, non-platinum members get a 2x the points offer as well, but since I’m a Platinum member, I’m sure I’m not always seeing every time that regular Ultamate rewards members are receiving double the points offers.
3.) Free Gifts With Purchase
Ulta’s brands are constantly giving away free GWPs. You just have to know where to find them to see them. On Ulta’s website, if you click “sale” on the left hand side of the screen, you have the option of seeing three different types of offers.
The first is “Buy More, Save More,” which is usually filled with their drugstore brands as well as hair care. Every so often they’ll have something that’s rarely on sale listed, so I do like to check it out. One of my favorite hair masks is called “Therapy Session Hair Mask” by Eva NYC. It’s almost always on sale, but a few times a year they’ll have it on BOGO, and that’s when I stock up!
The second is where you’ll find all the brands that are currently offering GWPs. There are currently 40 different ones to choose from, and it’s really fun when I’m able to combine a “Beauty Break” with a free GWP by being careful about which brands I choose.
The last is their “Sale” section. Personally, I don’t find this section to be particularly helpful since, at any one time Ulta is having a “sale” on hundreds of items, and it’s difficult to find any good deals when you’re not able put things in order by “percentage off.” PS: I love doing that on 6pm.com’s website.
I also keep in mind that some of those “sale” items are almost always on sale, and so they’re not really that great a deal. A lot of retailers do this, because by listing something as “on sale,” and having a ‘regular price’ that’s higher than you expect consumers to pay, you can create perceived value and increase sales. Unfortunately, this practice is common among consumer goods- especially clothing. In the linked article, this line says it best: “So many discounts are priced into the cost of goods these days that it is possible to mark an item down severely and still make money.” This phenomenon is nothing I want to write extensively about right now, but definitely something I keep in mind when making purchases.
4.) Extra Deals
There were also other sales and offers that I didn’t discuss because they were, in my opinion, not the best sales, or not a “surprise,” like the “Beauty Breaks” are. Of note, I did not include any of the ’21-days of Beauty’ deals that change every day when they are being offered. This is mainly because you can just look at the ad that Ulta puts out to see when those deals are offered. Another thing I did not include were periodic invitations to enter contests- I think I only received one or two, and I didn’t feel that they were relevant to this blog post.
Become a Platinum member
Become a Platinum member. In order to achieve “Platinum” status, you must spend $450 in a given calendar year. If you love makeup, like I do, you’re probably already there or you’re spending money at Sephora and DermStore and Urban Decay and other online makeup shops in addition to shopping at Ulta. Since I’ve discovered how good the benefits of shopping at Ulta are, I’ve essentially stopped shopping elsewhere for makeup and skincare. If you check Ulta first for your beauty needs, I’m sure you’ll be Platinum in no time.
There are several reasons to want to become a Platinum member:
1.) Earn more points per dollar spent.
One of the perks of being a Platinum Ultamate Rewards member is that instead of earning only point per dollar spent, you earn 1 *base* point per dollar, plus 0.25 *bonus points*. This distinction between base and bonus points becomes important when calculating the number of points one earns when 2x, 3x, and 5x the points offers are fielded. Namely, the offers apply only to base points and not to bonus points. So, for example, if you activate a 3x the points offer, and spend $100, you’ll earn 325 points (100 base times 3, plus your 25 bonus points for being Platinum), not 375 points (which is what it would be if all points earned were multiplied by three and not just base points). I hope this provides some clarity.
2.) Points don’t expire.
This is essential to saving up your points and then ultimately earning the most number possible. Platinum member’s points don’t expire.
3.) You get a 2x the points offer and an EXTRA birthday gift during your birthday month! Make sure you let them know your birthday!
4.) You get extra offers. These are called “Platinum Perks,” and you will get plenty of them once you’re Platinum. These will help you maximize your point-earning potential!
Get The Most Bang For Your Buck At Ulta
You’ll want to start getting the most value for the money that you spend at Ulta. Here is a list of some of the ways I get the most value for my makeup dollars, and how I save money by shopping at Ulta.
Save MORE with coupons!
Ulta constantly has a $3.50 coupon, that you can almost always use on your purchase, unless you’re only buying things that literally have a little warning under them that explicitly tells you that coupons don’t apply. Personally, I appreciate that Ulta lists that certain items are not eligible for coupon discounts, because it is transparent and honest. Instead of clicking “check out” and finding out that my item is not eligible for coupon discounts, Ulta tells you up-front. I have experienced this before at other vendors, both in-store and online and I’m sure you have also been disappointed by the lack of transparency in pricing before as well.
Ulta will also often email “20% off of one item” coupons. This is great if there’s a single, but more pricey item that you would like.
Save EVEN MORE with eBates and Shop at Home!
There are so many posts online on how to save money using eBates. It’s not a scam, it’s just an intermediary website that helps direct traffic and purchases to a lot of already very popular online retailers. You literally just get money back from shopping at places you already shop. Shop at Home operates very similarly, and also offers cashback for shopping online, however, I find eBates more convenient since it deposits directly into your PayPal account. I included Shop at Home because, as of this writing, it was offering 4% cash back on Ulta.com, while eBates was offering 3%. However, eBates does sometimes offer double cash back on websites on a regular basis. And I have seen cash back offers from eBates for Ulta purchases of up to 8%.
I am writing this post about Ulta for the same reason I wrote the review of MyFitnessPal Premium: There isn’t a very good post online about how to make the most of your Ulta points. There are a few that explain them, but none that go into detail about how to best accumulate and take advantage of all the offers that Ulta sends online- or how to combine them!
