Drug Store Basics Part One: How To Use Coupons At CVS

I've hesitated in doing a drug store series because I really think drug store shopping can be painfully overwhelming!  But, while preparing for our upcoming coupon class, I recognized that some people really do want to figure this out, so I'll be sharing the quickest crash course on drug store deals you've ever seen! 🙂


My biggest suggestion is to start with just one drug store, rather than hunting down every deal in town.  And to be honest, while I post some fabulous drug store scenarios, I hardly ever actually go to the drug stores (gasp!) They simply take a lot of work . . . and time . . .  and organization (not always my strong suit!)  BUT, when I first began couponing and loved finding every deal available, I did get some amazing deals thanks to CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens.  I've just found that I don't still have enough time to do all those deals these days!  (And, while the deals are still pretty good, I don't think they're quite as good as they were when I first began couponing several years ago.)  In case you've just been dreaming of figuring out the drug stores though, 🙂 here you go. . .


Basic Drug Store Information

All three drug stores offer similar programs which essentially allow you to earn money towards your next shopping trip when you purchase specific items. However, the coupon policies at Walgreens, Rite Aid & CVS vary significantly, so it's important to know what your store's policy allows before heading out to shop.


How To Use Coupons At CVS

  • To get the most out of CVS shopping, you'll need to sign up for their Extra Care card. You can pick up a card in thestore, but take a few minutes to also register your card online so that you'll get access to additional coupons fromCVS. (Typically you get a coupon just for signing up, and then occasionally CVS coupons may also e-mailed to you.)
  • CVS accepts one store coupon and one manufacturer coupon per item.
  • The red kiosk found in CVS stores often prints out coupons towards your CVS purchases. Take a minute to scan your CVS card before you start shopping to see if you get any free offers!
  • CVS allows you to use as many ECBs as you'd like on each purchase, and ECBs typically expire within one month ofpurchase.
  • CVS offers Extra Care Bucks (ECBs) when you purchase specific items at CVS. Typically CVS offers one or two items each week that are free when you have the right coupons, AFTER your coupon and ECBs. These items include things like toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, razors, etc. So your goal is to purchase these items, get a few ECBs to use on your next purchase, and “roll” them towards a new (free!) deal! Here's an example of how that works at CVS:

Buy 2 Neutrogena Sunscreens at $8.49 each (My store had the sticks on sale for $8.49 each week, however they were out of them so you may need to ask for a rain check!


So, in the example above you can either use those $10 in ECBs towards items you need anyways, or save them towards a future ECB offer at CVS. To really do well in the drug stores, you'll want to save those $10 in ECBs to use on a future purchase (unless there's another great deal that you need in the current ad at CVS!)
Typically, CVS limits how many times you can purchase a deal and receive Extra Care Bucks, so be sure to watch the limit numbers (you'll see the limit written right underneath each offer in the ad.) In the example above, let's say there is a limit of two Neutrogena offers per card. If so, you could actually purchase 2 Neutrogena Suncare items, get $10 in ECBs,and “roll” those ECBs to purchase more Neutrogena Suncare! If the offer limit was one per card, you could simplysave those $10 in ECBsto use on another offer at CVS.


So, those are my very quick tips on how to shop CVS.  What other suggestions do you have, and which drug store is your store of choice?

Print Friendly and PDF


  1. I am a cvs shopper only. I just cannot wrap my head around any more of the drugstores. I get pretty good deals at CVS and so I am happy. Occasionally when there are deals at the other drugstores that don’t require reward things or a card or rebates, or what ever they have, I will go there. I know Walgreens occasionally discounts there baking goods. And I have never stepped foot in a Rite-Aid. My suggestion for starting at a drug store is to start small.

  2. I love CVS! It took me a few months to get the hang of it but when I did I was hooked! My advice is to do 2 separate checkouts if you are buying several items and you have items that will give you ECB. I’m stocked up on everything you could possibly need in the shower and bathroom! Also be sure to check out clearance shelves. Sometimes there are some great items there.

