Since I’ve mentioned some of the CVS deals for the week here, there have been a lot of readers who have emailed in with questions on how CVS works. I spent a good few hours researching how to “do” CVS when I first began and sometimes forget how complex it can seem when you first start out!
For those of you who are still trying to figure things out, what follows is a CVS 101 Primer:
First off, in order to take advantage of any of the deals at CVS, you need to have a CVS store nearby. Check here to see if that’s the case.
If so, you will need to apply for a CVS card. You can do this online or in-store. If you do it in-store, you can begin using your card right away, so this is the best option.
Always have them scan your card before they start ringing up your transaction. All of the deals are tied to your card account number, so if they don’t scan your card, you won’t be able to get any of the deals.
Once you have signed up and received your CVS card, you are ready to do your first CVS transaction. I recommend you start off with only one or two items. Keep it very simple so that you can learn the ropes and gradually branch out into doing more complicated deals.
Almost every week, there are one or two items which are advertised as completely free after ECBs. What this means is that you will buy the item–paying out of pocket for it–and then you will receive a “coupon” at the end of your receipt which will be for the amount of the item purchased. This coupon is called an “Extra Care Buck” (or ECB as we refer to them online). You can use this coupon on your next purchase just like cash, with only a few exceptions (i.e. you can’t buy stamps or gift cards with them–the fine print on the ECB explains a little more in detail).
So to start out, you would check your local ad and find out what product you needed to buy that week which would generate an ECB that was the purchase price you paid. Once you bought the item, you would receive an ECB at the bottom of your receipt which you could use like cash on your next transaction, thus making that item in essence, “free.”
It is not entirely free in that you paid for it out of pocket, however, once you have paid for the item out of pocket and earned an ECB, you can then use that ECB you earned to pay for the next transaction. You want to keep rolling your ECBs over and over and over, so your goal should always be to use the ECBs you earned from your last transaction, to buy something in the next transaction which will earn you the same amount or more ECBs than you spent.
My goal is to spend as little money out of pocket as possible and to roll over my ECBs to be the same amount or more as the ECBs I spent. By doing this, I usually will get $15-$50 worth of groceries and household items normally paying less than $1 out of pocket and earning enough ECBs to go back and do it again the next week.
In some instance, the item you are buying is actually less expensive than the ECB it will generate and thus you will “make money” by buying it. For instance, one week recently, the Addidas deodrant was on sale for $2.49 and generated a $3 ECB. So, even after tax, you “made money” buying it since you got more back in ECBs than you spent out of pocket in the first place. And if you have any coupons (there were $1/1 coupons for this particular deodorant out recently), you will “make even more money.”
In this case, you could go in and buy 1 Addidas deodorant that was part of this promotion for $2.49, use a $1/1 coupon, pay only $1.49 out of pocket, and you’d get $3 ECBs back to use on your next purchase! This is what we refer to in coupon-world as a “money-maker”.
(Please note: You will not be actually “making money” in that the store will be paying you cash for shopping there, but you will be “making money” in that you will be spending less out of pocket than you get back in ECBs.)
Most of the time, there is a limit on how many of an item you can buy per card which will generate ECBs. Usually it is somewhere between 1-5 and will be stated in small lettering underneath the deal in your ad.
There are weekly deals and monthly deals. The weekly deals are advertised in the weekly fliers and the monthly deals (which are good for the entire month) are advertised in the monthly ECB booklet, which should be available at all stores all month long.
Sometimes, they will advertise a monthly deal in the weekly flier. This is usually just to draw more attention to the deal. However, this does not normally mean the deal can be done both weekly and monthly (doing it twice that month), you can only do it two times, or five times, or whatever number of times the limit is for the month.
Once you have started figuring out the weekly and monthly free-after-ECB deals, you can start moving up to more complicated deals and this is when the fun really begins! Your goal should be to not only roll your ECBs over and over week after week after week, but to “grow” them so you have “overage” to use towards other groceries you need.
How do you “grow” your ECBs? Well, the easiest way is by stacking a manufacturer’s coupon with the free-after-ECB deals.
For instance, if the Addidas deodorant deal mentioned above were going on this week, you could do the deal a total of five times, since that is the limit. You could go in and spend $1.49 out of pocket to get $3 ECBs.
Then, take that $3 ECBs and buy two more deodorants (using 2 $1/1 coupons) so after the coupons, your total would be $3. Use the $3 ECB you just earned on your first transaction to pay for your second transaction, and you’d pay only tax and then have $6 ECBs.
Take the $6 ECBs you just earned and buy 3 more deodorants (using 3 more $1/1 coupons, if you have them), add on another $1.50 item from CVS you can use (toilet paper, etc.), and then pay for your items with the $6 ECB, again only paying tax out of pocket.
You’ll leave the store with 5 deodorants, another $1.50 item, and $9 in ECBs to use on your next trip. All for less then $2 out of pocket!
The next step into more complicated transactions is to start stacking CVS coupons and manufacturer’s coupons along with the ECB deals. Once you have shopped at CVS using your card for 4-8 weeks, your receipt will automatically begin printing other CVS coupons. You’ll want to save all of these until they expire and check them against the deals for each week. Since these are store coupons, not manufacturer’s coupons, you can “stack them” (i.e. use them in conjunction with), a manufacturer’s coupon.
To take the example of the Addidas deodorant above: Let’s say my receipt had printed off a coupon for $1 off any Addidas deodorant last week. I could use that on one Addidas deodorant along with a $1/1 manufacturer’s coupon. This would mean that I’m only paying $0.49 for the deodorant (using ECBs I’ve rolled over, of course!) and getting $3 ECB back.
