CVS 101


CVS is the second largest pharmacy chain (next to Walgreens) with over 7,000 stores in the United States.  For the casual shopper, it can be expensive to shop there regularly, but for us "couponers", there are weekly bargains on things like OTC meds, household products, toiletries and groceries.  Generally speaking, CVS stores that I deal with are coupon-friendly and most cashiers are knowledgeable on their policies. I hope you will take the time to learn the ins and outs of shopping CVS with this short overview.

CVS ExtraCare Card

If you're planning to shop CVS, the first thing that you must do is to get a CVS ExtraCare Card at your store.  ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS scan your card when buying things at CVS!  This loyalty card is required to get sale prices, earn ExtraCare Bucks or prescription rewards, and it drives a variety of other savings opportunities at the store. Also, you will want to go to the CVS website, set up an account, and register your card, which will allow you to transfer rewards and store coupons directly to your card for your next trip.

Methods of saving money at CVS:

(1) ExtraCare Coupon Center
(2) Store Advertised Sales
(3) CVS Store Coupons
(4) Manufacturer's Coupons
(5) CVS Cash Card
(6) ExtraBucks Rewards
(7) ExtraCare Beauty Club

ExtraCare Coupon Center

If you've ever visited a CVS store, you've probably seen this machine (usually near the front of the store).  On every visit, scan the barcode on the back of your ExtraCare card by holding it up to the little red light scanner just below the monitor screen.  Most times it will print 1 to 5 store coupons that eject on the side of the machine and can only be redeemed at CVS. Sometimes, it will even give coupons for FREE products like gum or cookies.  Also, pay close attention to the expiration dates of those coupons as they usually expire 3 to 14 days after printing.

Sometimes, you will receive ExtraBucks (EB's) at the machine for your quarterly ExtraCare earnings, which we'll discuss later.

Store Advertised Sales

The CVS sales cycle runs Sunday to Saturday. Some stores switch over their sale prices for the coming week on Saturday afternoon/evening, however it's best to check with your store to see when they activate the sale prices for the coming week. If you don't get the circulars in your newspaper, the stores usually have a good supply of them near the front entrance to the store. 

CVS Store Coupons

As discussed above, the ExtraCare Coupon Center will print store coupons for dollars off of an item, dollars off of a total purchase (like $5 off your $20 purchase), and occasionally, a free item.  You can also print store coupons from the CVS website and, if you register your ExtraCare Card, you may receive coupons by email from CVS.  CVS store coupons can be stacked with manufacturer's coupons to deepen your savings.

Manufacturer's Coupons

CVS accepts standard manufacturer's coupons (from newspaper inserts), as well as printable coupons from reputable providers like and For a more complete understanding of the CVS corporate coupon policy, follow this link: CVS Corporate Coupon Policy

CVS Cash Card

Occasionally, CVS will feature a group of weekly sale items that qualify for a $10 CVS gift card, when you spend $30 (mix-n-match).  The nice part about this program is that the $30 is before coupons, so if you can match up qualifying items that have coupons, you can achieve excellent savings.  Here's an example:  Let's say that Head & Shoulders Shampoo is on sale for $5.00 ea. and it's part of the CVS Cash Card sale.  You buy 6 bottles of Head & Shoulders for $30.00 and use 3 BOGO Free Head & Shoulders coupons, which makes your total out-of-pocket paid to $15.00.  Then you'll earn a $10 gift card, which makes your final price just $5.00 ($15.00-$10.00) for 6 bottles!  Another great feature with this program is that purchases "track" on you ExtraCare card.  You don't have to buy $30 of qualifying products in one transaction, since your ExtraCare Card will keep a running total and trigger your Cash Card reward when you hit the $30.

ExtraBucks Rewards

ExtraBucks Rewards (EB's) are savings that you receive for shopping at CVS.  They're earned through a variety of ways, but most commonly, as part of a weekly sale.  For example, say there's a sale "Buy 1 Oral-B toothbrush for $4.99, receive $2.00 ExtraBucks".  So you will pay the $4.99, then on the bottom of your receipt the ExtraBucks will print for use on a future purchase.  Pay close attention to the reward limits, usually in small print below the sale item in the circular.

Clip EB's and use them just like money with few limitations.  EB's cannot be used to pay for alcohol, gift cards, lottery, money orders, prescriptions, postage stamps, pre-paid cards or tobacco products .  Also, EB's do have expiration dates (usually a few weeks from printing) and you can only use EB's up to the extent of your purchase total before sales tax.

ExtraBucks are also earned for prescriptions and store purchases (2%), which accumulate and are paid out on a quarterly basis through your register receipt, ExtraCare Coupon Center or through the CVS website.  Below are other ways to earn ExtraBucks.

ExtraCare Beauty Club

Go to the CVS website and register for the ExtraCare Beauty Club, which pays $5.00 for every $50.00 in purchases of qualifying beauty products.  The following categories qualify towards your beauty purchases: Cosmetics, Skin Care, Hair Care, Fragrances, Hair Color, Hair Appliances, Hair Accessories, Hosiery, Sun Care and Healthy Skin Care. Items from Beauty 360, items from Trial & Travel, gift cards and prescriptions are excluded.  Once you reach the $50.00 threshold, your $5.00 EB's will print out on your receipt two days after you purchase.

And there you have the basics for shopping at CVS. They offer a number of great savings opportunities that the casual shopper just will not take advantage of.  Make sure you do!  Happy shopping!
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Patrick Amrine

Patrick is a married sales executive and father of four children; a college graduate, one in college, one in grade school and a 5-year old. Besides being c0-owner of A Single Coupon, he also has extensive knowledge on shopping the drugstore chains; CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens.

Bindi Shah

Bindi was born and raised in London England, and moved to the U.S. just over ten years ago, after marrying her American husband in Scotland! She has a 7 year old daughter and a 4 year old son! Beside's being c0-owner of A Single Coupon, couponing and deal seeking are two of her favorite pastimes and she's an expert in the art of saving money at Meijer, Target and Dollar Tree!