  3. factord_agin says

    My problem with the drug stores (and on occasion Kroger) is that by the time I get there for the great deals, the shelves are empty. Yes, I get the rain checks, but I still leave feeling defeated. I guess it’s because it takes so much time getting organized for one of those trips. I have yet to make it to CVS/Wags and get every item on my list of goodies. It’s almost as if you have to get there right when the doors open on Sunday to succeed (and I’ve got better things to do on a Sunday morning….like church!).

    • I definitely agree that you have to get there early Amy! CVS stores that aren’t open 24 hours though actually start their ad Saturday night though, so if you can run by Saturday night you may beat your local Extreme Couponers! 🙂

  4. factord_agin says

    Now that I think about it, I wonder if I have an extreme couponer in my area? One of those folks who doesn’t have a problem with clearing the shelves.

  5. I love, love, love my local CVS! The staff is the best – the nicest, friendliest staff around – plus they are coupon friendly. But since there is a Walgreens literally right across the street from them, I do stop in there on occasion for the really good deals. I like the idea that I can get more than one Register Reward deal; however, I don’t really like having to do multiple transactions to get them. (Anything to save a buck, right? :))

  6. I shop CVS if they have deals or if I have unused ECBs about to expire that need cashing in. I’ve also found they don’t have items from the insert and dealt with rainchecks (not worth my time!). I heard that shopping Saturday pm is a good way to go, but an employee told me one Saturday evening that the register won’t print ECB’s unless it’s the official dates of the sale. Anyone else have a better luck?

    • I’m pretty sure they’ll print for you on Saturday night, but it’s been quite awhile since I’ve tried it myself. (In fact, I’m almost positive, but I’d hate to tell you incorrectly.) If anyone knows for sure I’d love to hear!

      • About two months ago I had some ECBs that were about to expire and CVS had a really good deal on Coke products that week (even without the ECB reward!). So that Saturday afternoon I decided to stop in for my Dr. Pepper, which is bottled by Coke in my area and included in the Coke sales. When I checked out, I received an ECB that I wasn’t anticipating. The manager was checking me out and after we read it, it turns out it was an ECB that printed for the Pepsi sale that was beginning the next day. Apparently, Dr. Pepper had some how been included in that sale too.

        So, I have had upcoming Sunday ECBs print on Saturday. But can’t say that it happens 100% of the time.

  7. My CVS in Decatur told me that the sale doesn’t work until Sunday now. She said they reprogrammed the computers.

  8. Danielle says

    Does anyone know if Walgreens does rainchecks? Seems like everytime I go in to buy sale items, they are always sold out. I’ve always found sale items in CVS.

    • Hi Danielle! They do offer rain checks, but only on the sales price, not on Register Rewards (which is what they’re usually out of) 🙁

  9. CVS at Providence doesn’t start sale prices until Sunday either. I asked the mgr (same thing about programming the computer).

  10. Just getting started really, and wondering if the drugstores typically take coupons from other stores?

    • No – CVS in our area used to take competitor coupons, but none of them take them any longer 🙁 Let me know if you have any other questions!

  11. If you have a $4/$20 coupon, is it $20 worth of products before coupons, or how much you spend after coupons?

  12. At CVS, when they list a product on sale as 2 for $10 (as an example where the regular price is $8.99), can you buy one at the sale price of $5 or do you have to buy both to get the sale price?

    • Hi Griff! As far as I’ve been told, you do have to buy 2 at CVS to get the discounted price. It might be worth trying out checkout (and seeing how they ring up), but I’m positive on a Buy One Get One sale you have to get both, and I’m about 95% sure that’s how those 2/$10 sales work as well. I tried to look it up in their policy and can’t find it 🙁

  13. Jana Powell says

    You can scan your cvs card 2 times on the red kiosk.

  14. What’s the advantage of getting a rain check? I’ve never asked for one and I probably should have today.

Speak Your Mind