This is Day 5 of the Meghan’s Guide to Couponing series. So far we’ve looked at: The Different Types of Coupons, How to Stack Coupons, How to Organize Your Coupons, and When to Coupon. Today we’re going to look at couponing in drug stores, which can work a bit differently than grocery stores.
Extra Care Bucks
Okay. CVS has a rewards system that deals in “extra care bucks” or “ECB’s.” These are earned by buying certain products from CVS, and the “bucks” are only good at CVS. You must have an Extra Care Card in order to earn them.
If you’ve ever looked at a CVS flier in your Sunday paper, you might notice that they have a lot of “It’s Like Getting It Free after extra bucks!” or “It’s like getting it for (enter amount less than regular price here) after extra bucks!”
How It Works
Basically, each week in the CVS Flyer, there are certain items they are selling that can earn you ECBs. After you buy them, the amount of ECBs you have earned prints at the bottom of your receipt.
You MUST have your receipt(s) in order to redeem your ECBs.
Now you can use your ECBs right away, or you can save them up. They work just like money in CVS, but if you’re smart about it, you’ll use it to help buy other items that will also earn you ECBs.
I don’t blame you. It makes more sense in a scenario, so we’ll do a couple.
Say you see this ad for Free After ECB Crest products.
So the first time you go to buy it, you have to pay $3.29 (minus any coupons that would apply to the product). Then your receipt prints out, and you have earned $3.29 in ECBs.
You go back to the toothpaste aisle, pick up the exact same product, bring it to the front, and it rings up for $3.29. You hand the cashier your receipt, and the ECB for $3.29 covers the cost of your toothpaste. You get that one for free, and when the receipt prints, you get another ECB for $3.29.
Now you could just do that all day until the toothpaste is gone, which is why they put limits on how many you can buy per household. But if you shop the Free ECBs each week, you will end up with a lot of free products, or products you only paid for once but got a bunch of in the end.
You see this on Southern Savers:
They’re great about giving you “Deal Ideas” to help you work the system to your advantage.
So. You have to spend $15 dollars on Excedrin products to earn $7 of ECBs. You think to yourself, “well, that’s not ‘Free After ECB.'” And you’re right. But you can still score a super cheap purchase.
The first time, you buy the 3 Excedrin products at $5.59 each, and you use the $2.50 off coupon. You end up paying $9.27 out of pocket, and you earn $7 in ECBs.
Then you buy the same products again, use the other $2.50 off coupon (because you buy 2 Sunday papers and would have 2 of those coupons), and use the $7 ECB from your previous purchase. You end up spending $2.27 out of pocket for over $15 worth of products that time. AND you still earn another $7 in ECBs.
Now, if you never use Excedrin or Excedrin PM, that might still not be a good use of your money. But if you do, then you just got six 20-count boxes of Excedrin for $11.54. That takes the price per box from $5.59 a piece to $1.92 each. That’s pretty good.
Hopefully that makes more sense. The great thing is that even with all the savings, as long as you ring up an item that earns ECBs, you will get the full ECB value of that product.
Eventually, you will hit the limit or stop because you have all you need (and wanted to leave some for other couponers), and you’ll have remaining ECBs on your last receipts.
When you do, make sure you hold onto that receipt. (Sidenote: don’t leave these receipts in your car. Heat/Sun damage will blacken them out, and you won’t be able to use them if that happens.)
You’ll be able to use it some other day on other purchases. If you play your cards right, you’ll be able to get more Free After ECB items without paying the initial first product cost because your old ECBs will cover it.
For example, in the above Scenario 1, you could have gotten 2 Crest toothpastes without paying for it because of the $7 ECBs from a previous trip. Then you would have earned $3.29 in ECBs per toothpaste, which would have come out on that receipt, which you could have use to buy two more toothpastes free.
There are some additional things worth noting.
– When you sign up with CVS for your Extra Care Card, you will get a coupon mailed or emailed to you for $4 off of a $20 purchase. However, if you use that, you should do it BEFORE using any other coupons at the register. If you have $20 worth of items and get $5 off in coupons, your total will no longer be $20, and the $4 off of $20 will not apply.
They also sometimes just send Extra Care Cardholders other $ off of $$ coupons, and the same applies in those situations.
-The Free After ECB items can be really specific about exactly what is free. It might be worth bringing in your flyer so you know for sure you have the right item.
-When you use your ECB receipts, you have to give up the entire amount of ECBs on that receipt at once. So if you had $7 in ECBs on a receipt, and you are only buying $4 worth of items, go ahead and grab some gum or lotion or whatever else can make up the difference so you don’t waste your ECBs.
-CVS stores often have a kiosk in them where you can scan your Extra Care Card. When you do, it will print out random coupons for you. Make sure you scan your card as soon as you enter the store. The coupons can be really great sometimes, and it might affect what you had in mind to buy.
-Sometimes cashiers or managers don’t understand why registers are having issues giving you the ECBs you earned or accepting a coupon it should. Something that might help is this letter from CVS Corporate explaining what is and is not acceptable with coupons. It’s not a bad idea to print it and keep it in your coupon binder, just in case you meet some friction at the register. (And in fact, it’s not a bad idea to print the coupon policy for each store you shop at in your binder.)
Each Store Is Different
Each drug store has their own rewards system, and it’s worth looking into each one so you maximize your chances of saving money.
Once you understand how each system works, and you combine coupons with their rewards system, you’ve set yourself up to save a LOT of money. Drug stores are where it’s at for free items, so I highly recommend trying it out.