Contributed by BuyVia

When it comes to coupons and rebates, the savings are in the details. What seems like a great deal in large, bold letters may no longer be as appealing after reading the fine print. Mail-in rebates require following instructions closely, while coupons can be misleading if you don’t have a grasp on the language used.

Here are some ways to know how much you’ll actually be saving and how to make the deals a reality.

Translating coupon language

shutterstock_130416152Before you get too excited about how much money you’ll apparently be saving from coupon, you need to take a moment to consider what these following bargains really mean:

Buy One, Get One Free
If you purchase the exact product that is part of a Buy-One-Get-One-Free Deal, then you truly will get an additional one for no extra cost. The catch is that a price limit is usually put on that additional item. For example, the fine print may read something like “item may not exceed $4.99.” If the shelf price of the item is higher than this, you’ll be responsible for picking up the difference.

Buy One, Get One “X%” Off
These offers are designed to entice you to buy a second item when you were only planning on buying one. The most common deal here is “Buy One, Get One 50% Off,” which boils down to saving 25% on each item.

Don’t be misled by the picture
Don’t be fooled by the picture on coupons. Often times, the most expensive item in the product line will be shown, implying that the coupon can only be used for that item. If you read the fine print, you’ll most likely discover that the coupon is also valid for other, less-expensive products.

“One Per” Coupons

  1. Per Transaction – No matter how many copies of a coupon you have, you can only use one for each time you go through the checkout line. Of course, you can ring up multiple times and use a different copy of the coupon each time.
  2. Per Visit – You can only use these coupons once each time you visit an establishment.
  3. Per Purchase – You can use one of these coupons for each item you buy. For example, if you purchase three rolls of paper towels you can use a separate coupon for each one.
  4. Per Customer – You and everyone in your party may each use a separate coupon.

Expiration dates
Pretty much all coupons have an expiration date, so make sure to keep an eye out for it. The coupons are good until midnight of the expiration date.

“Redeemable at…”
Some coupons may say something like “Redeemable at Mega-Mart,” but this doesn’t mean that you have to go to Mega-Mart to use it; rather Mega-Mart is just one of several places where you can redeem it.

“Only at…”
If the coupon says “Only at Mega-Mart” then you must go to a Mega-Mart store to use it.

“Available at…”
These coupons can be used anywhere. This is simply the store’s way of advertising itself.

Mail-in rebates
You see it all the time: offers of saving hundreds of dollars on items such as computers or TVs through a mail-in rebate. But statistics show that less than 50% of customers who purchase these items actually follow through with the rebate, and the percentage is even lower for rebates offering savings that are less substantial. This is because redeeming your rebates require filling out a lot of tedious paperwork that takes a while to process. Here’s what you should keep in mind when considering a rebate:

  • Is it worth all the trouble? – Many companies make it as difficult as possible to successfully fill out your rebate. From requiring the UPC bar code, receipt, and multiple pages of confusing paperwork, these companies are in the business of making you not want to follow through with the rebate. If the rebate is only for a few dollars, it’s probably not worth your time.
  • Turnaround time – You need to make sure you’ll be getting your product in time to submit the rebate. If you’re ordering your product online and the rebate expires in two days, you won’t be able to submit it before its expiration date. Also, after you’ve mailed it in, don’t expect to get your rebate right away. It can take up to two months to receive it. You can call the company’s 1-800 number to check on its status.
  • Your personal information – Many times, companies will use your personal information that you put on the rebate form for data mining studies of consumer behavior.

Do you have any other suggestions for understanding coupons or rebates?

Norman Fong is Co-Founder of, an online, Android and iOS App smart shopping service that lists reputable products from top online stores, at the best price available. By downloading the BuyVia Android and iOS App to their Android Device, iPhone or iPad, consumers can be alerted to the best deals on the most popular products, anywhere and anytime.