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Beginner's guide to online couponing

Put the scissors and the Sunday papers away and find money-saving coupons on the Internet.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 19, 2013 1:33PM

This post comes from Kyle James at partner site U.S. News & World Report.


U.S. News & World Report on MSN MoneyCouponing has always been a key ingredient when it comes to saving money on purchases.


However, coupon strategies have shifted dramatically in recent years. With the popularity of online shopping, you’re no longer required to spend hours clipping coupons from Sunday newspaper. Online coupons allow you to save without leaving your home computer -- and eliminate the time required to clip and redeem traditional coupon offers.


Here are the basics on the various types of online coupons and where to find them:

Image: Hands catching shopping coupons (© Vstock LLC/Tetra images RF/Getty Images)Coupon codes. The first type of online coupon is also the most popular; they're called "coupon codes" and are offered by 75% of online retailers to encourage spending and brand loyalty. The most popular coupon codes offer free shipping or a flat percentage off your order total (with no minimum purchase required).


You simply type the code into the designated box when checking out at the retailer's website. The box might also be titled promotional code, discount code or online coupon key and is typically found on the payment or billing page. You never want to enter your credit card information or finalize your purchase until you are sure your coupon code has been accepted. Otherwise, it can be difficult to go back and try get your discount if the code was entered incorrectly or has expired.


Embedded coupon offers. The next type of online coupon is an embedded coupon, which does not have a code attached to it. These are often included in a retailer's free newsletter, which you have to subscribe to. Simply click on the offer and it takes you to the retailer's website, where the discount is automatically applied to your purchase.


Remember to verify your discount went through and read the fine print with these offers, since they sometimes exclude certain brands or clearance items.


Site-wide promotions. These promotions are fairly self-explanatory and include things like "Spring Sale: Save up to 55% off your online purchase." There's no coupon code required.


The key, though, to banking significant online savings is combining a coupon code with a site-wide promotion. You can save upwards of 80% off your purchase and often get free shipping included.


Where to find online coupons. An Internet search engine, naturally, is a good starting point. Simply type in the store name, plus the word coupons, and you'll likely discover coupon websites that update regularly and test coupon codes before adding them. Bookmark the good sites and remember to check them before you finalize your online purchase.


If you have a few favorite retailers, sign up for their free newsletter, follow them on Twitter and "like" their page on Facebook, as these outlets are another way to monitor for great coupons. 

Mobile apps. Some coupon aggregators have free apps that can get you online coupons, as well as in-store coupons directly on your phone. For an in-store coupon, as the cashier simply scans the barcode on your phone and the savings are applied instantly.


Popular stores offering in-store coupons on smartphone apps include Old Navy, Kohl's, Macy's, Home Depot, Lands' End, Payless Shoes and Toys R Us.


More from U.S. News & World Report and MSN Money:



I got a free coupon for cat litter a few weeks ago. The only store in town that carried that brand in that particular size ws Kmart. So went there to get the litter. They refused to take the coupon. I talked to the manager and found out that the extreme couponing is costing stores so much money they can't afford to honor them and Kmart has made a policy to refuse free coupons. After our talk she did honor the coupon but said she wouldn't do any more. The coupon service repays the retailer the money but not the profit. Also, since there are so many of them the stores have to hire additional people to process the coupons and they are losing money doing that. No profit from the coupon refunding and more wages for more personnel to manage the coupons. I can understand their problem. They are in business to make money not give it away and dealing with extreme couponing is costing them. Soon a lot more retailers are going to stop accepting coupons and then the program will end.
Apr 22, 2013 11:13PM
Online couponing is great and all but online deals in general help you save a lot of money and earn a lot of money.  I use to earn online giftcards.  Also search the web for online bank accounts that offer promos..  Below is one that will pay you $50 just for making 3 debit card purchases..  Capital One 360 is great.  The link below can be used to earn these promotions.

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