Another way to make your ECBs grow more, is to use $3/$15 or $4/$20 coupons in conjunction with the other deals you are doing. The $3/$15 or $4/20 are coupons which often print at the bottom of your receipt. They are also sometimes available in your newspaper–especially if you live in an area where there is a lot of drug store competition.
For those not familiar with these coupons, a $3/$15 is a coupon which is just that–you get $3 off of a $15 or more purchase. I look at these as “free money”, meaning, if I’m going to already be spending $15.50 and after coupons and ECBs be paying basically $0.00 out of pocket in order to generate the same amount of ECBs that I spent, if I stack on a $3/$15 coupon, I can get $3 more worth of groceries without paying anything extra. So, I’ll use this extra “money” to buy something that is around $3 and generates more ECB, or I’ll use it to pay for something we need that week–say toilet paper or milk, etc. That way, it is lowering my normal grocery bill, without costing me any more.
Provided you have over $15 or $20 worth of products (before coupons, not after coupons), you can stack these coupons on top of any of the previously mentioned deals, too. You will want to make sure and use these coupons first, though, before you give your other coupons to the cashier. Otherwise, the register could have trouble inputting them.
By the way, if you’ve not done so already, you can also go here and sign up for email offers and you’ll instantly get a $4/$20 coupon. Plus, when you sign up for email offers, they often email you coupons, too!
Oftentimes, there are weekly and monthly deals which generate ECBs, but which are not free after ECBs. These can still be good, so don’t overlook them. Paired with a manufacturer’s coupon, or CVS coupon, or a $3/$15 coupon, or a mixture of all three, you can often get the item for free or close to free. I don’t do this as often as I do the free-after-ECB items, but now that I have a stash of ECBs accumulated, I will often look at these deals and see if I can work one into my weekly shopping trip.
When you are checking out and doing a more complicated transaction, you will want to make sure and have your coupons in good order so that your transaction goes smoothly. The best way I have found to do this, is to always give $3/$15 (etc.) coupons first. Then give any other CVS coupons, then your manufacturer’s coupons. And lastly, give your ECBs.
If you have an ECB that is for more than what your total is, they can either manually reduce it down and just take off the amount for your
total (and thus you lose the rest of your ECB), or you can add on another small item to make up the difference.
I always bring my calculator and tally up the total after coupons to try and make sure I throw in an extra item or two if I need to. It’s best to go up to the register with a very good idea of how much you are going to be spending anyway, so calculating it up ahead of time is highly recommended.
Maren Brose says
I receive emails from CVS at least weekly, and almost every Thursday. Most Thursdays CVS emails an offer to buy one regular priced item at either 30% or 40% off. I have learned not to use any CVS ECB’s when I buy that item that I want to get at 30% or 40% off. Here is why. When I do use e.g. a $5 ECB and a $3 ECB in that transaction, let’s say when I’m buying a $30 item, the register calculates that $8 in ECB’s off in the total. So that instead of getting $9 off (that is 30% off of $30), I get only $6.60 off (that is 30% off of $22). So today I purchased the $30 item first, and in a separate transaction I used my ECB’s to buy a couple of other items. CVS is generous with their % off offers and ECBs, but you have to learn how to make their system work to your advantage.
Thanks for the tutorial! I had never thought that it was worth it to shop at CVS – obviously, I was wrong! I am confused about one thing. You say to hand over your $3 for $15 (for example) coupon first. But the flyer doesn’t have coupons for those deals, it appears that they are just automatically applied. So can I be sure that it will automatically apply to the original (pre-cvs coupons & pre-mfr coupons) cost?
Roxy Tate says
I am so excited to start trying this! I have had a CVS card for probably 10 years, but I never understood (and have never used) ECBs. I can’t wait to see how much I can save on our monthly grocery bill! We are working hard to pay down debt so any extra money we can squeeze for debt payment is awesome!!
Be sure to sign up for the e-mails. I receive my discount coupons every time they are sent out, usually the coupons are for 20-30% off non-ad items. I keep a running list of items that generally go on-ad infrequently, and use those percentage off coupons then.
Every so often, I receive CVS coupons via USPS mail. They are limited-time, also on non-ad items.
I used to work at a local cvs store, and I just have one correction as far as your post goes. You mentioned to make sure that the cashier scans your extra care card first thing in the transaction. This is not completely necessary. As long as you cvs card is scanned at some point during the transaction, before it is completed, you will still get the advertised deals. It will not show up that way on the screen you are looking at, but once everything is totaled up the register will automatically take off the amount of the discount on whatever item it may be. Thus resulting in the same advertised price. It will look more confusing on your end, but if it ends up that your card is not scanned first thing in te transaction, don’t panic. It will not affect your total. I only say this because I had many customers giving me hell because they didn’t think they were getting the same price when their card was not scanned first. i just want to say, relax. The cashiers of cvs are trained well and know what they are doing. They are there to help you save money, not trick you into spending more.
Amy E says
This post was so helpful! I just had a question about the CVS extra care bucks. Say I bought into the Hersheys spend $20 get $10 ECB and the Nexus spend $20 get $10 ECB. I would have $20 ECBs ($10 and $10). If I were to use those as cash, could I purchase one item worth $20 and use both ECBs? Or does the item have to be equal or lesser value than the ECB coupon, so, two items at $10 or less. Does that make sense? Thanks for your help!
