How to Shop at CVS

Wondering how to shop at CVS like a pro?   To take advantage of the sales and deals available at CVS first you will need to apply for an Extra Care Bucks card.

These are the terms you need to become familiar with when you shop at CVS:

  • Extra Care Bucks (ECBs): It’s a CVS store coupon for a discount of your next purchase order that prints at check out.  They print at the bottom of your receipt and can be used “like cash” on almost anything else sold at CVS.
  • Reinventing Beauty Magazine:  This is a is a 99 cent magazine available in the beauty section of most CVS stores.  It sometimes comes with CVS and manufacturer coupons.  Where else can you find the magazine?  by the weekly flyers, with the other magazines, by the cash registers, in the cosmetic aisle.  Not other stores seem to carry this magazine.
  • Clip Free Coupon:  Refers to a month long discount offered that’s deducted automatically at checkout.
  • CRT:  or Cash register tape is a coupon that prints at the bottom of your receipt or at the Price Scanner.
  • Price Scanner: Price scanning machines located at certain stores that serve to check the price of items and also print CVS store coupons when you CVS Extra Care Bucks card is used.
  • CVS Store coupons:  These can be stacked with manufacturer coupons for added savings.  Can only use one per transaction.
  • CVS $/$$ coupons:  These coupons provide a discount once your order reaches a certain value before coupons.  For example:  you could save $4 when you buy $20 or more.  This total is always before any other coupons.

How to Get Free Stuff at CVS

1)  The first way to get free stuff when you shop CVS is by taking advantage of any Extra Care Bucks promotions available.  These extra care bucks promotions usually require you to buy certain items or spend a particular amount of money.

Extra Care Bucks Facts:

  • Unlike Walgreens, at CVS you can “roll ECBs” meaning you can spend ECBs you received from one offer to buy more of the same.
  • Also, if the limit of the offer is more than one you can buy more than one item in the same transaction and get all of the ECBs you would expect from each offer.
  • ECBs expire four weeks after the date they were first issued.  Make sure to use them before they expire.
  • ECBs are tied to your Extra Care Bucks card.  This means that you can only redeem them when using the Extra Care Bucks card used to earn them.

2)  The second way to get free stuff when you shop CVS is by stacking store and manufacturer coupons as well as by combining a sale with a manufacturer coupon.

Things to Remember When You Shop at CVS

1) The key to a smooth shopping experience at CVS is by planning your purchase in advance or develop “scenarios.” This will help you by having a plan of attack to maximize savings.  Always check the CVS weekly sales and coupon matches for the best deals available.

2)  The secret to minimizing your out of pocket expense when you shop at CVS is by breaking off your transactions and using ECBs from the first transaction on the second and so on.  Please remember to be polite and let others ahead of you if you have more than two transactions planned.

3)  There is a right way to hand your coupons when you shop at CVS: First hand CVS dollar off transaction coupons, then CVS store coupons/manufacturer coupons, and finally your ECBs.

4)  Before you leave the store make sure to check your receipt to verify that all extra care bucks you expected to receipt printed at the bottom of your receipt.  It is easier to correct situations right after you complete the transaction than later.


  • My ECBs didn’t print, what do I do?

The best thing you can do is talk to the manager if you are still at the store.  Managers can correct the situation and prompt the register to print the ECBs.  If you are not at the store anymore, you can contact CVS at 1800-SHOP-CVS and a customer service representative should be able to help you.

  • I had a horrible shopping experience, what do I do?

Your best course of action is to contact CVS at 1800-SHOP-CVS and calmly explain what happened.

  • I let my ECBs expire, what do I do now?

The first thing you may want to do is ask your cashier if they accept expired ECBs.  The expire ECB will need to be forced so the register accepts it.  However, less and less stores are taking expired ECBs so you may be out of luck.

  • I received a CVS store coupon via email, can I share with others?

These type of coupons, much like Extra Care Bucks, are tried to your Extra Care Bucks card and can only be redeemed by using the card used to earned them.

Your turn now: do you have any additional questions/topics I didn’t cover? Drop them in the comments section:

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  • Does everyone have the “Green Bag Tag” available in their area?

    Also, isn’t there currently a special deal on getting prescriptions and CVS brands right now? There were $10 Target card coupons in our newspaper this weekend for new or transferred prescriptions. I believe that CVS honors competitors’ coupons. This might be a really good time to use this Target coupon at CVS.

