Drug-store rebate program basics
Posted December 1, 2009 1:34 p.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2010 11:11 a.m. EST
With these rebate programs, you can stock up on so many bath and beauty items for free or close to it each and every week!
CVS offers two different savings programs:
Clip-free coupons. These are the weekly sales that you get automatically when you scan your Extra Care reward card and then buy the product. Get your Extra Care reward card for free at any CVS store register.
Extra Care Bucks (ECBs). The ECB program is an instant rebate program that will allow you to buy bath and beauty items and more for free or close to it every week! Extra Care Bucks print out at the end of your receipt and can be used in a future transaction on anything in the store except: prescriptions, alcohol, tobacco, lottery, stamps, gift cards, money orders and pre-paid debit cards/pre-paid phone cards.
There are five ways to earn ECBs:
Weekly ECBs: These are found in the weekly sales flier and the ECB’s print out at the register after buying the qualifying item (unless otherwise noted).
Monthly ECBs: These are found on store shelf tags or on the bottom of receipts. They used to be published in a monthly ECB rebate booklet, but CVS is no longer producing that booklet. Most of these monthly ECB’s also print out at the register as soon as you make the qualifying purchase.
Quarterly ECBs: You earn 2 percent for every $25 you spend (after coupons) per quarter. Quarterly ECBs print out on the first day of the month after the end of the quarter. They use calendar quarters (Jan – March, April-June, etc).
Prescription ECBs: Earn 1 Extra Buck for every 2 prescriptions purchased in-store and online at CVS/pharmacy. Sometimes they run double rewards and you earn $2 for every $2 prescriptions. When that happens, I’ll post it on the Smart Shopper blog.
Green Bag Tag ECB’s: If you can remember to bring in your own bag to be used for the items you purchase or agree not to use any bag at all, you can earn ECB’s! Buy a Green Bag Tag at the register for 99 cents. Every time you make a purchase, the cashier scans your Green bag tag. The Green bag tag card can be scanned once per day. When it has been scanned four times, you get a $1 ECB coupon at the end of the receipt. The coupon prints out at the register and can be used for almost anything in the store. It’s like getting paid a quarter every time you bring your own bag!
How ECB’s Work
- You earn ECBs by purchasing qualifying items, which you find in the weekly store fliers and on shelves.
- Go to the store and purchase the qualifying products. Be sure to have the cashier scan your CVS card or your ECBs won’t print. ECB’s are linked to your card and they can only be used by you. If you do not have a CVS card, you can request one in stores or online at www.cvs.com.
- Your ECBs should print at the bottom of your receipt once you pay for your transaction.
- You can then apply the ECB’s to future transactions until they expire (approx. 4 weeks from issue date). If your ECB expires, you will not be able to use them so pay attention to the expiration dates.
- You must use the entire ECB amount in one transaction. You cannot split it between multiple transactions.
- There are limits on the number of ECB’s you can earn per item. Sometimes you can buy 5 toothpastes and get ECB’s for each item and sometimes the limit is only 1 per customer. Limits are clearly written in the weekly sales fliers and they apply per card.
- One of the great things about ECB’s is that even if you use a manufacturer’s coupon to lower the price of the item, you still get the full ECB rebate amount. For instance, if you buy an item that costs $2.00 and there is also a $2 ECB reward when you buy that item, it is going to be free after ECB. You will pay $2 at the register, but you will get back a $2 ECB coupon to use on other items you need in the store. If you have a manufacturer or store coupon for that item, you will pay less than $2 BUT you will still get back the full $2 ECB, even if you paid less than $2 by using a coupon. Isn’t that fabulous?! That is called a money-maker.
- If the store is out of an item that generates ECB’s, get a raincheck. You can then come back the next week when it is in stock and get the item for the sale price and the cashier can manually generate the ECB indicated on the raincheck. You can still use any manufacturer coupons as long as they are not expired.
Your goal is to buy items that you use that generate ECB’s (using manufacturer coupons if available). Then take those ECB’s and roll them into other qualifying ECB deals each week. Then take the ECB’s that print from those deals and use them on other ECB deals. The key is to roll the ECB’s from one ECB deal to another and keep your out of pocket expense very low.
CVS corporate phone number: 1-800- SHOP CVS
Each Sunday on the Smart Shopper blog, I post the best CVS deals (and let you know which coupons match the deals). Use that list to help you figure out the best ECB deals.