Kim B says
Wow, I just found this blog and it’s awesome. Thank you.
How are you finding out which products are giving the ECB for the week/month? Husband just lost his job this week and I am trying to understand the process. I checked CVS site, signed up, have a card, been using it, but do not see where I can plan for what WILL be giving the ECB for the week/month
Hi, I see it has been a while since anyone has posted anything for CVS, but I thought I’d share our story. Two months ago my husband lost his position at work, resulting in an over 60% pay cut. Until that time we had been comfortable living off of his higher 5-figure salary, but we are just thankful now that he was able to stay on as an hourly employee. We know too many people in our area who have lost their jobs recently and are feeling the pain of this economy. Over the last few weeks I’ve searched and compiled information in hopes of getting the best deals on items we need and making our dollars go a little farther. I have become a “stockpiler”, and am in a shopping club with friends at our local Sam’s Club. This brings me to CVS.
The CVS program is definitely the best for our situation. Since I now have this new hobby of finding the best deals for less or nothing, I am constantly on the lookout for the CVS sales, clip my coupons, and use my ECB card. It always feels great when I can get something for free-whether it is a need for my family or someone else’s. Often times when am able to get multiples of something for nothing at CVS, I share with two pals. If they do not need the items, they go in a box and each month I bring the box to the local food pantry. During the holiday season, I make sure to donate the extras to the school food drive. I include my children on these trips so they can see the benefit of helping others in need. I always tell them that no matter how we feel, there are others who need help; maybe more than we do.
The friends I give items to repay me with friendship, sometimes a plate of cookies, babysitting trades, or small gift cards to Target so I can save on clothing and other household items also. I’m hoping the economy will improve soon, but when it does I will still be a faithful CVS customer!
Charlotte D. says
I’m new to this site and am anxious to start saving!!
I lost my card and had to start all over 🙁
I’ve never looked into CVS because we don’t have any in my town. The other day I was coming home from a trip and noticed one about 30 minutes from my house, across the state border.
My question is – do you think the deals you get are worth a 30 minute drive simply for that? There didn’t seem to be much else in the area that would garner a drive in that direction, so it would just be a CVS drive.
Would you do this if you had to go 30 minutes every time?
Wow…that is the BEST explanation I’ve seen yet. I’m new to couponing and only battened down the hatches on our budget a couple of months ago…but I am definitely going to add this to my toolbelt! Thanks for the GREAT info!!!
Just a quick note re: the CVS ECB and coupons printed on you receipt. The CVS’s that I shop at (Portage and Valpo, IN) have told me that even though there are expiration dates on the coupons, they IGNORE them. Not sure if it is a local thing, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask the clerk next time you go in.
Groovy Mike says
I also just found out that I can use my CVS bucks and the $4 off $20 purchase coupons (20% discount) to buy US postage stamps at CVS. I bought the forever stamps ! 🙂
Thanks for explaining the $3/$15. I wasn’t sure how that would work if I was using other coupons and only spending $15.
Sarah Giddings says
I think I remember reading that you can send expired coupons somewhere and people can still use them on base. Does anyone have any info on that? Thanks so much:)
Leslie Boe says
Today was my first visit to CVS. With your explanation, you gave me the confidence to go. It was great getting instant savings, and also ECB’s. Thank you!
Crystal Paine says
Comments from initial post on my other blog:
Carrie J said…
You explained this very well. The thing that is confusing me is that when I filled out the form for my card they gave me part of the application that has info for the card holder. It says on there that ECBs will be printed out every 3 months on the receipt. It doesn’t say anything about printing out at the first visit. Maybe this is something new or just in our area.
Thanks to your post I feel confident enough to try it out later today. I’ll let you know what happens.
September 28, 2007 6:58 AM
Blogger mamahosk said…
Crystal- thanks for taking the time to wrtie that up- it is helpful!
September 28, 2007 7:28 AM
Blogger akhanson-schulze said…
I am so excited to start shopping at CVS! I signed up for the card online yesterday (didn’t even think to do it at the store) so I will have to wait a while, but this way I can start reviewing the sales flyers and start making my practice lists so that I can practice each transaction! Thanks for the 101 course on how to do it. I cannot wait to be able to show everyone in my area how much I am able to save on items at CVS!!!
September 28, 2007 8:17 AM
Blogger Mary Ann said…
One thing I found out by experience is to be sure that they scan your CVS card before your first item is scanned! Otherwise, it can really mess up your total.:-(
September 28, 2007 8:58 AM
Blogger Lisa said…
Thanks for this post, Crystal. I have a CVS card but I never use it because I hardly go there. I always figured it was more expensive. However, I can see that great deals can be had if I learn the system. I’ll start slowly and work my way to the complicated deals. I’ve had it in my heart to be a better steward of my husband’s hard earned money so thanks for this intro. Thanks too for the inspiration!
September 28, 2007 9:11 AM
Anonymous Melissa said…
Thank you for all of your help on this. I have one additional question pertaining to the following example you used:
Once you had done this deal five times, you would leave the store with five deodorants, $4 extra worth of stuff (purchased with the overage given you from the manufacturer’s coupons you used) and $3.00 ECB to roll over to next week – all for only pay $1.49 out of pocket to start with!
Do you go through the line and make several separate transactions in one trip?
September 28, 2007 10:49 AM
Blogger Kacie said…
WOW! Thank you sooo much for taking the time to do this. I had no idea so many deals could be had at CVS this way.
