In This Guide
- What is a promo code?
- Why is it hard to find (working) codes?
- COUPON CODES expire quickly
- COUPON CODES are unpredictable
- Codes have exclusions / exceptions / rules
- Some merchants rarely offer them
- How the coupon pros find promo codes: 8 advanced strategies
- Look for the store’s coupon page
- Sign up for the store’s newsletter - some will instantly send you a code
- Try the live chat box, and ask a real person for a code
- Abandon your cart - some brands will try to win you back with a discount code
- Stay social - follow your favorite stores on social media for promo code updates right to your feed.
- Use deal websites to find a single-use promo code
- Grab a referral code from your friend - you’ll both get a discount
- Look for deals on your favorite brands at third-party stores
- Bookmark this tool
I’ve never been one to pay full price for anything. And chances are, if you clicked on this article, neither have you.
So when you’re checking out online and the cursor is blinking in the promo code box, you always have a solution - right? I’ll tell you what I do.
Every time, almost out of instinct, I head right to Google and search for “X store’s promo code.” Sometimes you’re in luck, and you find a working code.
But all too often, you find yourself in "expired coupon code hell" - trying code after code with no success.
If the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results, call me insane about finding promo codes. I mean, by now there has to be a better way, right? Why are working coupon codes so hard to find?
That’s what I wanted to find out. I took to researching the depths of the coupon web to find out why promo codes are sometimes few & far between, and where to find codes when you can’t find one on Google.
First, let’s break down what a promo code is and how they’re used.
What is a promo code?
A promo code is simply a digital code provided by a merchant that offers a discount or sale on that merchant’s online products and/or services.
These codes can be applied to a purchase from an online store somewhere throughout the checkout process, and result in a discount for the customer - anything from a percentage off their total purchase or a free sample with their order.
For customers, the benefits of promo codes are clear: saving money and the positive psychological impact on getting a discount on a good or service. But what’s the benefit for merchants?
According to Shopify, a leading e-commerce platform, one reason online sellers use promo codes is to get rid of old merchandise that isn’t selling. They also might offer codes to entice new users, or to reward those that have been brand-loyal since the beginning.
A major benefit for brands using promo codes is the ability to track their ROI on a certain marketing campaign - creating different codes for each campaign allows them to track which one converted the most sales.
Even so, as a shopper it can still be hard to find codes for the brands you like or the products you want - especially at that critical checkout moment.
Why is it hard to find (working) codes?
COUPON CODES expire quickly
A lot of codes are only good for a few days, or sometimes even a few hours. Flash sales can pop up unexpectedly, and the only way you’d know about these discounts is by visiting the store’s website during the sale, like this flash sale at Dick’s Sporting Goods:
COUPON CODES are unpredictable
Stores have a lot of channels to reach the public, including social media, email newsletters, and downloadable apps. Promo codes can pop up on any one of these channels, but not the others - and it’s hard for one person to keep track. And, as mentioned before, there can be different codes associated with different campaigns.
For example, CheapOair has a couple different codes running right now - but I really had to look to find them.
First, I found this promo code right on their home page:
However, this option does make you sign up for the CheapOair newsletter before giving you a discount.
If you head over to the company’s Twitter page, you’ll find a completely different code there:
This one doesn’t require a newsletter signup, so I would probably use this Twitter code on my order - something I wouldn’t have done had I only looked at the site. See? Unpredictable.
Codes have exclusions / exceptions / rules
Ah, the fine print. A lot of stores, especially department and discount stores (I’m looking at you, Kohl’s) have major lists of brands that aren’t included in their current promotional offer.
Here’s a Kohl’s coupon that would not attract name brand fanatics:
Some merchants rarely offer them
At the shoe retailer Vans, they don’t even have a promo code box when checking out - even when you "proceed to checkout."
Many stores just simply don’t offer promo codes, making finding a sale on their products hard.
So, you're at checkout...
