Saving money with coupons is addicting. Anyone who has ever stacked discounts and scored freebies knows this. There’s nothing wrong with saving (and sometimes making) a little extra money, but it’s troubling when we hear about people misusing coupons.

Whether you’ve been a victim or not, coupon policy abuse has led to many of the rules currently in effect at our favorite stores. Every couponer should know what coupon policy abuse is—and how to avoid it!

1. Never try to purchase an item with a coupon that doesn’t list that exact product.

Accidentally picking up the wrong size of a product is one thing, but if you’re purposely trying to deceive a cashier, that’s fraud. If a coupon is for a 4-ounce size of toothpaste and you attempt to use it on a 3.5-ounce size, you’re using the coupon incorrectly. If the coupon states Suave body wash, you can’t use the coupon on Suave shampoo. Pay attention to a coupon’s details to avoid issues.

2. Never make copies of a coupon.

Most people would never try to make copies of a dollar bill. Don’t try to copy coupons. According to the law, this is considered counterfeiting, and you can be prosecuted. If you really, really need more than two copies of a coupon (two is the number of prints allowed on, ask a friend or family member to print the coupon you need, or you simply buy extra papers.

3. Never purposely clear shelves.

Stores typically limit the number of coupons that can be used to prevent shelf clearing. There’s nothing more disappointing than going to a store specifically for an item and finding the shelf empty. When there’s a high-value coupon, be aware that shelves will clear quickly. Most stores limit the number of coupons that can be doubled, used in one transaction, or number of coupons per item. One manufacturer coupon and one store coupon per item is a common rule to help prevent shelf clearing.

Related: Courteous Couponing 101

4. Never sell coupons.

It’s illegal to sell coupons. Period. It is not illegal to purchase coupons from a legitimate coupon clipping service that charges for clipping the coupons, however. Selling coupons is a violation of the “nontransferability clause” which is printed on every coupon.

5. Never sell from your stockpile.

The purpose of coupons is to save people money—not to help someone sell products for a profit. Plus, anyone who sells from their own stockpile is probably violating local health codes. You never know whether products have been stored properly or if they’re actually expired. So just don’t do it. It’s illegal for multiple reasons. If you find yourself with more products than you need, consider donating items or making a gift basket for someone special.

If you see coupon or policy abuse at your store, here are some steps you can follow:

  • Notify the store manager if you see coupon fraud or store policy abuse.
  • Inform the corporate office of the abuse as well as the location of the store. Be sure to give actual facts.
  • If you’re the victim of a counterfeit coupon, you can report this to the US Postal Inspection Service:

For more information about coupon policy abuse and fraud, check out

Related: 8 Couponing Myths That Are Absolutely Not True

5 Things Couponers Should Never Do