You may have seen the term IP coupons cropping up in coupon blogs. IPs -- or "Internet printable" coupons -- are more frequently referred to simply as "printable coupons," although the IP term is slowly taking hold.
Whichever term you use, these coupons can be downloaded from the Internet and printed out at home for use at the register. Here are eight basic tips you'll need to know before embarking on the road to IP coupon usage.
1. Make Sure the Bar Code is Clear
Each IP coupon includes a bar code, which absolutely must be printed clearly so the store scanner can read it properly at check out. It's not enough for the numbers to be legible as most clerks aren't allowed to input the codes by hand.
2. Color vs. B/W
Usually, you can print IPs in black and white, but some stores only accept coupons printed in color because they're harder to photocopy. Since color copies can be expensive when printing numerous coupons, check your store's policy before committing the ink.
3. Maximize Paper and Ink
Purchase the cheapest printer paper available and use the "draft" settings on your printer so you won't waste ink. You can print three IP coupons per page from most websites. When printing a single coupon you might turn the paper around to use the blank side for a second printing, then cut the coupons apart.
4. Download Limits Per Coupon
Manufacturers and stores usually limit the number of times you can print grocery coupons. Frequently, the maximum is two printings, but you might have to hit "refresh" before you're allowed to access the second coupon. Some coupons are restricted to one per household and will say so on the face of the coupon.
5. Maximum Downloads From All Consumers
Some manufacturers limit the total number of times an IP coupon can be printed (such as 30,000 times per month), so it might not be available by the time you try to download it.
6. Fraud Problems
Despite the popularity of IP coupons, some stores and major merchants are reluctant to accept them because consumers have been known to photocopy coupons and use what are essentially fakes. This is more than a problem: It's illegal. Be sure to ask your local manager about the store's policy towards IP coupons. The Safeway chain may have one policy but your local store, for example, might have another. More valuable info to know before wasting ink, paper and cash.
7. Browser Formats
Sometimes coupons are formatted for different browsers. "IE" refers to Internet Explorer and "FF" refers to Mozilla Firefox.
8. Free Isn't Always Free
Many chains don't accept "Free" IP coupons, meaning coupons for entirely free items, perhaps because they're so easy to counterfeit. Or perhaps because they're cheap.