Tiny CVS trip illustrates “rolling”

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Do you get confused by all the talk of ECB and rolling at CVS Pharmacy? Here’s an example and explanation of what they mean on blogs and forums when they talk about “rolling” your “extra bucks” (or ECB).

What are ECB?

When you get a CVS card (their store loyalty card), you get opportunities to earn ECB on items you purchase. ECB are basically money off your next purchase at CVS. So, for example, if you buy something that says in the weekly or monthly CVS ad that it earns $2 ECB, it means that, when you purchase that item, on the bottom of your receipt it will print out a $2 coupon that you can then use toward anything in the store. (Note that these expire about a month after purchase. These are free money: Don’t let them expire!)

Every week, new items earn ECB. Look in your Sunday ad and you’ll see these advertised. CVS also runs monthly ECB deals; you can find flyers in the store or at iheartcvs.com.

(Also, you accumulate additional ECB as a small percentage of all purchases and $1 for every two prescriptions, which will print out quarterly.)

Getting CVS coupons

  • If you register your CVS card and email address online at CVS.com, they will randomly email you coupons. This week, for example, they emailed me $5/$30 purchase and $1.00 off any $3.00+ cold or allergy purchase. (Anyone can print the cold one, but the $5/$30 says “only valid for intended recipient,” and will beep if someone else tries to use it.)
  • Every time you go in the store, look for their little price scanner machine. Scan your CVS card, and it will spit out random coupons for you there as well.
  • Be sure to check the bottom of your receipt each time; sometimes it prints out random coupons there, too.

Stacking your coupons

Realize that you can use a CVS coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon on the same item. This is called “stacking,” and is fine at most stores — do it at CVS; do it at Jewel; do it at Dominicks; do it at Target. At CVS, whenever you can stack coupons on an extra-buck earning item, you have a chance to get stuff for free — or, sometimes, even better than free.

Rolling your ECB

So, here is how we roll our ECB and take advantage of some of these coupons:


OOP $.17, earned $9.00 ECB

  1. In the photo above, I bought Nyquil, Dayquil, and a Gillette Fusion Gamer razor. This week (ending today): Nyquil/Dayquil is on sale for $4.99 each, and if you buy two, you earn $5.00 ECB. The Gillette razor is on sale for $7.99, and you earn $4.00 ECB on one.
  2. So, $4.99 + $4.99 + $7.99 = $17.97.
  3. I used: Two $1.50/off Nyquil or Dayquil coupons (from P&G Brandsaver, 2/8 & 1/19), the $1.00 off cold medicine printable CVS coupon, and a $4.00/Gillette coupon (2/8 P&G), bringing the total down to $9.97 + tax.
  4. I had $10.00 ECB from a previous shopping trip. So I paid with those (which she adjusted down to $9.97).
  5. This left a total of $.17 in tax, which I paid in cash.
  6. I earned $9.00 back in new ECB.

So basically, what I did was take my $10.00 ECB and roll them, which means that I used them on other items that also earn ECB.

What’s so good about rolling?

If you continue to roll your ECB  by using them to buy more ECB-earning items — especially if you also use coupons — you end up paying very little out of pocket but continuing to get more items each visit. In the example above, I spent $.17 for two packs of medicine + a razor. If I had purchased those items with cash (and without coupons), they would have cost me $17.97+tax. I am down $1.00 ECB from where I started, but did earn $9.00 ECB, so I can play this game again the next time I visit CVS.

CVS very often runs ECB deals on staples — toothpaste, shampoo — that also tend to have associated coupons. Once you get started on the rolling game,  you do not need to ever pay real money for these types of items again.

So why does everyone get excited about prescription coupons?

CVS takes both its own and competitors’ prescription coupons. This means that if you have to get a prescription filled, you can use, say, this K-mart coupon to get a $20.00 CVS gift card when you fill it at CVS. This gives you $20.00 more to play the ECB game, stretching out the time until you actually have to pay money out of pocket — $20.00 at CVS can go a long way!

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  1. Kat says

    This is the best explanation I’ve ever read about ECB’s! And I work at CVS! I mean, my boss couldn’t have explained it better. Our customers look at us like we’re idiots! Now I can better inform them…and perhaps tell them about your website.
    But I have to be honest, CVS absolutely hates IheartCVS.com. It doesn’t really let anyone else have a chance at the sale because everyone who goes there grabs everything first! AND, hopefully no one has MULTIPLE CARDS. That is completely frowned upon.
    Thanks for letting everyone in on the deals! I appreciate it.

    • says

      Kat — thanks! As far as iheartcvs — I don’t condone some of the things she does over there, like posting the coupons that are clearly meant for individuals or advising that people sign up for multiple cards to get multiple deals, and try to stress ethical couponing over here. The deals are good enough without resorting to things like that. I do use her site to see the previews of the ads and to see what deals she can figure out, though.

  2. abby says

    I’m pretty new to couponing and am still trying to get a firm grasp on the ECB rules. I bought a box of soyjoy this week for $6.00 and got 6 ECB’s. Can I go back to the store and buy another box of soyjoy, use my first 6 ECB’s and then get 6 more ECB’s to print out or do I can I only get ECB’s if I haven’t done that particular deal yet? Thanks so much for your explanations, you’ve helped a ton!

    • says

      Hi abby — at CVS you can use ECB to buy the same items and they will again produce new ECB, as long as you haven’t hit your “per card” limit. I think the limit on the Soy Joy is something like six, so, yes! :) It’s only at Walgreens that you can’t roll Register Rewards, that is, use them on the same items to produce a new set of RR.

  3. SuperK says

    Sweet! I never knew CVS took competitor coupons for the pharmacy!
    I’ve been waiting for one to spit out of that machine for $25 (for a new/transferred rx) and it hasn’t!
    I have a CVS within walking distance of my house & rx’s to fill, so I will bring my Target & K-Mart rx coupons with me.

  4. Ashley says

    Can you use ECB as you rack ’em up, or how do you go about redeeming them..? I’ve never shopped at CVS before >.<
    And do the ECB still accumulate if you buy multiples of the same product in a single transaction?

    For example, those Fusion razors…
    They're $9.99 with $5 ECB. If I use two $4/1 coupons, would I pay $12 in cash, but get back $10 ECB?
    And then could I turn around and use that $10 on the 4/$13 12-pack Cokes in a separate transaction? (and only pay $3 cash?)

    Thanks again!

    • says

      Ashley — first, you want to pay attention to the limits. The fusion razors this week are limit one. So you cannot buy two and get $10.00 back — you can only buy one and get $5.00 back. On the ones where the limit is higher, yes, you can buy multiples in one transaction. So if you bought two of those Revlon lipsticks in the ad, you would get $6.00 back rather than $3.00 back.

      And yes, you can turn around and use your ECB on the next transaction. So you buy the razor, get $5, and then can use it on Coke, get $3.00, etc.

  5. Nathan says

    Does CVS allow multiple ECB earning items to be in the same transaction and still receive all the ECBs? Or do you have to split them up into seperate transactions because it is only 1 ECB per transaction?

    • says

      As many as you want per transaction. So if you have five items and they each earn different ECB you can buy them all in one transaction and get the ECB for each all on one receipt.

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