A tried and true way to save money in a tough economy is clipping coupons. Because of the Internet, however, a savvy consumer no longer has to wield a pair of scissors in order to reap rewards. The popularity of online coupons is on the rise and Better Business Bureau offers the following advice for identifying a deal and avoiding deceptive offers.
The number of American adults using online coupons rose by 39 percent to 36 million between 2005 and 2008, according to a survey conducted by Simmons/Experian Research and Coupons Inc. The survey also found that online users account for nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of the total 148 million consumers who use coupons.
According to the chief executive officer of Coupons.com, a popular online coupon Web site, the company is seeing a huge increase in popularity due to the recession. In March 2009, the company experienced a 192 percent increase in the value of coupons printed from its site when compared with the previous year. The total value of the coupons printed out in that month alone was $57 million.
“We’re all looking for ways to save money and redeeming online coupons is growing in popularity as a result,” said Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon, and Western Washington. “Some coupons, however, are not as great a deal as they may appear and consumers should use caution when clicking on coupons online.”
BBB offers the following advice on redeeming online coupons:
• Consumers should check to see if the coupon is being offered directly by the store or if it is being offered by a third-party such as a partner or affiliate. If it is via a third-party, they might ask for additional info or require that the consumer sign up for additional services to redeem the coupon. If so, BBB recommends using extreme caution before divulging any personal information and consumers can check the company out, free of charge, at www.bbb.org.
• BBB advises coupon clickers to be wary of pop-up ad coupon offers that require you to immediately click to redeem. Clicking on the ad may automatically sign the consumer up for services they were not interested in receiving, causing them to be billed every month.
• Carefully read the terms and conditions for the use of the coupon, check for the expiration date, limitations of use and whether it is an online coupon good for only online purchases or if it can also be redeemed at the physical store location.
• Because some stores are concerned about fraud related to online coupons, not all businesses are eager to redeem them. BBB recommends contacting the store where you wish to use the coupon directly to find out whether the coupon is being honored or not.
• Be extremely cautious if the coupon requires that the consumer call the company to redeem the value of the coupon, and/or has any requirement to give personal information.
• Don’t fall for phony coupons via e-mail. Many fake coupons have been making the rounds via e-mail and just because it may come from a friend or family member, don’t assume the coupon is legitimate.
For more advice on saving money, visit www.bbb.org.