Did you use a coupon code the last time you bought something online? Do you use a coupon code almost every time you buy something online? If the answer to either of these is no, then we can only assume you either do not know how to obtain and use coupon codes or you enjoy wasting money. Make no mistake, almost every online retailer will have active coupon codes available at a given time. So it is up to you to learn how to coupon so you can find and exploit them to their fullest potential. That’s why we have created this How to Coupon guide.
Armed with this information, you will be able to save significant amounts of money or get nice bonuses nearly every time you hit the check-out button. Read on through our comprehensive guide and never leave money on the table again.
First we’re going to go over the basics of understanding what coupon codes are and how they work. Coupon codes are a string of letters/numbers a retailer will give to customers so they can enter it in the retailer website to get a percentage or dollar amount off their order. The rules of the coupon code are set by the retailer. Sometimes coupon codes are meant to discount certain products, while others can take a percentage or dollar amount off your entire bill. They often have conditions attached like a minimum purchase amount. Sometimes they can even grant you a bonus item like a goody bag or some other freebie from the online retailer. That’s why learning how to coupon is important. If you’re not using a coupon, you could be losing out on big savings.
Coupon codes are distributed through a multitude of different ways. They can be given out through newsletters, on the retailer’s website, through social media and other channels. We’ll have more on this later.
A typical coupon code will either spell out something obvious like the discount it represents (eg. SAVE50) or it will be a seemingly random string of numbers/letters (eg. FO93DD7). Most of the time coupon codes are not created at random and will have some sort of reasoning behind the letters, so the next time you come across one, try to figure out what it means.
In order to apply a coupon code, you will need to have it handy during the check-out process. Different sites present the opportunity to apply a coupon code in different ways, so just be patient and scan the entire screen for the coupon code or promo code entry box as you are conducting your purchase. You might find the coupon code entry box in the shopping cart area, or later in the check-out process. Just make sure you don’t press that “Confirm Purchase” button until you have entered the coupon code and seen the adjusted price.
In a perfect world, using coupon codes would be dead simple. But different retailers have varying degrees of complexity associated with using their coupon codes, and sometimes you won’t know if a code was applied successfully or why one may not be working. Here are some tricks for dealing with that.
When you apply a coupon code, look for any indication that it was applied properly. Many sites will show that the coupon code was applied, and even the effect the coupon had on the purchase. Sometimes you might find yourself using an ineligible coupon code for the purchase you’re trying to make. If a store’s coupon system is particularly helpful, it will tell you that the code is not valid and why. If not, the reason can probably be chalked up to an exemption or not meeting the conditions of the coupon.
Some popular reasons for a coupon being invalid are as follows:
You are trying to pay for something to which the coupon does not apply. Some coupons, while seemingly universal, will not work for certain items in the store’s inventory. Gift cards are commonly ineligible to be discounted, and it is not uncommon for a store to exclude certain brands or sale items from being discounted. Many stores will also exclude large items from being eligible for free shipping coupons.
You are trying to pay for something which is actually sold by a different store. In the online world, a lot of stores are set up as affiliates for other retailers to sell through in addition to selling their own goods. Amazon is big in this category. Coupon codes some retailers put out are only eligible to be used on a store’s own inventory and not for the goods other retailers sell through them.
You are not meeting the minimum spending amount. The use of many coupon codes is conditional upon spending a certain amount of money before shipping and taxes are applied. For instance, a coupon might grant $50 off, but only on purchases exceeding $150. If you don’t have $150 worth of items in your cart, you won’t get the discount.
The coupon is expired. There are tons of coupon codes out there for you to use. The problem with many of them is, they are past their expiration date. You should find the expiration date wherever you found the coupon code in the first place, but if not, know that the coupon you are using may not be valid any more.
The code has been entered incorrectly. Don’t give up after trying the code once and having it bounce back. Make sure you entered the code correctly. Some coupon codes are case sensitive, so be sure to get the case correct when you are submitting the code.
