Coupon Patch: Tips and Tricks for Using E-Coupons

Coupons you load directly onto your store card are gaining popularity. Make them work for you!

As I noted , manufacturers really want to get coupons into the hands of the ever-growing consumer group that doesn’t regularly buy the newspaper. Printable Internet coupons are one way to do this, but e-coupons, which don’t require you to print anything or carry anything but your store card, are gaining in popularity as well.  

Get Clicking and Get Saving

E-coupons are usually made available at the beginning of each month. As with printable coupons, a limited number is available and when they’re all claimed, they’re gone. You can find e-coupons primarily through www.cellfire.com and www.shortcuts.com. Kroger.com also has its own (occasionally overlapping) e-coupons available.

All you need to do is set up an account, give the website your store loyalty card information, and click to load the coupons you like onto your card. The coupons are usually available an hour after you load them, and then they come off of your total once the cashier finalizes your transaction. Easy! 

Where and How Can You Use Your E-Coupons?

As of right now, the only Decatur-area chain involved in the most of these e-coupon programs is Kroger.  (Publix doesn’t require you to have a store card, so it doesn’t have a way for you to load coupons. Yet.) Before you delve into this brave new world, you must be aware that Kroger’s registers are being programmed (if they haven’t been already) to reject a paper coupon for a product that has already had an e-coupon applied to it. Why do you care? E-coupons don’t double, so they may not always give you the best deal, and you don’t want to spend extra time at the checkout line doing math or wondering why the register just beeped at you.

When you’re choosing your e-coupons, select with care if you plan on bringing paper coupons on your trip as well. If you just want to do things the absolute easy way, click, click, click and add everything you can to your card - there are limits to how many you can have at one time, but they’re high limits, and you might as well take advantage of everything available.

Bring a Different Type of List

Make sure you print a list of what's loaded onto your card (most of the e-coupon sites allow you to do this) to bring with you. The obvious reason to do this is so you don’t forget which coupons you loaded. The other reason, though, is that as we all know, computers make mistakes. If you have a list, you can compare it with your receipt to make sure the coupons you loaded were taken off at the register. If some are missing, you can write to the e-coupon provider and you’ll usually be given a credit loaded on your card for your next trip. You also could try talking to someone at the customer service desk, but this is still a new technology and you may not get the answers you need that way - better to wait until you get home and shoot off an email. (Ask me how I know this...)

More E-Coupon-Style Programs

Two other e-coupon programs that work in a slightly different manner are Upromise and SavingStar. Upromise allows family and friends to save money for a child’s college fund. Simply sign up with the program, give it your store card information (Publix offers a special store card for this program, so ask at the customer service desk if you are interested), and load e-coupons each month. Instead of receiving a discount with each coupon redeemed, you receive a small amount of money placed directly in a college savings account. Check its website for more details.

SavingStar works on a similar premise but allows you to deposit your savings into different types of accounts, including PayPal, Amazon gift cards, and even your bank account. There is a minimum payout of five dollars, but if you use the products for which they provide coupons, you should reach that quickly.

There are other ways to get e-coupons if you want to spend a little more time on the process. Kroger occasionally features contest and games on its home page. You can play once a day, and if you win, you’ll have a digital coupon loaded onto your card for a completely free product. Again, make a list or take a screenshot of this so that you can be sure to get your credit when you check out of the store.

Plus, some of the e-coupon sites have recently started promotions where for a limited time you can log into the site and load a coupon for cents or dollars off your entire purchase. To stay on top of these deals, make sure you sign up for the emails that they want to send you - emails that will also tell you when new coupons are available or that will give you a summary of your savings.

And finally, many of these programs are integrating smartphone apps so you don’t even have to remember your store card to get your savings, just your phone. Look to your phone's app store for more information.


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