What is Target Circle


It totally makes sense for Target to name its rewards and loyalty program Target Circle. Why? Think about the iconic Target logo. It is two red circles.

I’ll be honest–at first I didn’t “get” the whole circle thing. But then I started researching this article–because people were asking me questions about what Target Circle is all about–and, bam, epiphany. Of course, the logo is a bullseye which is a circle. Now I can’t believe I didn’t make that connection before.

target hours

Anyway, the purpose of this article isn’t to explain my brain fog. Instead, it is to explain what Target Circle is, how you can use it to your benefit when shopping at the store (in person and online), and why you’ll want to download the app onto your phone.

What is Target Circle

Target Circle is the store’s loyalty program. You may remember the Cartwheel app and program from a few years ago. Well, in 2019 the company turned Cartwheel into the Circle loyalty program.

So, now, with the Target app on your phone, you’ll earn one percent back on every purchase you make at Target. As long as you scan your Circle barcode at checkout in the stores or shop through the app, you’ll get that 1% earned back.

Then, later on, you can use those earnings to apply to purchases. So, it’s like putting money in your bank to use to save on a future purchase.

I’ve been using Target Circle since it debuted in 2019. Since then I’ve “earned” $92.89 in cash back from the shopping I was going to do anyway.

It’s a lot like using the Rakuten browser extension or the Ibotta app to get cash back on purchases.

In fact, you can get Rakuten cash back when shopping online at Target. So definitely install that browser extension so you get cash back from Rakuten and cash back from the Target Circle program.

Now, if you happen to have the Target RedCard, the store credit card, and you’re a member of Circle, then you’ll earn 5% back on all of your purchases. That saves you even more in the future.

How to use Target Circle in store

If you’re shopping on the Target app, then you’re automatically getting those Circle benefits. Same with shopping on the Target website–as long as you log in before starting to shop.

However, you can benefit while shopping in stores, too.

To earn 1% on in-store purchases using Target Circle, choose one of the following:

One, enter your phone number on the keypad at checkout or self-checkout screen

Or, two, scan your Target Circle barcode, which you’ll find in your Wallet in the Target App.

Or, three, enter receipt numbers within seven days from eligible in-store purchases in the Target app or in your Target online account.

I say eligible because things like alcoholic beverage purchases, prescription medicines and a bunch of other random things (dairy products for example) don’t count towards your 1% rewards earnings.

Don’t miss out on Target Circle Week deals for Target Circle members exclusively.

Target Circle is about more than just savings

However, the Circle program (which lives in the Target app) is more than just a way to let customers like you and me save money. It’s also a program to help with Target’s philanthropic efforts.

Every time you make a purchase, you earn “votes” which you can use in the future to decide where Target gives money to good causes that are local to you. 

For example, I just put in a pickup order at Target and noticed that I had 126 votes. I’d never really investigated how I could use these votes. However, since I was writing this article, I figured let me see what these Target Circle votes are all about.

What are Target votes

So, I tapped the 126 votes link in my app and landed on the screens shown below (which I combined using Canva) about how it works. There were three steps that explained how Target supports local nonprofits.

Then, it gave me the opportunity to see the current non-profit partnerships I could “vote” for. At this time I had five choices to vote for:

  • An animal shelter
  • Local arts education program
  • Violence prevention initiative
  • Climate education fund
  • Local YWCA

Target Circle birthday gift

In my article about stores with birthday freebies and discounts, I wrote about my experience of getting a birthday gift from the Target app. I was so surprised to look at my phone on the morning of my birthday and see this push notification from Target.

target circle birthday notification

Also, I had an email waiting for me, reminding me to check the app for my special birthday gift. What was it? Five percent off a shopping trip.

That’s so smart on Target’s part. Because if I hadn’t planned to take myself shopping for my birthday, you can best believe that I changed my plans and hit the stores. I’m not one to let a discount expire without at least trying to use it.

Best of all, you have 30 days to use the discount. So it’s not like you have to rush out on your birthday to use it. 

Next year, I’ll probably take myself shopping at a Target with an Ulta inside so I can get some of my favorite beauty products and save 5% on the purchase.

Also, I just combined my Ultamate Rewards with the Target Circle app so that if I buy anything at an Ulta inside Target, I get both rewards.

Finally, this article explains all about Ulta Beauty at Target.

Early access to sales

Another benefit of installing the app and joining Target Circle is early access to sales, such as Target Deal Days. It’s a lot like being in the Nordy Club at Nordstrom and getting early access to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

Also, Target partners with certain brands to bring extra savings and deals to Circle members. One of those partners is the aforementioned combining of the Ultamate Rewards program from Ulta and Target.

In addition, you can get savings on companies outside the store, such as TripAdvisor Plus and lots of Apple services and products (Apple TV, Apple Music, etc.).

Additional questions and answers about Target Circle

You may have additional questions about the program so I’ve put together this quick Q&A.

Is Target Circle free?

Yes, it’s free to download and start using it. You don’t even have to sign up for a Target Red credit card to get the benefits. However, if you do have the card, you’ll definitely want to link it with your Circle account so you can get 5% back on purchases.

Do Target rewards expire?

The only way you’ll lose any rewards you’ve earned is if you don’t shop at Target or use the app for a year. However, I can’t imagine going a whole year without going to Target, can you?

Are there teacher, student or college discounts?

I haven’t been able to find any educator discounts that are specific to the Target app or Target Circle. However, if that changes, I’ll be sure to update this information.

Check out this article on how to get a Target student discount in the Target Circle app.

How do you apply Target Circle offers in the app or online?

When you’re shopping in the app, you’ll see your earnings when you go to checkout. Then, you’ll be given the option to apply them to your purchase.

If you’re shopping at Target online, I can’t remember if they automatically show up like they do in the app. So, go to your profile and see if you have any earnings that you can add to the cart.

As far as offers, they’ll pop up automatically as you’re shopping.

For example, I recently bought my dog Oscar a new plush toy. As a Target Circle member, I got a special 15% off coupon for dog toys to coincide with National Pet Day. I’m assuming that was a special coupon for Target Circle members. Then again, maybe all Target shoppers who had purchased pet products in the past got that coupon.

Finally, if you’re going to be taking advantage of the Target car seat trade in event, you’ll need the Target Circle app on your phone in order to cash in that special coupon.

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