  • Erica

    My sister always throws away her ECB’s. She never even knew what they were until the other day when I told her about them. (I’m sure some of you are cringing at this story just as I was!) Anyway, she is willing to give them to me to use them instead of throwing them out. So, my question is, would I be able to use them even though they are from her card?

    Thanks in advance for any help on this.

    • I could not find my card in my purse one day and gave them my phone number to look up the acount…it worked….then I got into my car and saw that It said Mr. John Doe (not really, lol)…it wasn’t my name! So, I made sure to find my card after that. But, I used the ECB on my next purchase and nothing was said…, it worked for me….? 🙂

    • Megan J

      No, you should not be able to use your sister’s ECBs – they will almost certainly be denied by the register. I once had ECBs print off because the cashier scanned her own card (the one behind the counter) rather than waiting for mine and I had to go through the process of getting those ECBs changed over to work with my card. The only way this would work is if you also had a copy of your sister’s card to use her ECBs with. Or better yet, teach her how to coupon herself 🙂 Enjoy!

    • S.

      You can’t use it b/c the EBCs are linked to your sister’s card BUT if you go to the self checkout machines, the cashier might be nice and manually punch it in for you. The screen does not show the card number you scanned.

      This happened to me once unintentionally. I scanned my card and I tried to use my brother’s EBCs. It obviously didn’t go through and I asked the cashier to help me. She asked if this was mine and I told her it’s my brother’s. She nodded and manually entered it. I think it’s because when you open the account, you get three copies of the card and she assumed that I was using one of my brother’s copies.

    • Kimberly

      I have used ECB’s from a friend’s card, using my card. So, my card was not tied to the ECB’s. I was a little nervous because I didn’t think it would work but it did.

  • JMo

    I am very frustrated with my local CVS. Every time I go at least a couple items ring up w/ the wrong price. Last week, the Corn Flakes 2/$3 rang up at $4.29 each. Today the Colgate and Aussie shampoo did not come up on sale (nor were they marked on sale in the aisle). A manager had to be called – I had to show the ad and practically fight to get the sale price (fortunately I purchased stuff that looked exactly like the picture), then they had to do a price adjust and manually do the ECBs. For just these two items today, it took me 15+ minutes to check out. And this happens with a few items every single week.

    I love the deals at CVS, but at this point I don’t think it’s worth the time or frustration to continue shopping there.

    I will def call the customer service number to let them know about my repeat pricing issues and poor service at my store.

    Does anybody else experience these problems, or do I just have a yucky store?

    • Staci

      Sounds like you just have a yucky CVS. I LOVE my CVS. The clerks are all very helpful, and I don’t have issues at checkout. Hopefully they will correct their problems soon!

    • Lana

      Yep. Sounds like it is your store. I have two close by that I LOVE and they are always so helpful and friendly. If something isn’t right, they are more than happy to help me. I LOVE CVS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now, WAGS, well that’s a whole nother story!

    • Denise

      Sometimes I have the same problem when I shop the last day of the sale. The manager said that the sale may have already changed over to the specials for the next week. I simply smile and ask for what I need until they get it right. I always have a plan before I go shopping and try to shop earlier in the sale cycle. I look upon couponing as a money saving hobby. I generally shop at two CVS stores, one is better than the other.

    • Myrna

      CVS stores in my area certainly have clerks and assistant managers with pissy attitudes toward coupon use. I contacted corporate about these issues and asked for their official policies regarding coupon use. Now, when a clerk tries to give me some grief, I just pull out the corporate policy. If they, or the manager still give me a problem, I contact corporate about their bad attitudes and refusal to comply with corporate policy. I usually get an apology from the manager. Unfortunately they still have bad attitudes. Some stores are better than others with regards to couponing and also with stocking adequate supplies of advertised products. For the most part, they do seem to be improving.

  • Maureen

    Very nice post–I’m forwarding it to my mom and sisters. One thing to remember about purchasing multiples of the same offer at one time is that the ECBs will print out the total amount–if you can purchase a limit of 2 items that each cost $3.99 and you get $3.99 in ECBs on each item your ECB will print out $7.98 if you do it in one transaction. Sometimes it’s good to do multiple transactions so you don’t end up with large ECB amounts–makes it easier to roll them when you hit a good deal week.

