CVS: How To Get Started Using the Extra Care Program

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Do you hear of people getting bags of products for pennies at CVS and you want to as well? Follow these step-by-step instructions and you’ll be a-m-a-z-e-d at how far your money goes at CVS.

Your turn: What other tips and tricks have you learned to get fabulous deals at CVS?

Get an ExtraCare Card

Go to CVS’s website and sign up for an ExtraCare card.  You can also sign up in the store.  It’s free, and you’ll need the card because:

Sale prices.  You only get certain sale prices with the card.

Email offers.  You’ll get lots of email offers.  I got my card in May this year and I have already received several emails with $4 and $5 off coupons.  Generally you will get a coupon right away as a thank you for signing up.

Coupon spitter-outer.   Each time you go to CVS, you can scan your card at the CSO (“coupon spitter-outer”).  It’s a blue machine labeled “price scanner” where you can scan your card on each visit and it spits out a CVS-issued coupon.  Usually they are for CVS brand items, but you may also get great dollar-off coupons – my best was a $10 off a $30 purchase coupon.

Extra Care Bucks.  Each week, the card will allow you to earn Extra Bucks (ECBs, or Extra Care Bucks) when you buy certain products.  The Extra Care Bucks are a store credit that you can spend like work for your next CVS purchase (but they don’t give change back if you spend less than the value of the Extra Care Bucks).  They print out on your receipt at the end of your transaction.

Join the Advisor Panel

Join the CVS Advisor Panel and you’ll get high-value Extra Care Bucks for taking an occasional market research-type survey. Hear what other readers think about the program in the comment section of this article.

Study the sales flyers

You can usually get a heads-up on CVS sales weeks in advance by checking out the forums at sites like A Full Cup, Slickdeals or Hot Coupon World.  The key to a super successful CVS strategy is to only buy the items that generate Extra Care Bucks or items that are at a rock-bottom sale price.

Find your coupon match-ups

Pocket Your Dollars has weekly shopping lists you can use to see which coupons can make the advertised sales at CVS even better. The forums mentioned above often have discussions about the sales happening one and even two weeks from now, if you are the type to plan ahead.

“Roll” your Extra Care Bucks

Here’s how you walk out with bags of stuff for just a few dollars.  You can do multiple transactions at CVS and pay for them using Extra Care Bucks that printed out from the previous transaction (aka “rolling your Extra Care Bucks”).  For example, one week you might get $10 in Extra Care Bucks if you buy $20 worth of certain products.  You can purchase those items, then use that $10 Extra Care buck to pay for items you ring up in a separate transaction that day or on a future visit.  If the items you buy in your second transaction or future visit items also generate Extra Care Bucks, them you’ll get those too, even if you pay with Extra Care Bucks.

Stack deals

Stacking deals means you use CVS coupons + manufacturer coupons + Extra Care Bucks to reduce your total spending. In the example above, you don’t actually have to pay $20 for the items to get the Extra Care Bucks.  You could use a CVS-issued $4 off a $20 purchase coupon (if you have one from a CVS email or from the coupon spitter-outer), plus use manufacturer-issued coupons on the products, and pay with Extra Care Bucks you may have from a previous purchase.  The $20 requirement, in the example we’re using, must be reached before any coupons or Extra Care Bucks are applied.  To maximize your savings, hand your coupons to the cashier in the following order:

— CVS $X/XX dollar off coupons (so the discount is applied to your total before other coupons)

— Manufacturer-issued coupons

— Extra Care Bucks

Be patient

You will need to spend a bit out of pocket initially to earn Extra Care Bucks. My first few CVS trips I was spending $15-20, and thought it wasn’t worth it.  But the day I walked out with $47 worth of merchandise after paying only $.97 I knew CVS would be a great place to save money!

Thanks to Pocket Your Dollars’ reader Sarah for laying this out for all of us!


  1. Kierstien says

    Thanks Carrie! I have kind of given up on doing cvs latley I just didnt have the time. But the other day I got a survery in my inbox and got $10 for taking a 5min survery. Went and bought the pop (we were out) and aussie conditioner spent $2.19 for 4-12pks diet coke and conditioner and got a $2ecb to use on my next visit!!! So going to start back at cvs!

