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Are Your Coupons “Missing” a Barcode?

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Think your coupons are missing a barcode? Keep Reading…

I’ve gotten quite a few emails lately with questions regarding online coupons printing without a proper UPC barcode and asking whether it was legit.  After doing a little research, I thought it would be beneficial to provide you with information that may help clear up any confusion on this subject, which may help your shopping trips go smoother during checkout.

First of all, the company that produces the bar codes for coupons is called GS1.  Over the past few years, they have slowly started making changes to how barcodes appear on coupons in efforts to bring data integrity and efficiency to coupons.  The new system was needed to help companies with U.P.C. Company Prefixes greater than 6-digits and also to allow a larger number of optional fields for specifying the more complex coupon offers in use today.

Check out the progression of how coupon bar codes have changed over the years…

Coupons that were issued before 2008 had two UPC bar codes on them (called the UPC-A and the GS1-128), as seen in the top coupon image above.  Then in 2008, the barcodes changed to look like the middle coupon above.  They included the UPC-A (on left) and the GS1 DataBar Barcode (on right).

Starting in 2010, coupons started gradually converting to look like the bottom coupon above.  You will see that the standard UPC-A barcode is missing from the left-hand side and only the second DataBar Barcode is there now.  The purpose for this is that the DataBar barcode contains a lot more information that will ultimately make your shopping trip go faster, such as the expiration date, weight of the products accepted, exact products, quantity and any other information or restrictions that the manufacturer would like to put in the coupon.  (Example: Do Not double, etc.)

Although this may not seem that exciting, essentially this is great news that should help clear up any future debates regarding how coupons should be properly redeemed.  The downside to this new system is that, unfortunately, many retailers have not updated their scanning equipment yet.  This means that when you go to use one of these coupons, it will beep and/or cashiers may not know how to redeem it.  The best thing to do is to call your local stores and find out if they have updated their systems to accept the DataBar Barcode scanners.

Have you had success redeeming the new DataBar Barcoded coupons? Please share!

(Thanks so much, Coupon Sense!)

Collin founded Hip2Save in 2008 and has over 10 years experience as a deals and lifestyle editor, strategist, and creative copywriter. She is debt-free and has been featured in Parents Magazine, Today.com and MSNBC. Connect with Collin on LinkedIn

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Comments 125

  1. Megan

    I’m so glad this was posted- I was SO frustrated at Rite Aid today! I tried to do the Colgate Optic toothbrush deal and the cashier would not accept my Manufacturer’s coupon from the 1/1 newspaper. He explained that the barcode isn’t the right kind of barcode for their macine.. etc.. etc… I asked him to simply override the discount several times and he wouldn’t do it. He said, “well, I got your total down to 75 cents!”.. so I left the toothbrush with him! Does anyone know if Rite Aid is going to fix this?

  2. Brandy

    I am printing out the learn about the new barcode ahead from the website on page: http://www.gs1us.org/standards/coupons and taking it with me into stores so that I can show them that I am using valid coupons. Hoping this will help me be able to use mine no problem. We’ll see.

  3. Ronda

    Megan – I had the same problem yesterday at Rite Aid with the Manager telling me the coupon will not scan without two bar codes and there was nothing he could do. I’m not a big fan of Rite Aid in the 1st place – seems to take forever to use my coupons and get the deals Rite Aid advertises and without getting a nasty attitude/looks from the store Managers as if I am trying to get over on Rite Aid. If Rite Aid doesn’t want to update their scanning of electronic coupons and honor them without a way too long process at check-out, then they need to update their coupon policies. I don’t shop much at Rite Aid for a couple of reasons, original prices are on an average $2 – $4 higher than CVS, Walgrens, Walmart, etc., nasty Rite Aid employee attitudes/looks, way toooooooooooooooo long check-out process, the list goes on and on for negative inputs. I have 4 CVS, 3 Walgrens, 1 Walmart, 2 Targets within 10 miles of my home and work, am I’m not spending anymore of my time at Rite Aid with all those negatives to deal with.