And the promo code box is staring you down:
You’ve searched Google, only to try out a bunch of expired codes, and clicking on links that give you no discount whatsoever.
How the coupon pros find promo codes: 8 advanced strategies
You could purchase the product full price. But where’s the fun in that? There are other ways to find promo codes - I’m going to walk you through the advanced techniques for finding a promo code.
Look for the store’s coupon page
This may sound obvious, but too many times, people search for coupons on Google, and give up after not finding a code on the first few results. The strange truth is, many times, a store's own coupon page often does not come up in Google (someone tell them to fix that please!). And sometimes, a store will post coupons on its own page that you might not find on the coupon sites.
The trick is, you need to go straight to the store's webpage and find their coupon page from there. The coupon or deals page can usually be found in the header menu,
or in the hamburger menu when expanded.
The good news is, if a store site has a deal page, they’re bound to have deals. The bad news? Some stores don’t have a deal page. On we go!
Sign up for the store’s newsletter - some will instantly send you a code
You might be in the habit of X-ing out of anything that pops up at you when you navigate to a web page. But when you’re shopping, these can be your friend. Look out for pop ups that offer a discount in exchange for creating an account or signing up for a newsletter.
As with the above example, simply signing up for Modcloth’s newsletter will get you a cool 20% off your first order. Plus, you can always unsubscribe later.
Cotton On is a store that offers a 30% discount for signing up to receive their emails. While they don’t offer a pop-up, the link to their newsletter deal is right on their homepage.
Just navigate there, fill out some basic info (name, birthday, email address, etc), and voila! Soon after, you’ll receive something like this over email:
Pro tip: some sites require you to confirm your email first before sending you a discount code. Be on the lookout for those.
Try the live chat box, and ask a real person for a code
While online shopping removes most communication aspects from the buying experience, many companies will offer a live chat feature for customers to get ahold of someone directly. These chats are usually used for customer service-related things, however you may also ask them about any current or upcoming promotions they might be offering.
After browsing around the Easy Spirit website with no coupon page in sight, I tried to find a coupon code using the live chat feature:
A closer look:
And a few moments later, Ian G. hopped on the line.
While he didn’t have any sales or promo codes to give me, Ian G. did offer some helpful info about finding all of Easy Spirit’s upcoming deals - he even reminded me of the 25% off deal available through their email newsletter.
Abandon your cart - some brands will try to win you back with a discount code
This one may have happened to you by accident at one point or another. It’s a bit of a sneaky trick, but at some stores it can really pay off.
I once added a Cricut paper cutter to my cart at Michael’s. A few days later, I received this email:
They reminded me what was in my cart, and also sent me their latest coupon to use on my order as well.
Stay social - follow your favorite stores on social media for promo code updates right to your feed.
Remember the CheapOair example? I found a totally different code for the site in their Twitter bio. But what about Facebook?
At first glance, it seems to me that they aren’t offering any codes.
But if you head to their “About” page, and look under their business info, you’ll eventually see this:
It took some digging, but there it is! It’s the same deal offered on Twitter, but a Facebook version. Make sure to scour the social feeds of your favorite stores so you’re not missing out.
Use deal websites to find a single-use promo code
When you sign up for a store’s email newsletter, you’ll often be sent a single-use code (I was sent one with my Cotton On subscription, but blurred it out in the above example because hey, I still want to use that for myself).
Some stores, however, don’t send out single-use codes until you’ve been active for a while. People around the globe receive single-use codes everyday, and some graciously post these to deal websites for public use.
One site with a lot of single-use codes is Slickdeals. They focus a lot on product deals, but promo codes can often be found there as well.
A great part of Slickdeals is their forums. Deal hunters will come here to find and share deals with the community. At first glance, I see a few threads I might be interested in looking at to find some single-use codes.
I decide to look at the Shutterfly thread. The way the forums are set up, you have to go to the last page to see the most recent posts. Sure enough, when I got there:
As you can see, there are both site-wide codes and single-use codes listed in this forum. I tried them both, and they worked on Shutterfly.
