The Drugstore Game
Sounds like something that might be on the edge of the law, huh? I promise you though, what I’m about to teach you is perfectly legal, legit, and won’t hurt your status as a law abiding citizen. 😉
Walgreens and CVS
The two drugstores I have here in Houston Texas are CVS and Walgreens. (NOTE: My sister recently updated this post with Rite Aid info as well. It’s at the bottom!)
Both CVS and Walgreens have a rewards program that can be used to your advantage with just a bit of strategy.
I’ll try and explain each one as simply as I can because it can be a bit confusing. I hesitated starting it for years even though I saw the excellent savings people brought home. And the first few times, it will be confusing, and it will make your heart race.
After awhile though, it will just be old hat and you’ll be able to not only get the great deals, but also speak the CVS/Walgreens lingo of RR’s and ECB’s and OOP.
Why do you want to play the drugstore game?
Oddly enough, drugstores are the best place to buy most paper products, healthy and beauty items and cleaning supplies! Drugstores like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid have rewards programs that can be used to stack savings to get truly unbelievable deals.
Let’s Start With CVS
CVS has a rewards program that uses a card called an Extra Care Card. You can get it for free at any CVS and I highly encourage you to. In fact it’s the only way you can get the good deals at CVS.
CVS puts out a weekly ad and throughout it you will see many items that have 2 prices. One is the sale price and the other is the price “after” Extra Care Bucks (or ECB’s as they will be called from here on out).You pay the sale price and when your receipt prints out; you will see your ECB’s print out on the bottom.
These can be used as “cash” on your next purchase.
Tide Laundry Detergent is on sale for $9.99
You pay $9.99
When your receipt prints out an ECB for $9.99 will print out to use on your next order, which makes the item you just bought “free” after ECB’s.
Now ECB’s aren’t always that generous. Sometimes it’s buy $15 worth of items and you get $5 back. Or buy $10 and get $3 ECB’s back.
The key to really taking advantage of CVS’s rewards program is to use coupons and to “roll” your ECB’s.
Let’s start with coupons
You know that Tide Laundry Detergent I told you about earlier? Well how about this? In this Sunday’s paper there was a $3 off coupon for this product.
This means you only pay $6.99 at the register.
Here’s the beautiful thing:
Even though you used a coupon, the ECB will still print out for $9.99. This doesn’t just make it free after ECB’s; it makes it a $3 money maker!You can use one manufacturer coupon per item (unless it’s a buy 2 get $x off coupon…than that one coupon applies to both) and one store coupon.
Now you want to “roll” your ECB’s. Rolling means that you buy products to get ECB’s and roll those ECB’s into more products that give you ECB’s and so on and so on.
This often requires you to make several different transactions within a given week.
Please be kind and considerate when doing back to back transactions and try to not do too many at a time.
Remember, your shopping trip is actually paying YOU money, so you can afford to step aside and let someone else who just wants to buy a bottle of water go ahead of you.
Sample CVS Scenario
Here is a sample CVS scenario that involves rolling:
Tide Laundry Detergent $9.99
total out of pocket (oop): 6.99
receive back $9.99 ecb
Lysol Healthy Touch Soap System $9.99
Huggies Pull Ups $9
Huggies Wipes $6
-$3 coupon for Lysol
-$1.50 coupon for Huggies
-$9.99 ecb from previous transaction
total oop: $10.50
receive back $3 ECB’s from Huggies Buy $10 get $3 ECB
receive back $5 ECB’s from Lysol Healthy Touch
Now you can stop there or you can just keep rolling.
If you break that scenario down you purchased $34.98 worth of product for $9.49 after ECB’s.
You could roll that $8 into something that gets you more ECB’s or you can use it to buy your milk for the week or some medicine you need (not prescription).
Now how is that for savings!
A few things to remember when you shop CVS:-
- There are limits to the amount of times you can receive ECB’s on an item. Lately it seems like for the really good ones the limit is 1. You can of course buy the product again, but you won’t get ECB’s for it again (a note on this, sometimes the advertised limit ends up not being the actual limit…check the bottom of your receipt, if it says limit reached you cannot do the deal again, if it doesn’t you can do the deal again!)
