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CVS offering double Extra Bucks on store brand

Star players of the Drugstore Game never pay for toothpaste or tissue.

By Teresa Mears Jan 20, 2010 6:06PM

Until I joined the world of frugal bloggers, I had no idea there was a “CVS Game,” in whch people used coupons and the CVS Extra Care Bucks rewards program to score free toothpaste for life and otherwise save on toiletries, cosmetics and other items.


This week through March 15, CVS is awarding double Extra Bucks rewards for CVS-brand items and prescriptions. To get the deals, customers need to present a Double Bucks certificate along with their ExtraCare card in the store or sign up online. You can get the certificates at the stores, online or in the weekly sales circulars. The Extra Bucks awarded during this promotion will be available the first week in April.


During the “I Heart Extra Bucks” promotion, shoppers will earn $2 in Extra Bucks for every two prescriptions filled and 4% back on all CVS/pharmacy brand purchases instead of the usual 2%. The deal includes all CVS brand items, not just medications.

The Drugstore Game, which includes loyalty programs at Walgreens and Rite Aid as well as at CVS, is a hot topic on personal-finance blogs. Most of the best deals involve matching store specials with manufacturers’ coupons. More than 10 million people joined the CVS program last year, raising the total number of participants to 62 million, with seniors the fastest-growing demographic, CVS reported.


Here’s what Cathy at Chief Family Officer has to say:

I wouldn't call The Drugstore Game the most important way I'm going to save money this year, but it may be my favorite way. I've been playing The Drugstore Game for almost two years now, and it's absolutely transformed the way I shop. I can't believe how much I used to pay for everyday items like shampoo, toothpaste, and toilet paper. These days, I have a list of items that I will only buy if they end up being free, and I have much lower target prices on other everyday items, like toilet paper, tissue, and dental floss.

Here is her primer on how to play. If you want to follow along as someone else learns, she is mentoring Nicole, a newlywed and full-time student in Iowa.


A guest post by Mercedes from Common Sense With Money details how she spent $7.30 at Walgreens for items she would have paid $44.52 for at Costco.

Crystal Paine at Money Saving Mom says her goal at CVS is to spend as little actual cash as possible and to come out with the same number of Extra Bucks she came in with. “By doing this, I usually will get $15-$50 worth of groceries and household items normally paying less than $1 out of pocket and earning enough ECBs to go back and do it again the next week,” she wrote.   


Crystal is a major blogger in the Drugstore Game. She has a CVS 101 tutorial and a Q&A and also posts the best weekly specials, plus links to other bloggers’ tips on that week’s CVS deals. She has similar link pages for Rite Aid and Walgreens deals.

Tara Kuczykowski at Deal Seeking Mom also has tutorials for CVS and Walgreens. She writes, “Believe it or not, shopping at drugstores is one of the best ways to stretch your budget. Yes, they’re often more expensive than grocery stores and national chain stores, but they have great loyalty programs that offer big savings when you learn how to maximize your deals by combining them with sales or rebates with manufacturer and store coupons.” She suggests starting with one drugstore and mastering its program before going on to another.


For small families, the game doesn’t yield quite as much as it does for large ones, but it’s worth playing if you live near a CVS, Walgreens or Rite Aid store. If you live near extended family, consider working together.


While I’ve vowed never again to use my CVS Extra Bucks to get three Dove candy bars for 24 cents, I have discovered a few tips for those who want to play in a small way:

  • Sign up online. You’ll get frequent printable coupons for $4 or $5 off a $20 purchase.
  • Scan your card when you enter the store. That will usually yield a coupon, which you can use right away.
  • If you don’t shop often, consider two transactions. Buy the products that will yield Extra Bucks, then come back immediately and spend them. I did this when Dove shampoo and conditioner were on sale and yielded $10 in Extra Bucks if you bought five bottles total. As soon as I paid for those, I went back to the drugstore area and picked up the $20 eyewash  I needed, applying the $10 in Extra Bucks to pay for that.
  • If you forget your card, give the clerk your phone number and your transaction will be credited.
  • Check the fliers as you go in to see if there is anything you need.

Why would anyone need as many tubes of toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo and other items you can get free if you’re a savvy Drugstore Game player? MSN Money’s Donna Freedman, who is, collects those items to give to charities.


Do you play the Drugstore Game? If so, what are some of your best deals and strategies? Or do you find the rewards programs more trouble than they're worth?


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