You’ve convinced me to give it a shot. Thank you for helping me save money and provide for my husband and me!
September 28, 2007 11:14 AM
Blogger Jennifer said…
Thanks so much for explaining in such detail. I went for the first time today and had to spend a good bit out of pocket, but used several coupons and came away with $8 in ECBs. I can’t wait until next week! thanks
September 28, 2007 11:31 AM
Blogger MyHeartIsAlwaysHome said…
I am no expert on CVS. I am still in the learning stage.
The store manager was checking me out on my last visit and she let me know that there is a spot where I can scan my card when I first enter the store. I scanned my card and received a CVS coupon for $5.00 off a purchase of $25.00.
I find the CVS program a little more complicated then other stores, so this was helpful. Thanks for the info!
September 28, 2007 1:33 PM
Blogger Sarah O said…
Wow, Crystal! Thanks for writing that out! I am so impressed with how you save money at CVS, that I am going to start. Now I know a little bit of how to go about it. I think I will have to print your post out and bring it with me the first time. It all seems so complicated!
September 28, 2007 2:28 PM
Blogger Stacey said…
Just wanted to quickly let you know that your link for the CVS storefinder is faulty.
AMAZINGLY helpful article, thank you!
September 28, 2007 2:42 PM
Anonymous deltagal said…
Great article. I’ve been a sporadic CVS Shopper for several years with ECB’s that always go to waste. Not anymore. Now, I know how to use them. But, I don’t understand $3/$15. What do you mean by this?
September 28, 2007 3:57 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
Thank you for your explanation!!
The only thing I don’t understand are the $3/$15 or $4/$20 coupons. What are these?
Thank you again,
September 28, 2007 6:22 PM
Anonymous Jendi said…
I’m at the middle point of your post – getting the hang of it.
I tried to “make money” by using a toothpaste coupon, but the ECB was reduced to what I actually spent.
Would you include the link that you had posted in your other blog for the site that lists the CVS deals by week and month?
September 28, 2007 6:38 PM
Blogger Crystal said…
Carrie J: You receive 2% back of your total quarterly spending in ECBs every three months. A lot of times that’s all the cashiers will talk about since CVS advertises this a lot. Since I normally pay for about 99.5% of my purchase in ECBs as opposed to cash, I don’t spend hardly anything out of pocket. Which in turn means that I don’t make much back on the quarterly 2%.
September 28, 2007 6:57 PM
Blogger Crystal said…
Melissa: Since I have accumulated a nice amount of ECBs which I roll over every week, I rarely do more than one or two transactions. However, if you were just first starting out and wanted to do the Addidas deal and not spend any more money out of pocket than you have to, splitting it up into 5 different transactions would be the way to go. Of course, you’d probably not want to stand there and do all five at once – unless there was no one behind you in line that whole time. Otherwise, I’d do them maybe 1-2 at a time.
September 28, 2007 6:59 PM
Blogger Crystal said…
Myheartisalwayshome: Yes, many stores have ECB machines/scanners that you can scan your card and print out coupons from or scan the price of items from. Our store that we normally shop at does, so I always scan my card first thing when we walk in. That way, if a coupon prints that I might be able to use on that transaction, I’ll have it to use!
September 28, 2007 7:03 PM
Blogger Crystal said…
DeltaGal: A $3/$15 is a coupon which is just that – you get $3 off of a $15 or more purchase. I look at these as free money, meaning, if I’m going to already be spending $15.50 and after coupons and ECBs be paying basically $0.00 out of pocket in order to generate the same amount of ECBs that I spent, if I stack on a $3/$15 coupon, I can get $3 more worth of groceries without paying anything extra. So, I’ll use this extra “money” to buy something that is around $3 and generates more ECB, or I’ll use it to pay for something we need – say toilet paper or milk, etc. That way, it is lowering my normal grocery bill, without costing me any more. Does that make more sense?
September 28, 2007 7:07 PM
Blogger Crystal said…
Jendi: I need to make it more clear – when I say “make money” I don’t mean you actually walk out of the store with cash – I mean that you have overage to use towards other groceries. For instance, if you buy the Colgate toothpaste and you get $2.49 back per toothpaste and you use a $1/1 coupon, you would “make money” by using the overage from the coupon to be able to add something else in that cost around $1 to your transaction. Say you had 4 $1 off coupons which provided overage, you could also afford to buy a gallon of milk (at least with prices in most areas of the country these days) without spending any extra.
Was that more clear?
You are absolutely right that they will just adjust the price down, not pay you cash back. Sorry if I was unclear on that! That’s why I’m asking for input here so that I can make these directions as clear as possible for newbies. I forget how complicated the system is because I’ve been doing it for a year now! It has been worth every bit of effort, though, so please don’t let the fact that it is a little complicated scare anyone away!
September 28, 2007 7:12 PM
Blogger Trixie said…
The CVS system IS complicated, at first I thought it was just a rip off. But, after several months of practice, I’m really getting the hang of it and come away getting tons of stuff for pennies!! I’m actually going there this morning and will post about what all I picked up today.
September 29, 2007 6:59 AM
Blogger Michele said…
Thank you so much for posting this! I am a CVS shopper and at times have been confused about how the ECB’s work! This is a very big help!
September 29, 2007 7:25 AM
Anonymous Robin@heartofwisdom.com said…
Thanks for the CVS hints
September 30, 2007 10:28 AM
Blogger Catherine said…
Thanks Crystal, this was really helpful. A new CVS just opened up down the street from our neighborhood, so I went yesterday and did some of the deals you suggested.
