CVS for beginners
April 17, 2008, 4:23 pm
Filed under: CVS

As you’ve probably figured out over the past month, I am a big fan of CVS because of their awesome deals. But you may not follow how I get such great deals at CVS. I’ve finally found the time to sit down and explain how in the world I get so much for so little at a seemingly overpriced pharmacy.

Well, it all starts with a little piece of plastic called an Extra Care Card that you can conveniently attach to your key ring. It only takes a few minutes to sign up for a card and you can even give them your phone number if you forget to bring your card with you (like I did a few days ago). You must get and use your Extra Care Card in order to participate in their rebate program called Extra Care Rewards or Extra Care Bucks (ECBs).

CVS’s ECBs are unique in that you do not have to mail in any receipts or UPCs in order to get your money back. The ECBs automatically print out at the bottom of your receipt when you buy participating products. You use them like coupons to get money off your next purchase at CVS. Be careful: they can only be redeemed at CVS and they do expire (typically 2 weeks from date of purchase).

CVS runs ECB deals both monthly and weekly. There is a booklet that comes out every month called the Extra Value Book that has all of the monthly offers. You can find it near the front of the store next to the weekly ad. The weekly ad is usually sprinkled with deals that are only good for that week and occasionally feature some of the monthly deals.

What’s so great about these ECB deals is that there are usually some that offer certain products for free (the wording is usually “it’s like getting it free after extra bucks”). You will get an ECB that is equal to the price of the product (before tax) when you purchase it. There are also some deals that make the products almost free or at a greatly reduced price. The deals get even better if you have any manufacturer coupons and or any cash register tape coupons (CRTs) for the products. CRTs also print out at the bottom of your receipt from time to time and are for a certain amount off of a particular product. They are completely random, as far as I can tell, and are only redeemable at CVS.

One more type of coupon that CVS offers can also be found at the bottom of your receipt, from an email offer sent to you from CVS, or occasionally a newspaper ad. These coupons offer a set amount off of a purchase of a certain amount. Example: $2 off a purchase of $10 or more. Shorthand, they look like this: $2/$10, $4/$20, etc.

All of these things (ECBs, manufacturer coupons, CRTs, and $/$) can be used together to create some fantastic deals. I have a feeling a hypothetical example would be helpful here:

Say CVS has body wash on sale for $5 and they are offering $5 back in ECBs for purchasing it. They also have lotion on sale for $5 and are offering $5 back in ECBs for purchasing it. You have a $2/$10, two $1 manufacturer coupons, and a $2 CRT for the body wash.

Body wash $5
Lotion $5
Total= $10
Minus $2/$10= $8
Minus 2 $1 coupons= $6
Minus $2 CRT= $4
You would pay $4 out of pocket (plus tax) and get 2 $5 ECBs for a total of $10 back in ECBs. You just “made” $6. You would then go on to use your $10 ECBs off your next purchase.

The best way to use ECBs is to keep “rolling” them everytime you make a purchase. When you roll your ECBs, you use your ECBs to get even more ECBs. For example: You want to buy 2 more body washes and you have two more $1 off coupons. You would also like to buy a $3 bag of candy that you have a $1 manufacturer coupon for and it offers $2 back in ECBs.
2 body washes $10
Bag of candy $3
Total= $13
Minus 3 $1 manufacturer coupons= $10
Use your $10 in ECBs from before and get back $12 in ECBs.

Of course, there are times when you can’t roll your ECBs because the stars haven’t aligned and you don’t have the right coupons or you don’t like a certain week’s ECB deals. In that case, I say use your ECBs on items that you need that week (like milk, bread, etc.) and get on board the next deal that rolls around that works for you.

I hope this has clarified how to get the most out of shopping at CVS. I highly recommend CVS 101 over at Money Saving Mom if you would like further explanation.

Please note: You cannot use multiple manufacturer coupons on one product. You can, however, use one manufacturer coupon and one store coupon (or CRT, in this case) on one product.