Reading the fine print on a coupon can sometimes make you feel like you need a magnifying glass and an MBA just to understand what the heck the manufacturer or store is trying to say!  Today I’m going to try to explain one piece of this “fine print”:  the “Limit 1 Coupon” verbiage!  This line of text causes more hang ups than any other!  I’m going to illustrate the most common variations of the “Limit 1 Coupon” rules.  I will begin with the most restrictive and move to the most fun.

Limit 1 Coupon Per Transaction

The most common place where we run into this verbiage is on the printable Target store coupons.  But occasionally we see the “Limit 1 Coupon per Transaction” rule on manufacturer coupons, such as this Similac coupon, pictured above.  Limit 1 Coupon per Transaction means that if you want to buy 2 Similac canisters and you have 2 coupons, you’ll need to buy 1, use 1 coupon, pay the cashier and then do a separate transaction for your 2nd canister, use 2nd coupon and pay the cashier again.

Other than holding up checkout lanes, the only downside to a coupon that limits you to only using it once in a transaction is this:  Let’s say that Similac Canisters are selling for $10 each at Target this week.  There is a store promotion that states “When you buy 2 Similac Canisters, you’ll receive a $5 Target gift card”!  Here’s what our transaction would look like:

Buy 2 Similac Canisters $10.00 each
Use 1 $5.00/1 Similac Coupon from SS 4/3
Pay: $15.00, Receive $5 Target gift card
Final Price: $5.00 each, when you buy 2

Unfortunately, since the coupon limits us to only using one in a transaction, we cannot use 2 coupons above, like we would like.  With the 2nd $5.00 off Similac coupon added, our final price would have been only $2.50 per canister.  But, alas, we must follow every letter of the coupon law!  However, if you had a different Similac coupon, let’s say a $2.00 off Target store coupon (which also says “limit one per transaction”), your transaction would look like this:

Buy 2 Similac Canisters $10.00 each
Use 1 $5.00/1 Similac Coupon from SS 4/3
And use 1 $2.00/1 – Similac, Target coupon – (target.com)
Pay: $13.00, Receive $5 Target gift card
Final Price: $4.00 each, when you buy 2

Even though both of the above coupons say “limit one per transaction”, you can use them both together because they are not identical coupons.  Essentially “Limit 1 Coupon per Transaction” printed on any one coupon is not intended to affect how you use any of your other coupons in the same transaction.   [There will never be a day when one Similac coupon can boss around your whole coupon binder!]  A coupon, like this $5.00 off Similac, only limits you to 1 of THIS coupon per transaction.  If you had a couple of different boxes of cereal, some laundry detergent, a shnazzy new razor and a pack of gum, with a coupon for each, you could still purchase all items in one transaction, regardless of the verbiage on each coupon.  Head spinning yet?

Limit of 4 Like Coupons in same shopping trip

You will see this verbiage on Proctor & Gamble coupons from the once monthly P&G Coupon Insert.  I respect this verbiage tremendously.  I believe the company is saying, “Okay, we want you to stock up on our brands, but we don’t want you to wipe out an entire store’s product in one shopping trip, so we’ll limit you to 4 per transaction”.   We’ve always suggested getting 4-6 copies of the Sunday coupon inserts; this verbiage would suggest that 4 copies is the ideal number to get each week.

If Pantene Shampoo is free at Walgreens this week and you want to donate a wheelbarrow load to your local woman’s shelter, you will not be able to buy all of the shampoos and conditioners in a single transaction.  The maximum number of Pantene which you can purchase in a single transaction, using the above pictured coupon, is 8.  Since the value of the coupon is $1.00 off two Pantene products, you may use 4 coupons on 8 bottles.

Sample Promo:  Spend $30 on any P&G brand family, Receive $15 Register Reward

Buy 10 Pantene Shampoo $3.00
Use $10 off $30 Walgreens purchase coupon
Use 4 $1.00/2 Pantene Products from PG 4/3
Pay: $16.00, Receive $15 Register Reward
Final Price: $0.10 each, when you buy 10

In the sample transaction above, you can see that had we been able to use one more $1.00 off 2 Pantene coupon, it would have made our final price $0.00.  In other words, the shampoo would have been totally free.  Because we only were able to use “4 like coupons in same shopping trip”, we ended up paying $0.10 per bottle.  The best way to work around this deal would be to mix in other participating products in the same P&G brand family.

Limit one coupon per specified item(s) purchased

When all your coupon says is “Limit one coupon per purchase”, or some variation, it’s time to do your happy dance!  This is the most lenient coupon language you’ll find and, luckily, the most common!  [Read in detail what One Coupon per Purchase means.]  In brief, “Limit one coupon per purchase” simply means that you cannot use a bunch of identical coupons when you’re only buying one product, in an effort to try to get it for free.  The coupon above states Save $0.75 on any 2 boxes Quaker Chewy Granola Bars.  This means that if you want to buy 10 boxes, you can use 5 coupons.  [Read in detail How to Use a Coupon.]  You cannot use 5 coupons if you’re only buying 2 boxes!  That is what the “Limit one coupon per purchase” is trying to help you avoid.

Did I clear the air or overwhelm you further?  I hope I helped explain the 3 most common variations on the “limit 1 coupon” jargon.