I am a person who likes to have all the information before I start something. I like to know how and why things work. Knowing how things work can give you confidence! I believe that understanding how coupons work will empower you with knowledge and confidence so that you can be a better couponer!
Let’s talk about the different components of coupons.
Expiration Date: All coupons have an expiration date. Some have an expiration date that actually says “No expiration date.” Stores usually will not accept coupons that do not have expiration dates. You can use the coupon through the date of the expiration date. If the coupon’s expiration date is 10/6/2009, you can use the coupon until 11:59 pm on 10/6/2009.
Value: This simply tells you how much will be deducted from your purchase. If it says “Save $1 on 2 boxes of cereal” then you will save $1 total on your purchase (not $1 per box).
Wording: This is the most important part of the coupon. It is how you know what the coupon is for! If the coupon says “save on ANY xyz product” then it truly can be used on any, not just what is pictured.
Picture: The picture on the coupon can be useful if you have never heard of the product, and can help you locate the item on the shelf. The picture helps build product recognition and is a great form of advertising for the manufacturer. The picture is NOT what is important though. The manufacturer’s generally put the newest or most expensive product in the picture, obviously hoping you will buy that product. As long as you follow what is in the wording of the coupon, you can usually get the lowest priced product which is generally the better deal.
Fine Print: The fine print is usually information for the retailers including the coupon redemption address. There are usually one or two lines that are intended for the consumer though. Limit one coupon per purchase? Coupons typically have some version of that statement. I would like to explain each of them to you so that you can in turn explain them to your cashiers (which I can guarantee will happen at some point).
- Limit one coupon per purchase. Each qualifying item(s) is a purchase. If the coupon is for $1 off 2 boxes of cereal and you buy 2 boxes, that is 1 purchase. If you bought 2 more, that is another purchase and you can use another $1/2 coupon. This is on just about every coupon. It means you can not use 2 coupons on 1 product.
- Limit one coupon per transaction. This means you can only use one of each coupon per transaction. Each transaction is concluded with a receipt.
- Limit one coupon per day/visit. You can only use one of those coupons per store visit.
- Limit one coupon per person/customer/household. You can only use one of these coupons.
Many times I have had cashiers try to tell me these restrictions mean something they are not. If it says per transaction, that’s what it means. If the manufacturer meant person, that is what they would have written.
In the above picture you can see a basic coupon bar code. Most coupon bar codes are comprised of five parts and a total of 12 digits.
Barcode: A number systems character (NSC) of “5” identifies the coupon as a coupon. “99” is another coupon prefix. The “99” is used for non-doubling coupons. If your coupon begins with a “5” then it will automatically double (if your store doubles coupons). If it begins with a “99” then it will not double.
Reading coupon bar codes, aka “Decoding” is rather controversial so I’ve decided to remove the portion of my post containing these details. If you decode coupons for the purpose of using them on items they are not intended for – you are stealing. There is a great post over at Moms Need to Know about the Ethics of Coupon Bar Code Decoding. I highly encourage everyone to read it. She says pretty much everything I want to say about the topic.
Remember, manufacturer’s began using bar codes on coupons to speed up coupon redemption. Don’t ruin couponing for others by taking advantage of the manufacturer’s generosity.