The purchase is nearly complete. The cart is full. The total is around $300. But wait. As a preferred and smart shopper, there just happens to be a promo code for 30% off just waiting in another browser window. So smart, right? But instead of feeling smug, a feeling of defeat is about to destroy what was a great online shopping experience. Why?
Because the (darn) promo code is bogus.
How many times has this happened? Our guess is one every 10 minutes or so. Perhaps less. The frustration of only finding expired promo codes really can destroy a person’s online shopping experience. The cart is designed to reject the discount, and the average shopper could have spent a lot of time adding stuff, only to be thwarted at the end.
Just Google “promo code doesn’t work.” There are 36 million hits. Really. So we know that this is a frequent and frustrating occurrence for, well, likely everyone. This article seeks to shed some insight into why so many promo codes simply don’t work, and what the typical shopper can do to fix the problem.
Call 911 — My Promo Code Doesn’t Work
There are all kinds of promo codes for all kinds of products. Promo codes are tremendously popular; in most cases, they’ve taken the place of that old clip and save coupon that used to be in the Sunday newspaper. Their popularity hasn’t declined at all — the coupons have just gone digital and turned into promo codes.
With that said, so many of the promo codes online today are simply no good. What are some of the most common reasons for a promo code to not work? Here are seven possible reasons:
- The promo code could be expired.
Promo codes often won’t work past a certain date; that’s a very common reason for discount to be declined. However, to be safe, always try to use the code — sometimes there’s a pleasant surprise.
Some coupon sites knowingly post expired promo codes, in an effort to drive clicks to store pages to earn themselves more money — watch out for these! It’s likely that none of the promo codes from these websites will work, and you’ll end up being more frustrated than when you began your search.
- Some promo codes are tied to a minimum purchase.
Has the shopper met the minimum purchase requirements? This could be 25% off a $50 purchase, or some other discount. Either add more to the cart to meet the requirement, which is usually written in the body of the promo code coupon, or find another promo code without the minimum purchase. (Sorry.)
- Some promo codes are tied to a first-time purchase.
Actually, some of the best promo codes only work the first time they’re used. If the promo code is really great, though, it may be worth setting up a new account for someone else, just to get the discount? Maybe that’s unethical? That’s up to each shopper to decide for themselves!
- Other promo codes have excluded items.
This happens a lot on retail sites. Many times a promo code discount will have a lot of fine print that must be read in order to apply the promo code properly.
- Could the promo code already be used?
Believe it or not, there are one-time use promo codes. If you find a one-time use promo code that’s already been used, however, a serious bummer will ensue. And the most frustrating part is that it’s impossible for you to know if the code has been used, unless you try it yourself. Some coupon sites, like Dealspotr, have a whole community of editors that are constantly policing promo codes and removing them from the site if they don’t work. So hopefully, you’ll only have to try entering a promo code once, and it’ll work on the first try.
- Some promo codes require a login in to work.
Amazon is a site that will only let shoppers apply discounts if they’re logged in. Other online retailers do the same thing. It’s no big deal to sign up in most of these cases; these sites want people to shop, so sign up is easy and free.
- Promo code is tied to geography.
Many times free shipping is within a certain geographic region. Smaller retailers often have restrictions on where they’ll ship for free. Sometimes even the weight of the product makes a difference.
There could also be other issues tied to a promo code not working. The store could have a glitch in order processing. Generally, it might be worth calling customer service if the promo code isn’t working. Many times customer care reps may be able to help figure out what is wrong or even apply an alternative discount in order to keep the customer satisfied.
Skip the Frustration — Good Sites to Find Real-Deal Promo Codes
Actually, don’t call 911. But do find a site that has better working promo codes! Generally, because so many users post promo codes on coupon sites, it’s probably a good idea to become a member of some of the best promo sites online.
Here are five great websites where the frugal shopper can find working promo codes:
- Groupon focuses on connecting consumers with local deals — and these deals are pretty outstanding. Businesses love Groupon because it’s a good way to get a lot of new customers quickly. Consumers love Groupon because the deals come straight to their inbox and they’re tied to some of the things we need most: home improvement or pet sitting, local restaurants or auto repair.
2. Dealspotr advertises — and delivers — more promo codes that work (up to 4x more, according to . Membership is free, and signing up gives shoppers some of the most lucrative discounts posted & updated by real people in real-time. It’s like a community of smart shoppers sharing the love. Shoppers earn points for posting and editing deals, which ensures the accuracy of the codes, and can earn you a little side cash, too!
3. As a cashback site, Ebates pays consumers to shop from their site. Membership is free so it makes tremendous sense to sign up and then shop directly through their portal. The benefit for the consumer is, literally, a check that’s in the mail. Ebates offers a cash back to anyone buying from more than 2,000 stores. It’s not a gimmick — it is the real deal.
4. RetailMeNot is great not only for promo codes, but they offer really good deals on gift cards. So the shopper can buy a discounted gift card and then shop with a promo code from Dealspotr while earning cash back from RetailMeNot. True story.
Advice for the Savvy Shopaholic
Shopping frugally is not an oxymoron. Consumers deserve to stretch their dollar further and these websites are great for finding deals and non-expired promo codes. We hope our tips for figuring out which promo codes work or why they don’t will be helpful so that no one has to ever experience the frustration of the non-working promo code at the checkout line!