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Black Friday 2018

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15 Ulta Shopping Tips You Need To Know from a Frugal Beauty Expert

Hip2Save may earn a small commission via affiliate links in this post. Read our full disclosure policy here.

Beauty product lovers, rejoice!

I absolutely LOVE Ulta, as many Hip2Save readers do.

How can you be sure you’re getting the most out of your Ulta shopping trip? Check out these easy tips to save on all of your favorite makeup, skin care, and hair products!

1. First and foremost, sign up for Ultamate Rewards.

Perks like Ultamate Rewards are just some of the Ulta shopping tips that save you money.

If you shop at Ulta and you’re NOT in their rewards program, you’re leaving so much money on the table. Get in online or sign up with an associate in store – they’ll love you for it, since signups are a big factor in their performance.

As an Ultamate, you earn points every time you shop, and these can be accumulated for rewards. As an example, when you get 100 points, you earn a $3 reward to use when you shop.

Another perk of this program is the FREE birthday gift you receive during your birthday month! The birthday gifts this year are:


2. Don’t opt out of emails.

ulta shopping tips don't unsubscribe from emails hip2save

Yes, you do get a lot of inbox love, but their emails are FULL of coupons, sales, and bonus buys. You can expect to see a lot of $3.50 of $15 coupons, a 20% off prestige brands coupon (these come out about 4 times a year, 6 times if you have platinum status), special buys that get you more points, and a gift with purchase freebies!

I once received an email that had 20% off any purchase (including prestige brands), 250 bonus points on a $60 purchase, an additional 50% off red ticketed clearance items (in store), and a $5 off $10 coupon. That was ONE email! I’m telling you, it’s worth letting your inbox fill up (a little) with these.


3. Shoot for platinum status at the beginning of the year.

ulta shopping tips gain platinum status at the beginning of the year hip2save

Curious what Platinum status means? Platinum status awards you 1.25% points earning on purchases (instead of the standard 1%) along with non-expiring points and free shipping on beauty steals during the 21 Days of Beauty event. You become a Platinum member when you spend $450 in a calendar year, and you keep your status until December 31 of the following year. That’s why if you qualify in early months, like January or February, you’ll keep your status for much longer than you would if you earned this level later on in the year. And just a heads up – you’ll need to re-qualify every year to extend your Platinum status.

There’s also Diamond Status for the heavy hitters. When you spend $1,200 at Ulta in a calendar year, in addition to the previous benefits, you’ll earn 1.5% points on each purchase, free shipping for online orders over $25, and a $25 beauty services reward card each year. I mean, perks are perks, but I wouldn’t shoot for this status since that’s a LOT of cash to dole out for those rewards.

Oh, and that birthday freebie that Ultamate Rewards members get? Those with upgraded statuses receive a $10 birthday coupon.


4. Check out the Bonus Offers available.

ulta shopping tips bonus buys hip2save

Bonus Offers are the point multiplier purchases (like 5x the points when you buy a specific brand or product). You’ll get notifications of these in your email. Instead of searching back through your inbox, view them by going to “My Rewards” under your Ultamate Rewards account and click on “My Bonus offers” or scrolling to the bottom.


5. Book salon services for 5x points, too!

ulta shopping tips book salon service for 5x points hip2save

Ulta is so much more than just a beauty store! Their beauty services extend to hair, skin, and brows (though certain services vary between locations), so it’s not hard to find the treatment you’re looking for. They send out 5x points offers on salon services around 3 to 4 times a year so you can plan your appointments accordingly to get the most out of your visit!


6. Hang onto your points until you reach 2,000.

ulta shopping hacks hoard points hip2save

When you’re cashing out and you realize you’ve accumulated enough points for a reward, it’s pretty tempting to spend it right away. Patience, my friend. Hoard your points until you reach 2,000. The payoff value is much higher when you wait until you reach the highest point increment.

