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What is Target Circle? Everything you need to know about the free loyalty program

Learn how Target Circle works, what benefits members have access to and how the Target RedCard compares.
With a Target Circle membership, you can earn 1% in rewards every time you make eligible purchases and put them towards future purchases.
With a Target Circle membership, you can earn 1% in rewards every time you make eligible purchases and put them towards future purchases.Kara Birnbaum / Vivian Le / NBC News

Between big box stores, such as Amazon and Walmart, and warehouse clubs like Costco, there are lots of paid memberships you can join at retailers to access their specific perks. Target, however, offers a free loyalty program: Target Circle. And while it doesn't come with as many benefits compared to competitors like Amazon Prime or Walmart Plus — both of which give members free, fast shipping options and exclusive access to certain sales events, for example — Target Circle opens the door to benefits without having to pay a fee. This is what encouraged me to sign up for a Target Circle membership. It allows me to earn rewards on purchases without having to make an additional financial commitment to the retailer.

SKIP AHEAD Target Circle benefits | Target RedCard 101 | Our favorite products from Target brands

With Target’s Black Friday sale in full swing, you may be wondering about opportunities the retailer has to save on purchases year round — andTarget Circle be of interest. If so, we broke down everything you need to know about the loyalty program below. We also rounded up a few of our favorite products from Target-owned brands to give you an idea of what unique items you can find online and in stores.

What is Target Circle and how does it work?

Target Circle is the retailer’s free loyalty program. Once you sign up, you can earn 1% in Target Circle rewards every time you make eligible purchases (purchases made with a RedCard do not receive these earnings. Read more about RedCards below). Over time, your Target Circle rewards build up in your account’s wallet and you can use them toward future purchases. For example, I frequently shop for groceries, pet supplies and clothing at Target, and I earned rewards on these purchases that I eventually put toward furniture for my apartment.

If you’re shopping at Target online or through the retailer’s app, you can sign into your Target Circle account to ensure you’re seeing all the deals available to you and earn rewards on purchases. If you’re shopping in stores, you can either enter your phone number at checkout or scan your Target Circle barcode, which you’ll find in the Target app. And if you forget to shop through your Target Circle account in stores, you can go online afterwards and enter your receipt number within seven days of making a purchase to collect earnings.

Benefits of Target Circle

In addition to earning rewards while shopping, the benefits of a Target Circle membership include:

  • Access to exclusive deals: As a Target Circle member, you get access to deals on products in stores and online. You can browse through Target's website or app before you shop and save them to your account’s wallet. Then, when you check out, the discounts you saved are automatically applied. When I shop at Target, I make a list of everything I need to buy, search the app to see if there are any deals on the products I’m interested in and save them to my wallet. This helps me know what I’m saving on before I add items to my cart. I find the deals especially helpful for saving money on groceries and household essentials, such as cleaning supplies and toiletries.
  • Annual birthday gifts: For your birthday, Target gives you 5% off a single purchase. The offer is valid for 30 days after your birthday.
  • Community support votes: Target Circle members can cast votes for select local and national nonprofits, which impacts how much the retailer donates to different charities. You earn votes per qualifying transitions in store and online.
  • Target Circle partnerships: Target partners with a variety of brands to offer Target Members exclusive deals and other opportunities. Currently, Target Circle partners include Apple and Ulta Beauty, both of which are Target shop-in-shops, meaning the companies have their own branded shops within Target stores. Target Circle members can get free trials of the following Apple services for varying lengths of time: Apple Fitness+ (four months), Apple TV+ (three months), Apple Music (four months), Apple News+ (five months), Apple Arcade (five months) and Apple iCloud+ (four months). With Ulta Beauty, members can earn Ulta Ultimate Rewards in addition to Target Circle benefits when they buy Ulta Beauty items from Target.

What is the Target RedCard?

The Target RedCard is a store card that can only be used at Target. The Target Debit Card, Target Credit Card and Target Mastercard are each considered a RedCard (though you can use the Target Mastercard at any merchant that accepts Mastercard). These cards give you access to benefits like a 5% discount on eligible Target purchases in stores and online, including during sales events like Black Friday. You can also get free standard shipping on most items, free two-day shipping on eligible items and an additional 30 days to return purchases beyond the standard 90-day return policy.

If you have a Target RedCard, you can still become a Target Circle member and link your RedCard to your account. But since RedCard holders save 5% on Target purchases, they’re unable to earn 1% in Target Circle rewards while shopping. RedCard holders who are Target Circle members get access to the exclusive deals and community support votes the loyalty program offers, however. If you’re thinking about becoming a RedCard holder, learn more about your options and about other credit cards that are beneficial to use while shopping at Target from our friends at CNBC.

Our favorite products from Target brands

I ultimately became a Target Circle member when I realized how often I was turning to Target to shop products from its brands, like Up & Up, Threshold, All in Motion and more. To give you an idea of what you can find exclusively at the retailer, below are a few of my favorite items to buy at Target.

Target Threshold 400 Thread Count Printed Performance Sheet Set

I own these sheets in multiple patterns and have found that they don’t lose their soft, smooth feel after multiple rounds in the washing machine. The set comes with a fitted sheet, flat sheet and pillowcases. The fitted sheet has “top/bottom” labels on it so you know how to orient it on your mattress. You can purchase the set in twin/twin XL, full, queen, king and California king sizes.

Target Brightroom Two Tiered Slide Out Organizer

Target Brightroom makes some of my favorite home organization products, includingthis Two Tiered Slide Out Organizer. I use it under my kitchen sink to store sponges, extra dish soap and rolls of trash bags, and it’s also useful in bathrooms or pantries. The organizer is made from steel mesh and the top basket is removable.

Target Everspring Multi Surface Cleaning Wipes

I keep these multi-surface wipes all over my apartment in case I need to quickly wipe something down, and I also added packs to my car and desk at the office. They’re available in scents like Lavender & Bergamot, Lemon & Mint, Citrus & Basil and more; the retailer says the wipes get their fragrances from plant extracts and essential oils. Each container has 35 wipes.

Target Universal Thread High-Rise Slim Straight Fit Jeans

Universal Thread is my go-to brand for jeans. It offers a variety of affordable, high quality styles — such as straight, skinny and wide leg — in both standard and plus sizes. You can also find Universal Thread jeans in multiple washes, as well as fabrics like denim and corduroy.

Target All in Motion Women’s Light Support V-Neck Cropped Sports Bra

I see the All in Motion sports bra as a more affordable alternative to the Lululemon Align Tank Top. It’s designed with a built-in shelf bra and removable cups, which the brand says offers light support. The v-neck bra is made from moisture-wicking fabric that even has a UPF 50+ rating, Target says. (UPF is the fabric equivalent of SPF, indicating sun protection.) You can purchase the sports bra in multiple colors and sizes XS to XXL.

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