What is the Best Prescription Discount Card?

On a daily basis I dispense over 25-50 prescriptions to patients that do not have insurance. The full cash price at the corporate chain pharmacy I work for is not a realistic number and is sometimes 1000+% markup over the acquision cost the pharmacy paid to buy the drug from the wholesaler.

The sad thing is this doesn’t just happen to cash paying patients. Many of my patients have insurance with extemely high deductibles which cause them to pay the full price of the medication even with their insurance.

An alarm goes off in my head every time and I just can’t let this fleecing happen.

Thanks to laws recently passed by congress pharmacists across the country are no longer bound by “gag clauses” imposed by insurance companies and can answer the question every American should be asking when picking up their prescription medications.

Is this the best price for this medication? Can I get this medication cheaper by paying cash or using a prescription discount card?

The answer may not always be known until trying a prescription discount card and comparing with the insurance price. Which leads us to the question:

What is the best prescription discount card to use? There isn’t a specific prescription discount card that can be recommended for every person and every situation due to each rx savings card company negotiating different prices with each pharmacy. However, I’ve narrowed it down to a small list of the best prescription discount cards.

Why do different discount cards have different prices?

The pricing of pharmaceuticals is a very opaque topic in the US. From drug manufacturer to patient copay there are a number of middlemen each taking a cut of your final cost.

Phe short answer to the proposed question is that each pharmacy prices their cash price at different levels depending on how much profit they want to make.

Each discount card company negotiates varying discounts on different classes of medications that their customers use their cards for most frequently.

For instance, if RxCut customers fill Adderall XR prescriptions more frequently than they fill Lipitor prescriptions, then RxCut will try to negotiate better prices on Adderall XR so that their card users get the best possible deal and they make more money.

On the other hand, if Singlecare drug card users fill prescriptions for phentermine more frequently than other medication then they will try to negotiate better prices on that medication to maintain user loyalty and increase profits.

To add another level to the discussion the discount card companies will look at which pharmacies their users are filling the most of a certain medication at and try to negotiate better rates for that SPECIFIC MEDICATION with that SPECIFIC PHARMACY. Confusing, I know!

How do you find the pharmacy with the cheapest price for your prescription?

To find the best price for your specific prescription you need to shop around. That means you need to check multiple discount cards and check their prices at multiple pharmacies in your area to compare and determine which specific pharmacy and discount card combination is the lowest price option.

You are probably thinking; WOW, that’s a lot of work! And your are right!

I recommend starting with Singlecare and if you aren’t satisfied with the prices they report check the other drug discount cards I have on my recommendation list.

Why do different pharmacies charge different prices for the same drug?

Pharmacies purchase their medications from drug wholesalers. The larger the pharmacy the more negotiating power they have to buy prescription medications at lower prices. With this logic you would think CVS or Walgreens would have the lowest prices in America. Nothing is further from the truth.

Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens make most of their money from dispensing prescriptions. On the other hand supermarkets like Kroger and Walmart make most of their money from the sale of groceries and general merchandise. They lure customers in with lower prescription prices so that you buy more higher margin merchandise while you wait.

In order for CVS and Walgreens to maximize their business potential( think profits for Wall Street) they need to make the most money possible on the sale of drugs. Therefore, they use excessive cash prices to ensure they don’t lose a dime of potential profit when billing an insurance company or fleecing an uninsured customer.

This is where prescription discount cards level the playing field. The power of the larger group of customers allows the card sponsor companies to negotiate lower prices in exchange for higher prescription sales volume.

Much more goes into prescription pricing at the pharmacy level such as building expenses, staff salaries, etc but I’ll dig in deeper on this topic in another dedicated post.

How do you transfer your prescription to the cheapest pharmacy?

So now that you’ve done the work to find out which pharmacy and discount card combination is the best for your specific circumstances, how do you fill your prescription.

If you have a paper copy of the prescription handed to you from the prescriber the process is simple. Take your prescription and discount card to the pharmacy and tell the technician to fill the prescription using the billing codes on the coupon.

If your prescription was sent a pharmacy by phone, fax, or electronically If and it isn’t the cheapest then you need to call or stop into the pharmacy that you want it filled at and ask the technician to transfer it to them.

Expert Tip

Come prepared with the following information to speed things along and get the best service.

  • Your ID (especially important if this is your first time filling at the pharmacy)
  • The name and phone number of the pharmacy that your prescription was sent to
  • The name or type of medication that your prescription was written for.

The more details you can provide to the pharmacy technician the smoother the transfer will proceed.

Alternatively, many pharmacies have a mobile app that allows you the information above and send the transfer request electronically. Use this, but be patient. If you need your prescription right away the best method is to contact someone at the pharmacy directly either in person or by phone.

There may be certain circumstances that your prescription may not be allowed to be transferred by law, like in the case controlled substances. In that case you may need to call your prescriber and have them cancel the initial prescription and resend it directly to the pharmacy that you found the best price at.

Why do I recommend Singlecare as my top choice for best prescription discount card?

The prescriptions I fill when my patients present a Singlecare discount card are usually 50% or more off of the cash price. Some are even discounted up to 80% off of the cash price.

Many of the most commonly used medications for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol are less than $15 for a 1 month supply, a few even less than $8. These prices are even lower then regular precription insurance copays.

Singlecare satisfies all of the qualifications I search for when recommending a prescription discount card. The card may only work at the major chain pharmacies but that is by design.

As I described above the chain pharmacies charge prices that are determined by the drug manufactureres “list price” which is so inflated that it’s ridiculous. Local independent pharmacies typically mark up medications much less since they don’t have the huge corporate structure to support and Wall Street expectations to meet.

Having a smaller network of pharmacies and focussing only on the large chain pharmacies, where cash prices are the highest, Singlecare can use a smaller staff to negotiate with fewer partners resulting in a smaller fee charged to the pharmacy which is ultimately passed on to you.

See “How do prescription discount cards work?

If you would like a more in-depth discussion on Singlecare read my full review.

The Cheapest Option That Isn’t a Discount Card

Blink Health offers discounted prices usually only reserved to large insurance plans. Through their innovative model you have complete transparency on the price of your medication before you go to the pharmacy.

If you aren’t located near one of their partner pharmacies, Blink Health will mail your medication to you directly from their mail order pharmacy at no extra cost. CVS and Walgreens still won’t do that. They each charge a fee for their delivery service.


As a practicing community pharmacist in his home state of Michigan, Joe (AKA TheFrugalPharmacist) is always on the lookout for new information and ways to ensure you can afford your medications and don't get ripped off in America's complicated world of healthcare.

Recent Posts