Electronic coupons (usually referred to as eCoupons) are coupons that you get on the Internet and load directly onto your grocery store’s shopping card. The main advantage of eCoupons is that there is no clipping and organizing involved when you use them. You simply chose them on a website and they are loaded onto your grocery store card.
There are two main eCoupon websites: ShortCuts.com and CellFire.com. Grocery stores have also recently started to create their own electronic coupon database where you can load the eCoupons onto your store card directly from the grocery store’s website. The savings from these coupons will be taken off automatically when you swipe your grocery store card at the cash register so there is nothing you have to do once you have loaded the coupons onto the card.
eCoupons used to be a wonderful way to get great deals, but that is quickly changing. When they first appeared, the eCoupon was considered a separate coupon so you could stack both a manufacturer coupon and an eCoupon on a single product. There are still some stores that allow this, and this is how the transaction would work if your store does:
Example: There is a brand of crackers on sale for $2.50 at the grocery store. You have a manufacturer coupon for $1.00 off 1 package. You also have a store coupon for $0.50 off 1 package. Then you have loaded a $0.50 off 1 eCoupon onto your card from the ShortCuts website. In this case, you can use both the coupons and the eCoupon will automatically come off the crackers when you swipe your store card. The final price would be $0.50 ($2.50 – $1.00 manufacturer coupon – $0.50 store coupon – $0.50 eCoupon that automatically comes off = $0.50)
Unfortunately, many grocery stores (including Safeway recently) are moving toward making it so you can only use a manufacturer coupon or an eCoupon, but not both.
Example: There is a brand of crackers on sale for $2.50 at the grocery store. You have a manufacturer coupon for $1.00 off 1 package. You also have a store coupon for $0.50 off 1 package. Then you have loaded a $0.50 off 1 eCoupon onto your grocery store card. In this case, you can use the store coupon and the eCoupon will automatically come off the crackers when you swipe your store card, but the manufacturer coupon will be disallowed (it will make the cash register beep when the cashier tries to swipe the barcode). The final price would be $1.50 ($2.50 – $0.50 store coupon – $0.50 eCoupon that automatically comes off = $1.50)
While eCoupon are easier, they can also cost you money. The eCoupon will trump any hand held manufacturer coupon you may have since it is taken first. In the above example, it would have been better to use the $1.00 off manufacturer coupon, but the eCoupon came off first when your store card was swiped and trumped it. This makes using eCoupons more complicated to use and you have to think through whether or not it makes sense to use them.
While I used to use eCoupons all the time, I don’t use them nearly as much now that they can’t be stacked with manufacturer coupons at the grocery stores I frequent. I find that in most cases I am able to find manufacturer coupons that has a higher value than the eCoupons that are available.
Please feel free to ask any questions that you may have about eCoupons 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 Stacking Coupons.