Think about it this way: if you spend the 100 points/$3 reward at every opportunity, you would have only redeemed $60 in rewards by the time you reached 2,000 points. That’s $65 of missed Ultamate Reward money if you don’t wait!


7. Use manufacturer coupons for in-store purchases.

ulta shopping tips manufacturer coupons with ulta coupons hip2save

The beauty of Ulta is that it sells drugstore brands in addition to the prestige beauty products. A sales associate at my local Ulta confirmed that customers can use manufacturer coupons alongside the $3.50 off $15 Ulta coupons valid on popular drugstore brands! I love stacking on the savings 💁‍♀️!

Hip Tip: Drug store makeup can be just as good as luxury brands. Check out our favorites!


8. Shop in-store for a better chance at clearance steals.

ulta shopping tips hip2save

Going into an actual Ulta store gives you a higher chance of scoring great products at better markdowns since those savings typically aren’t reflected online. Look for clearance on the towers near the middle section of the store along with shelves near the back. Ask an employee at your local Ulta when they’re doing inventory next so you can come in afterward for the best selection of fresh markdown products. Even better, you can use manufacturer coupons on clearance as long as they meet the coupon requirements!


9. If you buy online, navigate the website like a pro.

ulta shopping tips buy more save more page hip2save

Sometimes going to the store just isn’t an option, and that’s okay! Just be sure you check the Buy More, Save More page (nested under Sale section) on their website for all the latest sales. You’ll also see tabs for Gift With Purchase products, Sale, and their infamous $3.50 off $15 coupon.

Be sure to check the Gift With Purchase page online even if you’re shopping in the store since the promotions aren’t always advertised on shelves.


10. Shop online, mid-day, on Wednesdays.

ulta shopping tips wednesday beauty break hip2save

Ulta hosts “Beauty Breaks” which are pop up Gift with Purchase deals available for either 4- or 6-hour windows, usually between 10am-4pm CT on Wednesdays. In order to receive the gift set, it’s typically mandatory to spend a minimum amount on certain deals requiring a specific brand purchase.


11. Ask for samples (politely) when cashing out in store.

ulta shopping tips beauty samples hip2save

When you place an order online, you’ll be asked to choose a sample category upon checkout. Get the same treatment in-store by simply asking the cashier if they have any samples available to hand out. There’s about a 90% chance they’ll happily hand over some sample-sized beauty packets.


12. Always check out the 21 Days of Beauty sale.

ulta shopping tips 21 days of beauty

This wonderful time of the year actually happens twice – once in spring and again in fall. It’s a great time to purchase your favorite prestige items that are on sale for up to 50% off! If you’re specifically looking for just the promoted items and you have Platinum or Diamond status, you get the featured beauty steals shipped for free!


13. Check Raise for discounted gift cards.

ulta shopping tips raise discounted gift cards hip2save

It’s a smart practice, in general, to check Raise.com for discounted Ulta gift cards. Most of the time it’s not a huge percentage off, but hey, saving is saving! In fact, when Hip2Save sidekick Jamie scored an Ulta gift card on Raise at almost 10% off, she paired it with other discounts mentioned above for huge savings.

Hip Tip:  Pay attention to which cards can be used online (Egift, Voucher) versus in-store only (In-store-only, Voucher).


14. Return any purchase for any reason.

ulta shopping tips return anything hip2save

Ulta has a pretty liberal return policy when it comes to products. You can return any product, for any reason, any time within 60 days of purchasing for a full refund. However, there is one stipulation: there must be at least 80% of the product left, so don’t think you can use an entire bottle of foundation and return it empty for your money back.

Hip Tip: If you order online and have an Ulta nearby, you can make returns in-store and avoid return shipping charges!


