The following is a guest post from Josie, who is the blogger behind SouthernCali where she is finding ways for you to save in sunny Southern California.

Ever wonder what the fine print on a coupon means? Learning the Anatomy of the coupon is very important when hitting the register! Here are some of the details to the fine print:

Expiration Date:
:: Most coupons have an expiration date.
:: If the coupon’s expiration date is 10/6/2009, you can use the coupon until 11:59 pm on 10/6/2009.

How much will be deducted from your purchase.

How you know what the coupon is for.
If the coupon says “save on ANY xyz product” then it truly can be used on any, not just what is pictured.

The picture can be useful if you have never heard of the product, and can help you locate the item on the shelf.

Advertising for the manufacturer.
The picture is NOT what is important.
The manufacturer’s generally put the newest or most expensive product in the picture, obviously hoping you will buy that product. As long as you follow what is in the wording of the coupon, you can usually get the lowest priced product which is generally the better deal.

Fine Print: Information for the retailers including the coupon redemption address.

There are usually one or two lines that are intended for the consumer. Limit one coupon per purchase? Coupons typically have some version of that statement.

Limit one coupon per purchase:
Each product in an overall transaction is considered one purchase.
If the coupon is for $1 off 2 boxes of cereal and you buy 2 boxes, that is 1 purchase.

If you bought 2 more, that is another purchase and you can use another $1/2 coupon. You can not use 2 coupons on 1 product.

Limit one coupon per transaction:
This indicates that only one like coupon may be used in a single transaction. Each transaction is concluded with a receipt.

Limit one coupon per day/visit:
You can only use one of those coupons per store visit.

Limit one coupon per person/customer/household:
You can only use one of these coupons.

Not valid on travel/trial size:
This means the coupon cannot be redeemed on a trial size item.
If it does not have this verbiage, and does not specify a size, then any size (even trial) is applicable.

Do not double:
The do not double wording is the one exception to the terms dictating coupon usage.

Coupons that specify “do not double” will still double automatically at most stores, provided the first number in the barcode is a 5.

This is because the store is offering the discount on the doubled portion, so it’s at their discretion to allow the doubling.

If the barcode starts with a 9, the coupon will not double automatically.

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June 18, 201109:50 pm

If a coupon is not scanning, have the cashier fold it so only the small barcode shows and scan again. A cashier showed me this trick and I've had to use it multiple times at different stores.


June 17, 201103:27 pm

I learned recently too that if you use a buy one get one free coupon and also have another coupon for the same item (let's say $.50 OFF), you can use that in conjunction with the first!


June 17, 201102:07 pm

@Tim: Just wondering: Did you give them your personal info to put into the coupon? If not, then I'm not sure how that is possible :)

Joanna Wright

June 17, 201101:58 pm

@ Tim . . . I was once told that the different barcodes are for different systems. It's the same info encoded in a couple different types of barcodes. I could be wrong, of course, since I'm just forwarding info I've heard, but it seemed logical :)


June 17, 201101:29 pm

I have a question. I understand that the first barcode on the bottom left is the manufacturer and product. But what is the second (Across the middle) code? Is it your personal information?


June 17, 201112:51 pm

All coupons do not have expiration dates I have several that specifically say "no expiration date"