Catalina coupons (sometimes called “checkout coupons” and often referred to as “CATs” on couponing sites) are the secret weapon of extreme couponing that often allow you to get free or nearly free products at the grocery store — and sometimes even turn buying food into a money making opportunity. Catalina coupons are named after the company that distributes them and are coupons which you sometimes receive with your receipt at the grocery store. Catalina coupons do not actually come from the register (the advertisements on the back of some register receipts are completely different), but from a little white box located next to the register called, appropriately enough, a Catalina machine.

Most Catalina coupons are regular manufacturer coupons and are for a certain dollar amount off the purchase of a specific product although they can be store specific coupons. Catalina coupons are triggered when you buy certain products or combination of products. For example, if you buy a package of Pampers diapers, you might get a Catalina coupon for a certain amount off Huggies diapers.

All these coupons are worth saving if you use the product, but the Catalina coupons that are most sought after by extreme couponers are the $x.xx off your next purchase Catalina coupons:

Kraft Catalina coupon

These coupons can be used to purchase anything from the grocery store on your next purchase which makes them almost as good as cash. Unfortunately, there is not a database of what Catalina coupons are available for what products at grocery stores making it difficult to know about these in advance.

If you are lucky and your grocery store is good with posting the signage (many grocery stores aren’t), there will be notices about Catalina coupons by the price of the product that triggers them. Upcoming Catalina coupons are also sometimes advertised on the Catalina coupons you receive so that you know exactly what you need to do to get them (for example, buy 4 boxes of kellogg’s cereal, receive a $3.00 Catalina). Catalina coupons are almost always limited to a specific promotional period of time, are specific to the grocery store where it was received (and thus can only be used there) and expire 2 – 4 weeks from the time they print.

Most grocery stores will not give money back if your coupons exceeded the price of the items you are buying. In certain instances Catalina coupons will allow to to make money when grocery shopping. For example, if you buy four boxes of cereal that are on sale for $1.25 each and your have a $1.00 of 1 coupon for each, you would pay $1.00 for four boxes of the cereal. If at the same time, there happened to be a Catalina coupon for $3.00 off your next purchase when you purchased 4 boxes of that cereal, you would pay $1.00, but get $3.00 for your next purchase meaning that you made $2.00 for buying 4 boxes of cereal. These instances don’t happen often, but they are fantastic deals when the do.

Another great thing about Catalina coupons is that they will often roll. That means you can use the Catalina coupon you just received to buy the exact same things and get yet another Catalina coupon. For example, in the above scenario, you purchased 4 boxes of cereal, paid $1.00 cash and received a $3.00 coupon off your next purchase. You could then go and buy 4 more boxes of the same cereal, use 4 more $1.00 off 1 coupons, buy $2.00 if fruit (or anything else you wanted, use the $3.00 off anything Catalina coupon and get 4 boxes of cereal and $2.00 in fruit without paying any money. Best of all, you get another Catalina coupon for $3.00 off your next purchase and can do the same thing again and again.

There will be times when a Catalina coupon doesn’t print (I’ve had them jam, run out of paper and simply not print before when shopping). If you purchased the qualifying products and a Catalina coupon does not print, you can go to your stores customer service counter and they should be able to reimburse you. If they refuse or you don’t want to be bothered, you can call Catalina Marketing at 1-888-826-8766. Make sure to have your receipt handy because they will need to look up your transaction and once they verify it, they will mail you a coupon.

Please feel free to ask any questions that you may have about Catalina coupons and I will do my best to answer them. This post is part of the Lazy Couponing series. The next step will be learning about rebates.

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  1. Do you have any idea whether catalina coupons exist in Canada, and specifically Quebec? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these in my life. Any Quebecois among the readership want to chime in on this?

  2. Jeffery
    I love that you are doing this series. It is defiantly helping understand the world of couponing much better. I have tried in the past to make this work and have failed every time. With your tutorials I am bound to make it work. It will also help with our budgeting for the Dave Ramsey program which we never get the grocery column to be a constant number. Any who thanks again and keep up the great work for us that need the help.

