Types of Coupons

Discount Coupons

Don’t want to pay full retail price for a new jacket or maybe that limited edition championship ping-pong table to put in the game room? Discount coupons are the way to go. Taking advantage of a discount can mean we are able to afford an item that may otherwise be too expensive.

Discount coupons generally work in one of two ways. The first is a monetary discount, such as “$100 Off Your Next Purchase.” The second is a percentage discount like “50% Off Your Order.” Discount coupons can be applied to anything from a specific product/model to storewide depending on the language of the coupon and the restrictions. Also pay attention if there is a minimum purchase to be made in order to get the discount.

Discount coupons are a great way to save on exactly what you want to buy, whether it’s a voucher for a product (iPod Nano 4GB), product category (all MP3 players), or the entire store (“Take 25% Off Any Order at Store XYZ”).

Free Shipping Coupons

Okay, you found a great deal on what you want, but now you have to get your purchase to your home or office (or to a friend or family member as a gift – so nice of you!).

Free shipping coupons mean just that; free shipping. But don’t expect next-day-air-freight just yet. Generally an online store will offer free shipping at its lowest tier of available shipping. This is usually ground transport and will take anywhere from a few days to a week or more to get to you depending on the distance your package has to cover. Read the restrictions on the free shipping deal and you’ll most likely find “standard,” “standard ground,” or “economy” shipping is free with the offer. Changing the shipping speed to any other choice (expedited, overnight, priority, 2-day, etc.) will almost always cancel the free shipping offer, meaning you’re in for a shipping fee.

Other common iterations of shipping coupons are shipping discounts (Half Price Shipping!) and free shipping with in-store pickup. The latter being when your purchase is shipped to a store near you and you go pick it up.

A word on when free shipping can be really helpful. It’s always to your advantage to take the offer of a free shipping – you pay less to get that new pair of running shoes to your address. But there are some circumstances when free shipping coupons can save you big time. Heavy and bulky items (couches, weight sets, workout machines, appliances, large TVs, art work, rugs, etc.) most often need special care when being shipped and the merchant is likely to pass that bill right to you. But if they’re offering free or discounted shipping, well then, you’re covered.

Coupon Codes

A top secret code? No, not really. Coupon codes are simply a reference code such as “4FF678″ or “VALDAY08″ that you enter on a merchant’s website to receive a special offer, discount, free shipping or other consideration. A web merchant will usually have a place for you to enter the coupon code when you add an item to your online shopping basket or proceed to the checkout portion of the site. Always be sure to enter the coupon code exactly as you see it in the offer. Otherwise the website may not honor the special. Think of it like a secret password to savings.

Promotional Codes

Promotional codes, promotion codes, and promo codes. Say that three times really fast. The only real difference between promo codes and coupon codes is the wording. Some websites will call them one, another site will call them something else. But don’t be fooled! They are all great ways to save. It’s as simple as that. Promotion codes operate in the same way a coupon code does – enter the code at checkout and you will receive the discount or special offer. Like coupon codes, be sure to enter the promo code exactly as you see it.

Expiring Coupons

You know that expiration date on the milk in the refrigerator? It’s there for a reason. Coupon code and promo code expiration dates operate much the same way. Once the offer expires, that specific deal has gone sour as is no longer valid. Consider a coupon or promo code a window of opportunity – from when you find the deal until the deal expires. Get your order in on the website before the expiration date and you should be on your way to savings. And since most websites are automated for order taking you can usually count on having until 11:59pm on the last day of the offer to complete your purchase. Always check the expiration date and follow any other restrictions for the offer.

On a side note, no one wants an Internet full of expired coupons. Savings.com is doing its part. We quality check all the links and pull the expired deals as soon as they go sour. How disappointed would you be if you found the promotion you’ve been waiting for…only to find that it’s expired when you visit the merchant’s website? Not fun. Savings.com also allows users to participate in checking expiring coupons. Just sign up, log in, and away you go!

Now go check the date on the milk.

Grocery Coupons

Ah, the good ‘ole grocery coupon. Where would we be without it? Credit this fella with helping to make coupons an accepted form of saving money. They’ve been around since the early 1900s and are still used today. Just as then, we now get them in the mail and at the store. They are also available online. Grocery coupons are like discount coupons – you save X amount when buy Z product. Just like other coupons, be sure to read the restrictions (the teensy tiny print at the bottom or on the back) because grocery promotions are often size and quantity specific, and have an expiration date.

