How to Read & Understand a Coupon!


Understanding what all that stuff on your grocery coupons really means is important if you want to coupon effectively and be able to save 50% or more on your grocery bill.

Be ready next time the cashier says “You can’t use this.”

Product image

The image serves as guidance only. You need to read the “required purchase” text on the coupon for the details on what you can use this coupon for. Often, a coupon will be printed for multiple items and have only one item pictured.

Expiration date

You can use a coupon up to and including the expiration date.  However you organize your coupons, regularly go through and pull out expired coupons. You can donate your expired coupons to our armed forces stationed overseas via the Overseas Coupon Program. Military bases honor coupons up to 6 months past their expiration date.

Some coupons may say “No Expiration Date” and those are legitimate coupons, but you should be wary of these (especially when purchased) because some people have created fraudulent coupons without this information.

Coupon type

There are two main types of coupons – Manufacturer coupons and Store coupons. Knowing the type of coupon is essential in maximizing savings.

Some stores double manufacturer coupons, while most stores let you stack a store coupon on top of a manufacturer coupon. A retailer coupon will also show the name of the store at which the coupon can be used.

Coupon value

Determines how much the coupon is worth.  You should read the fine print for “free product” coupons, since they’ll often state a maximum value.  Sometimes the maximum value is less than the item cost, which means that the item won’t be free.

Required purchase

Details of what you need to purchase in order to use the coupon. In any case of mismatch between the product image and the wording – the wording overrides the image.

Often, a coupon will be printed for multiple items and have only one item pictured.

Some coupons may state “save $1 off of 2 products” or something similar. This means that:

  • You need to purchase two items to use the coupon
  • The coupon will attach to both products, and you won’t be able two use two coupons for two products.

Fine print

This section contains additional info for you and/or the retailer on use of this coupon.If the coupon beeps at the register, your cashier may attempt to read this and explain why you can’t use the coupon. You should read the fine print in advance, so that you can plan how and on what products you can use the coupon.

Here are few examples of limitation imposed in the fine print:

One Coupon Per Purchase – This means that you can use only 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. If you want to purchase a second item and use a coupon on it, you’ll need to do a separate transaction.

As cashiers often confuse purchase with transaction – you may need to explain them the difference.


The barcode scanner reads the barcode to know what the coupon is for and how much it is worth. Under the barcode lines there are also numbers that identify the product and value.

There are two important uses for these numbers:

  • A – This is the beginning of the barcode of the coupon. On a manufacturer coupon – it determines whether it will double or not.
    A manufacturer coupon with a bar code starting with #9 will never double.
    A manufacturer coupon with a bar code starting with #5 will automatically double, even if the coupon states “DO NOT DOUBLE”.
  • B – This number is called UPC (Universal Product Code), and it identifies the item or items that the coupon is for.

Checking barcodes against coupon codes isn’t necessary, but it can be handy knowledge to have.

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