Saturday, February 20, 2010

Getting Started at CVS

I recently had a new user ask me about a guide to shopping at CVS and Walgreens. I so appreciate the request because it's something I have been meaning to do! Today I'll post about CVS and I'll add this both the the CVS and Getting Started posts.

CVS is a great place to get free items or sometimes even get paid to shop!

Extra Care Bucks Program
The first thing you'll need to do to take advantage of great CVS deals is sign up for a CVS Extra Care Bucks Reward Card, you can get even more info on their program from the source HERE. They are available at any location and there is no cost to sign up. The Extra Care Bucks (ECB) system is a loyalty card that rewards you with ECBS, think of it as CVS Money. These Extra Bucks can be redeemed like cash at any CVS and normally expire within 4 weeks. You'll also earn ECB's everytime you shop, 2% back with every purchase in-store and online and you'll also earn 1 Extra Buck for every 2 prescriptions purchased.

Other benefits of the ECB system is you'll get coupons just for scanning your card! These coupons often referred to as CRTs or Cash Register Tape coupons will be unique to your card, so no one else can use them. They are store coupons and can be combined with manufacturer coupons.

CVS ECB Scenarios
The real benefit comes in when you are combining ECB deals with coupons. If you look at a CVS ad you will see the ECB deals listed. Here is a real example from the ad that ran 2/14 - 2/21/10. You can see my purchase for this week HERE.

Buy Crest Mouthwash $3.50, Get $3.50 Extra Care Bucks!

So the item is essentially FREE, with the exception of tax, depending on your area. Now to really sweeten the deal we add in a manufacturer coupon... $2/1 Crest Mouthwash 2/7 P&G.

So would pay $1.50 after the coupon and earn $3.50 back! If you already have ECBs you can pay with those and use coupons to help your ECBs grow! You can "roll" ECB's into another ECB deal or you can use them to buy things you want or need. You will also see limits on ECB deals. So the Crest deal had a limit of 2, you could buy both at once or on separate shopping trips. You can even go back to the shelf and pick up more EBC producing items and buy those with the ECBs you just earned.

CVS Tips
-You may want to check out the ECB FAQ from CVS HERE.

-You will have $/$$ coupons from CVS. Plan your trips so they are just above the minimum and hand in that coupon first. Have a plan B because CVS has a small stock and you may have to have a backup plan.

-CVS is different from Walgreens in that if you have to buy 2 or more of an item to qualify for ECBs you can buy them in separate transactions. The reward card will keep track of how many you purchased overall.

-Buy a Greenbag Tag. It costs $.99 and you attach it to any bag, ideally a reusable one. You can have it scanned 1x per day and you'll earn $1 ECB every 4 scans. It may not seem like much but if you ran into CVS 2x a week you'd earn $26 in ECBs after 1 year. That's one heck of a return on your investment! I wish my 401(k)was as profitable as my Greenbag Tag!

-Stay organized, nothing breaks your heart like an expired ECBs. That being said, some managers will take any expired ECBs, some will take them within a certain period of time (with a week or so) and some won't take them at all. Play it safe and use them by the expiration date.

-Don't leave your ECB's in a hot car, it will turn this strange gray color and eventually the ink will disappear. (I speak from experience)

-Let's say an ECB deal has a limit of 6 and you buy all 6 in one transaction you'll get one giant ECB. For example if you buy a 6 boxes of Soy Joy that produce $6 in ECBs each in one transaction you'll have a $36 ECB. What if next week you only want to do a $5 transaction? You don't want to pay with a $36 ECB, you won't get the $31 back! So consider breaking it up so you have smaller ECBs.

-CVS isn't like Walgreens in that you don't have to worry about having an item for each ECB you want to use. You can buy 4 items, use 4 coupons and use 10 ECBs. Think of ECBs more like cash that coupons.

I'm sure you all will think of additional questions or additional tips for a new CVS user. So please feel free to comment. I love hearing and learning from you guys!!!!!

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