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CVS: Why We Shop There and Why We Blog About It

cvs extrabuck rewardsA couple of days ago we received an email from C.S. who’s been with us from the very beginning. We thought C.S. Had a couple of good questions that everyone might like answered so, instead of doing that email thing we decided to answer it right here on the blog.

First, the question:

How does the CVS bucks program work? You keep praising CVS – when I see something 2/$6 and there is only 1.00 or .50 coupon, I’m not sure why people are excited. Could you explain how the CVS bucks program works? I really appreciate all your time! You 2 R AMAYZING!! Thank you for all you do for all of us!

Well, C.S. – We think you’re pretty amazing, too! Especially since you put up with so many of our shenanigans! So we’re going to try to answer your questions.

Why We Shop At CVS

If we turn one way when we leave our house there’s a CVS and a Walgreen’s, right across the street from each other, about a mile away. If we turn the other way, there’s a CVS and a Walgreen’s, right across the street from each other, about two miles away. So why do we shop at CVS more often than Walgreen’s? We shop more at CVS (compared to Walgreen’s) because we’re more comfortable with CVS so it just seems like we always end up there. It’s like our favorite Kroger store on Eakin Rd. here in Columbus. There are a few dozen Kroger stores in the area and we’ve shopped at most of them, but when it comes time to do the real shopping where we pay attention to sales and coupons we choose the store we’re most comfortable with. We know the layout, we know the employees, we know when they put out new stock and change the unadvertised specials and we know the best low-traffic times to shop in that particular store.

Why We Blog About CVS

We blog about CVS because you, our readers, ask us to. While you don’t see many comments on this blog (yet!) we can tell by the number of page-views which posts you find most helpful and our CVS posts are always big hits. We also blog about CVS (and Walgreen’s and Target, and now Ibotta and Checkout51) because we want you to understand you have lots of options for reducing your grocery bill. We get emails every day from people who’ve never clipped a coupon in their life and suddenly, their financial circumstances have changed and they need help. And we also blog about CVS extrabuck rewards because it gives us a chance to show you, our reader, how you can combine in-store promotions with manufacturer’s coupons for additional savings. In the beginning we, too, thought it was a waste of time to chase after those $1 CVS extrabuck rewards or that measly little 50 cents you get for scanning a dozen eggs into your Ibotta app, but it all adds up, and eventually it adds up BIG TIME. So, you see, C.S., we’re really not praising CVS, we’re just letting you know what’s out there, giving you some options for saving. In fact, in this next post, “CVS: What’s the Big Deal about ExtraBuck Rewards?” we’re going to tell you why we’re against the whole reward points thing, no matter what store you’re shopping in.

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CVS: What's the Big Deal about ExtraBucks Rewards?

cvs extrabuck rewardsNow, let’s get to the real question in C.S’s email: What’s the big deal about CVS extrabuck rewards?

What are extrabuck rewards?

Extrabuck rewards are money that you earn when you purchase promotional items at CVS. The promotions change from week to week and you can find them listed in the regular weekly CVS ad. You’ll also see them prominently displayed on the shelf tags. Here’s an example from an upcoming CVS ad: Softsoap body wash 15-18 oz. – on sale for 2/$6 with card. When you buy TWO (2) you earn $4 in extrabuck rewards.  When you go through the checkout and present your CVS Rewards card you’ll be credited with $2 in extrabuck rewards. These EBRs are uploaded to your card – NOT paid out in cash or credit on your purchases – and they stay on your card for 4 weeks. Every time you shop and purchase the required promotional items you accumulate more EBRs. You can then use these EBRs to pay for future purchases. So you could, for example, rack up $20 in extrabuck rewards and go on a $20 shopping spree at CVS.

What’s the big deal about extrabuck rewards?

There are a couple of reasons everyone gets so excited about EBRs: 

  1. You can use manufacturer’s coupons to lower the promotion price even more and still earn EBRs. So, in that Softsoap example, without a coupon your cost is $3 per bottle (or $6 total) and you earn $4 in EBRs. But, if you use two (2) of the current manufacturer’s coupons ($.75/1 any Softsoap brand Body Wash (12 oz. or larger) (2/8/2014) you’d lower your price to $2.25 per bottle (or $4.50 total) and still earn $4 EBRs. For most people, this is a pretty great deal. You spend $4.50, you get 2 bottles of body wash and you get $4 back. For others, like us here at The Happy Couponer, it’s not such a great deal, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
  2. Many people get excited about EBRs because they look at it like it’s free money and the more they can accumulate, the better. 

Extrabuck Rewards: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Erica at ICVS.com does an excellent job of explaining all the little details about EBRs, what they are, how to get them and how to use them. She says it better than we ever could, so we’ll let you get the details from her. 

What We Like About Extrabuck Rewards

EBRs are another way of saving money. If you shop at CVS on a regular basis, and we do, then those EBRs add up. They’re like Target gift cards or Ibotta and Checkout51 offers – They don’t save you money on THIS shopping trip but they will on the next.

What We Don’t Like About Extrabuck Rewards

  1. The promotional prices aren’t always the best deal in the marketplace, but they look good because you earn EBRs.
  2. EBRs can only be used on a future purchase. If you’re an experienced shopper then you’ll know how to put together multiple transactions and roll your rewards over to the last transaction to get a super-amazing deal, but not everyone has that kind of time and energy to invest.
  3. The required amount to purchase to earn EBRs is calculated before coupons, and it often forces you to buy more than you want. For example, you may be required to purchase $12 worth of XYZ product and that product is priced at $3.99 each, so you’re forced to actually buy four if you want to earn the EBRs, and maybe even more if you use a coupon. 

What We Hate About Extrabuck Rewards and Why You Need to Be Careful!

What we really hate about EBRs is that they can be so enticing! “Wow! I can earn $12 if I just buy four of these? Load up the cart, baby!”  We have two perfectly healthy adults and two perfectly healthy children living in this house and a few months ago we caught ourselves getting ready to pay $36 for a bunch of Benefiber just because we would have earned $30 in extrabuck rewards. 

  • First of all, it would have cost us $36 out-of-pocket to earn $30 we could only spend on a future purchase.
  • Second, we don’t even need Benefiber!

We see coupon bloggers every day telling their readers about these great “CVS Moneymakers,” but in our mind, they’re misleading their readers. In some cases, if you have the right product at the right price with the right coupon and the right EBR reward then yes, it might be a moneymaker.  But to us, a “moneymaker” means you can actually walk out of the store with more cash than you walked in with or you can walk out with totally free product without paying a single cent out of your pocket. So, to answer your question, C.S., people get excited when they see something that’s 2/$6 and they only have a coupon for $.50 off because they’ll probably earn an extrabuck reward or two when they purchase that item. 

But let’s be careful out there! Assuming it’s a good deal:

  1. Make sure you will either use or donate the item
  2. Make sure you can afford to pay the out-of-pocket expense
  3. Make sure you plan to return to CVS in the future or have another transaction lined up so you can use those EBRs. 

Remember, CVS extrabuck rewards and similar programs at other stores are just a promotional gimmick used to get you into the store so you’ll spend money. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. If the company wasn’t making a profit off those extrabuck rewards they wouldn’t be passing them out like lollipops at the doctor’s office.