15. But keep any free gifts you received.

ulta shopping tips keep gift with purchase hip2save

Yup, this is actually a legit policy. If you buy something that includes a free gift with purchase but you decide that the product just isn’t for you, you can return it (so long as it meets the return requirements listed above) – and you get to KEEP the free gift with purchase! I wouldn’t make a habit of this practice though. #becausekarma 😉


Written by Emily for Hip2Save. Emily lives in Buffalo, NY where she spends her time drinking lots of coffee, scouring the internet for deals, and tackling DIY projects. She’s a big believer in self-care and living the fullest life possible, all while saving money of course.

Join The Discussion

Comments 34

  1. Micki

    Great summary. Ulta really does have a good rewards program. Those bonus points add up fast. I always try to order when there is some sort of free gift. If I’m buying a staple product, I might as well get some perks!

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Right?! I always forget about the points I accumulate and get so happy when I check my account! The coupons and freebies tend to make shop a little more than I should 😆

  2. LC

    I love Ulta and these are great tips- thank you!

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thanks for reading, LC!

  3. Jamie

    7 and 8 are very helpful!!! I’ll be asking and bugging folks on inventory now!!

  4. Flgrl017

    I love their reward program. I have NO use for Sephora since I learned how to shop Ulta.

  5. JES

    Thanks!

  6. Jennifer

    What!! I had no idea I could use manufacturers coupons!! This is fantastic! Thank you so much! I love Ulta!!!

  7. duotoned

    Is the 5x the points on services permanent? I thought that was a coupon you had to activate. Also, it takes $450 spent to get to platinum, points don’t matter.

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Good catch! I see the offers so frequently I didn’t realize they were actually just bonus offers — I made sure to update the text to reflect that. Much appreciated!

  8. Edy

    What can the 3.50 coupon that comes in back of Ulta book can be use on ?? I tried to use once in a nexus shampoo and it didn’t work ! So wise customers let me know please I have 2 of this can I use it on the makeup case that’s 19.99 now ??? I bought sone tree hut sugar scrub but it’s more expensive and Ulta than Walmart — did get my birthday gift 🎁 but, do want to use the coupons

    • KMichelle12

      Ulta’s regular coupon (such as the $3.50 off $15 that comes on the catalog, the app, and online, doesn’t apply to their “higher end” products. That includes many more expensive brands like Lancome, Clinique, Urban Decay, and many others. Every once in a while they will release a 20% off coupon that is good on all products, including their “prestige” brands, but those coupons will say that specifically. There is a list of brands on their website that are excluded from their everyday coupons. I don’t see Nexxus as an excluded brand, though. And when I just tried it online, the coupon applied! You should ask the employees at your Ulta why the coupon didn’t work for that product! https://www.ulta.com/coupons/

  9. starkissed01

    I’ve really started to enjoy Ulta and with a June birthday, I am excited to try the NARS blush. Do they email you the Birthday reward? I’ve never claimed a Birthday is reward from Ulta and definitely want to make sure I have the reward to claim 😃

    • Kblack13

      Some coupons say that it don’t include blockbusters like the $19.99 set now. Other day only on Ulta product line but may still exclude some specials. Best bet is to look at bottom of coupon and see exclusions . I was aware of the Mother’s Day set because I wanted to use a $5 Ulta coupon and they said no it’s a blockbuster set and excluded.

    • Melissa

      Birthday rewards are emailed at the beginning of your birthday month.

      • starkissed01

        Thank you!!!!!

  10. SG

    Platinum members also get 20 percent off coupons a couple times a year that includes prestige cosmetics, which their usual coupons do not. I have pretty much switched from Sephora completely to Ulta because their deals and sales and free gifts and stuff are way better.

    • kim

      Same! I rarely shop at sephora anymore. Ulta takes all my money 😉

  11. LR

    I currently work for Ulta and coupons don’t apply towards clearance, I believe it’s in the exclusions.

  12. Elaine

    I like Ulta but the salon in Colorado Springs is absolute garbage. I went there for a blowout and selected the one that included curling the hair. The stylist was an incompetent moron. She put shampoo in my hair (without my knowledge) which is a huge no no for curls. She charged me extra because she was a “senior” stylist even though that fee was not included when I booked the appointment. My hair looked terrible within a few hours because she shampooed it. I was pissed. I had to pay another stylist at another salon to fix my hair as I was getting married. I will never return to that salon.