  2. Jo says

    My Oop $$$ each week are less than $2 while still generating between $15-$25 in ECB. My ECB balance in the past 6 months has hit a low of $7 and peaked at a high of $51.98. Currently after this weeks deals I am at $21.98. ECB if used properly will allow you to stockpile free toothpaste and deodorant and soaps with ease. The advisory board is good and the "coupon spitter" in store is excelelnt for at least one $3 or $5 coupon a week. Be patient.

  3. says

    Do ECB expire (like Walgreens Register Rewards)? What kind of items are the best deals there–paper products, food, makeup? I need to find the cheapest way to supply our family with TP and Kleenex!

    • jo says

      Yes ECB do expire – as Carrie states they are longer than Wags RR-usually a month. As always teh better you get to know and treat your cashier at CVS (or anywhere) the more likelyhhod for easing of policies. My CVS takes expired, competitors coupons, matches adv prices etc. They see me come in and usually get escorted to the items already on my list as my cashiers' know what I will be shopping for. They inform me of upcoming markdowns and such. Building a rapport with your store associates is essential in mastering freebies and deals.

  4. Sarah says

    Thanks for the info. I've been going to CVS now for for 3 months and getting the deals! I just found the CSO (I knew there had to be one, but just didn't know where to find it – I know now!) Also, my store gets picked over fast for the good deals. I've started asking for rain checks. It's so much nicer to go a week later and KNOW I will get the product then – so no more trips at 8 am on Sunday mornings only to find out the person ahead of me got the last Extra Care Buck deal! Thanks so much for all the money saving tips!

  5. Brenda says

    I must be dim but whenever I get my CVS receipt and it tells me about my EB cash I don't know how to go about redeeming them. Sad to say, I've probably wasted hundreds in ebc due to this and I want to start using them. I've asked at my store and they aren't clear and it's usually busy when I go in so it's hard to get answers. Anyone help me on how to redeem mine so I can start using them?? Thank you in advance.

    • says

      Brenda, are you talking about the Extra Care Bucks that print out at the bottom of your receipt? All you need to do is clip them off the bottom of your receipt and use them for a future purchase. They can be used just like a gift card for money off your next order. When you check out, give the cashier your Extra Care card (or your telephone number if you don't have your card with you). After they scan your purchases and any other coupons, give them as many Extra Care Bucks (the slips of paper you cut off from your receipts with the dollar amounts printed on them) as you want. They won't give you cash back for any Extra Care Bucks you have that are more than the value of your purchase, but they will take money off your current order. Does that make sense?

  6. Bethany C says

    Does anyone know CVS's coupon policy on B1G1 sales? Can you only use one coupon on the item that you paid for or can you use two coupons- one for each item?

  7. jen says


    Great post! Thanks for all you do putting this website together.

    If you keep scanning your card (usually 2 times) until it says no more prints available generally you will get more coupons at the machine. Hope that helps someone else.

  8. jen says


    I'm a little confused by your answer. Don't you need as many items as you have coupons, ECB's, CRT's for? Thanks

  9. Andrea says

    I am thinking about starting up at CVS as well and would like the answer to Mary's question! I am pretty familiar with Walgreens but CVS sounds even better???

  10. Nikki says

    I lost a $5 ECB reward printed at the bottom of a receipt and I can't seem to print it online. The reward isn't clickable. Does that mean I can't use it?

  11. Beth says

    Has anyone every had problems with ECB not printing? I got an item that should have ended up being free after ECB. I didn't realize that it didn't print until I got home. Had the little ones with and it was getting a bit crazy. I thought I might have grabbed the wrong type or size but I checked online and it matched with what I bought. I found the information online that verified the ECB deal and printed it out. I have my receipt and the item that I bought. If I bring this all in, will they give me the ECB? I've only been to CVS twice and I'm just getting use to how this all works.

    Thanks for any help you can give me.


