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What you should know about coupon overage

Now, if you were purchasing additional items in the same transaction and your store allowed overage, that extra $1.51 would be automatically applied to the cost of the other items. Again, this is a privilege, not a right. We can never demand overage, but it's definitely a big bonus of coupon shopping.

Stores allow overage because they will be reimbursed for the full value of the coupon when they go to redeem it with a manufacturer. So while your item costs 99 cents, when the coupon goes to the clearinghouse, a machine will calculate the total redemption the store will receive. Your coupon will deliver the store $2.50 in value. It's important to remember when stores allow customers to use overage, they're not losing money - they're simply passing that savings onto the shopper. They will be reimbursed for the full amount of the coupon.

If a store chooses to adjust a coupon's value down to the point where the item you're purchasing is free, but the store doesn't "pay you" the remaining value of the coupon, the store keeps that overage difference for itself instead of passing it onto you. Again, it's important to understand they're well within their rights to do so. Using coupons at all is a privilege. Stores do not have to accept coupons, although most do. And stores do not have to allow you to receive coupon overage, either. Of course, the stores that allow us to keep our overage are among my favorites to shop!

Remember, too, we can also get coupon overage via stacking coupons. If we stack one store and one manufacturer coupon together, the value of the two coupons together may also exceed the item's cost. I bought a deodorant recently that was on sale for $2.19. I had a $1.50 store coupon and I also had a $1 manufacturer coupon. Stacking those two together gave me $2.50 savings on the deodorant. I took the deodorant home for free. The 31 cents in overage was applied to some bananas I bought in the same trip.

Next week, we'll discuss overage in conjunction with instant-savings deals at the store. These sales can be an excellent way for the store to "pay you to shop," too - with overage you're guaranteed to get!

(c) CTW Features

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her Web site, www.super-couponing.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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