CVS 101


A lot of people think CVS is incredibly overpriced but they are often surprised to be wrong. CVS is one of the best places to score free toiletries, food, household products and more.

Before you can start, you need to get yourself a CVS ExtraCare card.

The best way to maximize your savings at CVS is by participating in their ExtraCare Rewards Program. To start saving right away it’s best to sign up for this program in the store (just ask an employee for a CVS card) however, you can always sign up at ExtraCare Rewards is a loyalty card similiar to your grocery store card. It does not lower normal prices, but it does allow you to participate in products that generate ExtraCare Bucks.

Register your card with

This is an important step because it will allow you to view all of your transaction history & extra care bucks. You can also sign up for the CVS e-mail newsletter which will allow you to receive a $4 off a $20 CVS store purchase coupon that you can print off and use for your first trip! They will continue to email coupons from that point forward.

Ok, so what is an ExtraCare Buck (ECB)?

ExtraCare Bucks (ECB’s) are like FREE CVS money you can use on almost anything in the store. An ECB is a coupon that prints out after your receipt. It is generated by making a purchase on a qualifying promotional item. Each ECB earned will print as a separate coupon like the one to the right.

How do you earn those magical ECB’s?

  • By purchasing a qualifying item during a promotional period. Qualifying items are generally advertised in the weekly circular.
  • Through Quarterly Earnings: CVS Shoppers will earn 2% back for every purchase made in store or online. For example, Total Spent Jan-Mar: $48.59, ECB Earned: $0.97.
  • Through prescriptions purchased in store or online. Earn $1 ECB for every two purchased.
  • By bringing a reusable bag and scanning a CVS Green Bag Tag (initial price $0.99) after every 4th scan (1 scan per store/day) earn $1 ECB.

The first thing you should ALWAYS do when you get to the store is head over to the CVS Coupon Center/Price Scanner and scan your CVS card. This machine, affectionately known as the “Magic Coupon Machine” prints out CVS Store Coupons (CRT’s) off random products within the store. Sometimes if you’re lucky you might even score a $/$$ total purchase coupon. Other times nothing will print. It’s kind of like the lottery.

Expect to spend some money OOP (out of pocket) at first. Your first purchase at CVS will probably result in an OOP expense since you will not have any ECB’s to utilize. Lower that OOP cost by focusing on working deals where you have manufacturer coupons to lower the price and that will generate you ECB’s.

Checking Out – VERY IMPORTANT!

It is important when checking out at CVS not to give the cashier all of your coupons at once. Why? Well the register is going to read and adjust itself after each coupon in the order the cashier scans them. It is because of this that it is ESSENTIAL to present the cashier with your coupons in the following order:

  1. CVS $/$$ Coupons
  2. CVS Store Coupons
  3. Manufacturer Coupons
  4. ECB’s

Sample Shopping Trip

I strongly suggest you make your first CVS deal simple. Focus on 1 or 2 items that will produce ECB’s. Breaking down your transactions into small pieces helps to lower your out of pocket (OOP) cost. Let’s look at a sample shopping trip:

Transaction #1

Dove Deodorant | 2 for $7 (ECB Promotion: Earn $2 ECB when you buy 2)
Use (2) $2/1 Manufacturer Coupons

= Final Price Out of Pocket: $3.00 | ECB Earned: $2

Now let’s use that $2 we just earned and use that as cash to pay for another deal:

Transaction #2

Crest Toothpaste | $1.99 (ECB Promotion: Earn $1 ECB when you buy 1)
Use (1) $1/1 Manufacturer Coupon
Final Price: $0.99
ECB earned from promotion: $1

Cottonelle Wipes | $4.99 (ECB Promotion: Earn $3 ECB when you buy 1)
Use (1) $2/1 Manufacturer Coupon
Final Price: $2.99
ECB earned from promotion: $3

Total Before Coupons: $6.98
-Manufacturer Coupons totaling $3.00
-$2 ECB (from the Dove Deodorant Purchase in Transaction #1)
= Final Price Out of Pocket: $1.98
ECB’s Earned: $4.00

As you can see in this second transaction we only paid $1.98 OOP but left the store with $4 in ECB’s that we can “roll” to pay for future transactions. Had we not used coupons and the ECB from transaction #1 our retail total for the two transactions would have been $13.98.

However, since we broke up the transactions into small strategic transactions, used coupons and “rolled” the ECB we earned, we ended up spending only $4.98 out of pocket for everything – that’s about a 64% savings! Did I mention we still have a $4 ECB left in our pocket? Yep, I think I did.

Do you see how you can use the ECB’s earned from one transaction to bring down the total on your next one to lower your out of pocket cost? Rolling ECB’s is the best way to save money at CVS!

As with learning anything new there will be bumps along the way. Don’t be too hard on yourself! Trial & error is what will make you a pro and most of these concepts discussed here will become second nature to you. Also, don’t feel bad if you need to use your ECB stash to pay for things that won’t earn you another ECB. You can always build up your ECB bank again!

CVS allows 1 Manufacturer Coupon & 1 CVS Store Coupon per item purchased.

Using Manufacturer Coupons:

  • YES you can use coupons on clearance items.
  • YES you can use 2 coupons on a Buy One, Get One Free sale.
  • YES you can use a Buy One, Get One Free coupon on a Buy One, Get One Free sale to earn two free items. Although corporate says this is allowed, some stores make their own rules up so your mileage may vary.
  • YES internet printable coupons are accepted. There is no quantity limit.
  • NO you can not get overage on coupons.
Using CVS Coupons:
  • NO you can not use more than one $/$$ coupons on a transaction.

When do ECB’s expire?

ECB’s expire 30 days from the date earned.

What happens if I lose an ECB?
Say goodbye to it. You will not be able to have another one printed.

Will I get change back if I don’t use my whole ECB on a purchase?
To get the maximum benefit of an ECB you must use it’s full value on a transaction. For example, say you have a $5 ECB that you want to use and your transaction subtotal (pre-tax) is $4.52. What will happen is that the register will readjust the ECB down to match the subtotal. That’s a LOSS of $0.48! Throw a pack of gum or something in so you can at least get some free gum too!

Filler items are also a really good idea to use when using a $/$$ CVS Coupon and you don’t quite meet the total purchase requirement. Since those coupons come off before any manufacturer coupons are applied, find items that you have coupons for to lower your out of pocket cost even more!

On sales like, “Purchase $20 worth of Clairol products, receive $10 ECB” do I have to purchase all in one transaction?
Nope! Once you hit the limit (within the promotion timeline) an ECB will print.

ECB’s can NOT be used to pay for tax.

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