  12. Andrea says

    Just went to CVS downtown Minneapolis and found 2 packs of size 3 huggies (52 count) diapers on clearance 75% off for 4.37!! Used two $3/1 coupons to make them 1.37 for 52…that is 2.6 cents per diaper!!! I also got a pack of size 5 CVS brand diapers on clearance for 2.24 (for a 30 pack) and surprising, it still printed out a $2 ECB!!! So I basically paid less than 1 cent per diaper for those! And…there is more…the Goodnite Boxers were on clearance for 2.99 (for a 10 pack) and I had 2.50/1 coupon making them .49! So I grabbed two of those as well. I had a $4/$20 coupon so I threw in 3 Powerbars (.99 a piece which then produced 2.97 in ECB) and a pack of candy on sale for .88. Total: 5.87, Saved: 66.10

  13. Susan says

    When there is a limit of one on an item at CVS is that per week (tracked on my Exra Care card) or per visit. Anyone know? Thank you.

  14. Jenny says

    I have ECBs that are going to expire this week and I can't think of a thing I need at CVS.

    Do you suppose I could use them to purchase a gift card?

  15. martin says

    Hi ya, Carrie! :)

    Can we roll ECB from one product's purchase into a second purchase of the same product to get the same ECB once again?

    For example, if we used two $2.50 off coupons to purchase John Freida shampoo, presently on sale 2 for $10, get $5.00 ECB, could we use this ECB with two (other) $2.50 off coupons to purchase John Freida shampoo or conditioner or other products, presently on sale 2 for $10, get $5.00 ECB once again?

    We, essentially, do the same at Walgreen's – and because they do not use a CARD, like CVS – they cannot track the redundant purchases.


  16. Andrea says

    Yes! I've been doing that with the John Frieda items, and it works! Walgreen's doesn't want you to roll them because they have no limits (because they don't use cards), but CVS has cards and limits, so it doesn't matter to them.

  17. Cheryl says

    My question is you purchase an item that has a ECB promotion, and you want to use that promotion towards the purchase. So for example, Trident gum was on sale for $.99 and when you buy it , you get a $.99 ECB. Well I want to use my ECB for that gum, and get it free. I dont want to save my ECB for my next purchase because I always lose them. One associate did it for me, and another didnt. So tonight I bought a product on sale for $4.99, and you get back $4.99 ECB. Since the assoc. didnt use my ECB towards my purchase, I returned the item, and bought it back with ECB. Can you do this?

  18. Mr. J says

    I have accumulated an ECB for quarterly spending. If I prolong printing this will it prolong my expiration date?

  19. Paige says

    CVS bag tag is a great deal. I think it costs 1 dollar. Scan it once a day with purchase and use your own bag. Every 4 times you scan they print you $1 ECB good on any purchase. It is essentially $0.25 per use so it pays for itself quickly and continues to pay you to shop.

  20. Carrie says

    I'll try to answer a few of the questions posted on here. You cannot use ECB to pay tax. You can use ECB that you received for purchasing an item on another identical item as long as it's in a different transaction. Your ECB are ONLY for future purchases – they are not for the item that you just purchased. Example: You buy a crest toothpaste and get $1 ECB at the end of your receipt. You are not supposed to get the $1 off of that toothpaste that you just purchased – it it to be used on your next purchase. Every store is different as far as expiration dates. I would suggest that you call the MANAGER of the store that you like to shop at and ask him/her. Get the managers name, that date that you called them and write it down, that way when you go into the store and you get a conflicting answer, you can politely let them know that you called the manager and was told otherwise. Someone else said it earlier, but I'll repeat it. Be NICE to the sales people and they will usually be much nicer to you and try to help you out. I shop at the Lakeville CVS and they are GREAT. I have saved soooo much money at CVS. My latest trip there (this past week) I SAVED over $225 dollars and only spent $25 out of pocket! It was amazing. It takes a while to get use to the system, but it pays off in the end.

  21. Shana says

    Hi! I love CVS, but the location I frequent in downtown Minneapolis NEVER has any coupons in their in-store coupon machines. Is this due to limited quantities or do some stores just not have coupons?

