“BEEEEP!!!” goes your coupon as it’s scanned at the register.

Don’t worry–it’s happened to the best of us. Prevent your coupons from beeping in future shopping trips by becoming aware of the following errors.


1. The coupon’s bar code isn’t dark enough.

If your printer ink is low, any Internet coupons you clip may not print correctly. Keep in mind that the bar code on your coupon must be dark enough for the cash register to read; otherwise, prepare for beeping.

SOLUTION: Check your printer’s ink levels regularly, and replace your ink cartridge when you get a low ink warning or if you notice the ink printing lightly or incorrectly.

COUPON TIP: Find printer ink deals on KCL, or learn How to Refill Your Own Printer Ink.


2. The value of a coupon is more than the price of the product.

Target, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Safeway, Family Dollar, Winn-Dixie, and Dollar Tree don’t allow the value of a coupon to be higher than the purchase price of the product, so be prepared for some register noises at these stores.

SOLUTION: For stores that do allow overage, the overage will be given to you either in cash back or applied as a discount to the rest of your purchase. For stores that don’t allow overage, like the ones listed above, the cashier will usually adjust the value of the coupon to the purchase price of the product–except for Walgreens. Walgreens doesn’t allow you to use a coupon if the value is higher than the price of the product. They won’t adjust it–they’ll just refuse it.

COUPON TIP: Always be aware of your store’s coupon policy. Here’s an extensive List of Store Coupon Policies.


3. The coupon is a PDF coupon without a unique bar code.

Some manufacturers put their printable coupons in PDF format, which means a consumer can print as many as they want (we recommend printing two per device, just as you would with most manufacturer coupons). Although PDF coupons may be convenient to print, they often cause issues at the register because they don’t have unique bar codes.

SOLUTION: Double check that the PDF coupon is valid and from the manufacturer’s website. Explain to the cashier that it’s a PDF coupon—which is why its bar code isn’t unique—and maybe even bring the coupon up on your smartphone to show the cashier that it came from a valid source. Most of the time the cashier will just push the coupon through, but some stores won’t allow PDF coupons at all.

COUPON TIP: PDF coupons are super easy to print when you’re out and about and can typically be printed on public wireless printers (like those at the library or FedEx Office). Learn more in How to Print Coupons from Your Phone.


4. The item being purchased doesn’t match the coupon’s fine print.

Some coupons exclude certain sized products or require you to purchase a specified amount of items. For example, a lot of coupons exclude trial-size items or involve the purchase of multiple products.

SOLUTION: Read through the fine print on your coupons carefully, and make sure you’re purchasing the correct size and quantities. If you forget and the coupon beeps, you can always go grab the additional item or switch the size in order to use the coupon!

COUPON TIP: Understanding a coupon’s fine print is half the battle. Here are 10 Things You Should Know About Coupon Fine Print.


5. The coupon is fraudulent.

Of course you wouldn’t intentionally use a fraudulent coupon, but some fraudulent coupons can fool even the most experienced couponers.

SOLUTION: To prevent using or possessing fraudulent coupons, only print coupons from reliable sources. The Sunday newspaper; manufacturer websites; coupon websites like Coupons.com, Red Plum, PGeveryday.com, BettyCrocker.com, or Smart Source; and of course KCL’s database of free printable coupons are all legit places to get real coupons. These four sites have lots of great coupons as well: HealthyEssentials.com, SaveInStore.com, CommonKindness.com and Hopster.com.

COUPON TIP: Don’t fall victim to coupon fraud! Check yourself by reading this: Are You Committing Coupon Fraud?


Now that you know why a coupon might beep at checkout, here’s how to handle the situation like a boss: What to Do if Your Coupon Is Rejected.


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