Another place to find single-use codes is Dealspotr. Simply search for Shutterfly on the homepage, and select it when it pops up:
You’ll land on the Shutterfly deals page, where all sorts of deals for Shutterfly are added by everyday users.
As you can see along the lefthand side, there is an option to filter by type of coupon - including single-use codes. I went ahead and filtered for just single-use codes.
The top three codes are all still valid, and you can see their likelihood of working in their health bar - naturally, the green would be more likely to work
Grab a referral code from your friend - you’ll both get a discount
Some stores or online services offer referral codes to use with friends and family members. Usually, they’ll offer a new subscriber a major discount, while also rewarding the referrer with a bonus or discount as well. Here’s one for Lyft:
I search Dealspotr before I sign up for any site, just to make sure I’m not missing a referral code posted by a member of the community. Let’s say I’m signing up for UberEATS. I want to find a referral code that might get me a discount. I do a simple search for UberEATS on Dealspotr.
I can then select “Personal Referral Codes” from the filters on the left, and I am provided these results:
I can now use this code to get $15 off my first meal delivery. And whoever shared these codes will get a discount, too.
Look for deals on your favorite brands at third-party stores
Now for a super advanced technique for finding discount codes for hard-to-find stores.
Say you can’t find a coupon code for the specific store you’re looking to shop at. If that store sells its products on other ecommerce sites, you can “hack” savings by finding a code for another site/store that would apply to the product you’re interested in.
There are two ways to do this: the hard way, and the easy way. We’ll dive into the hard way first.
I am running low on my usual perfume, Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue. I usually buy this at Sephora, because the Dolce & Gabbana website doesn’t sell products directly. So I head to Sephora and select the 1.6 oz. size.
Now, I know Sephora does have a high tendency to offer coupon codes. I do a quick google search for “sephora promo code.”
I end up with a few good results, so I try the first few.
The first one is a link to Sephora’s deals page, which isn’t offering me much besides free samples.
I then take a look at the other coupon sites, which are offering more of the same.
My best bet is to probably look for my perfume somewhere else, where I can get it cheaper.
One thing I can try is to again, google the product. I found it on Amazon for about $30 cheaper:
But I’m still not satisfying my coupon craving. My next stop is Dealspotr. There, I do yet another quick search for Dolce & Gabbana.
When I click on the Dolce & Gabbana search result, it leads me to the brand’s Dealspotr page. I already see a few deals that I might be interested in.
Since I’m looking for a third party deal, or a coupon for a store that’s selling this perfume, I scroll down on the right hand side and select the “3rd Party Deals” filter.
This brings me to the following deals:
One that catches my eye is the bottom left - 25% off my order at Fragrance Net. When I click on the deal title, I see this:
I can simply click once to copy the code, and click once more to be sent to the Fragrance Net website. The link brings me right to the Dolce & Gabbana search results, where I find Light Blue.
Something I notice right away is that they give me a price with coupon right away. This means that there’s definitely a coupon available - even if my Dealspotr one doesn’t work. But alas, I try the code anyway.
In my cart, I enter the code in the promo code box:
And when I get to the checkout screen:
Voila! They weren’t lying when they listed the “price with coupon” on the homepage.
Now, I am saving about $35 on the perfume that I’ve been buying for $75. And it only took a few clicks when I used Dealspotr.
Bookmark this tool
Hopefully, today I’ve showed you that there’s never a reason to leave that promo code box empty. Use these expert techniques, and get more discounts more times you checkout.
Oh, and don't forget to bookmark this site, Dealspotr. This is the tool that more coupon pros use to find coupons. With 5 million coupons, and advanced code-finding tools, you'll save more by making it part of your daily coupon search.
Bonus - get 2,000 points if you sign up as a member. Members get a personal deal feed and earn points for sharing deals that help other shoppers save.