Yesterday I began my new and improved All About Couponing Series talking about coupon inserts. Today I want to spend some time talking about printable coupons. Specifically, what they are, how they can be used, where you can find them, how to spot a fake, and how to troubleshoot printing problems. Please note that I do not consider myself a printable coupon “expert”…these are just a few things that I have learned while using these coupons myself.
What is a Printable Coupon, anyway?
In a nut shell, printable coupons are manufacturer and store coupons that you can print off of the web. Most printable coupons can be printed twice (per computer) by either hitting “back” and “refresh” after printing the first one, or by returning to the initial page where you found your coupon and printing it again.
Sometimes you will be asked to load software on to your PC that will allow you to print coupons, but the process is typically quick and painless. This software is required by some sites so that the bar codes will print properly on the coupons.
Note: The sites that I promote on this blog are coupon sites that I have found to be trustworthy and reliable. Please be careful when downloading software from untrusted websites.
How can I use printable coupons?
Printable coupons can be used just like you use the coupons that you find in your newspaper inserts. It is important to note that not all stores accept printable coupons (this can vary widely even within the same metro area!), so be sure to check with your local stores to confirm that they do accept these coupons.
If you have ever printed a coupon off of the web, you may notice that some of them say “do not double”. It has been my experience that most stores *will* double these coupons if their store policy is to double coupons up to a certain amount. A trick that I like to use is to look at the bar code on my coupons to see if the first number (on the far left) is a 5 or a 9. Coupons with bar codes starting with 5 should double even if they state otherwise. Coupons with bar codes starting with 9 will not double. Most coupons that you come across will start with 5, with one common exception being the “blinkie” coupons that you find in the machines attached to your grocery store aisles/display cases from time to time (they almost always start with 9 and will not double).
Like the coupons found in inserts, some printable coupons are store coupons and others are manufacturer’s coupons. Most stores allow you to “stack” or use a store AND a manufacturer’s coupon on one product. For example if you print a Target store coupon for Colgate toothpaste, and have a manufacturer’s coupon from either the web or a coupon insert, you should be able to use both coupons in on one product. Again, this policy varies by store, so be sure to check with your local stores to better understand their policy. I always try to note when “stacking” should work in my weekly deals posts.
Finally, I have received questions in the past asking if you can use more than one manufacturer’s coupon on one product. Sadly, the answer is no. Meaning if you have 2 coupons for the same product (whether printable, from a coupon insert, or a combo of both), you cannot use more than one per item. The only time I am aware that you can use more than one coupon on one item is the scenario I listed above (store & manufacturer) and in the case of e-Coupons (which I will discuss tomorrow).
Where do I find printable coupons?
Printable coupons are everywhere! There are coupon services that exist solely to provide printable coupons. Several manufacturers also post printable coupons on their websites.
Here are a few of my favorite (and legit!) places to print coupons:
And a few manufacturer’s coupon sites:
Find tons of great printable coupons for your favorite products in My Coupon Database.
If you are looking for a specific printable coupon that you can’t find anywhere, always check out the manufacturer (or product) website. Most sites typically have a “special offers” or “promotions” page that sometimes contain great printable coupons!
How can I spot a fake?
This can get a little tricky, but I typically try to steer clear of coupons that are hosted on sites that I am not familiar with…especially if the coupons are on a PDF (or other type of) file. One exception I make to my “no PDF” rule is if the PDF file is hosted on the actual manufacturer’s site. Another sign that an Internet coupon might be counterfeit is if it sounds too good to be true.
In my opinion, the best way to avoid fake coupons is to stick to reputable sites (such as those listed above) when printing your coupons. When in doubt, you can always perform a simple Google search or check your favorite forum or blog to see if you can find info about the coupon in question.
tyle=”font-style:italic;”>Note: Each printable coupon is assigned a unique serial number. Your IP address and other information about your printing and coupon redemption habits is recorded on these coupons. If you attempt to make photo copies of these coupons you will get caught. Companies could block your IP address or take legal action, so please don’t do this!
How do I Troubleshoot Printing Problems?
Everyone seems to have trouble printing coupons on their PC from time to time. These problems can be caused by a host of issues ranging from browser incompatibility to not having the coupon printer installed properly. I have listed a few troubleshooting tips and resources below for common issues that I am aware of:
1) Bricks coupons tend to cause issues depending on the browser that you are using.
Here is an example of a bricks coupon link:
This particular coupon is configured to work for people using Internet Explorer. You can tell this by looking at the “vi” above in the URL (sometimes a “wi“). To make this link work for someone using Firefox as their browser, simply change the “vi” or “wi” to “vg” or “wg” and you should be able to print the coupon.
I try to make note of these when I can in my deals posts, but that isn’t always possible. Here is an example of what I sometimes write in my posts using the same link from above: Use $1.50/2 here (FF) or here (IE)2) If you experience issues printing coupons on Smartsource.com, it could be due to a variety of reasons. You can find a helpful Troubleshooting Guide for Smartsource.com here.
If you use Safari, word has it that if you change the “vi”, “vg“, “wi” or “wg” to “xs” that the coupons should print.
5) Some coupons are hosted on PDF files. You will not be able to print (or even view) these files unless you have Adobe Reader installed on your computer. You can download it for free here.
Next Up in my All About Couponing Series: e-Coupon 101
Do you have additional questions about printable coupons that I didn’t answer here? Please feel free to email me or post a comment. Do you have a tip about printable that I didn’t share? Please feel free to share those as well!Find the entire All About Couponing Series here:* Coupon Insert 101
* Printable Coupon 101
* eCoupon 101
* Coupon Organization 101
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