Walgreens has a rebate program called Register Rewards. Just like ECB’s, the rebate – called a Register Reward (RR) – prints out at the end of the transaction when you buy qualifying items. The RR is a coupon that is not attached to the register receipt. It actually prints out from a machine near the register, but not from the register itself.
How RR’s Work:
* Walgreen’s does not have a reward card like CVS, so you do not need to sign up for one or present one to get the sale prices or RR’s.
* Look through the weekly sale ads to find the items that qualify for RR rebates. I also post them every Sunday on the Smart Shopper blog which will make it much easier for you to identify the best RR deals.
* Purchase the qualifying items, with or without manufacturer’s coupons and pay for them.
* Receive your RR coupon for the full amount of the advertised RR, even if you used a manufacturer’s coupon to bring the out of pocket cost down.
* Walgreens will not allow you to use a Register Reward coupon from a manufacturer to do another RR deal from that same manufacturer. So if you got a $2 RR from buying Crest toothpaste, you will not be able to use that RR to buy another Crest and earn another Crest RR. You also can’t use that Crest RR to buy other products from the same manufacturer and still earn RR’s.
* RRs expire quickly. Pay close attention to the expiration date.
Just like with CVS, your goal is to buy items that generate RR’s (using manufacturer coupons if available). Then take those RR’s and roll them into other qualifying RR deals each week. Then take the RR’s that print from those deals and use them on other RR deals. The key is to roll the RR’s from one RR deal to another and keep your out of pocket expense very low whi8le purchasing items you use. Remember not to roll RR’s into other RR deals from the same manufacturer – you won’t get the new RR.
Walgreen’s Corporate phone number: 1-800-925-4733
Rite Aid has a rebate program called Single Check Rebates (SCR). With this program, you purchase the rebate items listed in the monthly single check rebate booklet (found in stores and online) and receive your rebate back in the form of a check.
How SCR’s Work:
- Pick up the SCR booklet at the store at the beginning of each month.
- Use the booklet and the weekly sales ad to identify items that qualify for rebates. I will also identify good rebates in the weekly good deals list I issue every Sunday here on the blog.
- Purchase the qualifying items.
- Keep in mind that some SCR offers are good only for one week and not the whole month – make sure you read the offer dates.
- If you use a manufacturer coupon to lower the cost, you will still receive the full rebate amount listed in the booklet (unless otherwise specified). Sometimes this means you make money on the item. For example, if toothpaste is on sale for $2.99 and the rebate is for $2.99, the toothpaste will be free after the rebate. If you also have a $1 manufacturer coupon, you only pay $1.99 at the register (plus tax, if applicable), but you will actually receive the full $2.99 rebate. Aren’t money-makers super!
- Save your receipt and enter the receipt information online. You can sign up onine or manually submit your rebate using the form in the SCR Rebate Booklet and then mail it in. You may only request one rebate check per month so wait until you have completed all the rebates you plan to do for the month before requesting the check.
- Once your rebate check arrives in the mail, use that rebate money to pay for the rebates you buy during the next month so you keep rolling the rebates into more good deals every month!
- Rite Aid will automatically issue the check at the end of each month when the rebates for that month are over.
Although these rebates are not instant, like CVS and Walgreen’s, they are still a great way to stock up on bath and beauty items and more all year long. Purchase the rebate items you use this month, and then roll the first rebate check into the rebate deals for the second month, then use that rebate money for the third month’s deals, and so on. Ideally, you only pay for the rebates the first month, and then just keep rolling the rebate money each month into more free or almost-free rebate items you use.
Weekly Match-ups: Remember, I’ll match the sales, coupons and rebates for the best deals each week so check out the blog every Sunday afternoon for the new drug store deals each week.
Getting Started: I recommend that if you are just beginning to do the drug store rebates, take your time. Begin by doing rebates at one store. Once you are comfortable with the rebates at that store, add in the next drug store. Don't feel like you have to do rebates at all 3 drug stores every week or even every month. I usually do the best CVS and Walgreen's rebates each week because both stores are close to where I live. The Rite Aid is not as convenient, so I don't do their rebates as much. Have fun, save lots of money and consider donating those freebies you won't use or you have enough of already. As I always say: it’s your money – spend it wisely!