CVS: ExtraCare Bucks Guide


Thus far, we have talked about the basics of couponing and how to find deals at most any store that accepts coupons. If you need to catch up you can start here. Today, however, we are going to look at a specific store, CVS to be exact.

The major drug stores, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid, each have their own unique reward/rebate program that allows you to get incredible deals on certain items each week, including food, household products and over-the-counter medications. The key is to understand how they work.

I am going to begin by explaining how the CVS program works. Then I’ll show you a couple of examples to give you an idea of how to put this information into practical use.

With CVS, the first thing you need is a CVS ExtraCare card. This free card can be obtained in the store, or by registering online to have one sent to you. I suggest getting it at store, that way you can use it immediately without having to wait for it to come in the mail.

Once you have an ExtraCare card, you are eligible to receive ExtraCare Bucks (ECB’s).

How It Works

What are Extra Care Bucks?

ECB’s are bucks that print at the bottom of you receipt when you purchase specific items at the store each week. These bucks can be used to purchase almost anything in the store, with a few exceptions (prescriptions, stamps, alcohol, tobacco, gift cards, etc.). Your ExtraCare card must be scanned for the ECB’s to print.

Basically, ECB’s are like cash, except they expire one month from the date they’re acquired. The expiration date is listed on the ECB.

How do you know which purchases earn ExtraCare Bucks?

If you look at the CVS weekly ad, you will see that there are certain products that show an amount of ECB’s you will receive when you purchase those specific products or a specific dollar amount of those items.

For example, in a recent ad, Pampers diapers were on sale for $8.97 per pack and a $3 ECB reward was listed. In other words, if you purchase the Pampers you will get back $3 in ECB’s that can be used toward another store purchase.

CVS does put limits on the amount of deals you can do each week on the items that earn ECB’s. In the case of the diapers, there was a limit of two deals and that limit was listed in the ad. If you purchased three packs of diapers, you would still only have gotten ECB’s for two packs, since the limit was two.

What is the best way to spend your ExtraCare Bucks?

Really, this is going to be a personal preference. There are several different options and you’ll probably find yourself combining the following:

  • You can use your ECB’s immediately to buy, in a second transaction, other things you need right then. If you choose this approach, you will want to make sure you get other items that are on sale or are at least a pretty good price.
  • You can buy the items that earn ECB’s this week and then save the the ECB’s to buy other products next week that will also earn you ECB’s.
  • You can do multiple ECB transactions during the same day/week. In other words, you can buy one item that earns ECB’s and then turn around and do a second transaction using those ECB’s to purchase another item that also earns ECB’s.

Both the second and third options are called rolling ECB’s. This is the best way to get many things for free or really cheap. After you buy the first item(s) that earns ECB’s, you are basically reducing the amount of cash out of pocket on a future purchase.

How can this information be put to practical use?

I am going to give you a few examples of possible transactions. For the scenarios, we are going to use the following items taken from an actual recent ad.

Notice these items have coupons paired with them.They are actual manufacturer coupons I had at the time of the sale. As we discussed earlier, we want to use our coupons now because these items are on sale.

Colgate Total Toothpaste $3.99


  • ECB’s Reward = $3.99, Offer Limit = 1
  • Coupon = $1 off one Colgate Total

Pampers Jumbo Pack Diapers $8.97


  • ECB’s Reward = $3, Offer limit = 2
  • Coupons = (2) $1.50 off one Pampers Diapers

Kellogg’s Cereal $1.97


  • On sale, no ECB’s, limit 6
  • Coupons = (2) $1 off two Kellogg’s cereals

Hormel Compleats $1.99


  • On sale, no ECB’s
  • Coupons = (2) $1 off one Hormel Compleat

Kleenex $.97


  • On sale, no ECB’s
  • Coupon = .55 off three Kleenex

Here are some possible scenarios with the above items.

Scenario #1

Transaction #1

  • Buy 1 Colgate Total @ $3.99 ea
  • Buy 2 Pampers Packs @ $8.97 ea
  • Use (1) Colgate Coupon ($1.00)
  • Use (2) Pampers Coupons ($3.00)

Amount Due = $17.93 + tax

Get Back $9.99 ECB’s ($3.99 Colgate, $6 Pampers)

Now, you can stop here and save these ECB’s for next week


you can do Transaction #2 and use the ECB’s to buy some things you need this week that are on sale.

Transaction #2

  • Buy 4 Kellogg’s Cereal @ $1.97 ea
  • Buy¬† 2 Hormel Compleats @ $1.99 ea
  • Buy 3 Kleenex @ .97 ea
  • Use (2) Kelloggs Coupons ($2)
  • Use (2) Hormel Coupons ($2)
  • Use (1) Kleenex Coupon (.55)
  • Use ECB’s from Trans. #1 ($9.99)

Amount Due = $.23 + tax

Total Cash Paid Out = $18.16 + tax for 1 Colgate, 2 Pampers, 4 Kellogg’s Cereals, 2 Hormel Compleats and 3 Kleenex.

Scenario #2

Transaction #1

  • Buy Colgate @ $3.99 ea
  • Use $1 Colgate Coupon

Amount Due = $2.99 + tax

Get Back $3.99 ECB’s (Yes, you actually make $1.)

Transaction #2

  • Buy 1 Pampers $8.97 ea
  • Use $1.50 Pampers Coupon
  • Use $3.99 ECB’s from Trans #1

Amount Due = $3.48 + tax

Get Back $3 ECB’s

Transaction #3

  • Buy 1 Pampers $8.97 ea
  • Use $1.50 Pampers Coupon
  • Use $3 ECB’s from Trans #2

Total Cash Due = $4.47 + tax

Get Back $3 ECB’s

Total Cash Paid Out = $10.94 + tax (for 1 Colgate and 2 Pampers, plus you still have $3 ECB’s for later)

Other Information and Tips:

  • If you see a red machine for scanning your card, usually located somewhere near the front of the store, be sure to scan your card. You can sometimes get extra coupons from the machine.
  • Check your email, because occasionally CVS sends out coupons good for $5 off a $20 purchase, $5 off a $30 purchase, etc. These are usually only good for a few days. Your subtotal before deducting all other coupons must meet the $20, $30, etc. threshold in order to use one of these coupons.
  • When presenting coupons to the cashier, do so in this order – $5/$20, manufacturer/store coupons, ECB’s.
  • Make sure your subtotal, after all other coupons, is at least the amount of the ECB’s you are planning to use. You will not get change back if your total is less than the ECB’s, and most stores won’t even allow it.
  • CVS offers rainchecks for items that are out of stock. If you get a raincheck, be sure they include any ECB’s you should receive for the purchase.
  • Be sure to have a back-up plan for if any particular item is out of stock.
  • For every two prescriptions you purchase at CVS, you will receive 1 ECB at the end of the quarter. You also get 2% back, in the form of ECB’s, on purchases online and in-store at the end of each quarter. You can print these from CVS online, or they will print on your receipt at the end the quarter.

Well, that’s how you get the deals at CVS. I admit, it takes a little practice to get the hang of it. My best advice is to start small, maybe trying only one or two simple deals at the time. Then progress once you feel more comfortable.

Stop back by on Friday and I’ll have the Walgreen’s: Register Rewards Guide for you.

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Posted on March 31st, 2010 in Money Matters | 2 Comments


  • molly says:

    Thanks for explaining this! It really helped me to understand how it worked. There website kind of confused me but you helped clear it up.

  • Wilmer says:

    If I have a Manufacturer coupon the is for $3.00 of when you buy 2 but each item cost $1.30. Because they do not let me used.

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