Looking for a COVID test? Here are tips to find at-home testing kits and get them for free

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Searching for an at-home COVID test? It may seem daunting, but it is possible to find testing kits in stores and online with some tools, determination and sometimes luck in the face of ongoing shortages.

Some are using the same tactics to find the tests that are being used to score the hard-to-find PS5 and Xbox Series X video game consoles: Following Twitter and social media accounts that blast when the tests are back in-stock.

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There are also apps and websites that alert consumers when new tests arrive.

And there’s Eli Coustan, a 14-year-old from the Evanston suburb of Chicago, who has made it his mission to help people find at-home tests.

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COVID tests: How to get free at-home COVID-19 tests with insurance reimbursement

►COVID quarantine and isolation guide:What to know and what to have at home

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The ninth-grader said he started his website Findacovidtest.org at the end of December after seeing how difficult it was to find the at-home tests.

“I had created a site to find vaccines earlier in the pandemic and knew that I would be able to use a lot of similar technology to create something to find at-home tests you can order online and get shipped,” Eli told USA TODAY, adding he started ILVaccine.org in February 2021 after he saw how hard it was for his grandparents to get appointments.

Looking for a COVID test? Here are tips to find at-home testing kits and get them for free

Tips to find at-home COVID tests

Your mileage may vary but here are tips to help you find at-home COVID tests and other items that are shortage items.

Looking for a COVID test? Here are tips to find at-home testing kits and get them for free

In-stock alerts

For shopping online, alerts or notifications whether from store apps or third-party sites or apps are one of the best ways to find available inventory when it restocks.

Target has in-stock alerts that you can sign up for with its app. Apps, including Hot Stock, also can send you notifications. The app is free but there’s an option to pay $5.49 to receive notifications for up to 10 products.

Eli says his site automatically updates every five to 10 minutes and site visitors can sign up for text notifications.

The site tracks COVID tests online inventory at Amazon, CVS, Costco, Walgreens, Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club and more and you can select the brand of test you’re interested in.

♦ Shopping tip: Once you get an alert, you’ll need to act fast as supplies will go fast and it can take multiple attempts.

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►COVID test prices:Prices up at Walmart, Kroger as at-home rapid tests remain hard to find

Check in-store test inventory with apps and Google Shopping

Before heading to a brick-and-mortar Target, Walmart or another retailer, you can get a better idea of store inventory by checking store websites or apps. But similar to ordering online, the inventory can quickly change.

Google Shopping also allows shoppers to check in-store inventory from home. Find local stores that carry the products you are looking for from Google Shopping and select the “in stock” filter to see only the nearby stores that have it on their shelves.

Shortages 2022:Grocery stores still have empty shelves amid supply chain disruptions, omicron and winter storms

►FDA warning:FDA warns against using unapproved COVID-19 tests because of a ‘high risk of false results’

Looking for a COVID test? Here are tips to find at-home testing kits and get them for free

Follow restock Twitter accounts for COVID test updates

According to a Vice story Thursday, several PS5 restock accounts on Twitter have started to post alerts about the COVID-19 test availability.

Here are three Twitter accounts to watch for test updates:

  • @LordOfRestocks
  • @GPURestocks
  • @TargetRestock

Looking for a COVID test? Here are tips to find at-home testing kits and get them for free

How to get free home COVID tests with insurance

With insurance companies now covering the over-the-counter tests as of Saturday, there will be new motivation to find tests. Many will be free after insurance reimbursement.

Private health plans are required to cover the over-the-counter tests at up to $12 per test. Consumers can either get the testing kits at no cost at participating pharmacies that their plan sets up or submit receipts for reimbursement from the insurance company.

Learn more about how to get insurance reimbursement here.

►MLK Day 2022:Stock market, most banks closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while stores, restaurants open

Order free tests at COVIDtests.gov starting Wednesday

Americans can start ordering free COVID-19 tests starting Wednesday from the Biden administration’s new website. Reimbursement isn’t required and shipping is free.

The website for ordering is COVIDtests.gov and the site says “Every home in the U.S. can soon order 4 free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests.”

The tests, part of the administration’s purchase of 500 million tests last month to help tackle a record surge in infections, will be mailed to homes within seven to 12 days, according to an official who briefed reporters.

Contributing: Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY; Associated Press

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko. For shopping news, tips and deals, join us on our Shopping Ninjas Facebook group.

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