I’ll be happy when we reach the day when all coupons are paperless and can be redeemed digitally via one device. Some grocery stores allow you to load their store coupons onto your store card instead of clipping coupons, and the UPromise website has some coupons that can be attached to various store reward cards, but so far the process is not simplified.

 

So what are the benefits of paperless coupons (ecoupons)? The first, of course, is that less paper will be used. Another is that customers will be more likely to use their coupons if they’re loaded onto a store reward card instead of clipped from a newspaper insert or printed from a computer. Those methods make it easy to be lost or forgotten. (Even if you forget your store card, most stores can find the card’s number for you using your phone number.)

The SavingStar coupon website launched in April is bringing shoppers one step closer to an ecoupon-only world. Here’s how it works:

Shoppers sign up for a free account with SavingStar and search by ZIP code for participating grocery stores and pharmacies near them. I found that the majority of grocery stores I shop at are part of the program, including my main grocery store, Wegmans. Then, shoppers register their individual store rewards cards with their account. Once rewards cards are registered, shoppers can choose from the site's selection of ecoupons to load onto all the cards. It doesn’t matter which store is patronized — if the store’s rewards card is registered and ecoupons are loaded, shoppers get the discount.

That’s very convenient. Now, here comes the part that’s different, but I think it's a good idea. When ecoupons get used, the savings doesn’t come off the bill at the point of sale. Instead, it gets put into a SavingStar account. Once a shopper has accumulated $5 worth of savings, she gets to choose how she wants to receive that $5. Right now there are four options.

  • $5 can be deposited directly into a bank account
  • $5 can be deposited directly into a PayPal account
  • A $5 Amazon gift card can be chosen
  • $5 can be donated to American Forests
The site says that there are more payout options to come. I really like the Amazon gift card option. I download most of my digital music from Amazon — they often have great $3.99 album deals.

SavingStar offers free apps for the iPhone and Android platforms, too. That way, shoppers can load ecoupons at the grocery store before they checkout if they’ve forgotten to do it from their home computer.

Right now, the coupon selection is limited. There are $20 worth of coupons. None of them are for natural or organic products, but there’s one for Elmer’s Glue Sticks. I’m going to have to buy glue sticks because they’re on my son’s back-to-school list.

As the website grows, I hope it will be able to offer a better variety of coupons. In early July, Bloomberg Businessweek named the site one of America’s Most Promising Startups and mentioned it had 410,000 users. An article on Gigaom just a few weeks later said SavingStar was up to 500,000 users.

SavingStar just gained another user this morning in me. Do you think you’ll be checking out the ecoupon site? 

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