Ways to Save Money

How to Find Coupon Codes and Save Big the Next Time You Shop Online

Updated September 13, 2015
by Steve Gillman
Contributor

I was on Western Union’s website trying to send $350 to a friend. I knew the “money in minutes” online option would be expensive, but I was still shocked by the $35 charge. Just before I clicked the button to pay, I saw the little box that said “Promo Code.” That’s when I remembered you can save a lot of money with online coupon codes.

I opened another window, searched for “Western Union discount codes,” and tried the codes from several websites. The first five didn’t work — no surprise there. Then I found a four-letter, four-digit code on RetailMeNot.com. I entered that and updated the payment page.

Bingo! It was even better than a discount — it eliminated the fee completely! I didn’t really believe I could send the money for free until I completed the transaction, but it was true.

What Kind of Coupon Codes Can You Find?

What are you looking to do online? If you’re shopping with a major retailer, chances are good there’s a coupon code available.

Rent a car? Some discount codes can save you up to 20% or more.

Buy lawn furniture? Save 10% at several different stores, and if you want, you can pay online and pick up your items locally.

Renew domain names? Just last month I saved 20% by finding coupon codes.

Order food from a restaurant? I just saw a 25% discount code for Papa John’s Pizza (if you order online for delivery).

There are coupons for most of what you buy, and no need to clip and carry them. Just get the codes. Here are a few of the more popular websites to check:

What’s the Catch?

The problem with all of these sites is that often, the codes don’t work. My experience is that one coupon code in ten actually gives you the promised discount. Sometimes the retailer won’t honor the coupon code for sale items, or certain products are excluded. Often the code is just expired and hasn’t been removed from the coupon website.

This isn’t as much of a problem as you might think, because the solution is so simple: just keep trying new codes until you find the ones that work. Some couponing sites show a success rate for their codes, based on user feedback. It’s common to see a 40% or 50% success rate.

RetailMeNot also shows how many people used the coupon code that day. But their success rate is (apparently) based on the total time the code has been listed on the site, so it would take a lot of failures to knock down the percentage. In fact, it’s possible that every one of the 16,400 people who used their Walmart coupon code today failed to get a discount, because the code expired days ago. And maybe people who succeed with a code are more likely to take the time to click the rating button than those who fail, which might skew the results.

In other words, these little surveys are not necessarily accurate or scientific. But they’re probably better than nothing, so look for codes with a high success rate.

The Best Way to Use Coupon-Code Websites

As much as the coupon websites would like your loyalty as a user, don’t even bother to go directly to them when looking for a discount. They’re not always easy to use, and they each have different offers.

Instead, first do your shopping, and when you are ready to check out, open a new browser window to search for a discount code. Search the name of the company and “coupons,” “coupon codes” or “discount codes.” I used the latter when looking for that Western Union code.

In the results you’ll often find websites that have a dozen or more codes to try. Try the ones offering the biggest discounts first, of course.

Yes, you’ll find a lot of codes that don’t work. But you can test 10 of them quickly, and you might save $5, or even $35 like I did. That’s not bad for a few minutes of work.

Your Turn: Do you remember to look for coupon codes when shopping online, and how often do you find ones that work?

by Steve Gillman
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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