4 Coupon Rules That Stores Let You Break

Coupons are awesome tools for saving money when they work exactly as advertised. But what happens when the coupon burning a hole in your pocket turns out to be expired, chock full of exclusions, or beset with a quantity discount? Fortunately, if you know the couponing rules you can bend, you still have excellent opportunities to save money with coupons that many uninformed shoppers would deem worthless. Here is what you need to know to make it happen. (See also: The 10 Best Couponing Apps)

1. Coupon Expiration Dates

There is nothing more frustrating than pulling out your coupon when checking out, only to notice it expired last week. But, depending on the store you're in, many will still happily accept that expired coupon. Also, just because your favorite store might not be mentioned here, always try to use the expired coupon — many stores will have a coupon behind the counter that you can use. After all, you have nothing to lose and a few bucks (or maybe much more) to gain.

Bed Bath & Beyond

Did you know that your 20% off any one item coupon at Bed Bath & Beyond will often still work when expired? So don't throw them away when you find an old one buried in your desk drawer. Worst case scenario, the BBB employee will pull out a non-expired version of the same coupon from behind the counter and scan it for you.

Burger King

Most Burger King locations will still accept your expired coupon. As a matter of fact, because the unofficial policy is to take all coupons, many employees won't even glance at the expiration date when giving you your discount.

Buy Buy Baby

Don't throw away your expired Buy Buy Baby coupons, because they'll typically still accept them. Can't find a coupon? Just use your Bed Bath & Beyond coupon, as they've been known to accept those, too.

Dick's Sporting Goods

I recently discovered that Dick's will often honor expired coupons. If they don't accept it, the cashier usually has a very similar non-expired coupon they can scan for you.


While Kohl's might not take an expired coupon per se, they will indeed take your expired Kohl's cash. So don't throw it away!


If you have an expired Petco branded coupon, be sure to not discard it. Petco stores will typically still take their own coupons — but not expired manufacturer coupons.

2. Quantity Limit Workaround

Many in-store grocery coupons come with a stingy quantity limit of a single item. This can really curb your savings if you're trying to stock up on something when the price is right. An obvious workaround is to politely ask the cashier to break up your purchase into separate transactions so you can use the coupon on each. However, some stores also limit the coupon to one use per visit — which would shoot that workaround in the foot.

A better way to get around the quantity limit is to learn how to stack coupons to your advantage. This is when you use a store-issued coupon in conjunction with a manufacturer coupon, and in essence, double your savings. Then if you want to stock up and buy more than a single item, you can use the store-issued coupon on one item, and the manufacturer coupon on another. By doing it this way, you still get similar savings and avoid the dirty looks. Popular retailers that let you do this include Whole Foods, Publix, CVS, Safeway, Rite Aid, Target, and Walgreens.

3. Grace Period on Manufacturer Coupons

The couponing world has seen some pretty cool technological advances in recent years. For example, did you know that many manufacturer coupons now have data encrypted into them that can often extend their expiration dates via a grace period? So a coupon that has a printed expiration of 2/29 might not actually expire until 3/15, or later. The most obvious way to determine this "grace period" is to have the cashier scan them individually and see if they're accepted or rejected. To avoid holding up the line and wasting a bunch of your time, instead consider downloading an app like QSeer Coupon Reader so you can scan the coupon at home and see if it has a grace period attached to it.

4. Coupon Exclusions and Restrictions

Have you ever tried to use a retailer's coupon only to discover the brand you're trying to purchase is excluded from the coupon? These coupon exclusions often come directly from the brand's headquarters, as they don't want to be considered a "discount" brand by consumers.

The good news is that many retailers will often overlook certain brand exclusion and give you the coupon discount anyways, or offer another solution to help you score a deal. Stores where I have had the cashier give me the discount anyways includes Dick's Sporting Goods, JCPenney, Sports Authority, and Guitar Center. The key takeaway here is to try and use the coupon anyways. Many employees are trained to always keep the customer happy and will either give you the discount, or have a different coupon you can use to score similar savings.

How you ever been able to bend the rules of couponing to your advantage?

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Guest's picture

Kohl's no longer accepts expired Kohl's cash.

Guest's picture

you're making the cashier's job much harder. because if you're trying to bend/break the rules, the cashier is afraid you'll also start arguing. i'm only talking manufacturers coupons here. Department store coupons are okay to bend. but the supermarket cashier only sees what's on the coupon and if they take anything that's expired, the supervisor might get upset.
so don't do that to the cashier. be nice.