For those of us who are new to the CVS thing, would you mind posting for a few weeks the things you find there? It would be really helpful to sort of be able to “see” how you do it! Maybe for Walgreens too, although I think Walgreens is a little easier to figure out!
September 30, 2007 11:09 AM
Anonymous Melissa S. said…
I’m unclear on whether you can use multiple ECBs in a single transaction. For example, if my total was $15, could i pay for it with 3 separate $5 ECBs?
September 30, 2007 11:57 AM
Blogger Martha A. said…
Would you be able to explain how you do stuff at Walgreens as well?
September 30, 2007 1:19 PM
Blogger LH said…
thanks; ihad no idea and i always declined the CVS card in that past 🙂
September 30, 2007 3:42 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
How are the items listed on the weekly ad (I usually view them online) that are free after purchase? I scanned this week’s ad and didn’t seem to find anything (except some gym bag that, I think, required a different purchase first).
If you were just starting off this week, what would you buy?
Also, is that different from “free extras” which I somehow found perusing their site (and I believe are two Hersey products)?
How would the “Buy $20 worth of P & G products and get $5 Extra Care Bucks” be worthwhile, or don’t you usually get involved in deals like that?
Thank you so much for your time. We are all learning so much…
October 01, 2007 12:04 PM
Blogger Kacie said…
Hi! Just wanted to let you know I tried CVS for the first time and came out really well. I spent $12 out of pocket (after the $4 off $20 ECB you get when you enter your e-mail online), coupons and a handy rebate. I generated $12 ECB, so I’m off to a good start!
Here’s my blog post about it if you’re interested: http://sensetosave.blogspot.com/2007/10/getting-free-things-at-cvs.html
October 02, 2007 12:46 PM
Blogger Crystal said…
Way to go, Kacie!
Melissa – yes, you can use more than one ECB per transaction. Some stores used to limit you, but I’ve heard they’ve just changed it nationwide so you can use as many ECBs per transaction as you’d like to. I almost always use more than one.
A detailed Walgreens 101 will be posted soon. Along with something on Riteaid and maybe some other stores as well. I’m recruiting some outside help for stores we don’t have in this area. If anyone wants to volunteer to help out in writing up info for a store which has great deals in their region, email me.
October 02, 2007 1:01 PM
Blogger Crystal said…
Christy, I answered one of your questions in the post above this post. Thanks for asking!
There aren’t any free after ECB only deals this week, but there is the Crest Pro-health monthly deal which is free after ECB and also the other buy $20 get $10 deal I mentioned which is free after coupons and ECBs.
Unless I had a whole lot of ECBs to burn, some great coupons, and I needed the items, I usually do not mess with buy $20, get $5 deals. Now, if they are buy $15 get $5 or buy $20, get $10, I can often work them to be free or more than free, especially when stacked with a $3/$15 or $4/$20.
October 02, 2007 1:37 PM
Blogger Jennifer said…
A question – I too was confused by the way they tell you the ECBs will be printed every 3 months. I’m positive that some deals that should have generated ECBs must not have (like the cereal deal you posted back in early August). I was waiting for the money to come at the end of the quarter and couldn’t figure out why sometimes I would get an ECB coupon right away and sometimes not. I’m sure I got the advertised deal, but no immediate ECB. Am I missing something, or has anyone else encountered this?
Thanks for your help as always.
October 04, 2007 12:52 PM
Blogger Crystal said…
What you need to do is to bring the ad up with you to the register. If it is advertised that if you buy x, you’ll get y in ECBs, then you should get ECBs printed immediately on your receipt. If you do not get them, do not walk out of the store until you get it resolved. Show them the ad and tell them you were supposed to get the ECBs and did not. If they won’t give the $$ on a gift card to you, or give you cash back, kindly ask to return the item stating that you don’t want it because you only bought it because of the deal.
If it’s advertised as a weekly or monthly deal, you should get the ECBs immediately. The only ECBs you get back later than immediately are the 2% back you get for your quarterly spending. Since I only spend a little bit each quarter, these usually amount to no more than $1-$2. 🙂
I have rarely ever, ever not had an ECB print that was advertised. It’s almost always that I forgot to have my card scanned or read the ad wrong and bought the wrong thing. What did you buy that you were supposed to get ECBs for and didn’t? Did they scan your card at the beginning? Did you make sure you had bought a total of $10 or $20 (if it was a deal where you had to buy a certain amount?) before coupons?
Don’t give up on CVS, I promise that sticking with it will be worth it. However, never walk away from the register without the ECBs you were supposed to get. Calling customer service later is so much harder – at least for me!
I’d keep it very simple – like just buying one or two items at the beginning.
October 04, 2007 2:55 PM
Blogger Drama Mama said…
Thank you for teaching me how to do this! I LOVE IT! I feel so empowered!$!!$$$!
October 08, 2007 6:30 PM
Blogger Jessica said…
I have a question. Can I use 2 cvs coupons on one order? I have the $4/$20 in my e-mail box, but I also have a $5/$25 that just printed out last time…so can I go in and buy 25 worth of stuff, give them the $5 off coupon, and then give them the $4/20 one, or will that not work?
Thanks so much for all your help!
October 11, 2007 10:59 AM
Anonymous Angie M said…
Thank you very much for the explanation on how it all works, I have 4 children and this will really help to trim down our budget each month, Thank you so much for taking the time to post 🙂
December 06, 2007 11:50 AM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
I have been a pharmacy technician at CVS for about 10 years. Let me say that CVS would LOVE the free promoting that you are doing for them. 🙂 And you did a good job of explaining how it all works.
