CVS 101 – How to Shop and Save Money at CVS
This is a simple guide to getting the best deals when shopping at CVS. We all know buying household items at a pharmacy traditionally isn’t the cheapest option, but with the right coupon and rewards strategy, it can be!
And sometimes it’s the easiest… if you’re already in the store for medicine, why not scoop up the rest of your shopping list? Read on for some pro tips on how to maximize your dollar at CVS. (If you’re more of a Walgreens person, check out our guide on that here!)
Sign up for an ExtraCare Card
This is where it all starts for savings at CVS. Signing up for an ExtraCare Card is totally free and the deals you can get out of it are amazing. This is a loyalty card that earns 2% back on all purchases (in addition to unlocking coupons, more on that later), so you want to make sure you’re scanning it every time you shop at CVS.
If you happen to forget your Extra Care Card, don’t fret. You can also enter the phone number associated with your account at checkout to earn rewards.
So how do you score one of these cards? Easy! You can pick one up at checkout or you can sign up for one online and have it mailed to you. If you get one in-store, make sure to register it online when you get home. And don’t forget the CVS app! It’s never been easier to use coupons — no more cutting out little bits of paper just to lose them before you get to use them. Just pull up the coupons on your phone and scan at check-out. Text “App” to CVS-APP (287-277) to download now!
Now that you have your ExtraCare Card, let’s talk about how you can use it to save tons of money on everyday items on your list!
Scan your ExtraCare Card at the in-store Coupon Center
When you go into CVS the first thing you should do is go to the red coupon scanners at the front of the store and scan your ExtraCare Card. It will print CVS Store Coupons which can be used in addition to any manufacturer’s coupons you may have. CVS allows the use of one CVS coupon (the store is giving the discount) and one manufacturer coupon (the manufacturer is giving the discount and will reimburse the store) per item.
Earn and use ExtraCare Bucks (ECBs)
ExtraCare Bucks, aka ECBs, are like CVS money or instant rebates. When you buy an item advertised as earning ECBs, you will pay for the item and then the ECBs will print at the very bottom of your receipt. You cut these off and keep them like cash. Then the next time you buy something at CVS you can use your ECBs to pay for it.
- AD: Buy Chips at $4 and receive $2 ECBS
- Buy Chips – pay $4
- Receive $2 ECBs on receipt
- Next visit – Buy Diapers $8.99
- Give the cashier your $2 ECBs
- Now pay $6.99
The best way to maximize your ECBs is to “roll” them. Buy something that earns ECBs then use those ECBs to buy something else that earns ECBs. This way you make an initial cash purchase and then use CVS money for all future purchases. ECBs can be used on anything in the store except the usual exclusions (Prescriptions, tobacco, stamps, etc.).
One important note is that an ECB is only good for one use. You cannot use a $10 ECB on an $8 purchase and keep the $2. Your purchase (before tax) must be equal to or greater than the ECB amount. You will not get cash back and your ECBs will not be carried over.
Take careful note of the expiration date on your ECBs, too! They usually expire within 30 days, but some deals are even shorter-lived.
Earn and use Quarterly ECBs
This is where that 2% back on all purchases comes in. In addition to the instant ECBs that you get printed out on your receipts, you will also receive quarterly ECBs through your ExtraCare Card! As an ExtraCare Cardholder, you will get an ECB for 2% of what you spent at CVS each quarter, or every three months.
For example, if you spend $100 at CVS over the course of three months (and scanned your card for each purchase), then you will get a $2 ECB at the end of those three months.
To sweeten the deal even further, CVS occasionally issues Triple ECB coupons. You scan it once and it will triple your quarterly earnings from that point until the quarter is over. So, once you scan it you will start earning 6% back on all your purchases! Definitely keep an eye out for these babies.
Look for Weekly Deals
Every week CVS puts out a circular (print, online and in the app!) with deals that are good for one week. There are regular sale items and there are ECB deals. ECB deals are the real money-savers. For one ECB deal, you can use a manufacturer’s coupon, a CVS coupon AND earn ECBs!
- AD: Buy Colgate Toothpaste at $2.99 and earn $2 in ECBs
- You have a $1 off Colgate Toothpaste CVS coupon from scanning your ExtraCare Card at the Coupon Center.
- You also have a $1 off Colgate Toothpaste manufacturer’s coupon that you got online.
- So, buy Colgate Toothpaste at $2.99.
- Use $1 CVS coupon.
- Use $1 Manufacturer’s coupon.
- Pay 99¢.
- Earn $2 ECBs…a $1.01 profit!
So, even if you don’t use Colgate toothpaste, it is still worth it to do this deal because you now have $1 more than you had before to use on something that you need. You can always donate your freebies!
But, before you get too carried away, remember that ECB deals always have limits so read the fine print. Underneath the deal in the ad it will say “Limit x per household.” If it is limit 1 then it means that if you buy more than one then you will only get ECBs for the first one you purchase.
There are also some ECB deals that require you to buy multiple items. You do not have to buy all the items at one time. You just have to purchase them before the sale period is over. Once you buy all the qualifying items or reach the dollar amount required, then your ECBs will print.
CVS occasionally sends out $/$$ coupons. They are typically $4/$20, $5/$30, or $10/$50. That means if you buy $20 worth of merchandise (price BEFORE manufacturer’s coupons!) then you can use the coupon to get $4 off your total. You can use one per order and you can use all other coupons and ECBs in addition.
Use your coupons in the right order
When shopping at CVS it is best to give your coupons in this order:
- $/$$ Coupon
- Manufacturer’s Coupon
- CVS Coupons
This way there is no confusion over whether your total meets the $/$$ requirements and you also can make sure your total is high enough to use your ECBs effectively.
If you have any additional CVS shopping tips, feel free to share!