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Sneaky Ways Drugstore Reward Programs Limit Redemptions and Cost You Money – Part 2

Last week, we looked at the MyWalgreens reward program and demonstrated how their rules often force customers to pay additional money out of their own pocket despite having enough Walgreens funny money in their rewards account.

This week, it is CVS’ turn.

CVS – ExtraBucks

We’ve all gotten the CVS ExtraBucks slips that pop out of the register after making a purchase of a product that promises a particular bonus. For example, they may advertise “Buy brand X shampoo, and get $2 in ExtraBucks.” In a sense, it is a nasty tactic because you are not getting dollars off the item you are actually buying, but rather those dollars can only be applied to a subsequent purchase. And they expire rather quickly — usually in about three weeks.

CVS Extra Bucks

Let’s say that you have several individual ExtraBucks coupons in your possession — one for $1, one for $2, and one for $10. Now you want to buy a $7 item. While you can pay with the $10 coupon, you will lose $3 because the system does not give back change. On the other hand, if you use just the $1 and $2 coupon on that $7 item, you will still owe $4 in real money.

So even though you have a total of $13 in ExtraBucks, it is not like an account you can draw against to pay in full for anything you want up to your total balance.

We think that CVS should allow you to bank your ExtraBucks and simply let you drawn down your balance and apply whatever amount you like to your purchases.

When we posed this idea to CVS, the company said, “Unfortunately, we won’t be able to comment.”

Here’s an even better idea for CVS. How about dropping ExtraBucks entirely and simply reduce the sale price of the advertised item by the amount of the ExtraBucks that would otherwise be provided upon its purchase? Fat chance that will happen.

Feel free to talk about your experiences with CVS ExtraBucks in the comments.

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25 thoughts on “Sneaky Ways Drugstore Reward Programs Limit Redemptions and Cost You Money – Part 2”

  1. AND! Don’t use your Extra Bucks when you have a 40% off any item coupon. They will subtract the Extra Bucks first, then the 40% off the balance. No win for us, Win for them!

    • Target is the best about this. In my experience Target applies the coupons in the order the best works for the customer. They’ll also let you use coupons the require “$XX” even if your other coupons bring your total below the required amount. Another heads up, keep an eye out for Target gift cards 5-10% off up to $500 around Black Friday.

  2. I firmly believe all of those “loyalty programs” are a scam!
    If they were really honest, reducing prices would be better way of doing it!

  3. I have a much better comment: Don’t shop there! I haven’t bought anything from CVS in years. For that matter, Walgreens either, and I dumped Amazon (“member since 1999”) over 2 years ago and haven’t missed a thing. So it can be done.

    • Agree. Folks are spending all this energy on railing against this store or that company. It’s called free market capitalism. No one is forcing you to shop at any specific place. If you don’t like it, just go elsewhere. It’s pretty simple.

      And, you’ll enjoy lower blood pressure from no anger/complaining!

  4. Companies don’t want you to save money. If they did, they’d simply lower prices. Instead they reduce sizes/weights, use fine print, kill trees in an increasingly deforested world (rebate forms and coupons,) and create policies with the complexity of Doc Brown’s flux capacitor to promote the ILLUSION of savings.
    Everything in American society is a lie. It’s worked so well here those forces are being increasingly applied to Canada’s system.
    All so a roomful of sociopathic, unsustainable billionaires can have a bigger yacht to park their other yacht in.

  5. Walgreens is my nearest drug store that sells brand items at reasonable prices. I think their rewards program is a joke. I get a ONE PENNY reward for every ONE DOLLAR spent. Their halfway decent Senior Day once-a-month for 20% off REGULAR priced items is okay but not great. Walmart prices beats them at every turn where I prefer to go when I can.

  6. More mouse print traps. Extra-bucks can not be used for sale items.

    There are only two CVS stores where I live. The Rite-aid closed six months ago. So no competition for this predatory company where I live.

    But then, do the big chains really compete? I doubt it.

  7. None of these companies is in business to lose money. As smart consumers, we have to leverage whatever crumbs they throw at us. 40% off coupon. Great, I’ll use it and will only buy one item and wait for the next week and the next coupon. If I get a smart bucks reward that is useful, I just turn around and shop with it right then and there. We have to play their game and try to make it work for us.

