If you've ever shopped online, you've seen the box provided for "special code" or "promotional code." This magical savings box shows up somewhere between your online "cart" and the act of inputting your credit card information. These offers allow you to enter a series of numbers and letters to receive anything from 25-percent off to free shipping.
These are, in essence, digital coupons provided as incentives to repeat customers or members of the site's rewards programs. You don't have to be a member or a VIP, you just need to know the right combination of letters and numbers that will get you that discount.
In recent years, independent Web sites have cropped up listing promotional codes from stores including amazon.com, americangirl.com, sportsauthority.com and 1800flowers.com. If you are willing to spend a little extra time hunting around these sites, you can save a bundle on a varied and diverse list of products.
The February 2006 Consumer Reports Money Adviser says the Top 5 savings code sites are:
FYI: For this experiment, I used a Hewlett-Packard -- HP -- all-in-one printer as my test product to search for. I searched the model number on all the sites and had varied results.
This site asks you to search by store. I tried searching allonline.com for deals at amazon.com, where I planned to buy the printer, but found the Amazon coupons had nothing to do with printers or HP.
When I entered "HP" in the search terms, allonline.com directed me to the HP shopping site, something I hadn't immediately thought of. There it listed a $10-off coupon or a 20-percent off offer on certain printer models including the model I wanted.
Currentcodes.com allows you a little more search flexibility: You can search either by store or by category. When I entered HP, it told me there were no HP coupon codes available, but did list sitewide offers HP was promoting.
Findsavings.com lets you search by product, and it has a professional and organized interface. But for the HP printer model I desired, my quest turned up empty. Findsavings.com offered a $100 rebate for a different HP printer and when searching printers in general it came up with four alternative printer coupons. This site ties into a shopping site, so be sure it is offering you actual discount codes and not just links to third-party partner sites.
The Consumer Reports article lists keycode.com as the best online coupon code site. The layout of the site is incredibly user-friendly. You can search for a specific product, browse categories and merchants, and see nice graphical images of featured deals. When I searched for my HP printer, keycode.com had some HP deals, but none that would work for my specific printer.
Slickdeals.net is more like a blog. Specifically, each recent day has a listing of current or new offers. The site offers a way to search by product, category and manufacturer. There is also a sitewide search. Slickdeals.net seemed to be most up to date and responsive to current offers. It had less of a shopping or promotional feel, and I found the best offer for my printer on slickdeals.net. Searching Hewlett-Packard -- it didn't recognize "HP" -- I found a $20-off code that worked for me on the HP site.