What You Need to Know About Online Coupons

Electronic coupons save grocery shoppers time and money.

woman leaning in front of a computer
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What Are ECoupons?

ECoupons, also called electronic coupons, are paperless coupons that are used in conjunction with loyalty programs offered at grocery stores and drugstores.

This article explains how eCoupons work, where you can find them, how to register to use them, redemption policies and the pros and cons of using eCoupons. Also included is a list of the top services that provide eCoupons for nationwide stores.

Finding ECoupons

ECoupons are distributed through eCoupon services, store websites, or both. Grocery stores that offer eCoupons through these services or through their own systems will have information about their digital coupons on their websites.

You can also read about the top eCoupon services below and see which grocery stores and drugstore are partnered with which services.

The top eCoupons services are:

  • Cellfire
  • SmartSource
  • SavingStar
  • UPromise

How ECoupons Work

The top eCoupon services operate in pretty much the same way.

Online registration is required to use the services. The process includes providing your customer account information and loyalty card numbers for each store where you want to register.

Once registered, you will be able to browse and select the eCoupons that you want. They will then be automatically linked to your account. When you go to check out at the store, you will swipe your customer card (or have the cashier scan it) and the eCoupons will automatically be deducted from your purchase when you buy the qualifying items.

ECoupon Usage Policies

Just like paper coupons, eCoupons have expiration dates, usually about 30 days -- although some stay valid longer. When an unused eCoupon expires it will drop from the list on your account.

ECoupons can typically be redeemed just one time. For example, if you have an eCoupon for $1 off of two boxes of Cheerios, $1 will automatically be deducted during checkout. If you have four boxes of Cheerios, you will still only get the $1 off savings, unless the offer specifically says that the eCoupon applies to multiple quantities of the item.

ECoupon Limits

New eCoupons are added to these services regularly; however, there is a limit as to how many eCoupons can be saved to your store account. This amount includes all eCoupons that you have loaded onto your account from all services that you use.

To avoid reaching your limit, you will want to select your eCoupons carefully. Most services do not have a way for you to delete unwanted eCoupons from your card. They must expire or be redeemed.

The Pros and Cons of Using ECoupons

ECoupons are a convenient and an easy way to save extra money at supermarkets and drugstores, but there are some quirks that are sometimes confusing to couponers.


  • For people who are comfortable using computers, the top eCoupon services are simple to understand and the websites are easy to get around. You can log into your account from any computer to use the services.
  • ECoupons are eco-friendly, plus save couponers the extra cost of printing coupons.
  • Most eCoupon services allow you to print a list of the eCoupons that you have saved to your account.
  • ECoupons are sometimes available for store brand items.
  • The eCoupon services can alert you through email when new eCoupons have been listed. This makes the task of finding coupons easier and less time consuming.


  • There are often quite a few restrictions on redeeming eCoupons, especially for couponers who like to use multiple identical coupons so that they can purchase large quantities of an item.
  • ECoupons cannot be traded or distributed through coupon clipping services, which limits the couponer's access to only the regionally distributed coupons.
  • ECoupons are only redeemed at face value. They are not doubled or tripled at any time.
  • Technical failure may sometimes be an issue. For example, most stores are not set up to go into customer accounts to verify which eCoupons the customer has selected. If an eCoupon fails to get deducted during checkout, the customer has no proof to show the cashier.
  • Not all store employees are comfortable with eCoupons, which make problem-solving a challenge. Generally, it is best to turn to the eCoupon service, not the store, to help find solutions to problems.
  • If you have identical coupons from different eCoupon services, the system will only redeem one and you do not know which of the services the eCoupon was pulled from.
  • E-coupons can not typically be stacked with other coupons.

The Bottom Line

ECoupons are a great source for collecting coupons. The process is simple enough to learn, and couponers will benefit by using them. But some of the best benefits are felt by the manufacturers and stores who want to have more control over coupon distribution and usage.

Paper coupons offer more flexibility to couponers, which in the long run will save them more money. That said, eCoupons are a valuable resource for shoppers looking to save money on food and drugstore products. Couponers who learn how to use eCoupons will benefit.