April 21, 2010

Reader Question: CVS Extra Care Bucks

I received a question from one of our readers, Tanesha.  I was going to answer her question in the comments, but realized that many others of you probably have the same questions.

At first, I too was overwhelmed and confused by the CVS Extra Care Buck sales.  It does take some getting used to and some strategizing, so at first you may want to take it slowly.

How do the ECBs work at CVS?

CVS offers something called Extra Care Bucks, commonly known as ECBs.  Basically, you purchase the ECB sale item and then at the end of your transaction you will receive your ECBs which you can use on another transaction.  The Extra Care Bucks work like cash within the CVS store.

Example:  Last week, Colgate was $2.99. The sale stated that you would receive $2 in ECBs. Technically, that makes your cost $.99 since you got back the $2 to use in the store, but to get the ECBs you have to pay for the item out of pocket.

Some items are free with your ECBs.

Example:  Last week, CVS had Dove shampoo or conditioner for $4.50. When you purchased the Dove product, you received $4.50 in ECBs. You had to spend the initial $4.50 but you got it back at the end of your transaction to use on a future purchase.

Can you use coupons with ECBs purchases?

Ok, she didn’t really ask this question, but I thought I’d throw it in there because it’s important.

Yes, absolutely! You can combine coupons with ECB transactions.

Example:  Dove shampoo is $4.50 and you’ll get back $4.50 in ECBs.  On your transaction, you can hand the cashier your Dove hair care product coupon for $1 off. You’ll pay $3.50 (instead of $4.50) and you’ll still get back the $4.50 in ECBs.  It’s like making money!  Isn’t that exciting?!

Isn’t there a limit to bucks like so many per card?

Yes, there is a limit on ECB specials. Last week, the limit on the Dove shampoo was 1 per CVS card. Sometimes there is a limit of 2 or 4.  The CVS ad will state the limits.  And if you’re not sure how many you’ve purchased that week, you can check the bottom of your receipt and it will state if you have fulfilled the maximum on the offer.

Do you purchase all your ECB things first?

There are a few ways to handle the ECB transactions.  I’ll tell you some options and then give you the one that I choose most often.

1.  Ring up all of your merchandise in one transaction and save your ECBs for the following week to use on more sale items.

2.  Ring up all of your merchandise in one transaction and use your ECBs on splurge items such as make-up, hair care products, cool office supplies.

3.  Split up your merchandise into separate transactions to utilize your ECBs as quickly as possible. This avoids you losing your ECBs or them expiring for you use them.  This is the method I choose but it does take some strategizing.

If you’ll notice my previous CVS posts, you’ll see that I sometimes have multiple transactions.  That’s because I’m trying to leave the store with the littlest out of pocket expense (OOP) possible while utilizing my ECBs.

Example:  Dove shampoo is $4.50 and you will get back a $4.50 ECB. Softsoap body wash is $5.50 and you will get back a $4.50 ECBs. Pampers Easy Ups are on sale for $7.99.  I would do this:

Transaction 1:
Dove shampoo $4.50, plus receive $4.50 in ECBs
use $1 manufacturer coupon
OOP = $3.50 and received $4.50 in ECBs

Transaction 2:
Softsoap body wash $5.50, plus receive $4.50 in ECBs
use $.75 manufacturer coupon
use $4.50 ECB sale from transaction 1
OOP = $.25 and received $4.50 ECBs

Transaction 3:
Pamper Easy Ups $7.99 sale
use $2 manufacturer’s coupon
use $4.50 ECB from transaction 2
OOP = $1.49

As you can see, it does take some strategizing to use method #3 but the out of pocket expense is very limited.

How do I get the most ECBs?

1.  You can get ECBs on specially marked items. You can find these items listed in the CVS flyer. Sometimes you might find some unadvertised ones in the store. If I have a few extra minutes, I’ll cruise the store looking for ECB sales and clearance items.

2.  Scan your card at the coupon machine during each visit to CVS. You might receive special coupons or ECBs.

3.  Get a CVS reusable bag and tag. For every 4th visit, you’ll receive $1 ECB.

If this doesn’t answer your questions, please let me know. Also, feel free to submit your questions in the comments or by using our contact button. Thanks for your questions, Tanesha!