Insider Tips on How To Save Big at CVS, According To Money-Saving Experts

Drugstores are neighborhood staples when it comes to quick health fixes. Whether you run out of bandaids, hydrogen peroxide or milk, places like CVS are there to offer up what you need in a pinch. CVS Pharmacy is also a great place to fill your prescriptions and find some drugstore makeup favorites. But are you doing the most when it comes to how to save money at CVS?

As with most stores nowadays, CVS has an app and a loyalty program. And while you might passively be enrolled, there are so many insider tips and tricks on how to properly use the app and its free program to gain savings, coupons and more. Some coupons and deals are even stackable. Here are some CVS savings tips, including some advice from Gen Z financial experts.

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What Is the CVS Discount Card Called?

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Without even really realizing it, most people who’ve shopped at CVS in the past have a CVS ExtraCare card and membership. It’s a free loyalty program that you can easily sign up for in-store at checkout. But did you realize the perks and savings you’re constantly getting with it?

As Taylor Price, a self-proclaimed Gen Z money expert with 1.1 million TikTok followers, tells Parade you get 2% back every time you shop in-store or online in the form of ExtraBucks. These ExtraBucks can be used toward a future purchase and you can either save them up or use them as soon as you get them.

If you’re not really an app person, you can sign up for the ExtraCare SMS Program. This is a text-enabled program that alerts you when you have special coupons waiting for you to use and when they’re expiring soon. But the app is helpful to see what you have on your card, along with accessing more perks and savings.

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Does CVS ExtraCare Card Save Money?

Yes, the CVS ExtraCare card does end up saving you money in the long run. For one, it’s completely free to join, so Price points out that you’re gaining rewards without even spending money you weren’t planning on spending.

“You don't have to spend a single dime to start earning rewards. It's like getting a little cash back on the products you were already planning to buy,” Price said. “I mean, who doesn't love free money, right?”

Sarah Frank, a money advisor who gives lots of student budgeting and lifestyle advice to her 99k TikTok followers, loves using CVS and its loyalty program for college budget-friendly shopping.

“Personally I’ve found that it’s super easy to find discounts, find sales and make the most of every dollar that I’m spending,” she said about shopping at CVS.

Her favorite savings tip is stacking coupons, discounts and deals where you can. You can even see which coupons and deals can work together on the CVS Pharmacy app.

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What Is the CVS Loyalty Program Called?

We’ve already touched on the free ExtraCare account, but CVS has a paid loyalty program as well, called CarePass.

While you can already access so many rewards and money-saving opportunities with the free program, CVS’s CarePass has more opportunities to save. This loyalty program is $5 a month and the biggest perk is that you get a $10 month promo reward.

Whether you’re talking about your ExtraCare account or a CarePass account, it’s important to have your own, especially if you’re moving out for the first time and heading to college.

“Having your own loyalty accounts is a step towards financial independence!” Frank said. “Loyalty accounts are generally free to make and/or they pay for themselves, so creating your own sooner rather than later allows you to rack up and use your points for upcoming purchases.”

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Is the CVS CarePass Worth It?

As stated above, you can choose to pay per month at $5 per month, or you can choose to pay for a full year upfront at $48. That already is a $12 savings overall.

In addition to getting $10 a month in promos, CarePass members also get:

  • Free same-day delivery on eligible prescriptions and on qualifying orders

  • Free 1-to-2-day shipping on every qualifying order

  • 20% off CVS Health brand products

  • Access to a 24/7 pharmacist helpline

  • Your first month is free when you sign up in-store

With the low price of membership, it does seem to pretty much pay for itself if you regularly shop at CVS.

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Related: 13 Ways to Save Money on Prescription Drugs

What Is the 98% Rule for CVS ExtraBucks?

As CVS Couponers writes, CVS has this thing called the "98% Rule." It’s not an official rule or part of their marketing strategy for ExtraBucks, but it is helpful and does exist. The basic gist of this rule is that you don’t have to spend the full price they tell you to in order to gain a specific amount of ExtraBucks.

For instance, a lot of times they’ll tell you that you’ll get $10 worth of ExtraBucks if you spend $30. Instead of worrying about spending the full $30—maybe your four items come out short—you only have to hit $29.40 to get those $10 ExtraBucks. Those 60 cents don’t seem like a lot, but if you don’t want to spend an extra $3 to get over $30, just knowing you can hit right under $30 is nice.

CVS Couponers have a nice little chart, but you can do some quick math to figure out what price you have to hit to get your ExtraBucks. Just multiply .98 by whatever the target price is. In this case, it was $10 ExtraBucks if you spent $30, so you’d multiply .98 by 30 to get $29.60.

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How To Get CVS Free Items

Price said that you have to make ExtraBucks “work for you” while shopping at CVS. Keeping track of your rewards and using them “strategically” is how to “save some serious cash.” And whether you’re a CarePass member or not, if you buy from CVS’s own line—CVS Health—you can spend a lot less than buying name-brand products like lotion, skincare, period products, medicine and more.

Also, you can access up to $50 in ExtraBucks Rewards just by filling prescriptions, getting flu shots and more by enrolling in Pharmacy Health Rewards as part of ExtraCare.

And all of these coupons on your ExtraCare card actually can amount to free products. As How To Shop For Free posted, items like Colgate and Crest toothpaste and mouthwash, cosmetics from Covergirl, Maybelline and Physician’s Formula and other personal care products are often free with coupons at least once a month. Plus, lots of times CVS will have coupons that offer buy one, get one free saving, which, of course, is a fabulous way to get free things as well.

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How To Save Money at CVS Using the Pharmacy App

Price notes that if you want the most out of CVS’s ExtraCare program, you need to get the CVS Pharmacy app for tons of coupons. Frank points out that you can add customized discounts to your card and figure out which can be used together in the app.

Frank shared a mini tutorial with Parade as well, sharing that in the app you can head to the “Deals & Rewards” button on the Home page. Once there, you’ll see tons of deals and coupons under the “More deals and rewards” section. Click on the red plus sign to add them to your card so you can use them at checkout. To see what you have on your card, click “On card.”

Frank says this process makes it quick and easy to find the deals that you want and remember the deals that you save so that when you go in-store you grab those items and stack the deals that are compatible with each other.

“For me, the 'deals and rewards' section of the app is where it's at,” Frank explains. “Every week there are new discounts personalized just for me.”

CVS is known for its seemingly never-ending receipts full of coupons, but at the end of the day, it gives customers lots of chances to save. And with these tips and their CVS Pharmacy app, you can really get the bigger picture of how much you can save.

Next up, if you're still looking for other ways to save money, check out this one easy money-saving tip financial pros swear by