CVS 101: A Beginners Guide

Sit back and take a moment to prepare to embark on a wonderful savings journey all courtesy of your local CVS/pharmacy. The actual art of saving money at CVS can be hard to understand at first but no doubt you will catch on and before you know it you will have been bitten by the CVS bug and will be addicted to shopping at CVS on a more than regular basis.

First things first you will need an ExtraCare Card; this is CVS’s loyalty card program. You can get an ExtraCare Card at any CVS store or online and have it mailed to you. If you want to start right away it is best that you get your card in the store rather than requesting one online. You will want to use this card every time you make a purchase at CVS including filling a prescription.

Why is having an ExtraCare Card so important?

Each time you scan your ExtraCare Card at CVS or enter it online when you make a purchase you receive 2% back, excluding prescription purchases. For every two prescriptions you have filled in-store or online you receive 1 Extra Buck or ECB. These ExtraCare rewards are redeemable quarterly, every 3months. Additionally many sale items at CVS indicate additional savings with ExtraCare Card, if you do not present your ExtraCare card you will have to pay full price. You can also earn Extra Buck rewards by purchasing featured items in the CVS weekly circulars and monthly booklet.

What is an ECB?

ECB is short for ExtraCare Buck, also known as Extra Bucks. ECBs are good as cash at CVS, think of it like CVS currency but with an expiration date. ECBs expire 4 weeks from the date earned/received.

What can I use ECBs on?

You can use your ECBs on anything in the store with the exception of alcohol, tobacco, lottery, gift cards, money orders, postage stamps, pre-paid cards, prescriptions, and special order Home Health Care items, including footwear.

How do I earn ECBs?

ECBs are earned by purchasing featured products in the weekly sales circular, monthly ExtraCare booklet, quarterly rewards, and by participating in the CVS Advisor Panel. In order to receive rewards for participating in the CVS Advisory panel you must register as a member and be invited and qualify for participation to earn ECBs. More information on the CVS Advisory Panel and it’s opportunities can be found here.

How do I receive CVS coupons?

CVS coupons can be found in booklets and pamphlets often near the pharmacy. You can also scan your card if your store has a price check machine with a printer. If a scanner is not available at your store coupons will print on the end of your receipt. Also go to the CVS website and update your ExtraCard account be sure to include an email address and check yes I want to receive valuable coupons and offers by mail. CVS emails out printable or online coupons almost every Thursday.

Now that you have a little bit of background on the CVS ExtraCare rewards program we can get down to how to utilize it to save money.

Saving money at CVS is easy and addicting once you get the hang of it. It’s an easy concept in that you combine CVS coupons with manufacture coupons for increased savings. You can also save even more money by using ECBs towards your total so that you pay as little out of pocket (OOP) as possible.

For example let’s say Colgate Total Advanced Whitening Toothpaste 4oz. is listed in the weekly circular as $2.99 with $2.99 Extra Bucks Rewards. The ad will most likely note: It’s like getting it for…FREE. Below this in small print you will see Extra Bucks offer limit of 5 per household. This limit denotes that you are limited to a total 5 Extra Buck rewards on this particular product. Since this is listed in the weekly ad that means limit 5 that sales week, if it were in the monthly booklet that would mean the entire month. ECB offers are limited to so many per household or cardholder; limits vary for each individual featured reward. On a quick side note you must pay close attention as CVS has a habit of sticking a monthly featured ECB item in the weekly sales circular and many CVS shoppers will think the limit has been lifted or reset, however this is not true. Moving on with our example trip, let’s say we purchase 2 tubes of toothpaste and we have 2 manufacturer coupons on these items. See below for example.

2 Colgate Total Advanced Whitening Toothpastes ($2.99ea) = $5.98

Less (2) $1 manufacturer coupons

Subtotal = $3.98 + (tax)

After paying and receiving your receipt (CRT aka cash register tape) you will notice at the bottom of your receipt an Extra Buck it will look somewhat similar to the computer generated ECB example below.


Your Name

Here are your Extra Bucks for
having purchased Colgate
Whitening Toothpaste:

$5.98 EXTRA BUCK (S)
(Up to $5.98 value)

Expires MM/DD/YYYY

| ||| ||||| | ||| |

ExtraCare Card #: ********XXXX


For the above example purchase you spent $3.98 OOP, but in return earned $5.98 cents in ExtraBucks thus making a $2 profit by purchasing 2 tubes of toothpaste.

You may notice a coupon(s) as well on the bottom of your receipt. These are commonly referred to as CRTs since they print on the cash register tape. CRT coupons have short dated expiration dates approximately 2 weeks. When you first start shopping at CVS your may or may not receive CRTs, you will eventually it just may take several trips before you start receiving them.

You will also notice a section on the bottom of your receipt that says: this week’s Extra Buck Offers and Balance. This is what you can refer back to if you are unsure how many of an item you have purchased that have Extra Buck rewards. Using the above mentioned example purchase your receipt may say something similar to: Colgate, Buy 1 Get 2 EB. Quantity Toward this Reward 2. Quantity Needed to Earn Reward 1. This means that you have received two rewards for purchasing this item and you will receive another reward the next time you purchase another of the same item. When you have reached the limit on a reward your receipt will state: *Offer Limit Reached.

Now that you have earned your first Extra Bucks rewards and/or CRT you will want to cut it off your receipt and hold onto it to use towards a future purchase.

The key to playing the Drug Store Game at CVS is to continue to roll your ECBs. Rolling and/or growing your ECBs is done by working deals that include items with ECBs on them.

This concludes CVS 101, have fun CVSing!

This information is provided by More Than Cents and is for information purposes only. It is the sole copyright of its author (cent_saving_mom) and may not be reused, copied, or duplicated in whole or part without permission of the author.