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Avoiding Coupon Fraud

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Part 4 in a 9 part series about Couponing for Beginners explains about understanding and avoiding coupon fraud.

As a coupon beginner (or even a seasoned coupon veteran!) its so so important to NOT commit fraud intentionally and to respect a store's coupon policies! Doing this ensures that we will all be able to enjoy our couponing and saving efforts for a long time!

If you’re back again this week to soak up some more couponing knowledge, I’m so glad to see you again!  If you’re new to this Beginners Series, welcome!  Check out the first three parts in the series about how to get your head in the couponing game with Couponing 101, where you can find all these amazing coupons, and how to organize them once you’ve found them.  Thanks again to my amazing friends Audrey and Regina for helping me out with this series!

So far we’ve covered a lot of information about couponing but in my opinion this topic is probably the most important.  Coupon fraud is illegal.  Yeah, soak that word up and hopefully it’ll be your biggest deterrent.  Now you’re probably wondering what exactly is coupon fraud and how do I not do it?  Fear not, my friends, I’m here to help you!

At the bottom of every coupon is that teeny, tiny print.  Lots of people gloss over it but that print is important!  It tells you how to use your coupon, how many coupons you can use in one day, what things void the coupon, and then some stuff for the store about how they can get reimbursed for allowing you to use the coupon.  Here’s a close up.

Couponing for Beginners Series: Avoiding Coupon Fraud & Respecting Coupon Policies | DIYfaerie

There are three key things you need to look out for in relation to how to use a coupon to prevent fraud.  The first thing is words that limit how many coupons you can use per transaction.  {Read this post to learn more about transactions.}  Sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s four, sometimes it’s none.  The coupon above, for example, doesn’t have a limit. A transaction limit means that you can only use ONE coupon {or however many it states} for each checkout that will generate a receipt.  That sounds confusing, let me give you a quick example of a transaction.

Let’s say that I’m going to the store and I’m buying 2 bags of salad, 2 pounds of ground beef, a box of pasta, and a jar of pasta sauce.  At checkout I’ll tell my cashier “I’ll be doing 2 transactions” then I’ll put up 2 bags of salad and 2 pounds of ground beef, my cashier will ring it up, and I’ll pay.  Then I’ll put up the box of pasta and jar of sauce, my cashier will ring it up, and I’ll pay.  I’ve successfully done 2 transactions!

The second important thing to keep an eye out for is words that limit how many coupons per purchase.   Almost all coupons will specify one coupon per purchase, just like the one above.  That means that you can only use one coupon per item you’re buying based on how it’s specified on the coupon.  That also sounds confusing but it leads us right into the last thing you need to look out for, the wording on the coupon that tells you what you can buy.

Most coupons are for dollars or cents off a product.  Like this Nabisco coupon for crackers.

Couponing for Beginners Series: Avoiding Coupon Fraud | Cook. Craft. Love.

This is why paying attention to the fine print is so important because this coupon limits the types of crackers that you can buy.  For instance, I could not buy regular wheat thins with this coupon.

P&G brand saver coupons almost always limit you to four coupons per transaction and sometimes only four per day.  See what I mean about that important fine print?

Couponing for Beginners Series: Avoiding Coupon Fraud & Respecting Coupon Policies | DIYfaerie

Then you’ll see coupons like this one for Pretzel Chips.

Couponing for Beginners Series: Avoiding Coupon Fraud | Cook. Craft. Love.

If I want to use this coupon I have to purchase 2 bags of Pretzel Crisps and I’ll get $1 off.  If I want to  use more than one coupon I have to purchase 4 products and use 2 coupons, and so on until I hit a transaction limit found on the bottom of the coupon.

And then there are coupons like this that will give you one item free when you purchase a different item.

Couponing for Beginners Series: Avoiding Coupon Fraud | Cook. Craft. Love.

To use this coupon correctly you must purchase both or all of the items.  I’m not sure why you wouldn’t when you’re getting an item for free 😉  Knowingly purchasing items that are the wrong size, flavor, variety, etc is fraud.  Coupons like this that give you a free item usually have a price limit.  This one, for instance, says up to $2.49.  So if the can of food you’re buying happens to be $2.99 you will only get a $2.49 credit so you’ll be paying $0.50 for the fourth can.

Most of the time a coupon will beep if it’s not being used properly but sometimes it’ll beep if it is being used properly so that’s why you have to know what you’re buying and how your coupons work before you go to the store!  Keep in mind that you’re committing fraud if you knowingly misuse a coupon.  Every single couponer has done it by accident at least once.  It’s no biggie!  But believe me there are people out there who do it on purpose, and often.  And those people drive me absolutely batty!  Those people are the people who ruin it for the rest of us who are using coupons correctly.  Super uncool.

This next thing I’m about to share with you is a ginormous grey area in the couponing world.  Ginormous.  Most coupons state “void if sold, transferred, copied, or altered” or some variation of that statement.  However, lots and lots of people purchase whole inserts or coupons on social media and blogs specifically for this purpose.  They state they are charging only for the costs incurred through mailing or for the time it takes to clip them out.

What I’m about to say next is entirely my own opinion.  I do not believe in the selling of coupons.  There, it’s out there.  Loud and proud!  I know that lots and lots of people do it, some of my best couponing bff’s included, but it just gives me a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Maybe I’m too much of a goodie two shoes but there are so many people out there every single day in search of a coupon that there’s no reason you can’t trade with them.  I highly doubt you’re going to use every single coupon in an insert so why not trade something you aren’t going to use with someone else who has something you want?  Often times I’ll just send coupons to people out of the blue.  It makes my heart happy to share coupons with people who I know will use them when I would not.  And who doesn’t like to get surprises in the mail?

For instance, I never would have thought to make this 3 Ingredient Banana Bread if I hadn’t traded baby formula coupons for cake mix coupons!  Or these Pizza Poppers if I hadn’t traded some frozen veggie coupons for pepperoni coupons!  Trade, trade, trade!  There’s bound to be someone out there with something you want!




Nicole Brooks

Tuesday 30th of September 2014

I love it! I'm a huge couponer, I dream of living in a place that does double couponing and I stack coupons like a boss! I used to work as a cashier at the store I mainly coupon at (Meijer, midwest version of Wal-mart that's way cleaner and nicer) so I am intimately familiar with the coupon policy and how the register system works. So I try and always go to the more experienced cashier who know how to enter my store coupons from target and don't give me gruff, but if I do have a problem and the cashier won't fix it I just smile and finish the transaction and go to customer service. They're usually more experienced and will fix the problem and I don't end up being 'that person' who drives everyone else nuts...and I pass out coupons to people as I'm shopping an they have something in their cart I have a coupon for!


Tuesday 30th of September 2014

I know, Nicole, sometimes I know the coupon policy better than the cashiers! I generally have more luck with the younger cashiers, though because they seem more willing to help me. The few cashiers I've been to with more experience end up being rude. No thanks. And I LOVE to be a coupon fairy! Blessing people with saving money makes me smile. Thanks so much for stopping by!