Coupon Codes for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know in 2020

Who doesn’t like a great deal? In case you haven’t realized it yet, coupon codes are one of the best ways to save money when buying things online, and getting started with them is much easier than you might think.

This article is intended for online shoppers who are new to couponing. It explains what coupon codes are and how they work. After you finish reading it, you’ll be ready to embark on your own couponing journey and save a lot of money with every online purchase you make.

What Is a Coupon Code?

A coupon code, sometimes referred to as a promo code or discount code, is a printed or digital string of letters and numbers that can be applied during checkout to save money.

Coupon codes have been available for decades, offered by retailers who create them to attract more customers and sell more goods. In recent years, online coupons have skyrocketed in popularity because they combine the advantages of physical coupons with the convenience of the internet.

Online shopping sites and service providers offer digital coupon codes with great discounts, promotional deals, free shipping, and other attractive bonuses. It doesn’t matter if you’re interested in buying a new laptop, getting a new pair of shoes, or ordering a bouquet of flowers because you’re guaranteed to find a relevant coupon code online—you just need to know where to look.

Some people believe that coupon codes are just for people who are obsessed with saving money, but that’s not the case at all! Coupon codes are for anyone who doesn’t want to spend more money than necessary—no reason to dedicate your whole life to it.

To get started with online couponing, you don’t need to go through magazines, meticulously cutting out coupon codes and organizing them in a binder. All you need is a few minutes of your time and the right couponing site.

Coupons vs. Vouchers vs. Gift Cards

As we’ve already explained, coupon codes are codes printed in magazines or distributed online, often through promotional emails or social media. They are typically applied during checkout to take a percentage off your order. Most coupon codes have an expiration date, and it’s sometimes not possible to use more than one coupon code at a time.

Vouchers have actually more in common with paper money than they have with coupon codes. You can think of them as money that can be used only for a specific purpose, at a specific store. You might get a voucher if you’re a long-term customer at a certain store. The voucher will have a monetary value printed on it, and it will also explain how it can be used. Just like coupon codes, vouchers typically have an expiration date, but they tend to be valid for much longer. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word voucher can be traced to Old French vocher.

Gift cards are prepaid stored-value money cards that can be used as an alternative to cash when shopping at a particular store or affiliated business. Most gift cards are purchased as—you’ve guessed it—gifts, and they sometimes don’t have any expiration date. Unlike coupon codes and vouchers, gift cards can be used multiple times, until the prepaid amount is completely used. PayPal offers a broad selection of gift cards on its website, and so does Amazon.

How to Use a Coupon Code?

Traditional printed coupon codes have been around for such a long time that everyone knows how to use them: you find a coupon that you like, take it with you to the cash register, and get a discount. But what about online coupon codes? The good news is that they’re just as easy to use as printed coupons.

Step 1: Find Coupons

Online coupons are typically distributed by businesses through email newsletters and social media posts, but you can also save a lot of time by looking for them on couponing websites. Such websites gather the best coupon codes from all over the internet, allowing you to simply pick any coupon you like. Most couponing websites sort coupon codes by category and popularity, and some even let you see when coupon codes expire.

Step 2: Reveal the Code

Okay, you’ve found a coupon code that you want to use, so what’s the next step? You need to reveal the actual code (which can be a single word or a random string of letters and numbers) and save it somewhere. Some people like to write digital coupon codes down on a piece of paper, while others prefer to save them to the clipboard. Whichever method you choose, make sure to have the coupon code at hand because you’ll need it soon.

Step 3: Fill Your Shopping Cart

You’ll love this step because all you need to do is shop and fill your shopping cart with the things you want to buy with your coupon code. Keep in mind that certain coupon codes may be applicable only if the total value of your shopping cart exceeds a certain price. Also, some coupon codes can’t be used for items that are already discounted, so adjust your shopping strategy accordingly.

Step 4: Go to Checkout

Are you happy with the content of your shopping cart? Great! Then you can proceed to checkout, where you’ll be able to enter your coupon code. Most checkout pages look more or less the same, but you may encounter an unusual checkout page once in a while that complicates things with a strange layout and even stranger checkout options. But regardless of how the checkout page looks like, there will always be a box labeled “Coupon Code,” “Promo Code,” or something similar.

Step 5: Enter Your Coupon Code

Hopefully, you still have your coupon code at hand, because now is finally the time to use it. Simply copy or write it into the “Coupon Code” box and wait for the value of the coupon to be deducted from your balance due. If everything looks alright to you, go ahead and finalize your order.

Why Don’t Coupon Codes Always Work?

Unfortunately, coupon codes don’t always work. By far the most common reason for a coupon code to not work is that it’s past its expiration date. Unlike vouchers and gift cards, coupon codes tend to be valid only for a limited period of time, so it’s important to act quickly and don’t let a great deal slip through your fingers.

Coupon codes may also be limited in quantity. It’s common for online shopping sites to generate a certain number of coupons to create an interest in a product, offering them on a first come first serve basis.

Last but not least, it’s also possible for a coupon code to not work because it’s fake. As unfortunate as it is, there are many websites that offer fake coupon codes to get visitors and make money on ads and through affiliate marketing. That’s why it’s important to select a reputable couponing site that only offers verified coupons that are guaranteed to work.