Ask FTM: How Are You Getting Stuff Free At Drugstores

Reader H. writes:

I’m new to couponing so I have a question.After getting UPR’s, RR’s, etc. I would have to return items & re-purchase them to actually get a great/free deal right?


No, you do not return the products to get stuff for free.  I can understand how you may be confused with calculating your cost of the item after UPR/ECB/RR. When you are using FTM coupon matchups, I always take into consideration the ECB/UPR/RR  when you earn them.  The reason for this – everyone earns them at the same time. When you use them, is up to you – just don’t count them twice!

Here is a typical deal:

Crest Toothpaste $3.00
use $1.00/1 Coupon
Get $2.00 ECB
Free after coupon & ECB

Here is how it really works:

Your First Shopping Trip

::You go to Rite Aid/CVS or Walgreens and purchase toothpaste for $3.00.
:: You have a $1.00 coupon for the toothpaste – you give it to the cashier.
:: You pay the cashier $2.00 out of your wallet.
:: The cashier hands you a receipt that has a $2.00 UPR (Rite Aid) ECB (CVS) or RR (Walgreens). These receipts have credits on them that you can use on a future purchase. Look at them like a store credit or cash that you can use only at that store.


So when you leave the store with your toothpaste purchase, you will have paid $2.00 out of your wallet. You will have a $2.00 credit in your wallet. The $2.00 you paid and the $2.00 credit becomes a wash (meaning it ends up being zero) and is what we mean by free.

Now you may think, hmm well how is this free. The first week you go you might be paying $2.00 for toothpaste. However, you paid $2.00 instead of $3.00 because you used a coupon. Great start.

The key is, the next time you go to the store, the $2.00 credit is waiting for you. So next week you go and do this transaction:

Your Second Shopping Trip

::You go to Rite Aid/CVS or Walgreens and purchase a toothbrush for $3.00.
:: You have a $1.00 coupon for the toothbrush –  you give it to the cashier.
:: You pay the cashier with the $2.00 UPR/ECB/RR that your previously earned or zero dollars out of your wallet.
:: The cashier hands you a receipt that has a $2.00 UPR (Rite Aid) ECB (CVS) or RR (Walgreens).
So when you leave the store with your toothbrush purchase, you will have paid $0.00 out of your wallet. You will have a $2.00 credit in your wallet to use for the next week.You continue this cycle each week. Some weeks you may pay more out of pocket, but leave the store with more credit to use next time.

Do you have any questions about how ECB/RR/UPR rewards work? Do you have any good tips for starting with ECB/UPR or RR?

If you would like to have your question answered? Just send it to me here.

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  • Jack Fritz

    I would point out that if you use the RR(wags) on an item from the same manufacturer that you will not get a RR printed out again.

    IE if you buy a Oral B toothbrush and get a RR, turn around and buy another Oral B toothbrush and use the RR then you will not get one at check out.

    Prevents people from rolling on the same item.

    This was a good roller week.

    Transaction A
    2 Oral B toothbrushes with 1 coupon and $3RR

    Transaction B
    2 scunci’s with $3RR

    just repeat A with RR, 1 coupon then B then A then B then A

    Transaction A will cost you sales tax on $5 and B will be sales tax on $3. 30/18 cents here in MI.

  • Lissa

    Here’s what I always see people confusing on brags and comments that makes me CRAZY: they count the value of the drugstore rewards twice. For example:

    Shopping trip subtotal was $12. They used $8 in previous rewards and paid $4 out of pocket. They receive $6 in new rewards. And then they brag saying they made $2 on the trip! No,, you didn’t. Your subtotal was $12 and for that merchandise you received $6 in rewards. So you purchased them for a net of $6. What you paid OOP is just a result of how you utilize your rewards, not how much you are actually spending on given products.

    • jen

      you definately have to start from the very beginning and decide how you want to handle your rewards…

      i treat my rewards as money that can only be used at that particular store. when i purchase the item that prompted the reward, that is the item that i say i got for free or low cost.

      my aunt can’t get her brain around the rewards being used my way. she is not a couponer, but when there is a great deal at CVS, she will take advantage. she likes to use the reward as free money. she states that she paid for the item that prompted the reward, but she got the item that she purchases with the reward for a deal.

      i guess either way is okay, but i can’t see how if you are couponing on a regular basis the 2nd way would work. is there anyone who uses this method willing to explain it further?

      • Susannah


        I coupon regularly, and I think just like your Aunt! I’m always looking at my OOP, so I won’t count the UPR towards the item that generated it, because it will still cost a small amount. I use the UPR with coupons in another transaction to bring a $25 transaction down to under a dollar. Because I almost always have UPRs to use, I regularly get $15 – $30 worth of items at Rite Aid for $.50 or less.

        I also did great this week with their $2 RA skin care coupon. My best was $35 worth of Clean & Clear, bandaids, petroleum jelly, and Peroxide for just $.11!


    • Brenda

      I totally agree! I always treat my rewards like cash. When I figure out my total I add my OOP and any rewards that I used together first, then I subtract any rewards I received from the transaction to get my real total.
      The other thing that often gets left out is tax. I assume most blogs don’t include it because it’s different for every state. However, if you’re really keeping track of your spending and savings you can’t just ignore it because it really adds up over time. In fact, there are times that I won’t do a freebie deal for a item that I don’t need immediately because I am not willing to pay the tax.

      • Lissa

        Definitely! Here in WA state our sales tax is 9.5%!!! And tax is charged on the pre-coupon total. So sometimes deals that have high-value starting items but combine with high-value coupons +/- stacking of coupons to = free or small amounts will actually have large amounts of tax owed! (And you can’t use UPR against tax) For instance, when the Tylenol Precise patches were on sale for $5 each and there was a $5 coupon out…they were “free”, but for each of them I really paid about $0.50. So definitely for items I won’t personally use or are stocked well on, I will pass on a deal because with the tax added on, it’s not as great a deal as I would like. Too bad tax doesn’t count towards wellness points!

        • Brenda

          Yikes! I’m in Vancouver, WA and thought 8.2% tax was high!

  • MissyLiz

    Great answer Shannon! I know the question wasn’t intended this way, but for what its worth, this kind of behavior can put cause cashiers to scrutinize you very closely. I manage a CVS and my cashiers hate it when people do stuff like this. We have customers that regularly return mass amounts of stuff that generated EB’s and as a result their transactions are very closely monitored. We’ve found that these people are also trying to sneak in coupons on items/sizes they didn’t buy, expired coupons or even attempting to give us photocopies of newspaper coupons! So I would be careful about returning too much stuff…you could anger your fav cashiers!

  • It’s REALLY hard to explain to people. Also, people keep saying that this is coming to an end because of that Extreme Couponing show.

    I try to tell them that it’s simply not so and I’m not doing anything wrong, but I know they think my kids are living on ramen noodles, mustard, and Maalox….And that I have showers full of toilet paper..

  • Michelle

    I finally got the hang of UP rewards at rite aid and ECBs at CVS! After coupons and rewards, I’m getting stuff worth $30 or so for maybe $5 or $6 OOP. But I still get like $10-$12 in rewards for next time. I’m loving CVS and Rite Aid!!