Learn to Coupon | Coupon Barcodes

Learn to Coupon

Welcome to Learn to Coupon... in 30 days. For the next 30 days (week days),  I will be posting a couponing how to.  Each day we will build on the prior days information. The goal of this series is to teach you the basics of couponing. Where to start, what coupons to use, how to use your coupons and more.This series will focus on realistic strategies for couponing.  There will be some depth to the posts, so you will need to spend the time reading the posts in the entirety. Since each post will build on the day before, I suggest you read them chronologically.

If you have not read Day #1, you can read it here.

Day #2 – What Does A Coupon Barcode Mean?

Yesterday, we looked at the Anatomy of A Coupon. You should now be able to look at a coupon and know all the basics of the coupon. Today, we are going to start to explore the coupon in more depth.   The coupon barcode is the instructions of sort. When the barcode is scanned, it tells the register what you must buy.

As we established yesterday, you can determine if your coupon is a manufacturer coupon by looking at the bar code. If the bar code starts with 5 or 9, it is a manufacturer coupon. If it does not have a scannable barcode with a 9 or 5, you probably have a store coupon in your hands.  Even if the coupon states manufacturer coupon, it is in fact a store coupon and cannot be used at other stores.

The coupon barcode holds a wealth of information.  It tells the computer what product you are to buy, how many and how much the coupon is good for.  When you learn about these coupon barcodes, it will help you understand what and how to use them.

NOTE: Some people use barcode knowledge to cheat the system.  This is totally unethical and I am by no means suggesting that you learn this system. The information I am sharing here is only to be used for ethical and fair couponing.

The first digit of the UPC Code signifies that it is a coupon.  The code will be 5 or 9.

::  If a coupon begins with a 5, this tells the register that the coupon can be doubled.

:: If the code begins with a 9, this tells the register that the coupon cannot double.

Note: Sometimes you will see Do Not Double on the top of a coupon and the barcode starts with 5.  This is contradictory – because if the coupon is scanned, it will automatically double at stores that offer doubling. The cashier will have to override this.  You can read more on do not double here.

Some stores such as Rite Aid, do not have their registers programmed to recognize coupons that begin with a 9.  If you use a coupon that starts with a 9 at some stores, you will find they will beep, even if the coupon matches the product. (Remember, a register beeping or not beeping is not necessarily an indication of proper coupon usage).

Many of the coupons you find in store will be a 9 coupon.  Some retailers use this 9 code to distinguish coupons that are distributed in the stores, such as peelies.

The next few digits helps to match the coupon to the products you are to buy. The register will beep if the product upc codes do not match the upc codes on the manufacturer coupon.

The value code is the next item of importance. The two-digit field following designates the redemption value of the coupon in dollars and cents. Some numbers are a direct representation of face values (for example, code number 10 represents a 10 cent coupon value) and some are not (such as code number 83 represents a $2.25 coupon value).

Soure: AccurGraph

This chart tells you what the value code means in each coupon.

The value code digits should match the verbiage on the coupon. For example, 76 means to take one dollar off one item.

These value codes are also helpful to know how many coupons you can use.  Remember, you can only use one manufacturer coupon per item.  This does not mean that you can always use one actual coupon per item.  The value code tells the computer how many items it must scan in order for the coupon to be valid. It “attaches” to each of these bar codes.

So for example, the coupon above for $1.00 off 1 Milk Bone works like this.  This is considered one manufacturer coupon per item. You may not use any other manufacturer coupons with this transaction.

This next coupon is for $1.00 off the purchase of 2 Greens Ice Cream.

To redeem this coupon , you must buy 2 Green’s Ice Creams.  This coupon will attach to both items UPC. Even though you are only using one coupon, the requirement is a purchase of 2.  You will not be able to use another manufacturer coupon with these items. This example is still considered one manufacturer coupon per item.

The last example is a purchase of three items.

To redeem this coupon , you must buy 3 Breakstone Cottage Cheese.  This coupon will attach to all three items. Even though you are only using one coupon, the requirement is a purchase of 3.  You will not be able to use another manufacturer coupon with these items. This example is still considered one manufacturer coupon per item.

The key is to remember, that regardless of value or actual number of coupons, only ONE manufacturer coupon can attach to an item.  So, you may have 20 items and only 10 $1.00/2  coupons, but all of your items have a coupon attached.

