How to Use e-Coupons Safely

If you think coupon users have grey hair and canes, you’re way off. Both internet and mobile coupons are increasingly popular as the worsening economy has brought frugal into fashion. This is especially true for the 20- and 30-somethings and the wealthy according to research conducted by the Nielsen Company. Take a look at a few more of their findings and you’ll know why:

  • Internet coupon redemption grew 263% in 2009

  • 88.2 million consumers (47% of Internet users) plan on using online coupons in 2011

  • 92.5 million adult Internet users will use online coupons in 2012

  • 96.8 million adult Internet users will use online coupons in 2013

  • Every hour spent couponing in 2011 is worth an estimated $100

  • 25% of consumers spend up to an hour shopping for the best online discount deals

  • Consumers saved $3.7 billion using coupons in 2010

Using E-Coupons

If you are not familiar with electronic coupons (e-coupons), they are a great way to save even more on the items you purchase.

E-coupons may be "pushed" to you through your cell phone, iPod, email, Facebook, and Twitter, can be purchased on eBay or found through online searches for manufacturers rebates/special promotions, or simply by searching on an online store’s name plus the word "coupon" "promotion code" or "discount". They may also be automatically uploaded to shoppers’ loyalty cards, or found on screens built into grocery cart handles. E-coupons can be printed for use in brick-and-mortar stores or entered as promotion codes in online stores. Some mobile coupons are location based, so show up when you’re near a store, restaurant or other business trying to lure you in.

In spite of the multitude of methods for finding coupons, text messaging and email are emerging as the most popular ways to obtain coupons in the US, with 8.6 million (8%) of the country’s households currently using one or both of these methods to receive coupons, according to an analysis from Scarborough Research.

The savings can be significant. If you have not tried e-coupons, you may quickly find yourself a fan as savings of 5-20% off individual items or whole purchases, and free shipping are common. Why pay more?

4 Rules for Safe e-coupon use

A few precautions will significantly improve your safety; don’t shop online without them.

  1. Secure your computer. If your computer isn’t protected from viruses and other malware your financial information and passwords will be stolen as you make purchases (as will everything else you store on your computer or do online). This concept is so basic, yet only a fraction of the U.S. population adequately protects their computers.

  2. Use a secure connection - make sure your computer’s firewall is on. If you use a wireless network it needs to be encrypted so someone who is lurking outside the house can’t collect your information.

  3. Use strong passwords. It is convenient to have sites you shop on frequently store your financial information, but a weak password is all it takes for someone else to steal it. Passwords do not have to be hard to remember, just hard to guess.

  4. Trust is key. Know the merchant - or their reputation If you already know the retail chain, using their e-coupons and shopping their online store is very safe. If there’s a problem you can always walk into the local store for help. But using an e-coupon on a site you’ve never heard of is taking a risk – conduct your own background check by looking at sites dedicated to reviewing e-stores. If the store isn’t reviewed, or the reviews aren’t glowing no coupon discount is worth the risk. Skip it and move on.

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