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Never Pay Full Price: The Ultimate Guide to Online Coupon Codes

Using coupon codes wisely can maximize your potential savings — but it may take a little know-how to navigate the vast amount of coupon information out there.
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Couponing 101: Basic Training

First, you need to know what a coupon code is and how to apply it. Coupon codes can give a certain percentage off your order, a fixed dollar amount off, or free or discounted shipping. They can apply to most items a store sells, or only to specific items or categories. Some require a minimum purchase amount.

Stores issue these codes through various channels, such as their email distribution lists, their own website, or through other websites that highlight information on current deals and coupons. Some discounts are applied automatically at checkout without a code, at times only by clicking through a certain link.

How to Read the Codes

A coupon code will be a mix of letters or numbers, usually around 5 to 10 characters in all caps, that will sometimes appear random (ex. FT596RFT) and other times will spell out actual words or portions of words (ex. FREESHIP50). The code itself can sometimes give clues as to what kind of discount it provides. For example, FREESHIP50 would likely be free shipping with a $50 minimum purchase.

How to Apply a Coupon Code

Once you locate a code to use, you can usually apply it to your order by typing it or copying and pasting it into the coupon code box, and then clicking the button to apply it. This box can be found at various stages of checkout, depending on the store you are ordering from.

Some stores will let you apply the code in the shopping cart before proceeding to checkout, while others may not let you apply it until you've reached a certain point in the checkout process. This may be after you enter your shipping and billing address, or even after your credit card information. Just be careful not to accidentally place the order before you've entered the code.

Got it so far? Excellent! Then let's move on to Intermediate Couponing.

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Coupon Editor

Sarah Jones joined DealNews in 2005 and currently manages the team that publishes coupons and breaks down the info in Black Friday ads, one item at a time. She enjoys family, music, writing, and fashion.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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6 comments
efithian
I needed 12 bottles of a non-prescription drug that is price controlled by the manufacturer. I found a seller who gives points on each purchase. You can apply those points to a purchase by cashing in points for a coupon. Unfortunately, only one coupon applies to a purchase. I followed their instructions to a t, but had to make 12 separate purchases of the same item due to their coupon restrictions. It was also necessary to restart my browser 12 times to clear the cache. It all worked out, but I guess they figured it out, since they sent all 12 bottles in the same box. I saved about 15% on the price-controlled drugs.
markherdeg
For maximum discount, also click through one of the cash back rebate sites.

And evreward.com does a great job of compiling cash back, coupon codes, and special offers for most online shopping sites.
dealguy
If a store says you've already redeemed a coupon, try creating a different account. How? Use another web browser (or clear your cookie from that store) and a different email address. You'll find that with many stores, that's all you need. (For the others, you'll need another credit card.)
Rawmeat
Good article! Just the type of info that DealNews readers can use to keep saving.

I have Priceblink installed on Firefox. It's an "add on" that you can attach (I go to the Tools menu on the browser and select Add-ons). When you shop, it automatically shows some coupon codes and also compares prices at several other stores. It's saved me a lot of time and effort to find coupons or codes, not to say there aren't additional codes to be found elsewhere, sometimes with better savings. Users can also submit codes that are not listed so that Priceblink can check them out and add them to their list.

Also, don't forget coupons/deals and points/cashback that you can earn from on-line shopping through your credit card's shopping mall.
snaimpally
If a coupon code doesn't work, try calling customer service because they often have a little extra lattitude. Once I was trying to get a code to work on kohls.com and called customer service. The agent figured out that the coupon threshold was $75 and the item I was buying was $74.99. He did an override and got me the discount anyway. Several times, when I have called Musician's Friend to place an order, the agent has managed to find me a coupon code to bring the price of the item (which was already on sale at a very good price) down even further.
PythonX
When searching for a discount code, you should search based on what the site is asking for. In other words, if it asks for a "coupon code" use those words as the search parameters. If it asks for "promotional code", search with those words.

I never make an online purchase until do a thorough search for a code. Usually I will get to check out and see what type of code they are looking for and then do my search.

If no code is found here's another trick. Fill in name and email and go all the way to check out short of entering a credit card if possible and then close the browser window. Sometimes you will receive an email from the site inquiring why you didn't complete the purchase and they offer a discount then -10% off seems most common.
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