May 102011How To Tuesday: Extreme Couponing (Part 4)

Topic: Understanding The Coupon

If you’re just joining us, I started a How To Tuesday series to help you learn how to achieve Extreme Couponing status. You’ll learn how to coupon shop step-by-step and take your regular couponing to Extreme Couponing. If you’re new, be sure you check out our previous week’s features.

Today I’m going to review what exactly all that stuff on the coupon actually means. You’ll be ready with explanations when your cashier says, “You can’t use this.”

:: Coupon Fine Print

There are tiny words printed on the bottom on your coupons. If they beep at the register, your cashier may attempt to read this and explain why you can’t use the coupon. Know before you go what it all means.

One Coupon Per Purchase – This means that you can use one coupon per item you are purchasing. If you are buying a second item, you’ll need a second coupon in order to get the same savings.

One Coupon Per Transaction – This means that you are only allowed one coupon for this item in a single transaction. So if you want to purchase a second item and use a coupon, you’ll need to do a separate transaction.

Once you know the difference, you’ll be more confident couponer. You’ll be ready to explain because cashiers often confuse purchase and transaction.

:: Coupon Bar Codes

Despite what coupons say, the bar code may indicate something completely different. Here are a few things to keep your eye on when you are looking at that coupon barcode.

Do Not Double – Many times coupons will say “Do Not Double”. This can be misleading. If your store offers double coupons (Safeway, Kroger etc), and the coupon bar code starts with a 5, it will double regardless what the coupon states. If the bar code starts with a 9, it will not double.

BOGO Coupons – Most buy on get one free coupons “attach” to only one item at checkout which means you can use a second coupon. I usually indicate this in my matchups and suggest you use a $1/1 coupon on the first item and the BOGO coupon on the second item. However, sometimes BOGO coupons “attach” to both items at checkout. These coupons have a number 14 in the barcode. You’ll find it in last two digits in the second set of five numbers. In the example above, it would be where the ’70’ is.

Knowing what your coupon means before you go can eliminate some of the questions at the register.

:: Printable Coupon Security Indicators

People photocopy coupons. It’s a sad fact. They shouldn’t but for some reason they do it anyway. So, when cashiers see multiple copies of “like” coupons, they are more likely to refuse them as fraudulent. Thankfully the printable coupon sites build in security features to try to prevent people from copying. This is great because you can prove your coupons are legit., Red Plum and Bricks coupons have a security code on the upper right of the coupon. Beneath it is a unique set of 16 numbers. When you print multiple coupons, this unique set of numbers will change. When you give your cashier two of the same printable coupons and they ask if you photocopied them, show them the different numbers there to prove the coupons are unique. coupons have a pin number listed in the upper right of the coupon. Like the security code above, this is to prevent people from copying and each coupon prints with a unique pin. This feature makes it easy to prove to your cashier that your multiple copies are legit.

It’s always a good idea to be an honest, ethical couponer. This makes things easier for everyone in the long run. By knowing precisely what your coupon means, you can use coupons correctly and show your cashier that honest couponers do exist!

Experienced Couponers Chime In! Did I miss any lingo explanations you think might be helpful?

Check out the entire How To Tuesday feature to learn how to achieve savings success using coupons.


  1. This was really helpful. Thanks! 🙂

  2. Great tips! Thank you!

  3. Thank you. I am new to couponing and have found this information very helpful. P.S. I am a legitimate couponer not a photo copier. :0)

  4. Thank you so much! This info is very helpful! 🙂

  5. This information is very useful. Wow, thanks!

  6. Shellie, thanks for all your tips daily! Love it!
    Can you explain to me how coupons work when the store has buy one get one free.
    Rite aide has vitamins on sale BOGO this week…….can I use two coupons…one for each item? Confusing! Help!

    • It depends on the store’s coupon policy. I know Safeway will not allow you to use a coupon on the free item. CVS and Walgreens will allow you to use a coupon on the free item. It will just greatly vary by store.

  7. If a store is running a Buy 1 Get 1 sale and I have a Buy 1 Get 1 coupon. Do I get 1 or 2 for free (1 from free with the coupon and 1 free from the store)? Thanks for your help.

  8. I am new to couponing. If there’s a 10/10 deal. And I have one .50cent coupon. Do I need 10 coupons or does that apply to all of them?

  9. If a coupon says ” save .50 on any two,” can i use two coupons – one for each item?
    So this week cvs has campbells soup on sale at 2 for $3 and i have to buy two to get the deal.
    I have a coupon that says “save .50 on any 2.”
    So with one coupon i can get 2 soups for 2.50, which doesnt really seem like a great deal.
    ????? Feeling confused.

  10. I’m confused about what you mean by “attach.” Could you explain that section a little more?

  11. Hi Shellie, I’m just now looking into the whole couponing thing and I’m loving your site so far…. My question is along the same lines as Aimee… When your coupon “attaches” to 1 item, you can use another coupon… understood. However, when it “attaches” to BOTH items, does this mean you can use another coupon for each item or does this mean you cannot use another coupon at all?

    Thanks for all the great tips!!