Joke All You Want About CVS Receipts, But They Can Unlock Thousands in Savings

A photo to accompany a story about CVS receipts and coupons Flickr / Adam Fagen
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Welcome to the world of CVS receipts. 

If you haven’t seen one in real life, you may have seen one on the internet, where those pieces of paper, famed for their enormous length, are an object of ridicule. But for a loyal cult of coupon obsessives and shopping experts, the savings are no joke. Those receipts, and the company’s loyalty program, can save you some very real money—as much as $3,600 a year, according to some devotees who swear by the discounts you can get if you read the receipts closely.

They’ve also got tips for the more casual spender. “Once you get free toothpaste,” is how Kiersti Torok, known as @Torok.Coupon.Hunter on TikTok, puts it, “you’ll never want to pay for toothpaste again.”

These savvy shoppers aren’t secretive about how they manage to save that kind of money. There are entire TikToks, for example, devoted to next-level CVS saving strategies. Those experts in digital couponing are happy to share their favorite tips and tricks with us to help you save money on your next CVS haul.

Let’s dive in.

What Is the CVS ExtraCare Program?

With more than 9,900 pharmacies in 49 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, CVS is the biggest U.S. pharmacy chain.   

It also has a loyalty program, known as CVS ExtraCare. It’s a free savings program, and when you become a member, you’ll get access to coupons and the CVS ExtraBucks program — essentially CVS “cash” that you can use to pay for some of (or all of) the cost of your items.

There’s no cost to sign up, just like with an airline’s loyalty program. 

It’s Not Just About Receipts: How to Maximize Savings With the ExtraCare Program 

There are a few different types of deals you can take advantage of at CVS: cash register tape (CRT), coupons, and ExtraBucks. While those infamously long receipts with coupons aplenty are a notable strategy, they’re just one facet of the program.

Torok suggests regularly checking your account online, on the CVS app or in stores to see what deals you are targeted for. In fact, CVS deals are pretty similar to credit card offers that can help you save money on everyday purchases.

Cash register tape, or CRT, deals are found at the top of your receipt or at the top of the deals section on the app. These are deals where you can spend a certain amount of money, and get a certain amount of money off.

For instance, I currently see a CRT in my account for $2 off $10 in Beauty 360 tools.

Torok also points out that CVS has a “98% rule”, meaning if you hit 98% of the spend threshold, you’ll be eligible for the savings. With the example in the screenshot above, I could spend $9.80 and still be eligible for that $2 off. Torok says most CVS stores follow this rule. A PR representative for CVS, though, says that “there may be instances in which our system accepts a coupon or a store manager exercises discretion in cases where an exception can be made.”

Coupons, on the other hand, are just a fixed amount of money off certain products or brands. For example, you might have a coupon for $1 off Crest toothpaste.

New coupons refresh every Sunday at midnight, says Logan from Coupon Momma, a TikTok devoted to saving with coupons. (She asked that her last name be omitted for privacy reasons.)

Consistency is key here. Kayla Burk, another popular social media couponer, notes that CVS will give you a certain amount of coupons when you first sign up; the longer you’ve been a member, “the better coupons you’ll get.” She also advises shoppers to visit stores weekly, even if it’s just to get one thing — CVS will reward your loyalty with better, more targeted coupons, based on your spending habits.

ExtraBucks are a CVS-specific “currency” you can use throughout the store and online. A PR representative for CVS confirmed that ExtraCare members have 45 days to redeem ExtraBucks after they’ve printed or after you click “send to card.”

Pro Tip

Sign up for the CarePass program. For $5 per month, you’ll get $10 in ExtraBucks — essentially “free” $5 from CVS.

The beauty of CVS, according to these coupon pros, is that you can stack all of these deals together every time you shop, and watch the savings unfold. And that’s on top of any rewards or cash back you might be getting from a credit card you use for the purchases.  

How to Use the CVS Red Box

And what about that red box? It’s usually found at the front of the store, and it can give you further savings, as well as scan items for price. Use it to scan your physical CVS ExtraCare card — which is just a discount card, not a credit or debit card — or the QR code on your app, says Burk. 

It will then print out coupons, typically different ones from those you’ll find on your app or previous receipt. Burk recommends checking the red box as soon as you walk into a CVS store, and scanning your QR code twice or more to maximize savings. “Sometimes it will give you more than one coupon,” she adds.

How to Take Your ExtraCare Membership Even Further

There are also smaller programs within the ExtraCare umbrella that can save you more money. 

For example, Torok suggests signing up for the CarePass program. Membership costs $5 per month, but each month, you’ll get $10 worth of ExtraBucks, as well as free shipping. This nets you $5 in “free” cash every month. You can cancel this membership at any time.

In addition, Logan suggests signing up for the ExtraCare Beauty Club. It’s free as well, and if you spend $30 on eligible beauty products, you’ll get $3 in ExtraBucks.

Signing up for texts is another strategy savvy shoppers use. It’s also free to sign up — just text “Join” to 287-898. Logan says that you’ll usually get a text per week on deals you’ll find in the store.

How Can Beginners Start Saving With the CVS ExtraCare Program?

The general sentiment within the coupon community is that beginners should pick one person, whether on YouTube, TikTok or other social media, and follow them for a week or two. 

“Learn the way they do their breakdowns. You’re going to get so much more from that one person instead of doing all the deals at once,” says Torok, who suggests following creators such as Coupon Katie, The Freebie Guy and Couponing with Kayla. By seeing what coupons they apply to certain products, you can emulate these strategies when you do your own spending.

“Jump right in and get started,” says Logan. “Copy exactly what they do and build your confidence.”

She also suggests that beginners stick to digital deals at first, either via the app or website, so that they’re all in one place and you’re not fumbling through your bag at checkout.

How Much Can Beginners Expect to Save?

There’s no exact number or figure that you can expect to save once you start strategically couponing. A beginner with a family of four can expect to save between $200 and $300 on products in the first month alone, Torok says. Over the course of a year, that could total up to $3,600 in savings.

In Burk’s experience, the savings are similar; beginners can usually save up to $50 per week, she says. Of course, the exact number will fluctuate based on your individual spending habits, but there’s no doubt that there are significant savings in store.

As with spending with credit cards to get a welcome bonus, you should heed a word of caution. 

“Don’t spend money you don’t have just to get the deal,” says Logan. Our advice is the same here as with credit cards: spend money responsibly, and not just to earn discounts, points or miles. Their value may be smaller than what you would pay in interest if you carried a balance on a credit card. 

But if you spend responsibly, the rewards of CVS couponing are hard to pass by, so you might want to think twice about throwing away that receipt.