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If you really enjoy perusing the aisles at Target, you’re not alone. In fact, Target is among America’s favorite places to shop.

The discount retailer ranks third among mass merchant sellers, behind Walmart and Costco and ahead of Amazon, according to the National Retail Federation.

Shoppers turn to the famous Target bull’s-eye because they aim to save money on everyday purchases. But there are many hidden ways to chip away at Target’s already-low prices.

Following are eight overlooked ways to save at Target.

1. Buy Discounted Gift Cards

Buying gift cards at a discount can save you cash on every Target purchase. For example, Cardpool recently listed available Target gift cards that were discounted up to 6%.

If you aren’t particularly mathy, we’ll break that down: In essence, it means you are getting an extra 6% off anything you buy at Target when you use the card. It’s a no-brainer!

2. Sign Up for the REDcard

Nod your head vigorously the next time the cashier asks you if you’d like to sign up for a Target card. The retail giant offers two Target REDcards — a debit card and a store credit card. Saying yes to either of these boasts three major benefits:

  • 5% off every purchase
  • Free shipping on every purchase at Target.com
  • 30 extra days on returns

Of course, it’s important to note that every time you open a new credit card account, you risk hurting your credit score slightly. And that is something you need to weigh before signing up for the REDcard, especially if you plan to take out a mortgage or another loan and need your credit score to be in tip-top shape.

But also remember that the drop in your credit score is only temporary, and it may be worth the small ding to your credit if you shop at Target often. If you don’t, you could consider a cash-back card or other rewards credit cards that you can use at all retailers.

It’s important to remember to monitor your credit report regularly whether you apply for new cards or not. You can get your annual credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com or check your credit scores each month for free on Credit.com.

3. Check the Target.com Samples Spot

Cheap is nice, but “free” is tough to beat. Listen carefully, because we’re about to unearth a well-kept secret: Target.com offers free samples of items at its Samples Spot page. To qualify, you simply have to answer a few survey questions. Then, Target will send the item to your home.

The biggest drawback here is that you have to work for your freebie. Target samples are only available for a limited time, so you need to check the page frequently.

4. Shop Clearance First

If you are going to buy something, why not get it at its cheapest price? Hunting around the store for items marked at clearance rates is a fun challenge for some. For others, it’s a headache.

But don’t worry. You won’t have to sacrifice savings if you fall into the latter camp. Savvy buyers can find all of Target’s clearance items at one page on the website. You also will find other special offers here. For example, through Feb. 20, you can get a $10 Target gift card if you buy a Chromecast.

5. Use the Target Cartwheel App Correctly

Just about every bargain shopper now realizes that signing up for Target’s Carwheel app can save them money every week. However, not everyone knows how to fully exploit this savings tool.

For starters, you don’t even need a smartphone to redeem Cartwheel offers. Simply go to the website to browse and assign offers to a unique barcode that you can print out and bring into the store for savings.

Target also notes that you can even take Cartwheel offers and “pile them on top of other coupons, sales and your debit or credit REDcard savings.”

Use the app often for even greater savings. Shoppers are initially allowed 10 offers per transaction, but those who use Cartwheel regularly can unlock “badges,” which translate to extra offers.

Be sure to check Cartwheel offers frequently. New offers come out on Sundays, but many limited-time, high-value offers pop up randomly throughout the week.

6. Bring a Reusable Bag

Did you know that every time you shop at Target and carry items out in a reusable bag, you save 5 cents off your purchase? Even better, Target says it gives customers “a 5-cent discount for each reusable bag they use.”

Use 10 bags each week (a conservative estimate if you’re buying groceries and other items for a family of four), and you’ve saved 50 cents. Although that may not sound like much, it adds up to $26 over the course of a year. And you’re helping to protect the environment. Talk about a win-win!

7. Sign Up at the Target Registry

If you have a big upcoming event in your life, sign up at the Target gift registry and you can earn additional savings on the items you need.

Sign up in the baby registry and eight weeks prior to your event date, you’ll get a 15 percent discount for you, friends and family to complete your registry.

Those who use the wedding registry get their discounts after the event date — 15 percent off the items remaining on the registry, plus coupons for family and friends.

Finally, the college registry offers a coupon for 15 percent off when you shop for remaining registry gifts online. It kicks in two weeks before the event date.

8. Use a Cash-Back Website to Shop

If you plan to shop from home by visiting Target.com, make sure to stop at your favorite cash-back website before making any purchases. For example, log on to the popular cash-back site Ebates.com and you’ll earn an additional 2% cash back on your Target purchases.

This post first appeared in Money Talks News.

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Image: GaryPhoto

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