- register your CVS card on CVS.com. Sometimes you’ll get emails with money saving coupons. $4/$20 or $5/$30. If you get one of these, make sure your PRE COUPON total is over the total needed to use the coupon. Give the cashier the $x/$xx coupon FIRST. Then give your coupons.
- There are kiosks in many CVS stores that you can scan your card to get money saving coupons. Sometimes you’ll even get an $x/$xx coupon there!
- ECB’s DO expire. Keep them safe and always know when one is about to expire.
Now for Walgreens. Walgreens just recently changed their rewards program in 2012. You WILL need a special Walgreens Balance Rewards Card to take advantage of Walgreens Balance Rewards program now.
Here’s how to get your card:
- In stores you’re able to join from specially marked kiosks or at checkout with the help of a sales associate at the checkout counter. After that, activate your card online to manage your account.
- Download the free mobile app (just search the app store for Walgreens) and join directly from your smart phone or tablet.
- Give them a call at 855-225-0400 to set up your membership.
Once you are a Member, you will earn points when you purchase specified products and/or services during specified promotion periods. You can check your weekly ad to see what items will earn you points each week.
You’ll also receive points for Prescriptions and Immunizations.
In addition, you can join their Walk with Walgreens program to earn points for walking! (more info on that program here)
In order to ensure you receive your points, you will always want to provide your membership card at check out (or your mobile phone app or phone #).
You can cash out your rewards every 5000 points or every $5. Here’s how the point system works:
- 5,000 pts = $5
- 10,000 pts = $10
- 18,000 pts = $20
- 30,000 pts = $35
- 40,000 pts = $50
If at any time you want to check your balance, you can go to Walgreens.com/Balance, use the mobile app or call 855-225-0400. You’ll also see your balance on your receipt.
In most cases, you will see your points credited immediately to your account. However, with doctor ordered and some other services, it could take as much as 24 hours.
You can also link up to 4 accounts together. So if you and your family members all shop at Walgreens, you can link your cards together so you are all earning points towards the same account. This is especially useful if you trade off shopping duties! Simply call 855-225-0400 to link accounts.
Your points are good for 3 years (unless you have inactivity on your account for over 6 months) from the time you earn them.
Now here are some of the finer points you’ll want to keep in mind for the Walgreens Balance Rewards program:
- As I mentioned above, if your account is inactive for over 6 months…you risk the chance of losing all of the points you have accrued. So try to get in there once every few months to keep your account active and moving!
- You can only redeem 40,000 points ($50) per transaction.
- You can combine this Balance Rewards program with other in store promotions, store coupons, manufacturer coupons, etc
- Unless otherwise stated, there is no limit on the amount of items you can purchase that will earn you Balance Rewards (for example: NONAME Chocolate Product earns you 1000 Balance Rewards. You can buy 6 and earn 6000 points)
- When you go to check out, if you have Balance Rewards, you’ll have the option of applying them to your purchase or saving them for a future purpose…BUT (and this next point is SUPER important):
- You CANNOT earn points on a purchase at the same time you redeem points!
What does this last point mean to you? This means that the Balance Rewards program is going to make you choose between earning or redeeming points in each transaction.
This could get a bit tricky at times because it will require multiple transactions each week if you intend to “roll” deals.
You’ll have to make all of your purchases that will earn you Balance Rewards in one transaction, and then do a second transaction to redeem your Balance Rewards.
However, you can still use coupons and other strategic shopping tools to make this 2nd transaction worth your while!
The Register Rewards program is still available as well (although on a lesser scale). Basically there will be certain products each week that when purchased will prompt a manufacturer coupon to print out for a $x off coupon on your next purchase.
The only limit to this manufacturer coupon is that you can’t redeem it on a purchase of an item from the same manufacturer if you want to earn ANOTHER Register Reward.
