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Simple Saving Savvy: Cashing in at CVS...

Simple Saving Savvy

Practicing Wise Stewardship & Blessing Others Out of Our Abundance

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cashing in at CVS...

Participating in customer rewards programs can make your dollars work overtime for you. One of the most popular programs is the CVS Extra Care Program.

Here's how it works:

Isn't CVS over-priced you ask? How can shopping there ever be a deal? Is it really worth it? My answer is a loud "YES, YES, YES it is worth it"!! The key to making CVS shopping worth it is to understand how to combine your coupons and your extra care bucks (ECBs) resulting in very little out of pocket (OOP) expense. The purpose of this outline is to elaborate on how to do this. Once you have read it, I hope you will feel comfortable trying it on your own.

Step 1 - Get a Membership Card The Extra Care Program utilizes a membership card. This card must be scanned in order to receive sale pricing, to be eligible for ECB promotions and also to track the limit on ECB promotions. The easiest way to get an Extra Care Card is by going to your local CVS. You can, however, click on the membership card link above and go through the steps.

Step 2 - Purchase Promotional Items to Receive ECBs
Extra Care Bucks are earned by purchasing certain products during a promotional period. Some promotions are weekly deals and others last for the entire month. Monthly deals do not reset at the beginning of each week but rather the limits set are for the whole month. You may participate in each deal according to the limits set, usually ranging from 1-5. Your membership card will track when you have reached the deal limit and a deal summary will print at the bottom of your receipt. Any ECBs earned from that trip will also print at the bottom of your receipt. These can be used “like cash” on most items sold at CVS.

(As a general rule, ECBs cannot be used to pay for prescriptions, gift cards, tobacco products, alcohol, stamps, and milk. This may vary according to your local store policy.)

Try to find promotional items that offer a high amount of ECBs in ratio to the total cost of the item. For example: this week, there was a three-day sale on Irish Spring Body Wash. If you bought the body wash for 4.99, you received 4.99 in ECBs. Your final cost on this item is FREE. (Please keep in mind that you still pay sales tax).

Another promotion this week is for Colgate MaxWhite 4.6-6oz toothpaste. Buy it for 2.99 and you receive 2.99 in ECBs. Again, final cost is free.

And then there's the Dry Idea Roll-On Antiperspirant sale priced at 2.99. You get $2 in ECBs when you buy it and there's a limit of 2 on that one. You get the picture.

Here's the math:

4.99 Irish Spring Body Wash
2.99 MaxWhite Tooth Paste
2.99 Dry Idea
2.99 Dry Idea
13.96 Total (plus sales tax)
11.98 Earned ECBs
1.98 Total OOP

By spending $13.96, you have accumulated 11.98 worth of ECBs to be used like cash on your next shopping trip.

(For the sake of this outline I applied the ECBs to the Total of this transaction to show you how ECBs can save you money, however, ECBs are usually applied to each transaction at time of use to get a more accurate OOP)

Step 3 - Purchase Promotional Items w/ Coupons
Purchasing promotional items (those offering ECBs) with coupons, brings down your OOP and stretches your dollars even further. Let's view the above trip summary again but this time add in coupons.

4.99 Irish Spring Body Wash - .50 Q
2.99 MaxWhite Toothpaste - .75 Q
2.99 Dry Idea - $2 IP
2.99 Dry Idea - $2 IP
13.96 Subtotal (plus sales tax)
5.25 Amount of coupons
8.71 Total
11.98 ECBs Earned

Now your OOP has turned to PROFIT (again, not accounting for sales tax) and the store has just pretty much paid you to take merchandise out of their store.

You now have accumulated 11.98 in ECBs but have spent only 8.71 OOP.

Step 4 - Roll Those ECBs
This is the clincher! Many people stop short at Step #3. They earn ECBs and then turn around and spend them on just anything. The REAL deal is to use your ECBs like cash on other promotional deals to generate more ECBs and then use those ECBs to do more promotional deals to get MORE ECBs all the while matching up your coupons to the deals to bring down your OOP and make the deal even sweeter. Get the picture? We call it ROLLING.

Follow the four steps listed above and before you know it you'll have gotten more stuff for free than you ever imagined. Your cupboards will be this point, don't forget those less fortunate than you.....give, give, give.

Now we'll cover some frequent questions that come up. And remember, if anything comes up that I have not covered or you have questions, email me.