Coupon codes are absolutely everywhere if you know where to look. Let’s assume you are looking for coupons for a specific item from a specific retailer. The first place you are likely to find them is right on the website of the retailer. But remember that retailers will quite often have more than one coupon code active at once, and the one on the home page might not be the best value for you.
The next thing you can do is look elsewhere for the coupon you want. Websites like RetailMeNot have a constantly updating database of thousands of coupons. Just search the store you want to buy from and see what’s available. If this doesn’t yield anything good, you can do an even broader search on Google by entering the name of the store and “coupons” to see what comes up. Depending on the popularity of the store you should find some results, whether it is from a dedicated coupon site like Retailmenot or a consumer deal sharing forum like the /r/Deals Subreddit.
If you still can’t find the deal you are looking for, your next option would be to shop around. Google the precise item you are looking to buy and find a selection of shops selling it. Now you have multiple stores for which you can search coupons.
Still not having any luck? As a final effort, we recommend calling some stores up and asking if they have any coupon codes available. You really have nothing to lose here, and quite often, the customer service rep on the other end will have a promo to throw your way if you can’t find anything online.
If you want to maximize your access to lots of coupons and discounts at any given time, there are a number of strategies for this as well. They are as follows:
Sign up for the email lists of your favorite stores. This way you will likely get promo codes in your inbox every week or even more frequently if a store is particularly aggressive. If you are worried about being inundated with junk mail from retailers, it is advised that you create an alternate junk email account for this sole purpose, or at least organize your inbox into folders which will sort corporate email blasts from email that is truly important to you.
Delete the cookies on your browser. Doing this will give you the appearance of a new customer to the retail site. Many sites are set up to give greater discounts to new customers in order to seal that first deal. So deleting your cookies might yield you some special treatment.
Abandon your cart. Another way to get special access to coupons is to create an account with the retailer, load up your account with the stuff you want, and then log off. Some retailers have systems set up to offer discounts and promos to people who had a cart full of stuff ready to go but then logged off, in order to woo them back into completing the purchase.
Follow stores on social media. Do you have accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? Put them to work by following the brands and retailers you love. Retailers will often throw out promo codes for flash sales and quick discounts here. This is also where they announce availability of highly sought after items.
Now that you know the basics of how to coupon online, there are some pretty neat things you can do in the world of online shopping to save money.
For big purchases, you will probably find that it is worth it to shop around with your coupons. This means finding a handful of different stores selling the product you want, and hunting down the best coupons for each of them. Now you can compare the different offers and how they impact the selling price at different stores. Be sure to account for all of the factors when making your comparisons. Calculate the final cost of your item at each retail store, and be sure to note shipping charges at each one. Then, apply the coupons you found for each store and look at the final price of each. Only then will you be able to crown the winner.
Note that it is also worth it to see if any of the stores you want to buy from will allow you to stack coupon codes. Stacking coupon codes is a savings technique where the buyer uses more than one coupon code for one purchase. For instance, if you want an item that is $50 dollars and you have a coupon code for 20% off and a coupon code for $20 off, you may be able to use the two coupons simultaneously. This would bring the price of the item down to $20 rather than $50.
Another consideration is the amount you are spending. You may come across a selection of coupons which allow you to save different dollar amounts depending on the amount you spend. Typically, the more you spend the more you save. If you have a coupon to save $10 at a $50 minimum spend and $30 at a $100 minimum spend, and your bill already comes out to about $95, then just spending 5 more dollars will allow you to get more savings and actually spend less than keeping the bill at $95.
So now that you’re armed with all this information, you really have no excuse. The next time you are out there buying something online, remember what you have ready here today. Here is how we can sum up how to coupon online; make an effort to find coupons, shop around at different stores, and make a thoughtful and calculated decision about which retailer should get your money. Soon you’ll find that there really isn’t any reason to pay full price as long as you’re willing to put in a little effort.