Tips Regarding Printable Coupons in pdf Format


I love printable coupons. In the almost two years that I have been using coupons I have noticed an increase in the amount of printable coupons manufacturers put out. Not only are there more printable coupons available but also I find that the value is a lot of times more generous than coupons found in the newspaper inserts. However, and unfortunately, printable coupons are often abused and can be easily manipulated.

Because I feel strongly about responsible couponing, I want to share with you some common sense tips regarding the use and distribution of printable coupons in pdf format:

1) In general, don’t trust printable coupons (in pdf or even jpeg form ) that are not hosted or cannot be found on the manufacturer’s website. Scanned coupons are a BIG problem and almost always result in coupon offers being withdrawn by the manufacturer.

2) Even if you see a coupon being distributed by another reputable website that’s in this form, always question it. I have shared before a couple of resources you can use to make sure the coupon you received from a friend via email or you found on a website is legitimate.

3) Most manufacturers are moving away from releasing coupons in pdf form. You can be sure that most large companies are now trusting technology such as Bricks, or coupon providing services like or Red Plum, to release their coupons. There are some manufacturers that have made it clear they don’t release printable coupons in pdf format. One such manufacturer is Procter & Gamble. This is the reason when I saw these printable coupons available on the Cookie Magazine website earlier this week I knew they were unauthorized and most likely the result of someone scanning the magazine. One of the coupons was for Tide detergent, which is one of Procter and Gamble Products.

4) Practice common sense and read the details. Continuing with the example of the Cookie Magazine coupons, if you read some of the coupons you can discern that this is a scan of a coupon not the actual coupon. For example, the Bagel Bites coupon states on the face of the coupon to look at the reverse side for details. But you have no reverse side to look at, do you?

I will say again what I have said before: The bottom line is this, you may be able to get a great deal buy using coupons illegitimately. But chances are you are just hurting the chances of getting another good deal in the future. Would you rather save now or save always?

As the owner of this site that’s visited by thousands every week, I always feel responsible for the information I make available to you. So this is my commitment to you:

  • I will never share a coupon in pdf format that is not hosted on a manufacturer’s website or that I received or a reader received directly from the manufacturer via email.
  • I will never take a coupon in pdf or jpeg format and host it on my site so that I can share it with you.
  • I will perform due diligence to make sure all coupons I share with you are legitimate for you to use.

I only ask one thing from you: To understand that I am human and also make mistakes. So, as much as I work hard to make sure that the information I put in front of you is accurate, there will always be a chance for errors. Please refer to the disclaimer in my “Terms” page for more on this.

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  • Caroline

    I heard about AdPerk having a $5 off of a $20 purchase coupon for Rite Aid when you watch videos. I was wondering if this was for real, or a fake? I’ve never heard of AdPerk before, so I wasn’t sure.

  • Mary

    Just so you know, the Cookie School Year’s Eve coupons are legitimate and can be found on the Cookie site under Money Saving Coupons…found here

    Yay, legitimate coupons!
    Thanks for what you do!

    • Hi Mary,

      You are missing what I am saying. Just because they are on a legitimate site, it doesn’t mean they are legitimate coupons. Some of them can be unauthorized for distribution in this format. That makes them illegitimate to use.


  • Caroline

    I figured out the answer to my own question! I found the deal right on the Rite Aid website, so I know that it is real.

  • What I don’t understand is why a reputable company like Cookie Magazine would post coupons on the internet illegitimately. It’s not just a matter of they scanned the entire magazine for online reading and the coupons happened to be in there. They deliberately saved them in PDF and linked to them. Is it possible that they have an understanding with the manufacturers so they can make the coupons available to their online readers?

    • Mary Ellen,

      I think it’s because they don’t know any better. Remember Oprah scanned the coupon for free KFC meal and made it available for people to print on her website??? I am not surprised anymore.


  • Lindy

    Thanks for the informative article! I have seen the cookie magazine coupons floating around many coupon sites this weekend. Also, the Rite Aid $5/$20 coupon by AdPerk, is from the Rite Aid website. You have to watch 20 short ad videos to earn the coupons and other manufacturer coupons. HOWEVER, I used the coupon today and it does NOT scan at all. Be aware, others have already stated they have had this problem.

  • Mary

    Hmm..I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m not sure I fully agree especially when a reputable site has it on there promoting their back to school products. Maybe you could call up the company’s you’re not sure about and ask them if that certain coupon is supposed to be online in a pdf format?

  • Cecilia

    There are a couple of coupons I have come across in pdf. I really, really wanted to use them, but I could not bring myself to do it. I wasn’t sure where it originated, and I do not want to give couponers a bad name. I want all the good deals to keep coming.

  • maria

    Thanks so much, for not only the info, but protecting us as consumers form going to the store and being rejected for possible fraudulent coupon now or in the future. Better safe than sorry!

    I visit a lot of different sites and really like several but if a coupon isn’t on yours or Tara’s site, I just don’t use it.

