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.
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!
2. Don’t opt out of emails.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.