How to Maximise Vouchers/Coupons
Disclaimer: This post contains a few referral links which may result in a small financial benefit to me, as well as a benefit to you for signing up as a first time user through a referral.
Generic topic today, so no matter where you live, this probably applies in one way or another! I’m gonna be talking about how I maximise vouchers/coupons. The type I have in mind here is fixed dollar promotions “Spend $X and get $Y”, or simply, “Get $5 off your order”. This post is less about % discounts promotions, but the questions can still apply.
This post has been inspired by a recent deal that myself and some colleagues at work took advantage of. And when I say took advantage of, I mean took advantage of.
Firstly, a couple of generic tips and things to think about when you see coupons/vouchers/discounts:
- Is there any minimum spend?
- Does the discount to delivery fees, or only item costs?
- What is the cheapest item available?
- How many times can the code be used?
- Are there any particular Credit Cards that give you further cashback?
- Are there any Credit Cards that give you bonus points for such merchants?
- Are there any cashback websites/services like Cashrewards, Shopback [SG]/AU], RebateMango, PricePal, TopCashback and/or miles websites like KrisFlyer Spree, Qantas Mall, Velocity eStore that will allow you to save even more/earn some points on the transaction(s)?
- When does it expire?
- If applicable, what time zone is the expiry date/time stated in?
- Are there any time period exclusions (off-peak/peak)?
- In regards to expiry, does it say “or until allocation exhausted”, or words to that effect?
- Do they actually enforce their T&Cs/rules?
- Can the promotion be stacked with another promotion?
- Is there a referral program?
- Do you need membership/association with a club?
Let’s explore the relevance of each of the questions. Let’s pretend you’ve got a $10 voucher/promo code/coupon..
This is a huge one. Think about the difference between a $10 voucher where the minimum spend is $100, and a $10 voucher with no minimum spend.
If there’s no minimum spend, you could buy a $9 item, use the voucher, and pay $0.
I’ve never seen a situation where you end up being “charged” -$1 (i.e. you pocket $1) so don’t even think about it!
There’s also a bit of a psychological problem with “generic” vouchers. What’s more exciting? Being told you can get a free meal, or a $10 voucher at McDonald’s with no minimum spend? The free meal may well sound better – but it probably isn’t.
A free meal is great! I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m just saying the $10 voucher is better. The free meal is probably a specific meal – for example, a Medium Sized Big Mac Meal. Fine print may also say stuff along the lines of take away only, not valid on Friday/Saturday nights.
Compare that to a $10 voucher with no minimum spend. Yes, there may be similar restrictions, but assuming the restrictions are the same, you could buy:
- McChicken Meal
- 20 McNuggets
- 4 Cheeseburgers
Basically – it’s a lot more flexible, and you need to be able to “read” or “absorb” that. It’s just not the same telling someone you get $10 off with no min spend, compared to telling them you get a free meal, so often times the free meal sounds more compelling.
Ok, so let’s assume there’s no minimum spend. Great! Now – how much are the delivery fees, is there a threshold for free delivery, and does the promo knock the price off delivery fees?
Continuing from the example above, $9 item, $1 delivery. Ok, total is $10 and the discount is $10 – still $0! If not, you’ll have to pay $1. Yes, it’s only $1 – but what website are you reading? It makes a difference!
Cheapest Items Available
$10 voucher – does this store sell toilet rolls and chicken rice, or does it sell white goods and furniture? $10 off toilet rolls and chicken rice is very different to $10 off white goods and furniture. If it’s the former, the deal is significantly more attractive. $10 off white goods – well, you could potentially just find a better deal at another retailer…
Oh – keep in mind that sometimes there are specific items excluded as part of promos – which is smart (of the business) and makes sense. It would most probably make it a dealbreaker though.
Is it limited to once per account, once per calendar day?
Keep this in mind because it can make a big difference to how use the promo. If it’s unlimtied use, has no minimum spend, has cheap items available, you could probably make multiple orders and get multiple free stuff…
Credit Cards with Bonus Points/Cashback
Do you have a specific card that earns you bonus points on particular types of expenditure? For example, 3pts/$ on the Platinum Edge at supermarkets, or 3.1 KrisFlyer Miles/$ with the KrisFlyer Credit Card on Grab expenditure.
Cashback is more relevant to Singapore – consider the Standard Chartered Rewards+ (not that it’s a great card) and the 15% Grab cashback.
Make sure you use the right card for your transaction!
Cashback Websites/Point-Earning Portals
For example, you can get cashback by clicking through Shopback when ordering from Deliveroo.
Alternatively, you could be earning 1QFFpt/$ at eBay via The Qantas Mall.
However, it’s important that you understand the terms of cashback/points may be such that it excludes the use of specific promo codes. My view is it never hurts to try. As far as I know, the approval is generally a manual process, which is part of the reason why cashback takes so long to be confirmed, but it takes an extra minute (if that).
