Cyclophosphamide plus G-CSF (C+G-CSF) is one of the most widely used stem cell (SC) mobilization regimens for patients with multiple myeloma (MM). Plerixafor plus G-CSF (P+G-CSF) has demonstrated superior SC mobilization efficacy when compared with G-CSF alone and has been shown to rescue patients who fail mobilization with G-CSF or C+G-CSF. Despite the proven efficacy of P+G-CSF in upfront SC mobilization, its use has been limited, mostly due to concerns of high price of the drug. However, a comprehensive comparison of the efficacy and cost effectiveness of SC mobilization using C+G-CSF versus P+G-CSF is not available. In this study, we compared 111 patients receiving C+G-CSF to 112 patients receiving P+G-CSF. The use of P+G-CSF was associated with a higher success rate of SC collection defined as ⩾5 × 106 CD34+ cells/kg (94 versus 83%, P=0.013) and less toxicities. Thirteen patients in the C+G-CSF arm were hospitalized owing to complications while none in the P+G-CSF group. C+G-CSF was associated with higher financial burden as assessed using institutional-specific costs and charges (P<0.001) as well as using Medicare reimbursement rates (P=0.27). Higher rate of hospitalization, increased need for salvage mobilization, and increased G-CSF use account for these differences.Bone Marrow Transplantation advance online publication, 4 January 2016; doi:10.1038/bmt.2015.322.