Saving Money at CVSBy: Kate Parham
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.
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:
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:
- Dollar off store coupons (e.g. $3 off a purchase of $15);
- CVS coupons;
- Manufacturer's coupons;
- ExtraCare Bucks.
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