Clear as mud? I thought so…here’s an example
Dial Nutriskin Body Wash $3.99 total oop $3.99
receive back $3 RR
At this point, you might want to go back and buy another Dial Nutriskin Body Wash with your $3 Register Reward, right?
Nope. I mean you COULD…but you wouldn’t trigger the $3 RR to print again.
Instead, we need to “pad” our transactions with a transaction for a purchase of another product from another manufacturer.
Transaction #2: (remember you cannot do it on the Dial again with the
BioTrue Multi Purpose Solution $4.99
small piece of .50 cent candy (you must have a “filler” product to use the RR, remember it is a manufacturer coupon so it has to have a product attached to it)
-$2 coupon on Bio True (coupon #1)
-$3 RR (coupon #2) total oop $.49 receive back $4 RR
Now you can do the Dial deal again with the $4 RR from the BioTrue Deal.
Some things to remember about Walgreens:
-sometimes they will have multiple RR deals from the same company. You cannot roll any deal from the same company regardless of if it is a different product. If you try your RR will not print! An example is a big company like Proctor and Gamble. They might have 2 items that produce RR’s that week. Even though they are different items, they are the same parent company.
-have extra fillers when you go up to the register. Walgreens won’t let you go under $0 so you need to make sure that you have things to bump your total up if you need to.
-In order to receive sale prices at Walgreens you NEED to be a Balance Rewards member now. Refer to the above ways to join their program.
-You must have one item per coupon (this doesn’t include coupons that require you to buy more than one of a product) this INCLUDES your RR.
-Remember that you cannot EARN and REDEEM Balance Rewards in the same purchase! So you’ll have to make the choice with each transaction.
****NOTE: I do not have a Rite Aid near me. My assistant and BEAUTIFUL sister Amber however does and she has written up a VERY throughough walk through of Rite Aid’s Reward Program! ***
Hi my name is Amber and here in San Diego California we also have Walgreens and CVS but we have Rite Aid as well!
They also have a rewards program that can be used to your advantage and will at times sound a bit repetitive and much like the other retailers!
Rite Aid like I said before also has a rewards program that uses a card called a Wellness+ Card. Signing up is completely free and also the only way you can get the good deals.
Here’s how to get your card:
Head over to your local Rite Aid and sign up at the cash register, where you will be handed your Wellness+ Card automatically. After that, activate your card HERE online to manage your coupons with Load2Card, Keep track of your points and sign up to receive special offers.
Or sign up online HERE! Once signed up, you’ll be able to print out a temporary card to use in stores right away. A wallet-sized card and two convenient key chain cards will arrive in the mail in about two weeks. Your Wellness+ Card will be associated also with your phone #.
Every Sunday Rite Aid comes out with a weekly ad and throughout it you will see exclusive prices for Wellness+ Card holders only (unless otherwise specified). Under select merchandize you will see a dollar amount followed by the words “+Up rewards” This indicates the amount of “+Up rewards” you will receive for purchasing said item. When a purchase is made for that item, the amount indicated will automatically be loaded to your card and can be used as “cash” on your next purchase 6AM the following day!
This is very important if you want to “roll” your rewards! So I will say it again…+Up rewards are loaded directly to your Wellness+ Card and cannot be redeemed until after 6AM the day after issuance and expire 14 days after activation.
Colgate Total Advanced Mouthwash 250 ml. 2.99
You Pay $2.99
When you purchase (1) Colgate Total Advanced Mouthwash 250 ml. you will receive a $3 +Up reward. So essentially after +Up rewards you just received that item for “free.”
Now earning +Up rewards isn’t always that easy and that generous. Sometimes you are required to buy $10 worth of select items and you get $5 +Up rewards back and sometimes you are required to buy multiples of that item to receive +Up rewards back. These requirements will be indicated below the +Up rewards value in their ad or on their price tags in-stores.
Using the same sample scenario above. If you were required to purchase (2) Colgate Total Advanced Mouthwash 250 ml. at $2.99 to receive the $3 +Up reward. You would still only be paying $1.49 each after +Up rewards.
