CVS 101 Tutorial

Although I blog about CVS all the time, I realized that I have never actually written a post about how shopping at CVS works.

CVS is my favorite drugstore, since it usually offers some of the best deals and it has the easiest coupon policy of the 3 drugstores (CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid).

How Does CVS Work?

  • Sign up for an Extra Care Card – It’s free to sign up, and basically just involves filling out a form with some personal information about yourself such as name and address. You will get an Extra Care Card that you will need to give to the cashier so they can scan it every time you check-out at CVS. All the sale prices and Extra Care Bucks (ECB’s) require you to use your Extra Care Card. You are only allowed to have one Extra Care Card per household.
  • When you purchase advertised items, you can earn Extra Care Bucks (ECB’s) that can be used toward your next purchase. Each week, I post the ECB deals for the week, as well as any coupons that can be used for your purchase to lower the out of pocket (OOP) even further. So, when I do my coupon matchups, I’ll list it like this:

Edge Infused Comfort or Hydrate Shave Gel 7 oz. $2.89 (limit 1)
Get $2.89 ECB’s
Total after ECB’s: FREE

This means that the Edge shave gel costs $2.89 and you will receive $2.89 in ECB’s when you make your purchase. In this case, you can earn the $2.89 in ECB’s for the shave gel only 1 time. So, I would pay $2.89 in cash, and then $2.89 in ECB’s would print out on my receipt to be used on my next purchase.

  • The goal is to “roll” your ECB’s, so you pay as little out of pocket as possible. I demonstrate the “rolling” principle when I create my CVS $5 Challenge scenarios. I usually create 3 different transactions to purchase products. That way, you can use the ECB’s that you earn from each purchase in your next transaction to keep the out of pocket (OOP) as low as possible. I usually start my transactions assuming you have no ECB’s to start (to make it less confusing and to help newbies who have never done this before), but if you have ECB’s from previous transactions, you will pay much less than $5 OOP.

How to Use Coupons at CVS

  • There are 4 different types of coupons that you can use at CVS:
  1. $/$$ purchase CVS coupon – for example, Get $5 off a $15 purchase
  2. CVS coupon – usually prints on the bottom of your receipt after a purchase or from the price scanner machine when you scan your Extra Care Card
  3. Manufacturer’s coupon – coupons that are reimbursed by the manufacturer (will state on the coupon) that can be found in the Sunday paper, on tearpads throughout the store, etc.
  4. ECB’s – ECB’s are like a coupon for money off your purchase
  • If you have a $/$$ coupon, you need to purchase the required amount of items (before coupons) and hand the cashier this coupon first before any other coupons reduce your purchase amount.
  • You can stack CVS and manufacturer’s coupons for the same item (meaning you can use both coupons on 1 item). One of the coupons is paid for by CVS and the other coupon is paid for by the manufacturer.
  • Give your ECB’s to the cashier last. You cannot use your ECB’s to pay sales tax on your purchase, so before I hand over my ECB’s, I’ll ask the cashier for my subtotal and try to match my ECB’s as closely as possible to that amount without going over.

Do you have any other CVS tips that I missed? Or do you still have any questions how shopping at CVS works? For more tips that work for others, please visit We are THAT Family.

Comments

  1. It Feels Like Chaos says:

    This is so interesting to me! Thanks for breaking down how it works. I am a newbie, but hope to be up on all the fun acronyms, like OOP soon!

  2. ~~tonya~~ says:

    Great post. I have been wanting to start CVS’ing for a while now. This is just the information I needed to know.

    TFS

  3. Single Income Dual Kids says:

    Great cvs intro! If you give your ecbs at the register first it will lower your taxable total and your manufacturer coupons will “pay” the tax. Takes some extra calculator work but helps get a very low oop.

  4. Corrie at "Cents"able Momma says:

    Single Income, Dual Kids – I did not know that…thanks for sharing!

  5. Bahama Shores Mama says:

    i naievly tried CVS shopping but easily became overwhelmed. Thanks for the tips as I’m sure I’ll try it again soon.

  6. Wanda says:

    I really appreciate you spelling it out.
    I use CVS and I get the ECB’s but I can’t tell you how many I’ve just thrown away.
    I haven’t learned the game quite yet.
    Thanks.

  7. Hoosier Homemade says:

    Great post! They are re-building our CVS right now, can hardly wait for a new bigger store.
    Thanks for sharing!
    ~Liz

  8. Liz D. says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I live in Northern Ca and all of our Long’s Drug Stores are becoming CVS stores. I needed this information. I have my card now I just need to wait for the next sale!

  9. Andrea says:

    Same here–live in Northern CA and am needing all the help I can get since CVS just took over. Thanks so much for taking the time to spell these things out. My twins' college funds thank you!

    Andy

  10. Corrie @ "Cents"able Momma says:

    Thanks, Andy. Let me know if you have any questions about CVS that I didn't answer in this post.

    Recent blog post: CVS Deals – week of 6/14

  11. Maria says:

    This is great… I just have 1 question can you use your ECB towards the same iteam you got them from?

  12. Corrie @ "Cents"able Momma says:

    Yes, you can (if you haven't already met your limit on ECB's for that item). There is no restriction on rolling ECB's like there is at Walgreens with RR's.

