We all know how valuable coupons are. The value each coupon is usually pretty easily seen on the coupon. But what about all the other stuff that you can find on your coupons? And what happens when you don’t use them as they were intended?
The Anatomy of a Coupon
The first thing you’ll see on your coupon is “Manufacturer Coupon” printed across the top. If this were a store coupon you would see that instead. Right next to the type of coupon you’ll find the expiration date. This simply is the date the coupon expires.
Next you’ll find, clearly stated, the value of the coupon and the redemption terms. As you already know the value of the coupon is the amount that will be deducted from your total when you meet the terms of the coupon. The redemption terms will tell you how many items and sizes you must purchase. You also may find exclusions of types, sizes or colors in this area.
Many coupons will contain an item image. This image can be helpful in finding items if they are new but in most cases the image on the coupon only represents one of the many items the coupon can be redeemed on. So don’t be fooled into purchasing the item that is shown on the coupon. Read the redemption terms and as long as the product you would like to purchase fulfills the terms that item should also be included.
Next comes the fine print! Our favorite, right? In the consumer terms you’ll find some rules set forth by the manufacturer that you must abide by to redeem the coupon. Not all coupons will have the same consumer terms and some coupons may not have any. Here are a few of the consumer terms you might find:
- One coupon per transaction – this means you are only allowed to use one of the same coupon per transaction. This does not mean you can’t use other coupons, but only one “like” coupon will be accepted.
- One coupon per person – this means you may use one “like” coupon once per person.
- One coupon per purchase – do NOT confuse this with one coupon per transaction. Each item that you are buying is considered a “purchase.” This means one coupon can be used per item that is purchased. For example, if you purchase 3 like items, you may use 3 coupons.
- One coupon valid for item indicated – this simply means you must abide by the redemption terms in order to receive the value stated.
- Limited like coupons per shopping trip – this means that you can only redeem the stated number of like coupons per shopping trip. An example of this would be, “Limit of 4 like coupons in one shopping trip.”
- Cash Value: 1/100 – your coupon isn’t worth any cash.
- Do Not Double – The manufacturer will not pay double the coupon amount. This does not necessarily mean your coupon won’t double…just that the store would have to pick up the tab.
- Coupon may not be copied – NEVER, EVER copy coupons! More on this below.
- Product Available At – This is a suggestion as to where you’ll find the product. It does not mean that you have to purchase the item there.
- Reedemable Only At – The coupon is only valid at the particular store.
- You Pay Sales Tax – If your state charges sales tax, you will still have to pay it per your states laws.
- Excludes Travel/Trial Size – Coupon may not be used on trial or travel size items.
- Other Use Constitutes Fraud – Knowingly using your coupon on items it was not intended for is considered fraud.
- A Specific Store Logo – Sometimes stores will “sponsor” a coupon. Unless you see “redeemable only at,” these coupons can still be used at any retailer as they are manufacturer coupons.
The other fine print that can be found on your coupon is the retailer or dealer terms. These terms simply tell retailers where to send the coupon for reimbursement and any other information they may need.
Finally, you’ll find barcodes on your coupons. There will be a scannable barcode for the store to use along with a few others. If you printed your coupon online you may also find another type of barcode along with a unique identifier number. In this barcode is the IP address of the computer where the coupon was printed.
Copying Coupons is Illegal!
Please, please, please…don’t ever copy coupons! Copying coupons along with using coupons in a way that they were not intended is fraud, a federal offense punishable by hefty fines and jail time. To date the longest prison sentence is 17 years and the highest financial penalty has been $5 million! Prison sentences of three to five years are not uncommon and while financial penalties generally vary, they have often been in excess of $200,000. Since your IP address is encoded on printed coupons, that is how authorities will trace the fraudulent coupon back to you. Also, please do not share printed coupons or leave them behind as a kind gesture in stores. If you print your coupon (completely following the rules) and then someone else picks it up and copies it then redeems multiple copies, it will be YOUR IP address on those coupons and not the person actually committing the fraud! I love to share coupons and help others, but make sure you are sharing newspaper coupons and not putting yourself in jeopardy of a crime you didn’t commit.