Clipless coupons = less paperwork

6 03 2009

At the end of a Sunday, when there are numerous coupon inserts in the newspaper, the idea of clipless coupons seems particularly enticing. No more stapling, clipping, sorting and filing. A couponer’s dream come true.

I’m not sure coupons will ever totally go paperless, but there are now a few services out there offering shoppers clipless coupons. I’m a little embarrassed to admit, I’ve been slow to sign up for these services. It has been on my list of things to do but never in a priority position.

No longer. I am now linked to shortcuts.com, cellfire.com and Lowe’s Foods e-Offers by InstaSave.

Here’s a run-down on each:

At shortcuts.com, which is a free service of aol.com, shoppers can link their loyalty cards and choose coupons they would like to use on future shopping trips. I currently have 11 coupons worth $8.55 loaded onto my Kroger card on products ranging from dog treats to yogurt. On the site, you can type in and print your own shopping list. The site also automatically tallies the money you save using shortcuts. Your savings prints out on your receipt, just as regular paper coupons do.

Here is a list of the stores across the country where you can use shortcuts.com coupons.

  • Kroger
  • Kroger Marketplace
  • Ralph’s
  • Gerbes
  • QFC
  • Hilander
  • Smith’s
  • Smith’s Marketplace
  • Baker’s
  • King Soopers
  • City Market
  • Pay Less
  • JayC
  • Dillon’s
  • Owen’s
  • Fry’s
  • Fry’s Marketplace
  • At cellfire.com, you can access coupons to Kroger and other groceries in the Kroger family through your customer loyalty card, much like at shortcuts.com. I currently have 14 offers saved on products ranging from brownie mixes to toilet paper.

    Other cellfire offers, however, are only available via your cell phone. So beware. While the coupons are free, you must have Internet access on your phone to use cellfire. So unless you are already paying for mobile Internet, I doubt cellfire would be worth your while. In the plus column, cellfire offers discounts on much more than groceries. It has coupons for restaurants, coffee shops, shoe stores, oil change businesses, even Sears. Text messages alert you to new deals. Or you can sign up for monthly newsletters that come to your email address.

    Not all cellfire deals are offered in all areas, but a nice feature on the site allows you to plug in your zip code to quickly find what deals are in your area. For instance, in North Carolina where I am,  the only deals available are from Kroger, Sears Portrait Studio, Caribou Coffee and 1-800-Flowers. To redeem an offer, you access it on your cell phone and then show it to the cashier.

    At Lowe’s Foods e-Offers by Instasave, the method of savings is similar to the other two programs. Unveiled in January, e-offers links your customer loyalty card to coupons you choose from the website.

    On my Lowe’s card, I currently have 26 “coupons” loaded. If I used all of them, I would save $18.10. I skipped coupons on baby products and medicines I knew I would never purchase. The site also offers a fairly comprehensive shopping list that you can print out. Items with e-coupons available are highlighted in red. I found it way more convenient than the shortcuts list that you have to create yourself. The site keeps a running total of your savings with e-coupons, which is identical to shortcuts.

     There are a few drawbacks to using e-coupons. As far as I can tell, e-coupons will not double or triple, at least not in my area of the country. In contrast, most traditional paper coupons routinely double. In North Carolina, Kroger stores double coupons up to 50 cents every day. Lowe’s Foods doubles coupons up to 99 cents every day. Another drawback is that these coupons can only be redeemed once. For instance, if there is an e-coupon for a box of brownie mix, it will only work on one box. If you buy two or three boxes, the savings will only be good on one. Additionally, the deals are only refreshed every few weeks, again limiting the amount you can save.

    There is also some discussion about whether these e-coupons can be used in conjunction with paper coupons. The Lowe’s e-offers site says that the clipless coupons “cannot be used in conjunction with printed coupons.” I could find nothing on the cellfire and shortcuts sites addressing this issue. 

    In reality, these clipless coupons do work along with standard coupons you get from newspaper inserts and other sources. It’s my understanding that the grocery stores’ computers do not stop the registers from taking a paper coupon and an e-coupon. In my view, I think it’s unrealistic to put the burden on the customer to remember which e-coupons he or she signed up for, possibly as long as two months ago. Plus, why would you use an e-coupon that saves you less when there is a paper coupon that will double or triple?  And will they offer customers the choice of opting out of using an e-coupon when the paper coupon is a better deal?

    The whole idea is to simplify the customer’s life, not complicate it.

    I am extremely ethical in my use of coupons, so I am hoping the grocery stores will clarify this issue as they fine-tune the use of e-coupons. I want to get the very best deal for my hard-earned dollar, but I also want to play by the rules.

    Please let me know what your experience has been with clipless coupons — good or bad.

    Do you know of any other retailers offering clipless coupons? I would love to compile a list.

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    2 responses

    6 03 2009
    Mara

    You are doing a great job at explaining all the clipless coupon options. I am a fan of Short Cuts but was not familiar with the other two options.
    In my area there are no stores that I know of that double coupons above 50 cents. In fact, Kroger is the only store that doubles coupons around here (Atlanta, GA).

    6 03 2009
    freetobefrugal

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. I’d love to hear more about your experience with shortcuts.com.

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