It is very important to understand all that is on a coupon in order to use it effectively. I have found that knowing what it all means helps with disputes! Many cashiers have no idea that the store gets reimbursed for the coupon's face value PLUS an extra $.05 - $.10! (This information is very helpful when confronted with "You're saving too much." or "You can't get things for free - it's not fair to the store." or "You're putting us out of business!")
Today's focus is on a circular coupon - one that you would clip from the paper. I have included a handy graphic to help with the lesson!
- Redemption Info
There are two main types of coupons - Manufacturer coupons and Store coupons. Manufacturer coupons are issued by the manufacturer. Stores get reimbursed 100% for these coupons. Store coupons are issued by the stores themselves and do not get reimbursed. Think of store coupons as a type of sale. The type is almost always noted at the top of the coupon in this spot. Occasionally it will be noted at the bottom. There is one exception, however. Rite Aid coupons found in the Rite Aid circular WILL say "Manufacturer Coupon" at the top, but they are actually store coupons. In the barcode of a Rite Aid store coupon, you will see the letters RC or RA indicating that it is indeed a store coupon.
Knowing the type of coupon is essential in maximizing savings. In most stores, shoppers are able to use BOTH a manufacturer coupon AND a store coupon on one item! This practice is called coupon stacking. For the best deals, use coupon stacking in conjunction with sale prices.
Coupons will note the latest possible date for use in this space. Some coupons may say "No Expiration Date" and those are legitimate coupons. Be wary of coupons that have no mention of expiration date - some people have created fraudulent coupons without this information.
Simple. This is the product(s) which the coupon may be used for. Note that I did not highlight the PHOTO of the product. The wording is what is important. Often a coupon will be printed for multiple items and have only one item pictured. If you are confronted by an uninformed cashier, politely point out that the coupon clearly states in the wording what it may be used for. Make sure you are abiding by any exclusions.
Here is where the coupon states how much is to be saved. Be aware that coupons which state "save $1 off of 2 products" (or something similar) will attach to BOTH products. You are not able to use two of these coupons with two products. Also, be aware of your stores' policy regarding doubling coupons. Sometimes you can save more using a $.50 coupon that doubles rather than a $.75 coupon that does not double. Lastly, be aware that many store computers will automatically adjust a coupon down if the value of the coupon exceeds the cost of the item (thus negating any possible overage).
As shopper, this information isn't very important. It simply shows the store what address to send the coupon to for reimbursement as well as the extra compensation (usually $.08 per coupon). It can, though, help in a challenge situation. It is helpful to point to this information when a cashier won't accept a coupon because you are saving too much or because he or she feels the management will get in trouble for taking too many coupons. It is reassuring to these cashiers to know that the store actually makes a few pennies on each coupon accepted (some managers need to be taught about this as well).
Be sure to check this small type before using a coupon. This will further clarify how the coupon may be used (and knowing this information can save some embarrassment at checkout). Some common stipulations: one per transaction, one per purchase, and one per customer. Click on my Coupon Basics on the right sidebar (part of my Penny Pinching 101) for more explanations on what these mean.
Make sure you don't accidentally tear or cut off part of the barcode when you are clipping coupons! Make sure all the little numbers are intact as well. There is one very important number in the barcode (the main barcode indicated in the picture above): the very last number. That last number is almost always a 5 or a 9. Why is this important? It all comes down to doubling. When shopping at stores that double coupons, it is important to know that barcodes that end with a 9 will NOT double in almost all cases. Cashiers must manually double the coupon. barcodes that end with a 5 WILL automatically double - even if the coupon states "Do Not Double or Triple." That wording is present to protect stores. The doubled or tripled amount of the coupon is not reimbursed by the manufacturer. It is simply a courtesy from the store. Manufacturers print "Do Not Double or Triple" on coupons to protect stores. Stores have the option to NOT honor a double of these coupons, though most do.
Come back next week to learn the anatomy of a printed coupon. Arm yourself with knowledge so you can have the most successful bargain hunting possible! Do you have any questions about circular coupons? Ask them in the comments or email me (click the envelope icon in the right sidebar).