Remember, the bar code is a tool to make couponing easier for  all of us.  Please do not abuse coupon barcodes.

Source: Accrugraph

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here
  • cassandra

    I was wondering about the new style of barcode used. How do I make sure that the products i am buying are correct by looking at it?

    • Debbie

      Hi Cassandra, this is a very old post and most of this no longer applies. Don’t rely on the barcode, go by the wording on the coupon itself, including the fine print.

  • mike

    Want to start couponing but I’m kind of confused because I have like five coupons on the same item but it says limit one for each purchase. I’m wondering what the coupon had to say for me to get quantities of products and have to pay zero dollars? Please help email – michaelhall244@Gmail.com

  • debbie

    I have lots of coupons with no bar-codes, The store i went to said it was no good! Is this true??


    I am watching Extreme Couponing and I had to see if what a lady said was true about the coupons beginning in 5 or 9. This is really interesting.

    • Natalie

      Hi there,

      This used to be true, but now there is a new barcode on most coupons, so that rule only sometime applies.

      Let us know if you have any questions. Nice to have you here!

      • Manny

        Hi Natalie,

        I work for an importer that uses a UPC that starts with a 5. Recently one of our customers complained that they could not sell our stuff on Amazon because he is using a UPC (ours) that starts with a 5 that is designated for manufacturers. Does that make any sense to you?

        • manny

          correction: *that is designated for coupons.

  • Tammy

    Im new to couponing. I have a couple of coupons a friend gave me but cannot see the barcode much like in the left of your example. All I can see is the barcode much like the right of your example — this doesn’t tell me if the barcode starts with a 5 or 9. Wheres the other barcode? how do I tell based on the barcode given to the right? I need help! Thank you in advance

  • Felicia

    Can a $1.00 or more coupon be double when there is a 5 in the bar code?

    • Kaitlyn

      It can if the 5 is the very first number!

  • shana

    I live in a small town so I am haveing a hard time finding coupons any ideas on where Icould find some that are worth my while? I have not yet started couponing but I have been watching it on tv and i want to startplease help!!! TY

  • yvette

    okay im still kinda confused. the 5 means to double right? does that mean i double what im getting?

    • Erin

      No, the 5 means that the coupon CAN be doubled if you go to a store that doubles coupons. Kroger notoriously doubles them (if you have a Kroger) but Meijers (if you have them) almost never double.

    • Asia

      Example: if the coupon says fifty cents off one candy bar and the code begins with a five that basically means the coupon is worth one dollar off one candy bar since it doubles the worth of the coupon.

      • jenna

        so if you have a coupon for $0.50 off ONE candy bar and it doubles does that mean you get it free and get $0.50 with it ? sorry i am new to this but i watch lots of extreme couponing and i would love to understand it like you all do but i am not good with numbers lol

    • Dairena

      No,it means if ur coupon says $.50 off one candy bar n dha candy bar is $1.00 its going to double to $1.00 so its FREE
      if it begins with 5…so basically it doubles the money so u can pay less!!!!!

  • Melissa

    I’m confused about the issue of doubling. I’ve never couponed before, still trying to learn…thanks for all of this by the way!!! So when and why do coupons get doubled? Is it when stores run promos on certain days allowing it?

  • Peggy Fuller

    My question is, what if the coupon says manufacturer coupon at the top and on the side it says to redeem at a certain store? It has a 5 at the begining of the bar code.

  • krystle

    Do you know anything about coupons that say a certain store but start with a 5 onb the barcode. So question is if the top says CVS instead of MF and the barcode is a 5 does that mean its a store or mf coupon ?

    • elaine

      Good question! I’d like to know that too.

      An example is the $3.00 Nature Made CVS coupon found in Reinventing Beauty Magazine.

      It starts with a “5” but there’s no info about the manufacturer on it. In fact it says CVS on it and it states that it cannot be combined with any other CVS coupon.

      So, I’d assume it is actually a Store Coupon and NOT a manufacturer coupon. Am I wrong?

      Could you clarify this to me please?

    • SAMI

      HELLO ITS MY FIRST TIME IN here but any ways , i hope this well help ,,, it is a manufacture coupon even if it says cvs on it . if you know any manager or a worker that works any where else thats they sell the sell the same item to take it well scan and they well get reimbursed for it . this why it says only cvs on it and you cant find it on other stores , the same manufacture made a deal with cvs if you sell this much of this item we will remburse you this much and that why ,, but any way you can use it any where u want or the cashier is nice to take their Competition coupons , i hope this helped a little

  • Ashley

    I have a manufacturers coupon with a 5 on it, does that mean I can use 2 of these coupons on 1 item?