  22. says

    I have found that to be the case at a few other CVS stores also. And my usual location on University in St Paul gives me the same (non-valuable) coupons over and over and over until I get sick of it and leave it alone! (This has improved somewhat lately.) Frustrating!!

  23. Andrea says

    CVS sounds like a great place to get bargains!! I'm still a little confused though. When there is a limit of one for a particular item, can I go back later and buy another one or is it tracked on my extra Care card so that I can't? thanks!

  24. Shannon says

    I tried CVS for the first time this week. I made two mistakes…one, I accidentally got one less item than I should've to reach the total amount to get the care bucks and the other mistake, I didn't realized all of the ECB items had a limit on them so I had purchased two razors thinking I'd get care bucks on both of them but it was only one one of them. My first mistake should've been obvious but I'm wondering if you could include in the description above that there is often a limit (or maybe I just missed it). Thanks! I'll try again next week:)

  25. Sascha says

    Alright- so I bought perfume for 16.99 today, which gave me $10 extra bucks. I went back and used the extra bucks right away for free vitamins. :) Now, can I go and return the perfume and get my $16.99 back? I didn't really want it and was going to sell it on ebay if I couldn't return it. Does this question make sense? Will I be penalized in any way for returning the $16.99 perfume after already having used the $10 extrabucks on a different transaction?

  26. Jessica B. says

    Just so you know, with CVS you don't have to buy all your items for one ECB deal at the same time. Say for example you're getting the Post cereal this week which is on sale 3/$9 and get $3 ECB back. Well, if you only buy one box on one trip, you can go back and buy the other two boxes on your next trip this week and your ECB will then print. Also, if you don't need the second razor you can return it. Hope that helps!

  27. Jessica B. says

    It is tracked on your Extra Care card. If the limit is one, you can only get one ECB for that deal that week.

  28. Heather says

    Sascha, I would question the ethics of buying something you intend to return just to earn the extra care bucks….even if CVS lets you do it.

  29. Michelle says

    Great site and helpful comments! I'm trying to master CVS extra bucks. Maybe someone can help me figure this out? This week I had $17.77 worth of extra bucks to spend. In this week's ad you can earn $5 EB when you spend $15 on Schick razors/refills. Also, the Colgate toothpaste, sale price $2.77, earns $2.77 in EB. On my first transaction I bought $22.49 8 ct Schick Quattro razor refills, had a manu coupon for $2, and the $2.77 toothpaste. I used ALL of my $17.77 EB on this purchase. I was expecting to get $5 in extrabucks on the receipt but I only got the one for $2.77. The sales clerk said it was because my out of my pocket was less than $15. Was she correct? What did I do wrong?

  30. carrie says

    Michelle, is it possible that you grabbed the wrong razors? Did you happen to see a sign saying that these were Extra Care items? I've made a few mistakes picking up the incorrect item in the past, that's why I ask! If you did get the correct item, then show them, along with your receipt, to the manager and see if they will correct the mistake. That actually happened to me today at CVS. I was supposed to get $6.?? in ECB for the Pantene products that I purchased and the register didn't "give them to me". The manager corrected the error and gave me the ECB. This RARELY happens at CVS – usually it's MY error (like I mentioned earlier). The gal at the register was incorrect. If you did indeed spend $15 on the products then you should have gotten the $5 ECB. Hope this helps!

  31. Michelle says

    Thank you Carrie! I'm almost positive I bought the correct razors. I will just ask the manager if this ever happens again. Can't wait to try again this Sunday with the new ad!

  32. Angela says

    As a walgreens employee, I have been shopping at Walgreens for the last 9 years. I always thought it felt like trespassing to walk into a CVS. The store (in my area) seems a bit run down even though it's newer than my Walgreens. There was never anyone shopping there when I went. If CVS can give me better deals than I can get at Walgreens with my emp discount, rr's, mfg coupons and store coupons, I'll give it a shot. Still a bit confused on how things work at CVS though. I'm a master couponer at walgreens.