There are two types of grocery coupons. The first is the grocer’s own offer on a product. The second is a manufacturers coupon, where the maker of the food or dry good is offering a promotion. A grocer can also offer coupons on manufacturers’ items.

Despite the popularity of grocery savings clubs where you sign up an save just by swiping your club card at checkout, grocery coupons are still in use and as popular as ever. Grocery coupons can offer discounts that go beyond the low price already marked in the aisles for club members.

Printable Coupons

Click, print and go. Printable coupons are just that – printable coupons. Search online for what you want, print the coupon at home, and take the printed coupon to a store and receive the advertised offer. This became so popular by the mid-1990s, it started an online coupon craze. Some websites now specialize in this type of offer and have extensive communities of printable coupon finders.

Some early security issues were a problem (counterfeit coupons, anyone?), but barcodes and promo codes on printable coupons solved that issue. Just be sure it’s a print-and-take coupon before you rush off to the store, and not an online only offer. Also be sure to read the restrictions for the offer and print accordingly.

Paper Coupons

Think back to the very first coupon you ever saw as a child. Can you picture it? I can’t either. But odds are that it was a paper coupon. They arrive in our mail, await us at the grocery store, look at us from the pages of newspapers and magazines, appear under the wipers on our cars, and can cover your fingers with newsprint. Since we’ve been cutting them out for nearly a century there’s even a phrase for it, “clipping coupons.”

Paper coupons are easy to use. Clip the coupon and go to the participating store to redeem the offer. Be sure to read the small print – those are the restrictions and will explain how to use the coupon. Paper coupons can be from a store or a manufacturer. If it is a manufacturer’s coupon, make sure that the store you take it to is participating in the promotion.

This is the original incarnation of the coupon. Special thanks to the Coca Cola Company and C. W. Post, the Post cereals’ founder, for their initial use of paper coupons as a marketing strategy in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Without you we’d all be paying retail prices!

Gift Certificates

Why not make your own? Think of the gift certificate as a discount that you can give to someone, only in this case you get to determine the value of that coupon. Also called gift vouchers and gift cards, gift certificates have no value until they are bought and issued. Put whatever amount you want, pay for it, and give it to whomever you want. Like coupons, gift certificates can be for a specific manufacturer, a specific store or a service. They can also be issued by one of the major credit card companies or a bank, in which case it is similar to a debit card. Some gift certificates can be handwritten in order to give them a personal touch. A number, bar code or magnetic strip on the gift card helps the issuer keep track of use and the remaining balance.

Be sure to read the fine print when buying or receiving gift certificates. Some lose value over time (monthly service charges or non-use fees) and others charge fees just for using the card or certificate that is then deducted from the balance. There may even be an expiration date.

Rebates

Rebates are refunds. You just have to do a little paperwork. And be sure to do the paperwork! Only about 6 out of 10 consumers do.

By definition, a rebate is a marketing tool that allows advertisers to offer an appealing price to consumers without having to give the discount or savings at the time of purchase. Simply put, rebates are saving after-the-fact. For example, if the offer is “New Item, Only $350 After $50 Rebate!” you then buy the item at full price ($400), and $50 will be refunded to you. Just not right now. Here’s why.

The most common forms of a refund are the mail-in and online rebate. After paying full price for an item, you just follow the instructions on the rebate form in order to claim the advertised refund. This usually involves filling out some paperwork either by hand or online that tells the manufacturer what you bought. Good thing you kept all those receipts and proofs of purchase, right? Some merchants will do this for you automatically at checkout in order to expedite the arrival of your refund. But don’t hold your breath. A careful look at the fine print on some deals shows that many rebates take four weeks or more to be processed. Whatever the time period is, that’s about how long you’ll have to wait for your refund check to arrive.

You’ll also find that a store will often offer a discount using a “manufacturer’s rebate.” All this means is that the store charges you full price, but it is the manufacturer that pays you the refund. Another reason to read the rebate literature carefully and send the necessary information to the right place.

Rebates are an interesting twist of marketing genius. They put the responsibility of collecting the special offer back in the hands of the consumer. If you don’t fill out the rebate paperwork and send it in, you don’t get the refund. By adding just one more step to saving on your purchase, advertisers know that not everyone who is eligible for a refund will apply for it. So be sure to do the paperwork, fill out any forms (in writing or online), cut out proofs of purchase…whatever it takes to get the rebate.

When filing a rebate, be sure to have the following nearby: receipt, proof of purchase (usually on the packaging), product title or number, model number, and serial number (usually on the product). You may have to mail some of these, either the original or a copy, with the refund paperwork.

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