  • Ok so I read the bar code info, can u plz tell me what exaclty I’m suposed to be looking for?? Confused I get what the 5 and 9 mean but what about the other numbers on the bar code??

    • Shannon

      They mean nothing as far as a couponer goes unless you are trying to cheat the system –

  • Beth

    I’m just a little confused. If I am going to use the barcode to help me use coupons, what can you possible do to abuse the coupon bar code? I find your information helpful (and will be looking at bar codes in the future), but I don’t want to be “cheating”. I guess I don’t understand what the difference is. Can you explain a little more (without telling us how to cheat, of course!)

    • Shannon

      Beth, the information to cheat is not included and I would rather not go into details. There are ways to use other information on the barcode to cheat the system.

  • Susan

    So, my question is…if the coupons are coded you have to buy this # of item but the coupon reads a higher quanity..what do you go by? This can be confusing. If they code it one way…shouldn’t that be allowed? Still new to all this…want to do it the right way. Thanks so much for all this wonderful information. It is really clarifing things for me.

    • Shannon

      its very rare the coding is incorrect.

  • Barbara

    This is great. I posted your link on my facebook page and blog. My facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Couponsfromheavencom/153087277190.

  • Brandy

    Yeah I have a question about using a b1g1 coupon along with another mq. I can do this right? because the one I buy is not the one that the coupon is going toward right? I am sure youwill get to this question but wanted to have it just in case.

  • Becca

    I have a very similar question to JuyR’s . . . .

    If I have a buy 2/$1.00 off Mrs Dash MFC
    and a get $1.00 off meat or fruit WYB1 Mrs Dash MFC.

    I figured I’m buying the Mrs Dash – and I’m buying the meat –

    But the assistant manager was completely NASTY – and said that SHE would NOT be allowing such a transaction – and I had to but 3 Mrs Dash if I expected to use 2 coupons in her store.

    That is GIANT’s company wide store policy – I’ve read it over and over – since that night this week and I’m not seeing it.

    (As my budget was very tight that evening I had to have them void the Mrs Dash and meat off my order. They were horribly nasty – I’m so not wanting to go back to the store. And of course it has to be the closest one to my house. )

    • Shannon


      some people are just nasty about coupons. Sorry this happened. I will say the above transaction does depend on the coding of the coupon, which most people will never know. If the coupon beeped, most likely it was trying to attach to a Mrs. Dash and the meat and the other coupon was already attached to it.

  • Judy R

    I have a coupon for buy two hungry jack hash browns and get $1 off egg purchase….If I had a coupon for just cents off the hungry jack hash browns could I use that with the other coupon?

  • Polly

    Great incite Shannon, thanx for the explanation.

  • heather

    OK, so I have a question.. i had some coupons for b1g1 deodorant, and then i had a coupon for buy such and such deodorant get the body wash free… if both coupons were “attaching” to the same deodorant how did it go thru?

    • Shannon


      I don’t know the specifics of the coupons you are referring to but I will be addressing BOGO Coupons in a separate post, but again, just because you successfully used a coupon doesn’t mean it is proper usage. {I am not saying it is or isn’t in this case} but BOGO coupons are not coded the same way as $1.00 or cents off coupons.

      I also want to reiterate that a register beeping or not beeping is not an indication of whether you are using the coupons properly.

  • Miranda M

    I almost didn’t read this post because to be honest I thought it was going to be boring, but this is awesome information. Thank you!!!! I just found out about people “cheating” the system by matching UPC codes and such which is awful (extreme couponing example YUCK), but I found it was helpful for me to do that the other day when I was using a coupon with a lot of exclusions on it. I bought products I believed counted for the coupon and then double checked the corresponding code number to ensure they would work… But I definitely don’t believe in using that method to buy things totally unrelated to the coupon, BOOO

  • norma

    I know this is a YMMV situation, but do you have any insight as to why some stores will allow a MQ with a BOGO coupon if you’re getting two products and other stores won’t? Our Publix and CVS use to allow it, but now they’re saying the manufacturer is telling them not to. I didn’t know if that was correct or not. Thanks!

    • Shannon

      Norma, stay tuned but some of the coding in the barcode plays into that. :)