If You Don’t Know This Trick, You’re Wasting Money Every Time You Shop Online

online coupon codes
Samantha Dunscombe/The Penny Hoarder
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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 from RetailMeNot. I entered that and updated the payment page.

Bingo! The deal 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 Kinds of Discounts Can You Get With Online Coupon Codes?

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

Just a few I’ve seen…

Renting a car? Some online coupon codes can save you 20% or more.

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

Renewing a domain name? I recently saved 20% by finding discount codes.

Ordering food from a restaurant? I once saw a 25% discount code for online delivery orders from Papa John’s Pizza.

Where to Find Online Coupon Codes

You can find coupons for most of what you buy — and no need to clip and carry them. Just get the codes online.

Here are a few popular websites to check:

This Sounds Too Easy. What’s the Catch?

The problem with all of these sites is, often, the codes just don’t work.

My experience is around one coupon code in 10 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, though. The solution is 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. I often see a 40% or 50% success rate.

Note that these rates are not necessarily accurate or scientific. They’re based on user feedback, so the results could be skewed like any review site. But they’re probably better than nothing, so look for coupon codes with a high success rate.

How to Make the Most of Online Coupon Codes

As much as coupon websites would like your loyalty as a user, don’t bother to go directly to them when you want a discount. They’re not always easy to use, and each has different offers.

Instead, shop first. When you’re ready to check out, open a new browser window to search for online coupon codes.

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 search results, you’ll often find websites that have a dozen or more codes to try. Try the ones offering the biggest discounts and with the highest success rates.

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

To make your life even easier, you can automate your savings by adding these browser extensions to find discounts for you while you shop.

Steve Gillman is a former contributor to The Penny Hoarder.