How to Save Money at CVS

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Saving Money at CVS

Saving Money at CVS

We’ve been talking a lot about couponing lately (e.g. where to find coupons, couponing secrets and coupon lingo), but it’s time to put our money where our mouth is. This is the first article, in a series of five, that will outline the best ways to shop at five of the nation’s leading retailers to maximize your savings. Each store has their own coupon policy, rewards program and sales cycles, so it’s important to learn the ins and outs of your preferred retailer. Up first: CVS. Stay tuned for Kroger, Walgreens, Safeway and Target.

CVS is one of the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chains with over 7,000 stores. Here’s what you need to know about CVS before shopping:

Sales Cycle: CVS sales cycles run Sunday through Saturday, meaning that the advertised sales prices change on Sunday. In addition to weekly deals, CVS also offers monthly deals, which are advertised in the monthly ECB booklet. What’s an ECB, you ask? ECBs, or “ExtraCare Bucks,” are CVS currency that you earn for cash off future purchases. You can find out how many ECBs you earned with each purchase by checking out your receipt.

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Rewards Program: If you’re going to shop at CVS, you’ll want to sign up for the CVS ExtraCare Rewards Card so that you can receive ExtraCare Bucks. Every non-prescription purchase you make earns you 2 percent in ECBs, credited to your ExtraCare account. At the end of each quarter, you’ll get the value in your account back as ExtraCare Bucks to use on a future purchase! And, as if that weren’t enough, you’ll also earn $1 for every two prescriptions filled using your ExtraCare card. Many other items sold at CVS will also produce an ECB when purchased, which you can find in your local ad circular.

The best way to use ExtraCare Bucks is to combine them with a great sale price, a CVS coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon (also known as coupon “stacking”). You’ll get an even better deal if you can “roll” your ECBs from one transaction into the next, eventually resulting in zero out-of-pocket expense. Here’s how it works:


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First, scan your local ad circular to see which products will generate ECBs. For example, let’s say Crest toothpaste is on sale; purchase one tube for $2 and get $2 back in ECBs. Use those ECBs to pay for the next transaction – a second tube, which will generate $2 more in ECBs. And so on. To maximize savings, use the ECBs you earned from a transaction to buy something in a subsequent transaction. If you can pay for an item with ECBs, then get more ECB from the transaction, even better! Just remember, you must use your individual ECBs at one time. So, if you use a $2 in ExtraCare Bucks on a $1 purchase, you forfeit the extra $1.

Coupon Policy: Now that we’re familiar with ECBs, let’s look at the CVS coupon policy:

  • CVS accepts the following types of coupons: CVS store coupons, manufacturer coupons, Internet printable coupons and ECBs. CVS does not accept competitor coupons and will not match competitor prices.
  • CVS allows you to stack one manufacturer coupon and one store coupon per item. You can then use ECBs in addition to these coupons. If there is a limit in the ad for the Extra Bucks items, this limit is per CVS ExtraCare Card, not per transaction.
  • For promotional “Buy One, Get One Free” (BOGO) sales at the store (not initiated by a coupon), you may use two manufacturer’s coupons toward the purchase or another manufacturer’s BOGO coupon, resulting in two free items.
  • CVS does not offer overage, meaning it will never pay you to take the item out of the store. If the coupon value exceeds the purchase price of an item, the cashier will adjust the price of the item to match the coupon amount.
  • CVS does not double or triple coupons.
  • All Internet printable coupons must have a bar code.
  • CVS does offer rain checks, or a piece of paper that you’ll get when the store is out of an item that is on sale. Once the item is back in stock, you can use your rain check to purchase it for the sale price, including any ECB offers. At CVS, rain checks do not expire.

Extras: When you first walk into a CVS, you may notice a bright yellow kiosk, called the CVS Coupon Center. When you scan your ExtraCare card at one of these coupon centers, a CVS store coupon based on your shopping habits will be presented to you. These coupons are randomly generated, so not every shopper at every store will get the same offers.


Final Tip: The order in which you present your coupons is incredibly important at CVS. To maximize your savings, make sure to present coupons in this order:

  1. Dollar off store coupons (e.g. $3 off a purchase of $15);
  2. CVS coupons;
  3. Manufacturer’s coupons;
  4. ExtraCare Bucks.

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Use the CVS Store Locator to find out where the nearest CVS store is in your area and start shopping saving!

For more money-saving tips and tools, including a credit improvement program that will show you how to achieve your full credit score potential so you can save money on life’s largest purchases, visit

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  • Karen Morales

    Another thing worth mentioning here is that one of the CVS stores near us accepts expired coupons but the others don’t. I guess it depends on the store.

    • Jenny

      store managers do have some discretion.

  • Karen Shepard

    You can purchase a “green card” and put it on a reusable bag. For every four times scanded you get $1CVS bucks

    • Clever Girl

      Thanx for the green card tip. This one will be very valuable to me. Sorry the store clerk never explained it.

  • Sara

    I joined their beauty club which gives me a $5 coupon after $50 in beauty items purchases; the clerk didn’t explain it to me, but the coupon prints from the kiosk not on the register tape like I’m used to & I only had 2 weeks to print the coupon once I hit $50 (found this out in a call to CVS 800#). In addition I get 2% of my purchases back each quarter in the form of a ECB coupon – though for some reason it didn’t print this quarter and will have to call CVS 800# again.

    • Your CVS clerk

      The $5 beauty ECBs will print on the end of your receipt sometimes too, not just from the kiosk. If you use a green bag tag it is also nice if you actually have a reusable bag or do not take a bag because that is the point of them , to promote saving the environment, some clerks can refuse to scan them if you plan on taking plastic bags. When couponing it is best to know the details on the coupon before you go to the register so that you know you have the correct item(s). As a CVS clerk myself it is also nice if you inform us that there will be multiple transactions before you start so we can call for back up so that the other people waiting in line do not have to wait so long. Also, if you are wanting to use your phone # to look up your CVS card please tell the clerk first and start with your area code. Do not just walk up and spout it off, we do have to go to a separate page on the registers. Thanks

  • Hedda Lettuce

    Good pointers from the fellow CVS employee above – Might I add, the pharmacy registers are NOT the place to preform any couponing or purchase anything aside from 1 or 2 items max in addition to your prescriptions. Please respect the medical professionals in the pharmacy! BTW, ask CVS employees how often they shop there aside from the occasion OTJ snack purchase. The answers will amaze you.

  • Melissa

    I’m curious about the CVS coupons. – Are you talking about the coupons that come from the coupon kiosk? Because I noticed that the “in store coupons” that you can print from the CVS website say “Manufacturer’s Coupon” on them leading me to believe these are not the coupons that you refer to at CVS coupons….correct?