Also, below each +Up rewards offer in small writing it will say “*Limit X +Up offers per household” this is the limit of +Up rewards offers you can redeem. These products do not need to be split up into different transactions. Below I will demonstrate what it is like when you come across a scenario where you are required to buy (2) of that product to receive $1 +Up reward and there is a limit of 4 +Up offers per household.
You buy (8) Mentos Gum $1 each
Pay $8; receive $4 in +Up rewards.
When you purchase (2) Mentos Gum you will receive a $1 +Up reward. So essentially after +Up rewards you will be paying only $.50 each.
How to be sure you received your +Up Rewards:
In order to ensure you receive your +Up rewards, you will always want to provide your membership card at checkout or key in your mobile phone #.
When your receipt prints at the register, at the bottom of the receipt you will see the dollar amount of +Up rewards earned followed by the product name and date good till. For example it would look a little like this: “$X +Up rewards has been loaded to your card from the purchase of “said product” Good XX/XX/XX thru XX/XX/XX.
Or you can go online and login to your account to view your Load2Card +Up rewards savings available. This can be viewed on your Wellness+ Dashboard.
Also, at the very bottom of the receipt you will see this: *****+UP offer Limits Reached***** This indicates the products that you cannot redeem +Up rewards for anymore.
The key to really taking advantage of Rite Aid rewards program is to use coupons and to “roll” your +Up rewards.
Let’s use the same sample scenario above except this time add coupons to the mix!
Colgate Total Advanced Mouthwash 250 ml. 2.99
You use a coupon for $1/1 Colgate Total Advanced Mouthwash 250 ml or larger.
You Pay $1.99
When you purchase (1) Colgate Total Advanced Mouthwash 250 ml. you will still receive a $3 +Up reward. So essentially this doesn’t just make it free after +Up rewards; it makes it a $1 money maker!
When you start getting into coupons it is always important to know their policy. Rite Aid coupon policy is you can use one manufacturer coupon per item (unless it’s a buy 2 get $X off coupon…than that one coupon applies to both items) and one store coupon. Store coupons at Rite Aid are called “Video Values.” These coupons can be printed from your home computer, just by watching a short video.
Now you want to “roll” your +Up rewards. This is much like CVS, where you will buy products to get +Up rewards and roll those +Up rewards into more products that produce +Up rewards as well. Except because you cannot redeem your +Up rewards until 6AM the following day, you will be required to wait.
This often requires you to make several trips within a given week. This can be very inconvenient, which is why most of the time I only make one trip per week.
Also, when redeeming +Up rewards, it is important to know that your next purchase must be greater than or equal to the dollar value after all other applicable discounts (such as coupons) are applied.
Sample Scenario Involving “Rolling” at Rite Aid:
(1) Colgate Total Advanced Mouthwash 250 ml. $2.99
(8) Mentos Gum $1 each
use $1/1 Colgate Total Advanced Mouthwash 250 ml. or larger Coupon
Total out of pocket (oop): $9.99
When you purchase (1) Colgate Total Advanced Mouthwash 250 ml. you will receive back $3 +Up rewards (Limit 1 +Up offer per household.)
When you purchase (2) Mentos Gum you will receive back $1 +Up rewards (Limit 4 +Up offers per household).
You received $7 +Up rewards during this transaction!
(The next day or the next week different sales…Depending on how you want to look at it).
(1) Clear Eyes $4.99
(2) Finesse Hair Care Products $2 each
(2) Speed Stick Deodorant $2.99 each
use $1/1 Clear Eyes product coupon
use (2) $1/1 Finesse hair care products coupon
use (1) $1.50/2 Speed Stick Deodorant coupon
and use $7 +Up rewards from the day before or last week.
Total out of pocket (oop): $3.47
When you buy (1) Clear Eyes you will receive back $3 +Up rewards (Limit 1 +Up offer per household).
When you buy (1) Finesse Hair Care Product you will receive back $1 +Up reward (Limit 2 +Up offer per household).