  3. @Julie Apologies, no idea

    @Tammie Be patient is the main thing. It takes time to build the coupon supply and to practice. Most people expect instant savings and get frustrated when it doesn’t come. The more you practice, the better you will become.

  4. First of all…THANK you for these VERY VERY VERY helpful tips! I had no idea what a Catalina coupon was…but for good reason….I live in Wisconsin and we do not have any stores that provide these coupons. We do have the CVS machine…but otherwise there are no grocery stores around here that have them 🙁 It’s okay though…I am excited to start saving $$$, and my husband is excited to NOT have to yell at me about leaving coupon clippings all over the house 😀

  5. to be honest you must know you will not be smarter than the manufacturers first of all when we buy the cereal as he said the CAT coupons will get out from the cat machine after the first buy,it means the first 4 boxes are without any discount,then if you want to use this amazing coupons you must buy another 4 boxes to enjoy the deal,so if you are good in math,and are not an advertizing person you find 8 boxes for 10$-2$ cat=8$ it is not a big deal,because he obligated you to buy much more cereal than what you need to use 2,or 3$ coupons….SOCOND,and there is an annual plan from all the companies about which stores,and at what time of the year will be thier discounts as a kind of advertisment for thier products,so there is also an annual plan for each store for thier weekly-ad to match each other to sell more,n more by;the real problem is the stores by thier previous knowledge of these cat coupons, they put their weekly ad according to thier benefit i mean;as i said after the first buy,you already got the cat coupon,and the coupon says if you buy 2 boxes you’ll take 1$,if 3 boxes you’ll take 1.50$,if 5 it’ll be 2.50$,BUT the store put in its Ad you must buy 4 in the same transaction to enjoy the cut price of the Ad,so when you apply this offer of your second transaction on the cat coupon you find yourself a prey in a cheating trap.don’t believe anyone!!!!
    (8 boxes)you’ll take only the 1.50

  6. @Dina

    I couldn’t follow your explanation very well, but you seem to not understand catalina coupons very well. Since the catalina coupon is almost like money, it doesn’t have to be used on cereal again, it can be used on anything at the store so there is no reason to buy more boxes unless you want to. I have made money on catalina deals and received lots of food for free with catalina coupons. Maybe I am simply not understanding your point, but it seems to me you have some misconceptions on how they work.

  7. All new to couponing, but find this very intriguing. As to Catalina’s, how do you know about them when you are planning your trip, or do you figure things out “on the fly” at the store? Do you figure them in to your current shopping trip, or are they for future use only? I have so many questions, and appreciate your posts.

  8. Hi,
    I loved reading about your $1 challenges! My question is about catalinas: Since they are generally not advertised ahead of time (except sometimes on the catalinas from past purchases and on the shelf next to the actual price tags), and since you don’t carry all your coupons with you when you shop, how are you able to take advantage of the mfr coupons to meet the quantity requirements for the catalinas? Do you just note when you’re in the store which products are offering catalinas and then go back home to get your coupons and return to the store? Is this also how you take advantage of unadvertised specials (go home for the coupons and return to store), or do you just pass on those? Thanks!

  9. Edie, I carry all my coupons with me when I go shopping. They are in a binder in baseball card holders. I have stumbled on some great clearance and with coupons, makes the deal even better. Sometimes with Cats you don’t know until you do the deal.

  10. Is there a site or a way we can learn which cat coupons are currently printing for which products we buy?

  11. I don’t know of any database that list them all — people list them when they are discovered ususally being posted at the grocery store or announcements of upcoming catalina coupons with the catalina coupons which are dispensed.

  12. Hello,
    My name is Harry Otterness and I live in the Minneapolis, MN area and occasionally see these coupons at Cub Foods but do not know how or what to buy to get these offers.
    Is there anywhere I can find a listing of what is being offered without buying 4,5 or 6 items only to find they are not in any promotions?
    Any help will be greatly appreciated.

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