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Dialing your smartphone for store coupons

Mobile Finance » Dialing your smartphone for store coupons

Woman scanning barcode of cosmetic product with smartphone © Robert Kneschke/

Our smartphones have moved well beyond such pedestrian activities as making calls. They have turned into organizational hubs for all aspects of our lives -- from health to wealth.

They've even made discount hunting incredibly easy and convenient. Couponing is now as simple as swiping your screen. With the right arsenal of apps, you can effortlessly navigate sales, compare prices and even get money back on some of the items you buy. And the best of these apps require little to no effort on your part.

If you're a savvy shopper, you'll do well to have each of the following types of apps installed on your phone. Unless otherwise indicated, the apps mentioned are free and available on Android and iOS.

Couponing and discount-hunting apps

Many retailers offer their own individual apps. You can download them to see the coupons and promotions they offer. Best Buy, for example, has an app that shows you all of its deals, as well as a "deal of the day." This is useful, but a possibly more convenient way to go about couponing is to download a single app that compiles a massive list of retailers' coupons.

"There are a ton of money-saving apps out there," says Kendal Perez, frugal living expert and blogger at She's also associated with Coupon Sherpa, an app that lists coupons from hundreds of retailers and restaurants.

Coupon Sherpa is essentially a database of discounts, offers and coupons. You can look for coupons near you, and you can save your favorite stores. Most conveniently, many retailers let you simply show them the coupon's bar code on your phone at checkout.

RetailMeNot is another popular couponing app. Like Coupon Sherpa, it tells you which stores have coupons available, and you can show the cashier your phone to get the discount. With RetailMeNot, you also can enable alerts for nearby deals.

Here's an outside-the-box option for nabbing discounts with your phone: The online marketplace Raise recently released an iPhone app that lets you search for discounted gift cards, buy them with your phone and then use them at checkout.

Like any discount gift card site, Raise allows sellers to get rid of their unwanted gift cards by selling them for less than face value. This allows buyers to get the full value of the card at a discount. Ideally, here's how their app would help you save money, in store.

Let's say you're waiting in line at Starbucks. You open the app and see there's a digital $10 Starbucks gift card you can buy for $8. You purchase it, the card shows up instantly on your app and you show it to the cashier, saving you $2.

Of course, that's an ideal situation. Retailers, gift card availability and savings will vary.

Price-comparison apps

Amazon's huge online marketplace makes it simple and convenient for consumers to find low prices. They've become a major competitor for stores like Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart. As a result, some of these brick-and-mortar stores will price match an in-store item, should you find it cheaper online.

Of course, there are rules and restrictions that apply to these price-matching policies. But the shopper now has the advantage of comparing online prices with in-store prices. There are a few apps that make it easy to do this.

With RedLaser, you scan an in-store item's bar code, and it will tell you how much that item costs at different online retailers. What's more, the app also tells you if there are special deals on the item at nearby stores. You can also keep your store loyalty cards on the app and save items you like for viewing later. ShopSavvy is a similar app. You scan an item's bar code, and it tells you how much that item costs online and at nearby stores. You can also enable alerts for new deals.

PriceJump, available for the iPhone or as a Chrome browser extension, is another contender, and it includes a feature that makes the bottom line pretty simple. Its "best" price column tells you exactly where to find the best price in each of three categories: local, Amazon and online.

Whichever app you choose, it will serve its purpose if it allows you to scan an item and then compare prices for it.


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