  • Mercedes

    Hi Mary,

    I don’t need to call the companies. These are the guidelines that I use to make sure I use coupons properly. I won’t be using the coupons or promoting their use because past experience has taught me enough. I have also learned that each person will do what they feel is right for them. This is what is right for me and what I will practice on my blog.


  • April

    Thanks for pointing out the rules on pdf/coupons. I wanted to point out that you have a huge following and that since you provided a link directly to the coupons you are calling in question, that you probably ‘helped’ spread these same coupons around.

    I suggest you use photoshop to export that page, and then watermark the coupons as unusable if you really want to show them. if your readers really want to find those coupons they can go to the cookie mag website and look for them.


  • Thanks for pointing this out. I’ve come to the point where I just don’t think I will used pdf coupons at all. There seems to be too high of a chance of it being an improperly used coupon. I do not plan on printing out the highlighter coupon that has been floating around. 🙂

  • K

    Great article 🙂

    Another great tip that I saw elsewhere recently suggested that one should be able to locate the coupon independent of a link in a blog.

    While this apparently doesn’t work w/ the coupons specific to your article (as others have noted you can locate them directly thru the magazine’s site—), it is another way to double check the posts.

    Which brings up my next question……is the much recently posted McDonald’s coupon (free food w/ Angus burger purchase) legit? I cannot located it on the McDonald’s website, so it looks suspect…?

    • Great point K on the McDonalds website. The coupon links back to the McDonalds website but no link from McDonalds website.


  • Modern Day Mom

    April – I completely agree! I understand why Mercedes posted the link for an example, but I wouldn’t have known where to access the PDF coupons except for the link posted in this blog. I won’t be using them, of course, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who will. A better idea would be to contact folks at Cookie and P&G (as well as the rest of the companies represented in the PDF) to get everything straightened up and have the PDF removed or edited if necessary.

    K – You can actually access the PDF that Mercedes posted on the Cookie site via their School Year’s Eve page. Just click on the Style File link on the main menu bar and you’ll see the link for the coupons. However, as Mercedes pointed out, coupons aren’t automatically legit just because a reputable company posts coupons on their site. P&G has a policy against PDF coupons, so this coupon was generated elsewhere. I’d be surprised if P&G honors the coupon when stores send it in for reimbursement. That means stores will lose money, which potentially means that many stores might stop accepting internet/printed coupons in the future. That’s not good news for us couponers, and definitely not good news for the stores. It would be better if consumers took responsiblity for their practices just as much as the companies who distribute the coupons. If you’re still questioning whether or not the coupons are “real” then just look at the Bagel Bites coupon: it says “*See reverse side for details.” but there is no reverse side on a PDF printout. I would LOVE to know who at Cookie decided to post this PDF for everyone to use. They obviously don’t know what they’re doing.

    • Thank you Modern Day Mom,

      In all honesty, I have seen this coupon blogged about on other blogs that I never thought any of my readers would not have seen it before. Also, to continue being honest I feel like it is up to people to behave ethically. If people choose to use these coupons, even after what I shared, then they probably would have found a way to get to these coupons anyway. There’s only so much coupon advocacy I can do.


  • OK, I changed the link.


  • Thanks for the heads up!! I have been trying to be really careful about posting pdf’s and I missed that one. I removed it from my posts!! THANKS

  • Alicia

    I have been reading the above responses and am wondering if the McDonald’s coupon that was posted two days ago is considered legitimate. I had printed it off but have not used it.

  • vitanga

    The McDonald’s coupon is definitely legitimate. I got a targeted email with the same link. Also, a unique pin number is generated every time. Even so, I had a problem using the coupon at my local McD’s (in Tosa). I wrote a complaint to corporate about how the situation was handled and they passed the feedback along to the franchise owner and the consultant who works with the franchise.

    The funny thing is that they have stacks pf pre-printed coupons for the same offer in the restaurant that they are giving out to people.

  • Melissa

    I’m still fairly new to this and I wish I’d have read this post before I used the pdf coupon for the highlighters at CVS this morning. I didn’t read any of the other coupons so I didn’t notice the “reverse side” comment on the Bagel Bites coupon.

    I had no clue at the time that the coupon might not be legitimate, and it rang through just fine at the store.

    Thanks for this post. I will be more careful/diligent in the future.

    Now I’m wondering if I should take the highlighters back.

  • Modern Day Mom

    Melissa – CVS would end up giving you the $$$ back instead of the coupon unless you explain the situation and they take the time to sort through all of their coupons to find yours… which honestly, I doubt they will do. They have a 50/50 chance of P&G honoring the coupon, but they will definitely lose out on the $1 if you return them and get cash back. There’s no real harm done for doing something you weren’t aware of! I would just consider it a lesson learned.

  • I loved this post! I am so glad to hear about people doing what is right. Ethics are so important. You laid it all out so clearly. Thanks for taking the time to write this post. I love your site! Thanks so much for all of your hard work!!

