Those big binders might be fine for extreme couponers, but for the rest of us, it’s no way to shop. So we love the idea of coupon apps that automate deals for you. We tried and liked these popular, free ones featured below.
They all can help you save, but some are easier to use than others. And some deliver bigger and better savings than others. Each app works a little differently but has advantages that depend on your shopping style and where you shop. They’re all worth a try. Here are a few things we learned after our reporter spent weeks using each of these apps.
The best app for you may depend on where you live. Different apps offer coupons at different stores, so your success using your smart phone to get coupons will depend on the supermarkets in your area and your shopping list.
Paper coupons still rule. Apps aren’t all about digital deals. Sometimes they point you to online or newspaper coupons that you have to print or clip.
Mobile coupons are similar to paper ones. Digital coupons will help you save on the same products as paper ones will—cereal, paper products, and yogurt are pretty standard.
It pays to be loyal. Digital offers work most seamlessly when they link with your store loyalty cards. You can link the coupon to your card and get the savings when you scan. Pretty cool, huh?
Check our new report on store brands to savor and supermarket buying guide for more ways to save.
Cellfire (Android, Apple, BlackBerry)
Best for: Instant savings
Description: Cellfire’s focus is to send coupons directly to your loyalty cards. (To add to a card, tap “My cards,” then tap the green bar.) Browse through the deals and tap the ones you want. Poof! They’re saved to your card to scan at checkout. Our only gripe: The list of stores is limited. But if there’s a store near you, it’s definitely worth downloading the app. We found 21 coupons for ShopRite, for example. You can use the app without registering, but members get access to bigger, better deals. Not sure whether you picked up the right item to get the savings? Use the UPC scanner (in “Saved coupons”) to check.
Don’t-miss feature: Enable store alerts and you’ll be reminded about coupons when you walk into a store.
Coupons.com (Android, Apple)
Best for: Tons of offers
Description: Coupons.com is a giant when it comes to offers for groceries and everyday items, and its app makes it easy to access the deals on the go. Coupon savings arrive in three ways: e-mail that’s printed from your computer, printed from your mobile device (works only with an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch and certain HP printers), or added to your store loyalty card to scan at checkout. It all depends on the deal.
Don’t-miss feature: When shopping for items other than daily basics, users of Apple devices can browse digital coupons from retailers such as Old Navy and Petco, add coupons to their Passbook app (Apple’s mobile wallet that stores rewards cards and gift cards in one place), and show their phone at checkout to get the savings. Easy!
Grocery IQ (Android, Apple)
Best for: List makers
Description: This app, also from Coupons.com, is best if you tend to stick to the same list week after week. Start by making your list (which is automatically saved) and the app will match items with applicable coupons. Add items to your list by typing them in, scrolling through the master list, scanning a bar code, or speaking them. The coupons come from the same giant inventory that’s used with the Coupons.com app, and you get them in the same ways: by printout and loyalty card. But be warned that it takes a little time to set up.
Saving Star (Android, Apple)
Best for: Big rewards
Description: The savings really add up here. Register your loyalty cards, then browse the list of exclusive offers. Some are really juicy; we found a good number of $5 offers. See something you want? Tap “I Want This!” then just scan your card at checkout. What’s unique is that the money doesn’t come off your bill; it adds up in your SavingStar account. When you get to $5, you can choose from four payout options: bank deposit, PayPal deposit, Amazon gift card, or donation to conservation group American Forests. The app generally has about 30 deals available at any time and works with lots of grocery chains, including A&P, Kroger, and Pathmark, as well as with CVS and Rite Aid.
Don’t-miss feature: "One or Many" deals let you buy items over multiple trips to hit the required quantities. The deals usually have a big payout, such as $5 off $30 spent on Charmin, Gillette, and Ivory products.
This article is adapted from Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine.
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