Let me just say that if you need to get prescriptions, also present your extra care card because for every 2 prescriptions you get a $1 back…it will print out with your quarterly extra bucks. I am not supposed to say this, but if you don’t have insurance, I would check around for the cost of the drug you need. If you have insurance and simply pay a co-pay for your prescriptions, it is definitely worth getting your prescriptiona filled at CVS because you get money back for it.
Hope this helps!
December 13, 2007 8:38 AM
Anonymous Debbie M said…
Another CVS hint. If a sale is worded that you get two of something for a price, you can’t get one of that thing at half price. You have to buy both to get the deal.
The opposite is true at the grocery stores where I shop so make sure to check any place like this where you don’t want to buy the full amount, but you would want fewer items if they were the same price.
December 18, 2007 8:49 AM
Blogger 3toddlermama said…
I am new to your site and to CVS ECBs! This morning I sat down with the CVS sale flyer to look for deals. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese 4-pack is on sale 2/$6 with $2ECBs in return. I know that 1 box is $.50 at our Wal-Mart. (And I think the 4-pack at Wal-Mart is even cheaper.)The CVS deal is only equivalent to Wal-Mart’s price if you use the ECBs. In other words – the original price is $2 more than Wal-Mart’s every day price. The same scenario for Cottonelle toilet paper – so, my question is this: do you find that CVS prices are marked up with the ECBs making the prices comparable to other stores? If this is the case, I can’t see that CVS to our shopping routine will make our lives any more frugal (extra gas as the CVS is not located in our area, more time spent searching sale flyers etc.)
It is entirely possible that I found the only two items in the CVS sale flyer that are more expensive than at other stores – so I wanted to ask for your more educated opinion!!
January 02, 2008 7:15 AM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
I have also noticed the scenario that 3toddlermama described. It seems as if I don’t have a huge incentive to shop CVS if I can get those items at almost the same price at Wal-Mart. And I don’t have to go to 2 stores to make all of the purchases. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, Crystal! I am trying to make this ‘CVS thing’ work for our family, but it is taking up a lot of my time trying to fix my learning curve!
Thanks for writing the tutorial. It has been a great help in getting me started.
January 03, 2008 11:08 AM
Blogger Crystal Paine said…
Lauren, 3ToddlerMama, and others who might have the same questions:
I only recommend you buy “free” stuff at CVS. I pretty much never pay anything but maybe 30 cents or less when I go in there. Once you get $8-$10 ECBs, you can roll these every 1-3 weeks and never pay much of anything out of pocket.
Every week, I post the best deals for CVS – usually which are free, almost free, or more than free. I usually do this on Saturday night for the coming week’s sales. Check the “Do you like bargains and good deals?” link at the very top of the sidebar, or click on the “Current Deals” link on the sidebar. This will take you to my list of the weekly specials and coupons.
I post these lists of deals so that you can quickly scan them and decide whether it is worth it to make a trip to CVS or not that week.
If they have lots of deals and specials and free stuff, I might make two trips there in a week, if it works out in my schedule (we live just minutes from two CVS stores and they are right on the way to many other places we go so I’ll work it into another trip). If there is not any good deals or anything I’m interested in buying, I’ll just skip it that week. Your ECBs don’t expire for 3-4 weeks usually so you can just wait a week or two until they are running specials worth hitting.
January 03, 2008 11:18 AM
Blogger The Budgeting Diva said…
Wow! This really helped me understand how to use the ECB’s! Thanks!
January 05, 2008 4:47 PM
Blogger Cristan said…
Thanks so much! I had no idea that you actually generate spending $ with the card. I accessed my account and I have over $36 in EBC!! HOLY SMOKES! THANKS!!!
January 08, 2008 6:32 PM
Blogger Beth said…
Thank you for this!! but I have one question…that I think might be answered but I couldn’t find it. If I spend say 30 dollars can I use the 5/$25 and then the 4/$20???
January 12, 2008 5:58 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
I’m not sure where you’re shopping, but the CVS ads near me have fine print on them that state ECBs are printed two days after qualifying purchases. That might be why some people wouldn’t get them immediately. That’s fine for me because it’s rare I would go there more than once or twice a week anyway, and I can print my ECB’s online after they post to my account.
January 14, 2008 1:55 PM
Blogger mommaof4 said…
I have read many posts on different sites as to the coupons that are accepted at CVS. I am learning that the individual stores can vary as to how many they will accept together of the 3/15, 4/20, etc. You need to learn how your store will work. I also have 4 kids and never used to bother with CVS because everything was much cheaper at Walmart and not worth it to make another stop but once you learn the system and use the Extra Bucks in combination with the Total Order coupons, I usually hardly pay out anything. It is now fun for me to see how much free stuff I can get each week. Take the time to figure it out and it does “pay off”!
January 15, 2008 8:57 AM
Anonymous sj said…
I was wondering what the “insert” coupons are that you are talking about?
January 20, 2008 12:10 PM
Blogger KaseyQ said…
I have a question about the 3/15, 4/20, etc. coupons- can I print more than one in a month? For example, today I used the 4/20 coupon- if I want to use another coupon like this next week, can I?
P.S. I am LOVING this CVSing! 🙂
January 23, 2008 3:41 PM
Anonymous Debbie M said…
Here’s another hint: Items on clearance do not count toward any other deal.