  • Lana

    Another thing to note…Unlike WAGS where you HAVE to spend the exact amount or more on your RR (if you have a 10.00 RR, you have to spend 10.00 exactly or more in order to use it), at CVS, if your purchase comes to 9.95 and you have a 10.00 ECB, you can still use it, they will just “adjust it down” to 9.95. You lose a nickel, but sometimes it’s better to do that than buy extra stuff you don’t need just to be able to use a RR or ECB.

    • MBarron

      I have found that CVS will adjust down, so I can use my ECBs and only lose a nickel or so. Sorry you are having trouble with yours. I find that WAGS is the one that gives me the most trouble on their coupon policies.

  • I have at least 4 different CVS stores within a 30 mile radius of my house and every single one of the STINKS. I am new to the whole CVSing and I am very disapointed. Nothing is ever in stock and all my cashiers are HORRIBLE. They all get an attitude with me when I use coupons. At FOUR stores! Today I had one of the double your extra bucks “coupons” and the cashier told me that I could only use it one time. Is this true? Because I had just used it at the pharmacy 5 minutes before! I’m glad you guys have great CVS stores!

    • Rebecca

      You only have to scan the extra buck coupon once and it will work for the entire promotion.

      Also regarding the order to hand coupons, it is actually better to hand the ECB’s before manufacturer/Cvs brand coupons because ECB’s will not take off tax and manufacturer/CVS brand coupons will!

  • Laura

    Make sure you scan your card when you first walk in the door. I got a $5 off $5 coupon printed today. I ended up buying covergirl products I didn’t need but made $$ using my coupons and ecbs. I ended up earning an extra 5 ecb that I wasn’t planning on. Carry a calculator with you b/c sometimes you need to do on the spot scenarios that you were not planning on 🙂

    • Gail

      Your cell phone probably has a calculator on it (one less thing to carry)!!

  • Addy

    What does it mean when the ad says “limit 1” or “limit 2” for ECB on an item. Does that mean per transaction, or per extra care card? Can I go back every day during that week and buy 1 of that item as long as i buy them one at a time, or is there a total limit of one with my extra care card?

    My second question is what do you mean when you say to scan your card when you first walk in the door? Is there some kind of machine somewhere that prints coupons?

    • Hi Addy,
      Yes, the limit on Extra Care Bucks deals is per card. Also, a lot of stores now have a red scanninh machine and that’s where you would scan your card to get CVS coupons. If your stores doesn’t have this machine then the coupon may print at the bottom of your receipt after you have purchased something.


      • Addy

        Thanks Mercedes!

  • Stormee

    I don’t understand what ‘rolling ECBs’ mean. Could someone better clarify? I’m new to all this but have been doing much researching and coupon clipping and would love to know how to expand my savings even more, and from what I understand, CVS is the place to do that. Also if you have any other tips or tricks up your sleeve I would love to know, Thank you so much! -Stormee

  • Rae

    I’m just starting to shop at CVS and taking advantage of the ECB’s. I have a silly question….do you need filler items like you do at Walgreens…(Coupons to item ratio)?

    • Rachel

      No, they adjust down the ECBs and coupons. You still cannot have more MFQ than items, but you can use a MFQ, a store coupon, AND ECBs on one item. You will lose the difference on adjusted down ECBs (no change), so I like to pick up a $.50 travel size tissue or a $.33 caramel (both are usually around the registers) so I don’t waste the ECBs. I recycle my ECBs almost weekly, and my OOP is always under $.40 – usually zero! Yay, CVS!

  • JD

    I’m new to all this as well and have a question about something I saw on m receipt. It’s showing an ExtraCare Card Balance of $16.28. What is that?

    • JD, can you elaborate a bit more? where are you seeing this?


    • Destinee

      girl u have$16.28 to spend in CVS if that what it said on the reciete that’s free money go girl

  • JD

    I’m sorry – I typed ‘receipt’ instead of ‘account’. I signed up for a CVS account and linked my card to it. On the ExtraCare page, there’s a tab named “Current Balances”. When I click on that it shows an amount. It’s changed from $16.28 to $42.60 and under Reward Details it says “2% of your Spring 2010 Spend will be issued on July 1st. Rewards are redeemable in-store and online”
    I was just wondering what all of that is. Thanks!

