Once you learn how to use the CVS Extra Care Buck System you will find that there is a world of great deals that you never could have imagined! The system is fairly simple but there are a few guidelines to follow to ensure you get the most for the least amount OOP (out of pocket). Thanks to CVS I am fully stocked with 2+ years of various health & beauty products!
The first thing you will need to get is a CVS Extra Care Card. You can request one online or get one at your local CVS store. If you get one at the store you can use it immediately. If you already have a card–make sure to go online to register your card as they will often email you exclusive coupons to use with your Extra Care card. The Extra Care card states one card per person but often people will use multiple cards to shop for other family members. I use my card as well as my mother’s card so I can make sure she gets the deals as well! Like most loyalty cards –you present it to the cashier before you check out to get the best deals. You must present your card and have it scanned to get the advertised deals. This loyalty cards allows you to obtain something else as well–Extra Care Bucks!! These Extra Care Bucks or ECB’s are the key to working the CVS game.
ECB’s print at the bottom of your receipt when you fulfill a specific purchase requirement. They can be used like cash at any CVS (there are some exclusions–they can’t be used to purchase stamps, gift cards, prescriptions, money orders, lottery, tobacco, etc–view the ECB for specific details). ECB’s are tied to your card and cannot be used with anyone else’s card. Each week CVS will identify specific products that will trigger an ECB to print. These products will be displayed in the weekly ad. For example–Bayer Contour Diabetes Monitor is on sale for $14.99 and you get a $5 ECB when you purchase it. If you were to go into CVS and buy a Bayer Monitor you could pay $14.99 +tax and a $5 ECB would print at the end of your receipt. The fun begins when you combine manufacturer coupons and/or CVS store coupons to lower the cost of the item and STILL earn the ECB. So if you had the coupon for a Bayer Monitor (save up to $30/1 from 3/21/09 RP) You would pay $0 (zero) out of pocket and still get the $5 ECB. SO–you just made $5–that is called a money maker (MM)!!
There are often items that are FREE after ECB’s… if you have coupons to use on those items you will make money and get free merchandise! All ECB deals are limited to a certain number per card. The Bayer Monitor example above was a limit of one per household. The limits will be listed in the ad and also detailed at the bottom of your receipt. While ECB’s are like cash in the store –they are unlike cash in that they have an expiration date. ECB’s will expire one month from the date they are issued. I use ECB’s to pay for other deals–this is often referred to as “rolling ECB’s”. I could take the $5 ECB that I earned from the monitor deal and turn around and use it to purchase other items–see the following scenario:
Gillette Razor is on sale for $7.99 and earns $4 ECB
Dawn Detergent is on sale 2 for $2 and earns $1 ECB wyb 2
I have a $4 MQ for the razor and two $.50/1 Dawn coupons–so my transaction would look like this:
$7.99 (razor) + $1 (dawn) + $1 (dawn) = $9.99
$9.99 – $5 (ECB from Monitor Deal) = $4.99
$4.99- $4 (razor MQ) – $.50 (dawn MQ) – $.50 (dawn MQ) = ZERO (plus applicable taxes)
I will pay tax ONLY and earn $5 in ECB’s ($4 for purchasing the razor and $1 for purchasing 2 dawn)
So I was able to “roll” the original $5 monitor ECB to pay for a razor and two dish liquids and still end up with $5 in ECB’s to “roll” into another deal!! For only tax I have bought a Diabetes Monitor, a Gillette Razor and 2 bottles of dish liquid and I still have ECB’s to spend on my next transaction! This is how you CVS! Often CVS will offer coupons like a $3/15 or a $5/30–when you can use these to reduce your OOP it makes things even better…you are basically getting a high dollar coupon to immediately reduce your OOP before you use one manufacturer coupon or ECB! On the ECB you will notice they will say “up to a $ value” . If your total is very near the ECB dollar amount you may choose to have them adjust your ECB down OR you can add a low cost item (filler) to bring your total to just above the ECB amount–the choice is yours! For example–my total is $9.99 and I have a $10 ECB–I would rather lose that penny than purchase a $.50 candy bar to increase my total to an amount over $10.00 but I would never use a $5 ECB to pay for a $4 transaction–I would be losing $1…they will not give you the difference. You will lose that dollar!
Because ECB’s are store coupons they will reduce your taxable amount. In order to ensure you pay the least OOP–once the cashier totals your order you should give any CVS coupons and ECB’s FIRST– then give your manufacturer coupons last. To determine your exact amount paid you will subtract any CVS coupon and ECB amount then use that new total to determine your tax. I will use the above scenario as an example:
$7.99 Razor + $2 Dawn = $9.99 (Total cost of products)
$9.99 – $5.00 (ECB from Monitor transaction) = $4.99 (My new taxable amount is $4.99)
$4.99 x .06 (my tax rate) = $.30
$4.99 + $.30 = $5.29
$5.29 – $4MQ – $1 (two .50/1 MQ’s) = $.29
My total OOP is $.29 (tax)
Many CVS stores have a scanner where you can scan your items to get a price check. Often these scanners are also equipped to print CVS store coupons. Make sure to scan your card as these coupons can be combined with MQ’s to save even more money! There are a few things to consider and keep in mind when you shop at CVS.
If the limit on a deal is more than one and you purchase multiple products in one transaction you will get a combined ECB amount. For example lets say Colgate Toothpaste is a limit of 5 per household and is giving $2 ECB’s per item— if you were to purchase all 5 tubes of toothpaste in one transaction you will get a $10 ECB printed on your receipt rather than five $2 ECB’s. I find having several small ECB’s is often easier to manage than one large ECB as my totals are generally very small so I need the small ECB’s to roll into other deals!
If there is a ECB offer that requires you to purchase a specific amount to earn an ECB you can gradually accumulate the total. So if the ad states “Spend $15 in Hershey’s candy get $5 ECB’s” –you do not have to buy $15 worth of candy in one transaction. You will be able to track your spending by checking your receipt. All qualifying amounts will be listed at the bottom and an amount needed to earn ECB will be listed. Once you reach the threshold amount–your ECB’s will print.
Make sure to get a rain check if your store is out of an advertised product. CVS now has the capability to print your ECB’s even after the deal has ended. Make sure they write the ECB offer number printed in the ad on the rain check as they will need it to force the ECB to print. This has made shopping at CVS much more pleasant.
CVS also offers Quarterly ECB’s–the amount of the ECB will be determined by how much you actually spend in the store–your actual OOP. The highest quarterly ECB that I have ever earned is $.50 –generally I don’t earn quarterly ECB’s since my OOP is less than $24.99 per quarter! Although I average hundreds (sometimes a thousand+ dollars) in savings! You gotta love CVS 🙂
Hopefully I have helped you to understand how to begin at CVS. If you have any questions or need clarification–feel free to ask! Start slow and do one transaction at a time…remember there will always be another deal!