Currently coupons are going through a metamorphosis as companies and retailers cooperate to make the point of sale and redemption process faster, easier and aid in loss prevention. This change will only be to the present bar code that is listed as number 4 in the diagram; I will not go in depth in this article on bar codes but merely mention the changes since your coupon may look a little different.
1. The first part of the coupon we are going to discuss is the expiration date, number 1 in the diagram. More often than not the date is found on the top of the coupon, but I have seen them located in the middle or the bottom. The expiration date, of course, is the timeline you can use the coupon; the coupon is valid up to the expiration date. After the date stated, however, the coupon is no longer valid. Be careful not to cut this date off as many stores will not accept coupons with expiration dates cut off.
2. The second part labeled 2 is the language of the coupon. Pay close attention to what the coupon says here as it tells you specifically how to use it. Sometimes the language is very specific like, 50¢ off Yoplait 6 single cups sizes 8oz. or 12oz or general like $1 off any 3 Post cereals. The common problem even seasoned couponers have is not reading all of the language or misreading it which can lead to problems at check out.
3. Number 3 lists the terms and conditions and redemption instructions. The only part you need to pay attention to as a consumer is the terms and conditions section aptly named consumer. Here is where they will list limits of the coupon like how many of the same coupon you can have per purchase aka transaction, per item (which is always one), or per visit.
4. Number 4 is the old bar code that is currently being phased out by 2012. Eventually no coupons will carry this code but it is still important as many stores have yet to convert to the new system that will read the GS1 data bar (number 5). The bar code tells the cash register how to use the coupon among other things.
5. The new data bar code is number 5. It looks similar to the old one except larger, longer and stacked in some cases. It does the same thing as the old bar code and more. Make sure neither bar code is missing or your coupon will be no good.