Your Complete Rain Check Guide: 20 Different Store Policies

Following sales and buying “loss leader” products are a great way to save money at the grocery store, especially if you have any coupons you can stack on top of the sale. But what happens if there’s no more $1.99/lb chicken breasts when you get there? Enter the rain check.

Wait, Are Rain Checks Still a Thing?

It might surprise some, but rain checks are still offered nationwide. Though the pandemic and supply chain bottlenecks have reduced the number of places that offer them, plenty of grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers will write rain checks for sale products if they run out of stock.

The reason rain checks still exist is because the Federal Trade Commission’s “Unavailability Rule” still exists. Before 1989, grocery stores would routinely advertise crazy sales and not buy enough product to meet the expected demand, which forced customers to buy more expensive alternatives. This ‘bait and switch’ tactic didn’t sit well with the FTC, who banned the practice. To comply, grocery stores started offering rain checks if they ran out of advertised sale products, which would allow customers to get the low sale price at a later date.

When Can I Get a Rain Check?

In order for stores to comply with the Unavailability Rule, they need to follow certain guidelines. So typically, you can get a rain check when all of the following things are true:

  1. The store is completely out of the product (including in the back storage areas).
  2. The product was on sale, and usually advertised in a flyer. Not on clearance, marked down, or an ‘everyday low price.’ Sale.
  3. The product wasn’t advertised as being sold “while supplies last,” having “limited supply,” or “not available at all stores.”
  4. The store you’re shopping at offers rain checks.
not offered
The addition of the phrases “while supplies last” and “may not be available in all locations” is how stores like Costco comply with the Unavailability Rule without rain checks.

How to Get a Rain Check

If you’ve already confirmed that all four points are true in your circumstance (which likely means you already asked an employee if they have any of the product out back), you can start the process of asking for a rain check. Here’s what you need to do if you’ve never done it before.

Step One: Be Nice!

Many store policies explicitly state that rain checks are only given at the discretion of the manager. If you barge in, ordering cashiers around and acting like you know everything, you’re that much less likely to walk away with a rain check.

This also might mean being patient if it’s a very busy day, or going to the service desk instead of a checkout line if the cashiers are too busy.

Step Two: Ask a Cashier Early

Let your cashier know at the beginning of your transaction that you’re going to need a rain check. They might need to call over a manager to issue the check or sign off on it.

Step Three: Confirm the Expiration Date

What good is a rain check if you didn’t understand the expiration date and let it expire? Make sure you confirm the expiration date with the cashier, and maybe write the date on your phone’s calendar or date book to make sure you don’t forget.

Which Grocery Stores Offer Rain Checks?

For stores with no stated rain check policies on their websites, I called, chatted with, or emailed their customer support team at HQ to verify their positions on rain checks.

Store nameDo they offer rain checks?Notes
Albertson’s (& its affiliated chains)Yes!Albertson’s rain checks expire 90 days from issue date. You’re only allowed to check 6 items at a time, and they’re not offered for alcohol, tobacco, fluids in the dairy section, or fuel products. (Policy)
AldiNo.All sale items are labelled “while supplies last.” (Policy)
CostcoNo. Though Costco doesn’t offer rain checks, they will refund you the difference if you buy a product and it goes on sale within 30 days. Keep your receipts to request the refund.
Food LionNo.When asked, customer service rep Christopher told me that the supply chain and limited supplies of food and non-food items are causing problems for the foreseeable future. “We are not sure when we will return to our normal raincheck policies.”
Giant FoodsYes!There’s a 6 item limit, and Giant Food rain checks are good for 30 days. (Policy)
HannafordNo. Manager Denise says Hannaford used to offer rain checks before the pandemic and supply chain issues, but both of those problems have caused them to abandon the practice.
Hy-VeeMaybe. Stores are run independently, so each sets its own policies. However, customer service rep Kevin from HQ says, “for our weekly ad, generally we will issue rainchecks, but the daily deal items are while supplies last, so rainchecks will not be available.”
KrogerMaybe. There’s no stated policy on their website, and their customer service rep, John, was brief. But he did confirm that yes, if they are completely out of stock of an item, it is company policy to issue a rain check. However, everything is at the store manager’s discretion.
Market BasketYes!Item must be advertised in the weekly flyer and out of stock. Market Basket rain checks are good for 30 days. Individual stores may “set additional limits depending on the item.” (Source: Customer Service Rep at HQ)
MeijerYes!Excludes “alcohol products, tobacco products, nicotine-based products, electronic cigarettes, Temporary Price Drop items, “percent off” transactions or mPerks events, or promotions.” Customer service rep Janis says rain check expiration policies at Meijer vary from store to store, but will be explicitly stated on each rain check. (Policy)
Piggly WigglyMaybe. Each Piggly Wiggly is independently owned and operated, so each store sets its own policies. Call your local store for more details. (Store locator.)
PublixYes!Publix “will issue rain checks for up to 8 single items, or for up to 4 deals, not to exceed 20 items.” Publix rain checks will expire in 30 days. (Policy)
Sam’s ClubNo. “Pricing is on a first come, first serve basis,” according to their customer service rep, Candice.
Stop & ShopYes!They’ll issue the rain checks electronically by putting the item back in your cart at sale price. A rain check at Stop and Shop is good for 30 days, but you can only get 3 items max. (Policy)
TargetYes!There are a lot of exclusions, however. “Clearance, Price Cut, Temporary Price Cut and Everyday Low Price items that are excluded from the Weekly Ad and items that state “No Rain Checks”. Additionally, music, movie and software titles, plus contract cell phones can’t be rain checked either. Target’s rain checks are good for 30-45 days (varies by state). (Policy)
Trader JoesNo.“‘Sale’ is a four-letter word to us. We have low prices, every day. NO coupons. NO membership cards. NO discounts.” (Policy)
Wegman’sYes!They’re good for 30 days, and cannot be combined with future Shopper’s Club sales. (Policy)
Whole FoodsYes, but only for stores in CT, MI and OH. (Policy)

FAQs about Rain Checks

Do rain checks expire?

As a general rule, all rain checks will eventually expire. All of the TK stores in the comparison group had rain checks that expire 30 days after issue, except Target (which offers 45 day expiration dates in certain states) and stores in the Albertson’s grocery family (which offered rain checks good for 90 days).

Can you get rain checks for Black Friday sales?

The FTC’s Unavailability Rule specifically declined to include Black Friday sales as needing rain check requirements. Black Friday and other big holiday sales are usually described as “of limited quantity” or “while supplies last,” anyways. This means they’re under no obligation to extend the sales past Black Friday.

That’s it! Everything you needed to know about rain checks to help you save more at the grocery store. Want more tips on feeding your family for less? Sign up for the newsletter below to get weekly updates and tips.

Hillary Swetz

Hillary was an 'overdraft four times a month' kind of girl before discovering the magic of budgeting, setting frugal goals, and kicking debt to the curb. She also taught high school economics for six years, which helped. She's now putting her English degree to work a professional writer while being a stay at home mother to two tiny humans.

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