I’ve had few people ask me to explain the CVS process more in depth. I am by no means an expert on “CVSing,” and there are some other really great websites with a LOT of information for saving money at CVS (Simply CVS and Southern Savers are two that I refer to frequently), but I am more than happy to share tips for what works for me.
Like many stores, CVS uses a card system for its specials. The card is free to sign up for, but you must use the card in order to receive the sale prices and discounts. What makes CVS unique, however, is their system of Extra Care Bucks (ECBs), which are coupons that print out at the bottom of your receipt when you purchase a qualifying item. You can then use those coupons on your very next purchase. Sometimes these ECB’s are relatively small, perhaps a $1 ECB when you purchase $5 of a qualifying item. However, many times (almost every week), CVS offers at least one item where the ECB matches the purchase price (making it FREE!)
The trick to saving a ton of money at CVS is to use these ECBs and store specials to your advantage by also using coupons, both CVS store coupons and manufacturers coupons for the items that are on sale.
Let me see if I can make it clearer by using an example. Let’s say this week CVS is selling Blink Eye Drops for $6.00 with $6.00 ECB. You have a $3 off coupon for Blink Eye Drops. You buy the eye drops using your $3 off coupon and pay $3.00. You then receive a $6 ECB. You just made $3 profit!
So now you have $6 ECBs. What do you do with them?
Well, you can then “roll” your ECBs into another ECB deal and potentially “make” even more money. Let’s say in addition to the eye drop deal, CVS is offering $10 ECBs when you purchase $20 of Schick shaving products. You buy 2 razors at $8 each and a can of shaving cream for $4, totaling $20. You use 2-$5 off coupons for the razors and a $2 off coupon for the shaving cream, bringing your total down to $8. (The $20 requirement for the ECB is before coupons.) You pay using your $6 ECB from your first transaction, and you end up paying $2 out of pocket. So now you have paid a total of $5 out of pocket for $26 worth of stuff, and you also have $10 ECBs left over! Isn’t this fun?
You can then roll your $10 ECBs again, or you can use them to buy something else you need that isn’t on sale, or you can decide to save them for next week’s deals.
So now that I have (hopefully) explained the basics, let me see if I can also hopefully address any other issues:
Does CVS put limits on how many ECBs you can earn?
Yes. Most often the limit is 1 ECB reward for any particular item, especially when the item is free after ECBs.
Can you have more than one CVS Extra Care Card?
Technically no, but I have read online that you are allowed one card per member of your household. As the main shopper in my family, I hang on to (and use) everyone’s cards. To be on the safe side, and to not irritate the managers or clear out any one store of all their deals, I label my cards for each person in my household and use them at different stores.
Don’t the cashiers or other customers get mad if you have multiple transactions?
I have found the cashiers and managers at every CVS store I shop at to be exceedingly friendly and accommodating. My rule of thumb is to always be polite, to try to be prepared, to warn them ahead of time that I have a lot of coupons, and to be willing to go to the back of the line (if there is one) in order to complete multiple transactions. More often then not, the cashiers will ask questions about I figure all this stuff out--they want to save more money too!
How can this possibly be a good thing for CVS?
Stores don’t lose any money by accepting manufacturer’s coupons, since those are paid for by the manufacturer. Furthermore, the ECB deals are often sponsored by the manufacturer in order to promote a particular or new product. CVS wants your business, and manufacturers want you to try (and like and want to use regularly) their products.
What if you don’t need eye drops or razors (or whatever the special of the week is)?
One of the important keys to successful couponing is building a stockpile of goods and groceries that you can then “shop” from. Instead of buying what you need when you need it, you buy the things you may need eventually while they are on sale (or better yet, when they are FREE!), and then you hopefully never have to pay full price again. Hence, while you may not need eye drops or razors this week, you may need them next week. Wouldn’t it be better to get them for pennies now than pay full price then? If it is something you KNOW you will never use, the choice is up to you. You can skip it, or, if the item is a moneymaker (you will receive more ECBs then the price you will pay for the item), then you can donate the item to charity. There are lots of food banks and shelters that would be happy to accept those kind of items!