So, in the interest of comprehensive inclusion of all the ways to save on your Ulta purchase, I have included eBates and Shop At Home, which offers a similar discount on Ulta’s website. I also checked every website on this list, and both eBates and Shop at Home offered the highest percentage discounts on Ulta, from what I could tell.
Just FYI: I do use eBates, and the above is a referral link, but I do not use Shop at Home because I don’t like that they send a physical check. I prefer eBates because it deposits the money directly into my PayPal account and doesn’t use such archaic implements.
GET MORE by Combining Offers
Combine Gifts With Purchase To Get More
In addition to the emailed offers documented above, I also received notices when other gift with purchase (GWP) offers were available, but to be honest, I rarely spend the $35 to $50 required to get these smaller GWPs, I usually wait for something more substantive to come around.
For example, Benefit often has a GWP available, usually a little makeup bag or a small sample of a product, but rather than make a purchase that day, if I’m in the market for a Benefit product, I tend to wait until an extra GWP is offered like the “Strivectin 3-piece gift with any $40 Ulta purchase,” that way I get both GWPs from one purchase.
Explaining the Points
As I mentioned above, a major reason why I’m writing this post is to let you know how I accumulate tons of points at Ulta. The following is this writer’s best attempt.
How Earning & Redeeming Works
I found this great graph online showing how the rewards increase as you earn more points. The redemption trend is not linear and affects how much money you get and this graph shows why you should just save your points rather than spending them. I also found this Reddit pretty useful.
How I Accumulate Tons of Points
Accumulate 2,000 Points
If you can, get to the top level of Ulta’s reward program. It says “$125” after 2,000 points are earned, but you can continue to earn after that. Once you reach the 2000 point level, I recommend spending your points 2000 points at a time. This is the time at which your points will have the greatest per point monetary value. Once you reach the 2000 level, although you can continue earning points, the monetary value of each point begins to decline. As you can see in the table, the value per point comes up from zero, decline at 2000, and go up again until you hit 4000.
Worth Noting: I currently have 4950 points, and I can redeem up to $286 with them, but when I attempt to check out online, Ulta only allows me to redeem $250 (4,000 points) at a time.
Leverage 2x, 3x, and 5x the Points Offers
As I mentioned above, keep an eye out for special offers in your inbox! A lot of times Ulta will offer 2x, 3x or 5x the points on certain brands, or just any $50 purchase. Use these opportunities to make planned purchases. I won’t even shop at Ulta unless I’m getting a kickback- and neither should you!
One other thing should be mentioned here: Once a year, Ulta has a 10x the points offer active for one day. Let’s say you make a $100 purchase, you’ll earn 100 points, right? But if you’re Platinum you’ll get 125. In addition, you’ll get 900 more points, because the calculation is always based on the “Base Points” and doesn’t include the bonus points you receive for being Platinum. However, 1025 points is still a tidy sum. And, earning $0.0625 per point, you’ve literally earned $64 on that purchase in points. That’s incredible. In 2013, the 10x the points offer took place on August 26th, 2014 was August 25 and in 2015 it took place on August 24th. I hope that 2016 will also see a Platinum member appreciation day with 10x the points! In the case that there is one, it will be either the 22nd or the 29th of August, if this “Monday, late August” trend holds true.
Caveat: Last year the products that were eligible for 10x the points were somewhat, but not egregiously, limited.
Example of how quickly points add up after you get to 2,000- while leveraging other Ulta offers.
So, for instance, recently, I got to the 2,000 level. That entitles me to $125 off my next purchase. However, since Platinum member points don’t expire, I can earn even more points! Fast forward, having only spent about $60, I’m now at the 2300 point level, and am entitled to $134 off my next order. This is an example of how you can leverage a combination of the bonus points offers, and base-level bonus points.
The $60 I spent was on items during a 5x the points event, which means that I earned enough points to get a discount of over $9. In addition, I received an eBates discount of 4%, or about $2.50, bringing my savings to about $11.50. That’s almost 20%! You can save almost 20% at Ulta and receive other perks every single time just by following the advice given here.
Other ways to earn & save
Use the Ulta Salon for hair services. I recently decided to start searching for a new hairdresser, and the next cut I get will be from Ulta. You can accumulate points there too and they also offer Ulta Salon coupons- especially for new clients. Buyer beware: Not all stylists at the Ulta Salon are equally talented. Be sure to ask which level of stylist they are if you’re concerned about quality. Last time I went there, I just got a (glorious!) deep conditioning treatment, so I wasn’t concerned about skill. However, next time I go it will be for a haircut, so I will definitely inquire.
Remember that Ulta also sells fragrance, skincare and hair tools. Don’t forget to think of Ulta for gifts too! These large, often planned, purchases can add up to a lot of points and savings if you remember to buy when there’s a 5x the points offer or a 20% off coupon!
I mentioned this above, but the deal at Ulta where we both get $10 is a referral link. I just want to make sure that people know that. Ulta didn’t pay me for this post, and my opinions are my own. Secondly, as I also mentioned above, the eBates link is also a referral link, but again, they don’t know who I am and did not pay me to mention them. Maybe one day they will! Again, these are just my positive experiences that I am happy to share. Also: Anyone can get their own referral links once they sign up for these services.
Just one more thing…
Finally, if you made it to the end of this post, I thank you. Please let me know by commenting below. Did I miss anything? Did I make any mistakes? Please correct me! I’m always very appreciative of your feedback! Lastly, if this has helped you, why not share it with your friends?! 😉 Everyone loves a good deal!