4 Ways to Avoid Coupon Rip-Offs

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Are you getting ripped off when you’re looking to save? Take charge with these easy steps.

News last month that Target (Stock Quote: TGT) was accused of curbing the benefits on store coupons has some consumer groups up in arms. But consumers can take matters into their own hands and make sure they get every last benefit from a store coupon.

The action on the coupon front is certainly heating up. The transaction processing firm Inmar reports that consumers are using coupons at a rate that is 27% higher than they were in 2009. That’s the highest year-to-year jump since 1992, says Inmar.

To make sure you’re not the victim of a discount coupon scam or rip-off, be diligent.

Here are some ways to get the job done:

Always check receipts. Coupons can be voided, overlooked, eliminated or rung up incorrectly. If you’re not paying attention, you won’t get the discount and you won’t know why. The key is to make sure to check your receipts before you walk out of the store, and report any discrepancies immediately.

Take your complaint to the customer service desk. Be a good sport and check your receipts without holding up the other customers. If you see an error, don’t take it to the checkout line, take it right to the customer service desk. They have the authority to fix the discrepancy then and there. The cashier, who is likely busy serving other customers, will probably refer the problem to a manager anyway.

Go right to the top with online coupons. More and more, consumer groups are reporting a disconnect between national retailers (especially grocery store chains) and the local store managers, who may or may not opt to honor an online coupon. It’s probably just a breakdown in communication, but be sure to get the name of the store, the name of the store manager and the customer service e-mail address. Then send an e-mail explaining the matter. Most chain retailers can take care of the problem online. Ask for a “sweetener” to make up for the time you spent fixing the error. Most likely, the retailer will give you a gift card or more coupons for your trouble.

Don’t pay. Never pay for coupons or release any personal financial data to get one. The odds that you’re a scam target in those scenarios are fairly high.

Like most personal financial matters, getting the most from your coupons is matter of mastering the details and staying persistent. That’s the price you pay for getting a break.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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