What is CVS coupon policy?
According to corporate coupon policy, you may use one manufacturer's coupon (Q) and one CVS coupon per item. They also except Internet Printable coupons.

Keep in mind, that although this is general policy, corporate also gives their individual store managers discrepancy with coupon policy. One store may take unlimited IPs while another may say no duplicate IPs.

Also keep in mind that the "one coupon per item" policy does not apply to $x off $xx CVS coupons (see below).

Where do I get CVS coupons?
CVS coupons come from a variety of sources. Some are mailed, some are emailed (once you link your Extra Care Card to your on-line account) but most are found printed at the bottom of your cash register tape along with your ECBs.

The ones printed at the bottom of your receipt are usually for $x off a specified item, similar to a regular manufacturer's coupon. On occasion CVS also gives coupons good for FREE items, usually CVS brand.

As a thank you for shopping at CVS and to get you to spend more money, $x off $xx coupons will sometimes print at the bottom of your receipt. In other words, when you spend a certain dollar amount, you will receive a certain amount off your purchase. The $x off $xx coupons may be used over and above all other coupons but only one per transaction.

Some CVS stores have kiosks that have a coupon printer. You can scan your card before your shopping trip and receive coupons before you shop. These coupons will be for items CVS wants to push that week or for the types of items you normally buy using your Extra Care Card.

When a promotion says I need to buy $20 worth of a certain product to earn ECBs, is that before or after coupons?
The total is calculated before coupons.

Do I have to finish a promotion in one transaction?
Not usually. For instance, if the promotion states buy $20 worth of Proctor & Gamble and get $10, you could buy $10 in one transaction and $10 in another. Your ECB would print at the end of the second transaction after your total spent reached $20. On rare occasions, the ad will mention that you have to complete the promotion in one transaction.

How many ECBs can I use per transaction?
As many as you want. However, the register will usually stop accepting them if they will make your subtotal (pre-tax total) negative.

What are quarterly ECBs?
These are earned based on the amount you actually spent (OOP) at CVS and from prescriptions filled during that quarter. You will get back 2% of what you actually spent and a $1 ECB for every 2 prescriptions you have filled online or in store.

The quarters run from January to March, April to June, July to September and October to December.Your quarterly ECB will print on or after the first day of the month following the end of the quarter.

Can I use my ECBs on
You can only use your quarterly ECB online.

Can I use my ECBs on someone else’s card?
No, the ECBs earned on your card are coded to only work for transactions completed with that same card.

Can I have more than one card?
You cannot have more than one card in your name. In the past, CVS has allowed one card per member of your household. Although they have not formally changed policy, they are trying to get away from this. If you call corporate, they will tell you that you can have more than one card per household, however, managers are increasingly starting to frown upon this, mainly because people have abused it.

Since there is not an official policy in place forbidding multiple cards, Simple Saving Savvy leaves this up to your own discretion, however, we personally advocate one card per household. Trust me, the first time you go to CVS to do a deal and they are out of stock because that person with five cards came in before you, you'll understand why we take this stand.

I have only one card for my family and I get plenty of FREE stuff all year long.

Can I use my $5 ECB on an item that only costs $3?
You can, but you would lose money. You have to use the full amount of the ECB because you will not get money back.

When they have a "Buy xx worth of ________, and earn $xx ECBs" promotion, and the items are on sale B1G1 Free, do both of them count toward the promo?
If the ECB deal is based on buying a specific DOLLAR AMOUNT in order to obtain the ECB, then only the one you actually pay for counts. The free one does NOT count. However, if the promotion is based on buying a specific NUMBER of items in order to obtain the ECB, then both items will count.

If CVS has an ECB deal that is unlimited or has a limit of more than one and I buy them all in the same transaction, how do the ECBs print out?

All of the ECBs earned in a given transaction for EACH promo will be combined into one larger ECB.

What if a promotional item isn't in stock?
You can ask for a rain check. In this case, the cashier should write your rain check with the ECBs figured into the cost of the item. Some stores do this differently though and give a rain check for regular cost with a note regarding ECBs. Then when you cash in your rain check, they either force ECBs from the register or give you a gift card.

Can I earn the advertised ECBs when I shop online?
No. Advertised ECBs are earned for in-store purchases only.

Can I use my ECBs to pay when I shop online?
Any ECBs earned in stores cannot be used to check out online. The only ECBs that may be redeemed online are the quarterly ones. And since those are usually only a couple of bucks at the most, it doesn't even pay for shipping.



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