    I do know not all Rite Aids are as bad as the 3 within 10 miles of my home/work but I’m not traveling 50 miles to get to a Rite Aid where I don’t have to deal with it. The only positive part of Rite Aid is the online rebates but since I have to deal with the horrible hassles of Rite Aid – the online rebates is not worth it!

    I love CVS, Walgrens & Walmart. Employees and Managers are the best. I can complete many transactions and be in and out with a smile on my face.

    • Chris

      That makes no sense!! When I use my coupons, the cashiers always cover one of the barcodes with their hands, because one works and one doesn’t (makes you questions why there were two in the first place). So why would they need a coupon that has two barcodes, if only one works anyways? So frustrating!

      I have stopped shopping at certain stored though, too, simply because they were rude about me using coupons. If they won’t accept my coupons according to their own coupon policy, then I would definitely say go to a different store that lets you use coupons correctly!! More power to you, knowing where you can go and actually get the good deals they advertise!!

      • Chris W

        They cover up the new barcode, which is now the only one that is on the coupon. Their software only works with the old one, so they would cover the new one so it would scan the correct one.

  4. beparks

    I still do not understand why “Do Not Double” is printed on some coupons and now may be located inside the barcode. Does the manufacturer really ever reimburse the retailer double the value of the coupon? Couponing would be so much easier (and more profitable for the consumer) if manufacturers would omit “Do Not Double”.

    • Jana

      no, the manufacturer does not reimburse the retailer for the double amount only the face value of the coupon. Retailers eat the cost of the double and triple.

      • Becky

        ‘Splain it to me (Lucy).
        If the retailer doubles the coupon and eats the cost, then why does the manufacturer put “do not double” or even care for that matter?

        Sometimes, I use coupons that say do not double, and my grocery store’s system automatically doubles it anyway. I wondered if they don’t get reimbursed, but if they don’t get reimbursed on any doubles, then what does it matter?

        • Melissa

          I have heard that the reason that manufacturers put “Do not double” on their coupons is because it is a technique to limit the number of coupons redeemed. When coupons can be doubled, obviously there will be higher redemption of these coupons. It is like walking a tightrope – manufacturers want consumers to buy their products but they do not want too many consumers purchasing their products with coupons because they do not make as much profit. I had a long discussion recently with the Nabisco regional rep who told me, for example, that because coupon redemption is so much higher these days, Nabisco has decreased the values of the coupons published in order to make the same amount of profit.

  5. Jessica

    I got really excited when I read this post…. if the databar contains all this info when it’s scanned then it *should* be super easy for a computer savy person to make an app that puts all of the coupon info into a spread sheet when the databar is scanned (using the camera on your phone), right?! 
    Oh, how I hope! I hope!  
    Do you know how much easier that would make couponing for me?! Instead of having to manually enter all the coupon details, I could scan them and magically see every detail on my smart little phone! If I could export this fabulous little list to my computer that would be even better! The icing on the cake would be if I could add my own tags and categories (ex: filed under: medicine; SS 1/1/2011)! Of course, there would need to be a search option to make finding the coupon easier. I think I would even pay for this app…. ok, I KNOW I would!

  6. Ronda

    Jessica – I am so loving your idea and would pay for the app also.

  7. grr

    I don’t understand why coupons are using the new format now instead of the interim format when it is so obvious that the merchants are not capable of handling or even educated about the change. This is really bad news for anyone using coupons – I have enough problems now just making sure the cashier takes off the coupon (they don’t always) and then that they get the amount correct (again, they don’t always). It sounds like this is going to get worse before it ever gets better…

    • wayne

      I just looked at Betty Crocker and their is no bar code?

      • Shana

        I printed out coupons on Pilsbury site and there are no barcodes on them.

  8. Dee

    Printed two new smart source coupons and headed over to Dollar General, their system
    would not accept them and the cashier said there was nothing she could do about it, and
    she also checked her fraud list of coupons….they should get their act together…

    • Lisa

      I had the same thing happen at Dollar General with coupons printed via Smart Source. I went back a couple of weeks later, got a different cashier who worked it out and was able to take the enter the coupons.