    Recent blog post: Menu Plan Monday

  13. Lecia says:

    So I bought the 4 SoyJoy bars yesterday and got $4 ECB back. I could take that and buy 4 more SoyJoy bars and get another $4 ECB back?

  14. Corrie @ "Cents"able Momma says:

    Yes, because there's a limit of 5 on the Soy Joy bars, so you could actually roll the deal 4 more times.

    Recent blog post: Mailbox Monday – Freebies 6/22

  15. Lecia says:

    Okay, last question (I hope) I bought 10 SoyJoy bars, since I had two $1/5 coupons. Do I only need to buy 2 SoyJoy bars the next time to get $4 ECB back?

  16. Corrie @ "Cents"able Momma says:

    You can never ask too many questions :-). Yes, you should only need to buy 2 more to get another $4 back in ECB's before Sunday. If you look at the bottom of your receipt, it should list the number of Soy Joy bars that you've purchased as 10. Do you have the B1G1 free coupon from the 5/31 S insert? That would be the perfect way to finish it off.

    Recent blog post: Amazon Deals – 6/26

  17. Dee Dee says:

    Can you use a manufacturer coupon, and an ECB together for the same item??? Thanks!

    • Yes, you can. If you were purchasing an item, you could use a manufacturer’s coupon, a CVS coupon for that item, a general CVS store coupon like $5 off a $25 purchase, and ECB’s as long as using all those coupons does not provide overage. CVS is not like Walgreens where you have to have as many items as you have coupons. You can use all your coupons together.

      Please let me know if you have any additional questions!

  18. This may seem like a silly question-but I see it hasn’t been asked before. Most of my drug store shoppping is done at CVS and I seem to be getting quite a bit of $5 off $25 ECB lately. Unfortunately I can’t take advantage of these coupons since most of my purchases do not add up to $25, so these ECB go to waste. What am I missing? Is there any way I can take advantage of them?

    • You purchase must total $25 before all coupons and ECB’s, so you don’t actually need to spend $25 OOP. If your total is $25 before coupons and ECB’s, hand the cashier the coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase coupon first, and then hand the cashier your coupons, and then I usually ask for the subtotal to know how many ECB’s I can use and then I hand them over.

      The deals haven’t been that great at CVS the last couple of weeks. I also had a coupon e-mailed to me that expired today that I did not use, since I couldn’t come up with $25 worth of stuff. You will likely get another coupon some day, so I wouldn’t worry about not using it, if it’s not a good deal for you.

      I hope that answers your question. Please feel free to let me know if you have any additional questions. Thanks!

  19. I called CVS Corp to ask about using a $3/$15 and multiple ECBs on a single item and was told this was not allowed. The CSR said the policy is 1 CVS coupon and 1 Mfr coupon for a single item. The CSR was quite adamant about it and even put me on hold to ask. In your Sept. 20th post above, it soudned like you were saying you can multiple x/xx and ECBs for a single item, as long as thier is no overage. Do you think this is a per-store policy? Should I just ask the store manager before making the purchase? Thanks for all of your posts – they are very helpful.

    • Hi Angi,

      Thanks for the question. You should be able to use 1 CVS coupon and 1 manufacturer coupon per item. However, you can also use ECB’s and $/$$ coupons on that item also (but it might require a manager’s overide). Here’s what CVS customer service e-mailed me:

      “Our registers are set to allow 1 CVS coupon and 1 manufacturer coupon per item. However, the staff should be allowing customers to use Extra Bucks in combination with other CVS coupons since these are coupons you have “earned.” In addition, similarly they should be allowing the use of “offer at the register” coupons which would be an open offer of $3 off of $15 or a certain dollar amount off of a specific item. Since our registers are programmed to only accept 2 coupons (1 CVS, 1 manufacturer) per item if the number of coupons exceed the items purchased a member of management will need to assist the cashier in processing the coupons. I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause.”

      You can also see all the CVS coupon policies here – http://www.centsablemomma.com/2009/01/cvs-coupon-policy.html

  20. Thank you! I had a copy of the message you received from CVS and read it to the CSR, but she was insistent. Perhaps corporate doesn’t like store managers to do this for customers..? I think I will ask the store maanger when I go in, and of course take along a copy of the policy. Thanks so much for all you do to help us save!

    • Angi,

      If you run into problems, maybe you could purchase a couple of filler items (like candy or they have the purse-size tissues 2/$1.00) and then the coupons wouldn’t beep? Not ideal (and according to CVS’ policy not necessary), but it’s better than not using your coupon.

  21. I wanted to give ya’ll an update: Went to CVS last night and asked both the cashier and the manager about using multiple ECBs for a single item and they both agreed it was allowed. So, I had no problems.

    Corrie – I had using filler items in mind, but was so disappointed to think I might have to. Then CVS would be just like Wags on their “rebate” policy, and wouldn’t that be a shame!

    • Yeah! I’m so happy it worked like it should have! I agree that having to add filler items would not be ideal, since (at least for me) I never really need the filler items, so it takes away from the savings.

      Thanks for the update!

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