  33. Heidi says

    I am new to CVS ECB. Can they be used at other stores like Catalina coupons or are they exclusive to CVS?

  34. carrie says

    Exclusive to CVS. Walgreens Register Rewards can be used at most Cub stores but the ECB can only be used at CVS.

  35. Anne says

    I believe that it would be un-ethical to return the perfume after using the EB. It sounds wrong. Go for e-bay!

  36. Amie says

    2 questions

    1. Can I use ECBs from someone else's card/purchase? My mother in law gave me some she earned with her card. Can i use them with my card?

    2. My husband and I both have our own cards but they are obviously registered under the same address. Can we both get ECBs on "limit one per household" deals? Like, does it go by the card? Or the address the card is under

  37. Amber says

    This happened to me once but I noticed it in the store. The manager manually did something to print it out. Maybe you could ask about it next time? Or go there during a less busy time?

  38. lynn says

    I have a question. when earning eb on a deal. like spend 20 on dog food get 5 back. in the ad it says limit one. is that per transaction or for the week it is on sale

  39. Carrie says

    It means ONE of those "deals" can be done per CVS extra care card. At least that has been my experience – anyone else find it to be different?

  40. Claudia says

    I have a question I got $3 extrabucks rewards coupon and I'm wondering if I can use them to buy something to drink even if it's on sale.

  41. Carrie says

    You can use extra care bucks the same as cash. In other words, you can use them to buy anything you want – even items that are on sale :)

  42. dime time says

    anything? including tobacco and gift cards?

    my biggest pet peeve about the WAGs register rewards: they won't let me use them to buy a gallon of milk.

  43. diane says

    this will get the clerk fired. the point of giving you back the money so that you can back again. will may have gotten lucky, but you also casue the employee there job. also if you do to many of those returns they will dicontine the use of your card and you wont be able to do that. carry a small envelop in your purce and keep track that way. also the more people who abuse this will cost the rest of this way of saving money.

  44. Nancy says

    Hi Carrie,

    Do you know if I have a % off coupon (for example 20% of) and a $2/1 coupon, do you know in what order the coupon applies?

    If the item is $10 (non-sale price),

    $10 – $2 = $8, then %30 off = $6.4


    20% off $10 = $8 then -$2 = $6.

  45. says

    Nancy – If the % off coupon is a store coupon and the $2/1 coupon is a manufacturer's coupon, then the % off coupon should be applied first. If they're both store coupons, then the $2/1 will undoubtedly be applied before the % off.

  46. Nancy says

    Thanks Laura!

    My question is for the $2/1 from the red machine (for example, $2 off Nature made vitamin). I I guess this $2 is a store coupon.

  47. says

    Patty – CSO is our abbreviation for "coupon spitter-outer machine" – yeah, we're technical like that. :) Most people call it the CVS coupon machine.

  48. Rachel says

    I just want to make sure I get this straight: If I go to the register with products that add up to the amount I need for EB, and use coupons and such to bring that amount lower, I will still get the EB even though my out of pocket expenses did not add up to the amount that is needed for the EB?

  49. Linda says

    I have a question that I can't seem to find an answer for. In this week's CVS ad, there's a ECB deal for Physicians Formula products. Buy $10 worth and get $7 ECB. A blog I've read before does these CVS scenarios and recommends that you buy a mascara that's $9.99 saying you'll get the $7 ECB. Isn't that a penny short? Wouldn't you have to spend $10 or more?

  50. linda says

    I lost my card and have been using just the telephone number when I get scripts I have never shopped at cvs but I want to start when my receipt prints at the bottom it says 35.49 available does this mean ecb to use? if so after I get a new card how do I spend the balance. the balance has steadily gone up on my receipts. hope my question makes sense!

    • says

      Linda – The only way to redeem ECBs is with the actual print out of the ECBs – simply scanning your card or inputting your phone number will not work.

      My guess is that “$35.49 available” is how much you’ve spent in the past quarter eligible for your % back Rewards or your Beauty Club purchases.

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