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Virtual Coupons That Make the Cut

No more of this! (William Wan -- The Washington Post)

Here’s something for those who shop with coupons, and those who don’t because they think it’s a hassle. Web-based services that just launched in the Washington area let shoppers use coupons without having to clip them, file them and remember to schlep them to the store. I tried it, and it works.

The premise: Product coupons you find on the Internet are linked to your frequent-shopper grocery store card. When you buy the product and swipe your card, the coupon savings are automatically applied. Voila: You’ve saved money with absolutely no risk of paper cuts.

So far, in our area only Safeway offers this feature, with three kinds of digital coupon alternatives. But other stores in other parts of the country are signed up, so it stands to reason that we'll eventually see more Washington-area supermarkets taking part.

The three programs are:, run by AOL. On the Shortcuts Web site, you register the number of your Safeway Club Card, then browse the coupons to see what’s available. If you see something you like, select it. Then just buy the item before your coupon expires.

Cellfire. Same drill, but with this one you can also select coupons from any cellphone with a working Web browser. So theoretically you could be adding coupons right in the store as you shop.

P&G eSaver. All of the coupons are for Procter & Gamble products. There are additional features, including free product samples and a monthly newsletter.

My take so far: This is a great idea, especially for people like me, who feel a little guilty about not taking advantage of money-saving coupons but can never get started doing it because it’s too hard to remember to take them to the store.

The downside: So far at least, the coupons are few in number, and generally they’re not for things I need. Again, if this takes off, it seems likely the situation will improve.

I registered with and browsed for products. Not much caught my eye, but in the interest of science and this blog, I had to get something. So I picked coupons for Chex Mix (50 cents off) and Fiber One cereal (55 cents). Then it was off to my neighborhood Safeway. Bought the two items, and sure enough, both discounts showed up on my store receipt. In fact, the Fiber One already had a Safeway Club price, so I ended up saving even more.

That's $1.05 in savings with just a couple of clicks. If the product selection gets bigger, i could get into that.

-- Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  |  June 26, 2009; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Shopping  | Tags: Jane Touzalin, budget, shopping  
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