The first time I “learned” this, I tried to use something on clearance in the buy-one-get-one half-off sale. It didn’t count because “it’s already on clearance for less than half off.”
Today, one flavor of the Soy Joy bars, which are buy-four-get-four-ECB’s, was on clearance. I got one of each flavor, and only three of them counted. Then I tried to return the clearance flavor and buy another flavor instead, but they don’t take returns on clearance items. In this case, the clearance price was only 3 cents less than the regular sale price.
And so that is why I conclude that clearance items don’t count toward other deals.
Oh, I am so tired of being a “sucker” in that store.
January 25, 2008 11:23 AM
Blogger Telesa’s Tales said…
I went to check out at CVS the other day with all these coupons in my hand thinking i was getting lucky. I had $25 worth. I had $3 off $15, a $2 off/ $10, a cvs $5 off/$25, a $5 ECB, and 3 manufacuters coupons. I was very dissapointed in the fact that she started denying my coupons. She would not let me us the ($3 off/15.00) coupons along with my CVS coupons. She only let me use my ECB along with the manufactures coupons…… i just need to know what all I CAN use in one transaction. i was kinda put out.
January 30, 2008 10:28 AM
Blogger Christine said…
The CVS in our area put in a scanner near the entrance not too long ago. It prints out coupons you can use for that trip (or any other time until it’s expiration date.) Sometimes they are useful and sometimes not. It’s worth the couple of minutes either way.
Around December of ’07 they had a promotion where you could use your CVS card to get a $25 (CVS) gift card for each new or transferred prescription filled at their pharmacy (up to four, which would be $100 of CVS “cash”) I was able to fill three Rxs so got $75.
I’m sorry I didn’t find this site sooner as I would have posted this then. It’s something to look for in the future though.
January 31, 2008 1:48 PM
Anonymous Ms. Moosie said…
I am wondering about the CVS $2 off a $10 purchase, $3 off a $15 purchase, etc, coupons. If I have used one, can I print another of the same one with the same code on it and use it again on another shopping trip, as long as the expiration date has not yet been reached?
January 31, 2008 3:36 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
Just another note… though CVS tends to cost more than Wal-Mart, or equivelent after ECB, I will often times purchase that item, like the Mac N cheese mentioned before as a filler if I am able to use a CVS printable (like the $4/$20 or $5/$30) Then I am actually making money. So like if the mac n cheese is 3.99, this will bring my total up. I use the $5/30, which gives a $1 credit, then generates 2 ECB.. so now I have been “paid” $3 for the mac n cheese.
Also, I recently discovered that our Albertson’s will accept competitors coupons…including EBC’s!!! I often use them to buy produce and meats.
February 02, 2008 9:14 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
Could you please explain how items are taxed at CVS when using ECBs and coupons? Last night I did the following deal:
4 Colgate toothpastes with 4 $1.50/1 coupons – $4 after coupons and generating 5 ECBs
1 Garnier with $1/1 coupon – $2.99 after coupon and generating $3.99 ECBs
3 Boost Smoothies at $1 each – $3 and generating $3 ECBs
I thought my total should have been $9.99. Instead it was $10.29 (30 cent tax) and I paid with $10 ECBs and .29 cash which is fine. I am just trying to figure out which items I was taxed on because that tax was only on $4 worth of purchases. Was I only taxed on toothpaste? Why not on Garnier conditioner? Should I give ECBs before any coupons to avoid being charged tax altogether?
February 06, 2008 10:02 AM
Blogger KaseyQ said…
I just wanted to say THANK YOU to Crystal for this awesome site and this incredibly valuable information. This site is a service she doesn’t have to offer, and the fact that she does anyway is a huge tribute to her character and generosity.
I also wanted to point out something about the recent deals we’ve all been able to get. I have been especially concerned lately about emergency preparedness, and I have been trying to get together some 72-hour kits for my family. Much of these deal items have been ideal for these kits! I included some of the energy-booster drinks in there (goodness knows one of those might be handy in an emergency situation!) as well as the Soy Joy bars, the children’s aspirin, and some canned soups I’ve been able to get in my grocery deals shopping.
What a blessing it is to finally have some peace in my heart knowing my family is prepared in case of emergency! Prior to finding this group, I felt unable to purchase these ‘extras’, as I was more focused on just being able to afford the daily necessities. Now I can get these items for free, or next to free, and they are serving a purpose. THANK YOU!
February 09, 2008 7:22 PM
Blogger All About Us said…
I tried the CVS thing for the first time this week. The first couple of tries were complete disasters, but the third time was the charm. I am greatly looking forward to using the ECB’s I earned. Thank you so much for explaining how it works.
February 13, 2008 10:15 AM
Anonymous JoeTaxpayer said…
Indeed, a great store to follow these deals. I’ve walked in, use ECB and coupons, and walked out with 4 tubes of toothpaste, a free shampoo, and more ECBs than I started with.
A couple months back, our brand of TP was on sale (cottenelle) and between the $10 off $50 I had, the multiple coupons, and the ECB kickback, I walked out saving about $80 compared to retail price. Fortunately, I had space on a couple upper shelves in a closet for all this. Pretty funny to see me grab the flier every Sunday morning to look for the new deals.