    • janae

      I believe that is a running total of your spending for the quarter (three months) that will issue 2% of your spending in the form of extra bucks coupon. ie if you have spent $42, you should be getting a reward for this quarter of $.80 (or $1 is they round up..)

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  • KDB

    I find a lot of times that a product is sold out when I get to the store. Will CVS issue a rain check for the ECB’s if lets say it is purchased the following week? Or, is it that you are just out of luck and need to keep checking back before the week is up? Thank you.

    • Meg

      When you find an item to be out of stock, ask for a Rain check then. Rain Checks at my CVS never expire and you can go back anytime to purchase your wanted item and you will still receive the ECB’s

  • Denise

    This may be old news to most of you but new news to me. If CVS is having a buy one get one free sale on an item and you have a manufacturer’s buy one get one free coupon, CVS will give you both items for free! Yippee!

  • MCP

    I am new to this whole coupon thing. Never thought I had time to fool with it but the CVS ECBs sound too good to pass up. I don’t understand the concept of “rolling ECBs”. Could someone explain with an example?

    • Melanie

      “Rolling ECBs” means that you use ECBs to buy more things that earn ECBs. That way you’ll spend your ECBs before they expire and you’ll always have more ECBs to spend.

      Example: You buy a pack of Huggies Diapers that are on sale for $8.00 and that will earn you $3.00 ECBs
      you pay for the diapers (including any coupons you may have) and a $3.00 ecb will print at the bottom of the reciept


      you do a second transaction
      Let’s say Head and Shoulders shampoo is on sale for $2.99
      you hand the cashier any coupons and then pay with the ECB that printed out from the Huggies transaction.

      A good way to learn how to roll ecbs is to read a blog that participates in the $5 CVS challenge. They will tell you scenarios and get you started so that you would only spend $5 at a time so it’s less confusing. 🙂 Then you can build your way up from there.
      When I first started I read the blog “Kingdom First Mom”

  • Pal

    Hey..i love cvs..its gr8 for saving money..i started going to cvs a while ago..and got to tell u its huge savings..before i usally use to get so many coupons of 5 off 20 mostly for a month or so..first i thought that its of no use…and i thought what to buy from cvs as its too costly n after cutting my coupon i can get for less from other later i came to know that my cvs take competitors i can give them walgreens,bjs and wat so ever coupons i have they take all n that to for one product if i have tide coupons for walgreesn,bjs, n manf then i can get tide for free with i m loving it..

  • I, too, LOVE CVS! 🙂 Thanks for all the tips above! 🙂 I got a rain check for an item that ends up being free after ECBs … however, it’s still not in stock at that particular store even though it has been weeks since it has gone out of stock. Are we allowed to go to another CVS location that has it and redeem that there? Thanks so much! 🙂

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  • Elizabeth Gebelein

    I have a question? Can you scan more than 1 green bag tag in the store on each purchase? Thank you for any information you can give me.

  • esther

    how does it work with a BOGO to get them free? Don’t you have to pay for one?

  • KimV

    If the ECB’s are tied to your card, and the ECB’s are the last thing you should redeem, how do you do that? Just not give them your card until the end of the transaction? What if they ask for your card at the beginning of the transaction, do you just decline to give it at that time and then give it later? If I was a cashier I would get annoyed at that… thoughts?

    • hi Kim,
      When I say that the extra care bucks are tied to your card, I mean that you are going to need your card in order to redeem them. or that you can’t redeem them using someone else’s card. An extra care buck really is a paper coupon that prints at the bottom of your receipt. At checkout, you will first have your card scanned. then whatever you are buying. then any $/$$ CVS coupons you may have. Then hand the manufacturer coupons to be scanned and then any other CVS coupons. After all of that hand your extra care bucks coupon and cash if needed.

      That’s how it would play out at checkout.


      • KimV

        Thx so much for the reply! And yes, I did get the e-book 🙂 I haven’t made it all the way through it yet though 🙂 I’m new to all this couponing stuff! Keep up the awesome work!

    • Oh, and by the way, have you downloaded my free couponing ebook?


  • Mindy Gillihan

    If one needs to spend $15 on products to get the bucks back, is it before the coupons of after?
    For example I spent $18+ on excendrine bucks b/c I was unsure if cvs deducted coupons my total would only be $11 vs $15 would that have worked?

    • Lisa

      It’s before coupons, which is great. So if you have to “spend” $15 on soaps, you buy soaps that total up to $15, then use mfr coupons that make your total as low as you can get it, and you will still get the reward for hitting the $15 mark. Super-cheap stuff available this way!

