CVS is a goldmine and if you haven’t started “CVSing” you are missing out. Here’s a short guide to understanding CVS and the CVS ExtraCare Bucks system.
First, CVS has a customer loyalty program called ExtraCare.You will need an extracare card to participate and be able to earn CVS extracare bucks or ECB’s. You can get these in the stores or register online and they will mail you your card (in store is best because you can start saving right away). If you already have a card then give them your email address and they will email you a coupon that will get you started, and they will continue to email you great coupons every week or so. You can also scan your card at the red coupon printing kiosk in most stores to get additional coupons.
Now that you have a card and a coupon here are the basics…
The Extracare system is a customer loyalty program like most grocery stores. You always have to show your extracare card to receive the benefits. The program does not save you money off normal prices however, what it does is reward you after your purchase with Extracare bucks that print on your receipt that you can then use on your very next purchase.
The products that will print the extracare bucks are listed in most CVS advertisements, and will say “free after ECB” or “get $2 ECB back after purchase”. It is using the extracare buck system that you will be “buying” everything at CVS for free.
If you are a visual learner, check out the video below:
Here is a short shopping trip to try to explain it easier…
Go into CVS and buy (1) of the free after ECB items. (The first time you do this you will actually pay real money – so for the very first time it is technically not free but from here on it will be.)
This month you could go in and buy Listerine Smart Mouth Rinse @ $3.49
You pay $3.49 plus tax
On your receipt it will print an ECB for $3.49 that you can use on you very next trip.
You can even walk back to the tooth care isle grab another bottle walk up to the counter, hand them you next bottle and hand them your ECB from your last purchase. You might owe a penny depending on your state tax system… and on your receipt will print another ECB for the same $3.49. You can continue this cycle of handing them play money until you either reach you limit for the item or the cows come home if you keep grabbing free items.
I think you are now seeing how great this could be. But it gets better. Remember that coupon they emailed you when you signed up???
Let’s go back and re-pretend scenario #1 and this time you checked on our website and got prepared for the deals before you went. You walk in for your very first trip with multiple coupons in hand and a shopping list…
Buy: 2 Listerine Rinses 2 Oral B tooth brush packs Total = 20.96
You have your CVS store coupon (from the email) for $4 off $20 and you have (2) $1.00 off Listerine coupons you printed
You pay 14.96 plus tax after all your coupons…(being your first trip you pay with real money)It will print the full value of ECB on your receipt so you now have 20.96 in ECB!!! These ECB will be in the amounts totaling the different products so you will have one for $6.98 and one for $13.98. You can again use these right away if you like or they give you one month to use them before the expire.
Now with your $20.96 in ECB in hand you can go back in and buy 2 more of each of those items pay with you new CVS ECB’s and again at the end of that receipt it will print another $20.96!!!
A few tips:
- Make sure you always give them a $$/off $$$ (like the $4 off $20) coupon first before manufacturers coupons. In the example above had I used the manufacturers coupons first the total would have been less 20 dollars.
- Always have a list of exactly what is free, sometimes it is very specific items and you want to make sure you are getting the right things.
- If you are using a $4 off $20 or type of coupon like that make sure you have a few backup plans to hit your $20 in case your CVS is out of something.
- Take in a calculator to help you quickly add up your total to make sure you are going to have the right amount for you ECB’s to cover it.
- You need to always make sure that what you are buying is equal to your ECB’s or a little more (pennies). You can pay for $4 worth of items with $5 in ECB but you are losing money that way and don’t really want to do that. So find some filler items that you like, $1 disposable razors, a pack of gum… lots of options.
6 General Mills Cereals at 3 for $10
-$4 off $20
(3) -$1/2 Manufacturers coupons
Total Due: $13 before tax
I paid with an 11 dollar ECB and it printed $10 ECB afterwardsTotal I paid $2 for 6 boxes of cereal!!! That’s 0.33 cents a box!!
After you have done CVS for a few weeks or just one week you will be hooked. We now have a small CVS store that lives under my bathroom cabinet. We have:
12 bottles of body wash
4 bottles of mouth rinse
8 tubes of toothpaste
9 boxes of Housebrand Claritin
4 boxes of TUMS
6 bottles of Shampoo and Conditioner
and much more. If they sell it at CVS my goal is to never pay for it again!!!!Over the past 10 years we have saved thousands at CVS!! You'll regret not starting their deals sooner.
Here's some common questions and answers:
Isn't CVS really over-priced? How can shopping there ever be a deal?
Yes, CVS is over-priced on a lot of items. The key to making CVSing a deal is to combine coupons and ECBs. If you do this successfully then after some initial OOP (out of pocket) expense you will be able to start buying some things you want and more toothpaste then you'll ever need for very little money.What are ECBs?
ECBs = Extra Care Bucks. These are earned by purchasing certain products during a promotional period. Some promotions last a week and others last for the entire month. They will print on your receipt immediately after the necessary purchase is made. These can be used “like cash” on most items sold at CVS. Be careful with your ECBs. If they are lost or destroyed CVS may not be willing reset them and even if you do get lucky, they will come back as one large ECB (which can be difficult to roll). The register tape CVS uses can turn completely black if left in the heat, making your ECBs unusable.What is rolling ECBs?
Rolling ECBs means using the ECBs you have already earned to buy items that will give you more ECBs. The purpose of this is to make sure you always have ECBs to spend at CVS so you will spend less “real” money OOP.There's a promotion that says I need to buy $20 of xxx to earn an ECB, is that before or after coupons?
Before coupons.Do I have to finish a promotion in one transaction?
Not usually. The ad should mention it if you have to complete the promotion in one transaction.How do I use my ECBs?
ECBs cannot be used to pay for prescriptions, gift cards, tobacco products, alcohol, stamps, and milk. Most of these are really YMMV (your mileage may vary). Please ask at your store if you are allowed to buy these items before attempting it. Many CVSers have successfully purchased milk, stamps, and alcohol with ECBs. Be aware that any of these items could be prohibited, depending on the individual store's policies.How many ECBs can I use per transaction?
As many as you want. However, the register will usually stop accepting them if they will make your subtotal (pre-tax total) negative.
If store coupons pay the tax associated with them in your state then be aware that a $1 ECB is actually worth $1 + tax if you have at least a dollar's worth of taxable items. For example: my $1 ECB would actually take $1.07 off my total.What are quarterly ECBs?
These are earned based on the amount you actually spent (OOP) at CVS and from prescriptions you've had filled. You will get back 2% of what you actually spent and a $1 ECB for every 2 prescriptions you have filled online or in store. This does not include the ECBs and coupons you use. If you get a gift card (or possibly stamps) your total amount spent in that quarter will decrease.
For example, if you spent:
00-24.99 dollars ....................... you get $0.00 in ECBs.
25-49.99 dollars ....................... you get $0.50 in ECBs.
50-74.99 dollars ....................... you get $1.00 in ECBs.
75-99.99 dollars ....................... you get $1.50 in ECBs.
The quarters run from January to March, April to June, July to September and October to December. Your quarterly ECB will print on or after the first day of the month following the end of the quarter.Can I use my ECBs on cvs.com?
You can only use your quarterly ECB online.Can I use my ECBs on someone else's card?
No.Can I have more than one card?
Technically no, you cannot have more than one card to your name with the same address. However, you can have a card for everyone in your household according to customer service. Some managers and other employees (incorrectly) think this is wrong, so they may question you if use multiple cards at their stores.Can I buy something for $4 and use a $5 ECB?
You can, but you would lose money. You have to use the full amount of the ECB because you will not get money back.