February 16, 2008 11:42 AM
Blogger Kathryn & Kevin said…
Thanks for the post. I’ve shopped at CVS sporadically, but never use my coupons in time and they alweays seem to be save $3 on ____, which I don’t use. I think I’ll try studying the ads more carefully and plan accordingly. I need to reapply for a CVS EC Card. I tried to update my information online, but they wouldn’t recognize my card number. I’ve moved several times over the years since getting the card and have married and changed my name, so I think I need to start fresh with a new card. Also my key tag is falling apart anyways from use and just time in my purse.
February 18, 2008 7:23 AM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
I understand the process but when I tried to buy two items that offered ECB I only got credit for one item. Any ideas? I missed out on 5 ECB on cold medicine. I matched the item exactly to what was in the flyer. I don’t what to be dissapointed. Thanks!
February 18, 2008 6:41 PM
Blogger Faerie Mom said…
Quick question about ECBs. I just started this and have not gone on my first shopping expedition yet. My mom has extra ECBs that she will not use before they expire. Can she give these to me to use? Or can they only be used by the person with the same account? Not sure how to phrase it… are they transferable?
February 19, 2008 8:46 PM
Blogger Southern Doll said…
Wow, this is great! Thanks for posting.
I do have one question…..there is an ad in my local store where if you spend $30 on certain products, you get $15 ECBs. These are all products that I use/need, so I thought I would start this way. My question is, if my total is less than $30 after coupons (I have $4 CVS coupon and a $.50 manufacturer) do I still get the ECBs??
February 21, 2008 8:17 AM
Blogger Jon and Emily Wylie said…
Thanks for this great info. My question is… to get started do you have to be willing to spend a lot in order to stack up some ECB’s? Or could I buy one item that was free after ECBs and then go right back up to the register, use my ECBs to buy another of the same item (basically B1G1) and then leave with the ECBs from the second purchase? Would that be a good way to start?
March 16, 2008 12:17 PM
Blogger The Not So Simple Things In Life said…
Thanks for the much needed info! I stumbled on over to your post from faerie castle as she posted her deals and I just had to figure out how in the heck she did it so I nicely asked her to explain to all of us how she does it and she put your blog on her post for us to get more info!
March 18, 2008 3:46 AM
Anonymous KJ said…
This information is great! I have to admit that I never paid much attention to the ECBs before. I studied the weekly ad on-line today, and made my first trip this evening. Too late in the week to take the most advantage of the “like free” products, but for my first trip I was pleased.
Came out with $18 worth of groceries (sale price $10), $8 worth of dish liquid (sale price $5), Johnson’s buddies soap, Clear Care, and Tylenol (and the dish liquid and Tylenol were bonus sizes). Used a CVS $4/$20 coupon, $1 Tylenol coupon, and $1 Johnson’s buddies coupon. Spent $23.52 OOP, have the Clear Care rebate to send in for $7.99, and have 6 ECBs, plus 3 other register coupons! I know, it’s not tons of product for pennies – but it’s a good start for me!
March 26, 2008 5:13 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
Can you explain to me what the * next to the price in the ad means. I check the ads but there is never a mention of what it stands for. For example this weeks ad March 30-April 5th had colgate toothpaste/toothbrush on its cover BOGO free*.
April 05, 2008 12:50 PM
OpenID dancinangel1610 said…
I’ve tried to used the various coupons at once and the cashier did not take them all. They took the $3 off $15 but wouldn’t take both of my ECBs (one was $3, the other was $4). I don’t see why they could only take one ECB for the transaction. What’s the difference if I used the second ECB then or if I used it in my next shopping trip? I could understand if it brought my total to negative, but this was not the case. Thanks for the help!
April 24, 2008 11:40 PM
Blogger rachel said…
hi there…this all sounds good but (correct me if i’m wrong), it also sounds like you have to buy whatever happens to be on sale (duh, right?) so…would you say this isn’t all that practical for a single person or couple, given that i haven’t a clue what i’d do with 5 deoderants? i mean, i’d probably lose them in the year and a half it took to use them up. no?
April 26, 2008 11:03 PM
Blogger ashjamesgav said…
How many coupons can you use in one transaction?
April 28, 2008 6:02 PM
Blogger Christy said…
i have a question i scanned the comments first to see if i saw it but i did not and if i missed it please forgive me but i just finally signed up on cvs’s online alerts or what ever it is lol and i got my 4/20 coupon to print and i was wondering can i use it again or is it just a one time coupon?? thanks
May 01, 2008 5:55 AM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
Once I had mentioned to the cashier that I was kicking myself for letting my ECB expire and she told me that I should still bring them, they will accept them for a few weeks after the expiration date.
I enjoy going to Rite-Aid and Walgreens for the freebies but I gave up on CVS because I waste so much time going in and them being sold out of what they advertise. Doesn’t matter what day of the week it is either. After reading this I will try again but maybe only on Sunday morning.
May 14, 2008 9:18 AM
Blogger Denise F said…
Thank you so much for sharing this. I have recently started “CVS’ing” and this info is very helpful! 🙂
May 15, 2008 10:28 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
I just wanted to comment on having your CVS card scanned at the begining of the transaction. I worked at CVS for nearly a year and all the info in here is accurate, however no matter when in your transaction the card is scanned, all the sales are going to be counted. If the card is scanned in the begining before anything else, then all of the items will ring up at their sale prices on your receipt. If the card is scanned at the end of the transaction then at the bottom of the receipt you are going to see the amounts that were taken off of each item. Same with if you have the card scanned in the middle of the transaction. However no matter when your card is scanned in the transaction as long as it has not been totaled out then you will get all of your sale prices.
May 18, 2008 8:06 PM