Drugstore Couponing 101


Before I started couponing, I hardly ever set foot in a Walgreens or a CVS.  Now, I am a frequent shopper at both of these stores and have a true love affair with them!  These are the stores where I get the deep down discounts, something most people don’t think about for a standard drugstore.

Yet, there are lots of tricks to learn before tackling a drugstore for couponing.  First of all, it is wise to read through each store’s coupon policy so you understand what you can and can’t do with coupons.  Here is Walgreen’s Coupon Policy and CVS’s Coupon Policy.  I’ve printed these out and have them in my coupon binder just for reference.

Second, learning the lingo at each store is important.  Register Rewards is the term at Walgreens for the bucks you get back after you purchase an item.  These are printed off and given to you with your receipt.  They can be used on your next purchase and are typically for dollars off the entire purchase.

Extra Bucks is what CVS calls their reward system.  Again, these are printed off at the end of your transaction and are attached to your receipt.  Similar to Walgreens, you can use these on your next purchase.  These rewards are basically like cash. You hand them to the cashier and they subtract the amount off your total.

In the coupon world, we have a term called ‘Rolling your Rewards’.  This is where you take your rewards from one transaction and roll them into your next transaction.  It takes some time to learn, so keep practicing!  Here’s an example:

You’ve just paid $17.02 for 14 items and you’re walking away with $13.00 which you can use next week for the new reward items!  The idea is to keep rolling these items into other items which offer the rewards.   My goal most of the time is to have my first transaction pay for the second transaction so I have ZERO out-of-pocket expense.   Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t!

The key to understanding couponing at Walgreens’ is to remember to have as many items as you have coupons. That means you need to throw in a “filler” item.  Something cheap — a piece of candy, a pencil, a box of Jell-O or my favorite — a can of mandarin oranges.  The store coupons don’t count but all the manufacturers’ coupons, plus the Register Rewards, are added into the final coupon count.  If you check out with 10 coupons, then you need to be sure to have 10 items.  This little rule catches lots of people off guard and ends up wrecking havoc on your well thought out shopping trip.

The other thing to remember at Walgreens is you can’t roll a reward for the same item and get another reward.  For instance, I couldn’t use my Crest Register Reward and use it to buy another Crest toothpaste and expect to get another reward.  This gets a little tricky when you get into rolling the Register Rewards.

At CVS the only thing you need to learn is to be flexible.  They don’t always have enough product on their shelves to accommodate the weekly sales.   The nice thing CVS does is issue rainchecks for those items.  They will write the raincheck with the weekly deal AND the Extra Bucks.  In April, I got a raincheck for some dental flossers — they were $2 with a $2 Extra Buck (meaning: FREE!).  I just redeemed them this last week.  CVS’s rainchecks do not have an expiration date but if you have coupons to use, be sure to redeem the raincheck before the coupon expires.

I buy all my cosmetics, healthcare, household cleaners and lots of groceries at the drugstores.  Most people don’t think about groceries coming out of the drugstores, but if you play your coupons right you can score some awesome deals on things like: canned goods, peanut butter, teas and coffees, snacks, dairy products, fruit juices and cereal.  This winter I picked up peanut butter at CVS for 65 cents each.  Now, these were the small jars, but at 65 cents I’m perfectly fine doing a little more recycling!

Both stores offer additional savings by offering various in-store coupons.  At Walgreens, you will want to pick up one of their monthly coupon booklets as you walk into the store.  These coupons can be combined with a manufacturer coupon for extra savings.  At CVS, there is the “Magic Coupon Machine” right when you walk in the door.  Scan your Extra Bucks card and it will print off various coupons.  Again, these are store coupons and can be combined with a manufacturer coupon.

You don’t need a reward card at Walgreens but at CVS you need to apply for the Extra Bucks card.  Remember: your Extra bucks are tied directly to your EB card so you can’t use someone else’s Extra Bucks on your card.

Hopefully you have learned enough to give drugstore shopping a try!  It takes a little bit of time to figure out the system, so don’t get frustrated.  Once you figure it out, you will love it and will see your savings increase!

Feel free to leave me a question in the comment section if I missed something or you don’t understand something.  I’m happy to help in any way!


Enjoy this blog?  You might also like Erin’s previous posts on Couponing 101 The BasicsExtreme Versus Super Couponing,  or Myths About Couponing.  AND, be sure to check out the “Missoula Save it Club”  on the home page of MakeItMissoula.com (See the Daily Missoula Fix buttons in the left navigation bar) for savings updates throughout the week!

Back to the Save It blog home page.

Click here to see the Coupon Queen’s “Save It” archive.


Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian.  Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques and trying to maintain a well-run, happy and organized home for her family.