  9. Shannon Gallion

    My local Walmart and Walgreens have rejected every printable coupon and every coupon in the inserts that didn’t have the small barcode on them. The best deals for the items I am getting are at these stores. If I go to a different store for these items, then it isn’t a good deal as I would have to use more gas to get there, and pay more for them items.

  10. renee

    How can you tell with the new barcodes if they will double? Now that the “5” or “9” is missing!! I’m confused.

  11. cindy

    My local Walmart and Safeway have also rejected the coupons that don’t have the barcode on them. The manager explained without the barcode, machine won’t scan them and there’s nothing he can do about it.

    • wayne

      Thats what happened to me at pick n save, what a bummer!

    • judi

      i am also having trouble at Walmart and Safeway they wont put them in manually.

  12. Melinda

    I just throw away the new coupons without the regular barcode. None of the stores around here accept them and some even think it’s a fraud coupon.

    • wayne

      same thing happened to me, was going to copy betty crocker coupons to my printer but I changed my mind , didn’t see any bar codes on them.

  13. Jennifer

    I just went to RA today and had the same problem. They wouldn’t accept my coupons because they didn’t have the barcode with the #5. I am so upset & disappointed. I guess I won’t be shopping there for a while. I hope my supermarket will take them.

  14. Dave

    Has this been fixed? I see that most of the Unilever coupons are now like this. I’ll save myself a trip if it’s going to be a problem…

  15. Sam

    As a cashier at Cub Foods I find this thoroughly annoying because our registers do not scan those kinds of bar-codes so we have to manually go in and type in the amount as a vendor coupon it is so much of a hassle and it slows me down.

    • val

      if only our stores would take time and money to update our registers.

  16. thejoneusecoupons

    It’s here! It’s finally here! An app that scans your coupon into a database!
    It’s called “Coupon Scan” in the app store (App Store – Coupon Organizer and Scanner).

    It needs a little work IMO but it has the potential to be fabulous! Unfortunately it’s $9.99. I’m going to hold off on purchasing it till all the kinks are worked out. I emailed the company and asked for things such as the ability to have the search include the text from the notes and questioned the printable coupons scanning ability, he responded:

    “The app does work- my only caution to users is “please give it a little time!” There are 1000’s of coupons now– but there are so many coupons all over the country… it was impossible for us to find them all. So for the first week or so- some users will have to scan in more coupons than they would like to.. but after a week or so we should have a HUGE database, with nearly every coupon out there. We just need a bit of time to get the users started. This app literally just went live!”


  17. val

    i work as a cashier at an HEB grocery store, i myself use cupons and find it annoying that i cannot use my prinatble online coupons. why? because they are missing the upc barcode. we do accept the ones from the newspaper or magazines we just have to input them manually. i would hope our stores would invest on updating our checkstands to be able to scan the new barcodes. i think to ensure this does happen soon i will take time and send an email to the company and let our managers at our store know.

  18. mary

    lately..last two weeks..my coupons have been printing without numbers above the or below the bar codes…what is up with that?

  19. Patricia

    WOW!! I am glad that I read this!! I have been TRYING for months to get the stores to use my coupons that do not have the OLD bar codes! I keep telling them that YES, they are authentic coupons, and NO, I do know know HOW to print “fake” ones! HA! But, none of the stores in my area of Ohio will take the ones with the new bar codes!!

  20. Cindy Stiver

    I have a bag from years ago of “NO Experation Date” coupons” that I never used. This was before bar codes! Does this mean these coupons are no good today. I know one time I tried to use one at a Wal-Mart and they wouldn’t take it. Sould I just toss them, mad at myself I haven’t used them long ago. DUH!

  21. Bonnie

    I, too, have many old coupons with “No expiration Date” on them but without a barcode. I can’t find a store that will take them. Is there anywhere they can be used?

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