Generally, I’ve found the T&Cs around earning points to be more lenient than earning casback, but I also tend to find the cashback more attractive/valuable.
This is important for you to be able to time your deal. For example, continuing with the $10 voucher example – let’s say it expires 30 September 2018 and you know the shop for which the voucher is applicable is having a sale between 23-30 September. Well, it would make sense to wait to use the voucher then so as to maximise the value of the voucher right?
In addition, look out for words that state “expires 30 September, or when the code has been used 10,000 times”. Just because it says expires 30 September doesn’t mean it can’t expire earlier, especially if it has a use-limit. Even if it does not, it’s not unheard of for a promo to be pulled halfway through a deal. Besides, how are you gonna keep count of the redemptions anyway?
Time Period/Sale Period/Restrictions
There are two prominent examples I can think of:
1) Sales on Airfares – there are quite often very speficic travel periods which are centered around off-peak periods of travel. For example, good luck trying to find sale fares for Christmas periods.
2) Movie Tickets/Vouchers – there are often exclusions or surcharges for movie vouchers being used on Friday/Saturday nights – again, centered around peak periods.
Do they actually enforce their T&Cs?
I liken this to a carpark reminding you that you park there 100% at your own risk. I remember during my younger years noticing signs like these and thinking, “So the operators could hire some guy to smash your car windows, steal your possession in your car and it’d be your fault because they warned you.”
Ok, I accept it’s a bit of an extreme example, but do you understand my thinking?
My point is – companies/businesses often say things to deter things from happening (“Your Deliveroo order will arrive in 1 hour” – but it might only take 45 minutes!), and this ideally reduces the risk of unpleasant things occurring (complaints/lawsuits).
For example, someone who remembers reading the sign but has their car smashed may potentially think, ok, well I was warned so I can’t sue them. I’m no lawyer and I’m certainly not qualified to provide legal advice in any legal jurisdiction whatsoever, but I’m of the opinion that had the sign not been there, it could well be the difference between someone thinking they’re entitled to compensation and them thinking they’re not.
Legal battles are not cheap, whether you’re the defendent or the accuser, so it’d be in a carpark operator’s best interests to simply avoid the situation all together.
Let’s go back to the issue of whether they actually enforce their T&Cs – so Deliveroo, for example, tell you that the code can only be used once per account, so you use it once on your account and you stop.
Me? I might try and use it again. What I expect to happen is to get an error message saying “you have reached the limit of redemptions for this promotion”. It might not actually be programmed into the app/promotion for it to only be redeemed once. Just because they say it’s the rule doesn’t mean they enforce it.
Now – don’t get me wrong – I’m not necessarily condoning this behaviour. You could say I actually am, by testing the waters, but my view is that a system should be configured around the desired parameters. If that means a code should only be used once, then it should be coded that way. Maybe it’s too expensive to code. Maybe it was overlooked. So for this reason, there are times it is actually possible. By putting it in the rules/T&Cs of a promo could well deter people from even trying though – which is why raised the example the carpark operator and the warning that parking would be at your own risk.
If you “abused” it, could they charge you for your additional orders? If you had to share your Credit Card details as part of the promotion, possibly.
Ok – you’ve milked the program. Time to share the love. Many services/apps now promote the whole “word of mouth” form of advertising, which often proves cheaper than real advertising. There are times that a referral program is in place but you actually get nothing in return (yea, you, GOF3R).
Often times though, you do get something. It could be something like $3 off your first order as a newly referred user, and $3 for the referrer once you make your order.
At times, promos are only for specific people. This is generally what is called a “Targeted” promotion. Consider the following ways to segregate customers:
- Under 18/”Youth”
- Gender (think of clubs with free entry for ladies)
- Employee Discounts
Remember what I said above though? Just because it’s in the T&Cs doesn’t mean it’s enforced. Once again, I’m not condoning you “misbehave” and knowingly break rules of a promo – but something to be aware of. In fact, there are times that even if it “works” (system hasn’t been correctly configured), they might end up cancelling your order anyway and it ends up being more hassle than it’s worth.
Stacking promotions is an extremely effective way of driving the cost of whatever it is you’re paying for down.
Consider all of what I’ve said above. If you’ve been observant, you may have actually noticed by now that I’ve, in fact, already made several references to stacking promotions.
- Is there a concurrent sale?
- Do you get cashback/extra points by paying with a particular Card?
- Can you use a cashback/points-earning site?
- Is there a referral program?
Ideally, you want the answer to be yes to as many of these questions as possible. Personally, I love the challenge of trying to formulate the most efficient way to transact to give me the lowest price possible. I mean, hey, that’s why The Bulging Wallet exists right?
Needless to say, as a consumer, the less restrictions the better!
What are your tips for maximising vouchers/coupons/promos? Share them in the comments!