When you buy (1) Speed Stick Deodorant you will receive back $2 +Up rewards (Limit 2 +Up offers per household).
You received $9 +Up rewards during this transaction!
If you break down this scenario you purchased $25.96 worth of product for only $4.46 after +Up rewards.
You could roll that $9 into something that gets you more +Up rewards (the next day or following week) or you can use it to buy your milk for the week or some medicine you need (not prescription).
Other Benefits you receive with your Wellness+ Card:
Wellness + Points: When you sign up for wellness+, you automatically start at Plus level. Earn 250 points in a calendar year to reach Bronze, 500 to reach Silver, and 1,000 for Gold. Your points reset at the beginning of every calendar year, but any Bronze, Silver, or Gold discounts you earn this year are good through the end of next year.
You’ll earn one point for every dollar spent on eligible purchases when you scan your card at the register (points can only be earned on in-stores purchases). You’ll also earn 25 points on most prescription purchases. Some exclusion may apply. Your points reset at the beginning of every calendar year.
At all wellness+ levels, you’ll get members-only sale pricing, an easy way to load and redeem coupons with Load2Card, +Up rewards on qualifying purchases, and 24/7 online access to a pharmacist.
When you reach Bronze (250 points), you’ll also get 10% off Rite Aid Brand products for a year and a one-time use 10% off shopping pass.
At Silver (500 points), enjoy 10% off the entire store for a year and a free wellness reward, such as a gym membership, magazine subscription, exercise DVDs, restaurant gift certificates or health screening. Once you reach 500 points you will have 90 days to redeem your reward. Just log in to your account to view rewards and make your selection.
At Gold (1,000 points) 20% off the entire store for a year!
To learn more about Wellness+ points CLICK HERE!
Im a HUGE fan of this game! Aside of Walgreens and CVS, I play the same game with Target. Ive discovered this free app called ShopKick. Long story short, I used my “KBs” and redeemed it for a free $25 Target Gift Card (I haven’t dropped a single cent yet! but it did take some time to earn the points). I then used the gift card to purchase Huggies Diaper Packs (2 separate purchases) and earned (2) $5 Target Gift Cards (you can only receive 1 card per transaction) I printed (2) $1/1 Huggies Target coupon and had (2) $2/1 Manufacterers coupons. I spent absolutely no money, but got paid by Target for buying diapers!
P.S. Every little counts, especially for this Mommy of 3 boys Under 3 =)
Very true! Glad you made out so well!
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL OF THIS WONDERFUL INFORMATION!!!
I totally appreciate the explanation of the RR’s from Walgreen’s! I was having such a hard time with that! THANK YOU!!!
I am so glad to help!
karyn marion says
thank you so much! you really help so many !
Laura B says
What day do usually shop at CVS? I live in a small community and it seems they are always out of stuff by Sat. morning. I have almost given up on trying to get there!
Allison Wiener says
Since new coupons and deals usually come out with the Sunday paper, some people will start shopping CVS that morning. If I wait till Saturday, things are often out of stock. The good news is, they will issue rain checks! And if you have a coupon to go with that item, have them staple it to the rain check. They’ll honor it even if it expires before you can redeem the rain check. Happy shopping!
Celeste Sanders says
I have a question about ECB. can they be used on anything or do they have to be used on the same product that earned them?
They can be used on anything except prescriptions and a few other various things. For the most part though, yes.
Thank you so much for the info. I’m going to start the game wish me luck.
Thank you so much for the info. I’m going to start the game wish me luck.
Thanks for this. 🙂 You cannot purchase a product from the same company and get a register reward again. You need to do a transaction in the middle with a product from another company to break it up.
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Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon
everyday. It’s always useful to read content from other writers and use something from their
I came upon your site while looking for coupons. I haven’t used coupons much before as I didn’t know how to make it more profitable or weather it is if I use it. aNd after looking at your site I am getting inspired to start using coupons.
Thank you and keep on inspiring.
Thank you for your kind comment! I wish you luck!