  • Sami

    I have a question, when items are listed as limit one per household with card, does that mean I can only buy one and only one? Or is it one per transaction?

  • ashley

    Thanks for putting this guide up. I never go to cvs because I never knew what to do with the extra care bucks. So if I’m getting this right it works just like the up rewards at rite aid but better. Also I have one of them red mechines in my store I decided to scan my card just to see what happened and it printed out for a free green bag tags. I asked the cashier about it and its another way to save more money. I think I’m in love with this place!

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  • april

    can anybody tell me if something at cvs is on sale buy one get one free can you use two manafacturers coupons to lower the price?

  • pappawolfie

    Just did my first cvs run with the wife we baught over 180$ worth of items spent roughly 22$ for it all for a savings of 84.99% ty for the amazing guide its helped alot wife got a lil overbearing lol she kept telling me to go home and get the coupon binder after she seen the savings had to force her out of the store and told her we would make a list check it twice then come back hopefully without the kids 🙂 again great guide and tysm for sharing!

  • Ryan

    I think coupons were invented by bored soccer moms. What a pain it is following this junk. Just give me the discount without the cards, clippings, and bonus rounds. Ugh.

  • stephanie

    Does CVS accept competitor coupons?

    • Stephanie,
      They take competitors coupons only for prescription transfersat the pharmacy I believe.


      • stephanie

        ok thanks so much

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  • John

    I have a question. If i were to shop online would I still get the extra care bucks?

  • John

    I was wondering if I shop online will I still get the extra care buck.

  • Destinee

    can i shop at different stores to get the same deals???? to have extra or is that dishonest??? To day they had a sale of buy1 get 2 free purex soap will my card do it at another store??? or will I have to pay for all 3!!

    • Mercedes Levy

      That’s actually a really good question! I’m not sure how it would work. You can always call one of the stores and ask. Let us know if you find out.

    • Jennifer

      no you can’t just use another extracare card to get the same savings and you won’t have to go to another location.

  • Jennifer

    I used to work at cvs. Some locations will let you use expired coupons up to a week. Just be sure to ask the cashier first if they do that there. Also some locations will let you use more than one extracare card when you go shopping so more coupons and more savings!

    • Mercedes Levy

      Thanks for the info, Jennifer! It’s nice to get some inside info. 😀

  • Nikki

    Hi! When items offer extracare bucks on a purchase of say $15 and your purchase comes to 14.95 before any coupons do you still get the extracare bucks or do you have to purchase another participating item?

    • Common Sense With Money

      CVS has what’s known as the “98% Rule”. You typically only need to spend 98% of the purchase requirement, and the ECB should be triggered to print. For instance, if there was a CVS deal to get $5 ECB when you spend $15, you should only have to spend $14.70 before coupons. So, if you spent $14.95 before coupons, you should still get the ECB. If your ECB don’t print, make sure you bring it up with the cashier before you leave the store.

      Hope that helps! 🙂

  • Sally

    On the bottom of my receipt it says Extra care card balances as of 5/3
    Spring 2014 spending 21.63
    winter 2014 spending 16.37
    What does that mean?

  • Stacey

    Quick question… I have a very long receipt with a total of $32.55 ECBs. I have about 8 ECB coupons in all. Will I have a problem if I have one transaction in the amount of $33.00? Or do I need to make it 8 transactions using one ECB each transaction?

    • CJ Edwards

      You shouldn’t have a problem. You should be able to use all of your ECBs in one transaction. I do it at my store all the time. 🙂

      • Stacey

        Ok great! Thanks for the quick reply. I went and spent half, and actually got another $8 (2x$4). For some reason of of my ECBs wouldn’t work… so I just paid the 46cents. No big whoop. There were a bunch of people behind me (even after I let the two older couples in front of me ^_^) so I didn’t really ask. The sales lady was really on top of everything and very matter-of-factly and quickly cashed me out. I walked out of the store spending 46cents and bags full of 4x Dove Chocolate, 4x choc. covered pretzels, 2x toothbrushes, 1x razor, and 1x razor refils. Can’t wait to go back. Happy Thanksgiving and Christmas to all that read this!!!

        • CJ Edwards

          Nice! I love CVS, and it has to be my favorite place to shop!