    • Jstbeachy

      Message Ulta CS and explain what happened they may offer you a credit 🙂

  13. *Angela-Miles*

    I love ULTA, and raid the clearance their frequently. You can find some great stuff on the clearance aisle. I also like alot of the ULTA brand makeup, it’s not high end, but the lip products and face powders/creams have really worked for me. I’ve tried to start purchasing all my beauty needs their, not just makeup so that me spending platinum doesnt sound as bad in my mind haha. (For example, I pick up razors, shaving cream, hair brush, hair Ties, bobby pins, body washes etc, that I use to always purchase at Walmart.) Now I just get it their and get the points for it.
    I did have a problem last year with my account. Someone else’s phone number an first name got on my account from Orlando, and I don’t live in Florida Lol. She was getting my points and it took several calls to customer service to get it resolved. At first I was told they couldn’t change the information on the account without this other person’s consent. What LOL. It’s my account and she hacked it, to change it to hers. Her consent my behind ha ha. They finally got it fixed a few weeks later and gave me bonus points for the mess.
    All that said, ULTA is one of my fav stores, and I agree with everything on this list!! 🙂 🙂

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      What a bizarre event! I’m glad it ended up working out for you in the end!

  14. 50ShadesofLipstick

    #6- Hold onto your points until you get to 2000, *unless* they’re going to expire! This happens at the end of every year EXCEPT for Platinum and Diamond members, whose points never expire.

    Also Ulta sends out a 20% off coupon that includes prestige (high-end) brands of cosmetics 5X a year…that’s your best time to shop those brands, especially if they can be combined w/ points multipliers. You can actually use points towards your purchase and earn them back at the same time- meaning during the same transcation. But this can only be done in store and not online.

    I like their rewards program but they don’t carry a lot of brands that Sephora does…plus their customer service is pretty underwhelming and their lack of a shipping subscription sucks. Who wants to spend $40 on makeup and still pay shipping for it? Bleh

  15. Mary

    Shame on me, I have an Ulta store near me and don’t even shop there. So many great deals!!

  16. Susan

    I used to love Ulta and my daughter worked for them for 6 years. However, they terminated her when corporate approved an early store closing due to severe weather. She locked the doors and permitted a customer to finish shopping while she closed one of the cash registers down (a violation of policy). The general manager clocked out early and left leaving my daughter and a clerk to handle everything. It took them 4 hours to get home when it typically takes 20 minutes. And they terminated her. I am trying my best not to give them my money. That seems to be what they are concerned about.

    • muquee

      Wow, no tolerance. They don’t deserve my hard earned money.

  17. Maggie

    Emily, you missed one of the biggest secrets of all. Regular rewards members get FREE shipping on out of stock items in the store, if you ask for the store to order them for you and ship them to your home! YES, EVEN BEAUTY STEALS & 21 DAYS OF BEAUTY! The stores often sell out of the “killer deals” early, but so what? They will order it for me, and I get free shipping, with no minimum, just for having the store put in the order instead of doing it from home.

  18. Jenni

    Also Ulta has the shampoo event twice a year on the big bottles saving at least 50% and during your birthday month if your platinum you usually get 5X points too.

  19. Tara

    When I research this rewards card on Ulta’s website it says it’s a credit card not a free rewards card. Anyone know this to be different?

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Hi Tara, the rewards card and the credit card are different. When you make an Account on Ulta’s website, you can opt into the rewards program there — here’s the link. Hope that helps!

  20. dealsetc

    just got an email from ulta showing additional 50% off clearance in store through May 6th

    • Liza (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thanks for the head’s up!

  21. daria1963

    Thanks, but why am I not finding how to join online? I only see a credit card app when I look?

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