  8. I stopped using CVS years ago expressly because of ExtraBucks. Between all the rules & limitations, expiration dates, sales, and possible combinations of purchases, I actually got stressed out trying to plan my purchases optimally. It’s as if the geniuses responsible for this hot mess of a loyalty program think we’re perfectly happy having our shopping revolve around CVS.

    On top of that, I was very unhappy with the loss of privacy that comes with using loyalty cards.

    I went from CVS to Walgreens, and after Walgreens started their loyalty program I used Rite Aid, and when our local Rite Aid disappeared I started patronizing a locally-owned pharmacy that doesn’t play these repulsive games.

  9. CVS has skyhigh prices for most goods.You need to play the games or don’t shop there.If they just lowered prices,instead of doing the Bucks,then everyone would get a discount and CVS would have to make the discount much less.In other words,if you take the effort to do the rewards,you get rewarded.I’m not a socialist,so I like it that way.

  10. On this subject, I have to give credit to regional grocery chain Price Chopper. Their reward program informs you the of number of redeemable points earned on a shopping trip, plus total number of points accumulated, and the expiration date of points at the end of the month, on the paper receipt. Nearing the end of a month, the cashiers have always said to me: “You have x points, do you want to redeem them now? They’re going to expire.” A point = a penny. Not huge, but nothing is held back either.

    • I am never asked if I want to use my points. If I go through the self checkout, I have to remember to ask the monitor if I have any points to use.

  11. Of course, they won’t get rid of the Extra Bucks program because you have to go spend more money to take advantage of it. Thus the cycle of buying to save to buy to save continues.

  12. CVS has recently added ‘Pharmacy & Health Rewards’. Original program, ExtraCare Deals & Rewards, used to include prescription payments. Now customer has to enroll in ‘Pharmacy…’ program to get rewards for script purchases. Signing up allows CVS to collect more of our health data. CVS now owns Aetna Health Insurance. Data drives growth and expansion.

  13. My pet peeve with CVS is their 25%/30%/40% etc. off coupons. They are good for either one regularly priced item, or your entire purchase on regularly priced items. Fine. However, it won’t work if you try to buy just one of a buy one/get one offer, even though you are paying full price for the first item. For example, buy one shampoo get the 2nd free (or half off). The first shampoo is full price, so you’d think you could use the coupon on that if you do not get the 2nd bottle – but no. I’m assuming their system characterizes the item as a sale item, even if you are not taking advantage of the sale. Yes, you could just get the second item, but sometimes you just need or want one of an item, not multiples.

  14. I have saved TONS of money with CVS ExtraBucks. The program is flawed, but once you learn to work within the restrictions, there is great value to be had.

  15. I do not know if this is a current problem, but at least some years ago, the CVS Extra Bucks coupons were generated via a thermal printer. I inadvertently discovered that if I stored them in a shirt pocket on a hot day they could become virtually unreadable, and the store (understandably) refused to accept them.

    A friend who worked briefly at CVS told me that the stores were planning to switch to inkjet printers, though I can’t confirm whether that has happened. For all its faults, I prefer the Walgreen’s system where I do not need to carry around miscellaneous pieces of paper.

  16. i saw a clip of Obama on late night talk show.

    host was showing him a $1.59 CVS purchase and a foot long useless receipt. he asked if he could do anything about it.

    even Obama was laughing.

    I only stop at CVS to buy a newspaper $1 on way to beach.
    i do not have CVS card and laugh at receipt offer for feminine products and save $1. or buy 3 hallmark cards and save .50.

    who buys 3 greeting cards ?
    CVS overpriced joke

  17. The really sneaky part of CVS is that all of their offers are not good on “sale” items and EVERYTHING in the store is “on sale” so the offers can hardly ever be used unless you search every aisle for something not on sale!

  18. I stopped patronizing CVS and Walgreens many years ago. I found their pricing to be over-inflated in general, and it got worse when they both started their “savings” programs. Anything they sell can be purchased much cheaper elsewhere.

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