Secrets of the Deal Ninjas: Discount Stacking

big stack of discounts

Everyone once in a while I get talked into teaching a coupon class, and this is the most important principle I try to share. Saving money with one method on a purchase is great, but the true deal ninjas are always thinking “How can I stack multiple discounts?”

Always be looking for ethical ways to combine multiple discounts in a single purchase.

For instance, at the grocery store you can only use one manufacturers coupon per item, but you can use both a manufacturers coupon and a store coupon for the the same thing, if you have them.

There are several components of a transaction where discounts might be available:

    1. Pre-purchase: Discounts that are offered at the store and you don’t have to do anything to receive
    2. At the register: Savings that are taken off at the time of payment, and often require action on your part
    3. After the register: Discounts you become eligible for after making a purchase
    4. Payment method: Savings based on the way you pay. Tends to be the most overlooked.

Your discount stacking toolkit should include:


    Sale – A percentage off, “buy one, get one free” etc. Usually the biggest and best source of savings, but don’t stop there!



    Discount Codes – Primarily for online shopping. Check RetailMeNot for discount codes to the website you’re interested in. If you don’t find one, Google “[website] coupon code” and see if anything turns up. If I see a spot for entering “promo code” at checkout, that tells me I should definitely do a quick check for one!

    Manufacturer’s Coupon – Issued by the manufacturer. Can be printed or digital

    Store Coupon – Issued by the store, often sent via email or printed at the register on a previous purchase.

    Quantity Discount – Is there an extra discount for buying a larger quantity?

    Loyalty Programs – Become a member to receive the full discounts; scan you card or enter phone number at checkout.


    Register Rewards – Savings on your next purchase that print after the transaction for purchasing a certain item or number of items, like CVS ExtraBucks

    Loyalty Programs – Sometimes receive a freebie, discount, or other reward for a certain amount of purchases (Like Kroger or Martin’s fuel rewards)

    Rebates – Additional savings on a product by submitting documentation of purchase by mail or online. Doesn’t count if you always forget to submit them

    Cash Back Websites – Every November I do my plug for Ebates. (Mr. Rebates is a good one too) If you are shopping online and are not registered with a cash back site, you are paying too much. You just follow the link from Ebates to the retailer you are shopping at, and make your purchases. Ebates tracks your purchase and credits a percent of your purchase to your Ebates account, then sends you a check periodically for the balance. Right now, you can earn 3% from Walmart, 6% from Lowe’s, 5% at Old Navy, etc. (Two notes: Use of some coupon codes may invalidate the cash back – a coupon code listed on Ebates will definitely be able to stack with cash back. When in doubt, use the coupon code because it usually is worth more than cash back. Secondly, by using cash back websites, you are basically getting paid the “referral” fee that might otherwise be paid to a blogger or website referring you to a site. That is not unethical, but if you want to support a site like mine, follow its links to products when making a purchase and skip this step of using Ebates)


    Rewards Credit Card – Everything is at least an extra 1% off when you have a rewards credit card in your wallet. I currently use a combo of Capital One Quicksilver with 1.5% cash back on everything or American Express Blue Cash with 3% on groceries and 2% on gas (Note: for many folks, I do believe it easier to stick to a budget when you stick to cash. Please do not fall for the TV ads where folks fight to pay the restaurant bill because they get 2% restaurant rewards on their credit card. But for maximum deals, credit card rewards are an easy component.)

    Discounted gift cards – If you can, scoop up discounted gift cards to your favorite retailers and restaurants, like the $5 Groupon for $10 at Starbucks that was recently available. I call this gift card discount laundering, which definitely has an illegal sound to it, but it just means that to businesses, your gift card is the same as paying with cash or credit. Whether you paid less than face value doesn’t affect your ability to use coupons or other discounts that might state “not combinable with other discounts or promotions” in the fine print.

      Some common sources for discounted gift cards: credit card rewards can sometimes be redeemed for gift cards 10% or 20% off, warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club, gift card resellers like Gift Card Granny, and purchasing at Kroger during promotions when you can earn 4 fuel points for every dollar spent plus possibly a higher percentage of cash back on your credit card (So a $25 gift card earns you $.10 off per gallon of gas)

    Alternatively: Gift Card Bonuses – Now is the time to pick these up! Through mid-December, some retailers and many restaurants will give you a bonus amount or a freebies when purchasing a gift card or gift certificate. For instance: Barnes & Noble will give you a $10 bonus for a $75 gift card purchase by Dec. 3. Check this list for more ideas.

    Tax Savings – Make healthcare-related purchases with pre-tax dollars using your Flexible Spending Account

Frequently, at least one discount from each category is available. (Always read the fine print of any discount to find exclusions.)

Here are a couple of examples of how this principle can play out:

    Buying contacts from
    10% cash back at Ebates
    15% off with coupon code listed on Ebates
    $23 volume discount for buying 8 boxes
    $25 rebate fram manufacturer
    Free shipping
    Paid with pre-tax Flexible Spending Dollars

    Sneakers for my son at Gymboree:
    Clearance tagged 60% off original price
    30% off storewide sale
    20% off coupon from mail
    1.5% cash back credit card

What are some of your favorite ways to stack?

Share this deal with friends:
    November 18th, 2013 by