  • Thanks so much for posting this! Great info!

  • Lacey

    I have contacted companies many times when I questioned a coupon. Do ya’ll remember the Ocean Spray coupon several, several months ago? I called Ocean Spray and found that it did not exist. A while back, there was a Got2B $2 coupon. I contacted them and they did not deny it. Remember the $1/12 pack of Coke product?? After it being released, people later started saying that the coupon wasn’t good. I had stayed up and printed some, so I wanted to make sure for myself. I called Coke myself, once again, I told them that it was posted online and I was able to print as many as I wanted all with different #s, and they told me that I could use the coupon. I will say that it is good to take it upon yourself to contact companies. Whether a coupon is good or bad, you can find out for yourself and not worry about making a mistake.

  • I really hate it when I learn about stuff like this. There are so many legitimate deals out there, there’s really no need and it just makes it tougher for the rest of us to use legitmate printable coupons. I made out like a bandit this week at Jewel ($177 worth of groceries for $18!!!) and most of what I used were printable coupons. More than once (especially when I have more than one of a coupon) I’ve had to explain to a cashier how to tell the difference between a good coupon and a fraud. I don’t mind as it helps him/her out the next time. But some of them do get downright nasty about it. I just smile and remain patient and try to remember they’ve probably had a bad experience. Plus they can get into serious trouble for taking fraudulent coupons, so I’d be cautious too.

  • Wende

    In regards to the School Years Eve coupon – you can actually get the coupon DIRECTLY from the school years eve website. Go to FAQ and it gives you the link directly from THEIR website for this coupon.

    Go here:

    then FAQ tab and it’s at the bottom.

    I have been emailing Jenny at Southern Savers and she also thinks it’s legit, so I guess everyone will have to make their own determination.

    Sometimes companies do allow coupons to be used outside of their “rules” for special promotions and this would be a special promotion I would say.

    Again – I think everyone will have to make a choice on this one since there is so much controversy on this one.

  • Modern Day Mom

    Just to let everyone know – I wrote Cookie and the four companies represented in the PDF coupon file. Proctor & Gamble just wrote me back:

    From: “P&G Tide”
    To: “Me”

    Hi! Laura,

    Thanks for contacting Tide.

    Thanks for the headsup on the Tide coupon (.pdf file). You are correct. We don’t offer these types of coupons due to the potential for fraud. If you found these coupons on the Internet, you may want to return to the site where they were located to discuss this issue. I’m also sharing the information you provided us with our Promotions Manager and Security Department.

    Since you enjoy using coupons, you might want to check out the following site to see when our next P&G brandSAVER newspaper insert is available. Each month this insert contains valid P&G coupons for a variety of our products:

    While you’re there, why not register to receive our monthly online magazine dedicated to simple solutions, great offers, and promotions from the P&G family of brands. Here’s a direct link to the P&G brandSAVER registration form:

    Hope you’ll stop by.

    Tide Team

  • Thank you Laura so much for taking the time to do that. I think it’s pretty obvious that they are coupon scans.


  • Jessica


    Do you verify the validity of the coupon(s) prior to posting them on your site then?

  • Amanda

    Great job on this post! I have often wondered about some of these coupons, and have been ever so careful since I found out that the coupon I printed and used for a free bag of Riceworks chips was fake. Since then I’ve always checked the source of any coupon, and tend to stay with Bricks, SmartSource and Red Plum. For those who don’t understand the principle behind this post, your statement ‘Would you rather save now or save always?’ gives a great reason for each couponer to think this through.

  • Bobbie

    I just came across your web site and really appreciate all the info here. I had no idea that some coupons printed from the internet were fraudulent. I will be more careful where I print my coupons from now on. Maybe that’s why I have trouble with virus scans from some coupon sites???
    Thanks again!

  • Great post, M! I know I can always trust the resources you have listed here!!

  • Thanks for sharing this information, Mercedes. Very good reminder for all of us.

  • Modern Day Mom

    Well, I have both good news and confusing news. The Sharpie coupon in the Cookie PDF is valid. I just received the following email from a Sanford consumer rep:

    “Hello Ms. Sxxxxxxx,

    Thank you for taking the time to e-mail us and for your support of Sanford products.

    The coupon that is offered on the site is valid. I have confirmed this with the Sharpie Department.

    If we can be of any further assistance don’t hesitate to contact us.

    Brad Kelly
    Sanford Consumer Affairs


  • The pdf on the Cookie site is not a SCAN. It is a pdf of the coupon mechanical that was most likely built in InDesign. Having been a graphic designer my entire career, and having built hundreds of coupons, I was able to identify that much. My best guess is that it went down like this…Cookie worked with marketing department at all of the representative companies with whom they do regular advertising to create “advertorial” or “special” content (ie this school’s eve promotion pdf booklet) The marketing departments got the mechanicals of their respective coupons, including the key codes that create the UPCs (this is like a “font” that only the company that is the owner of the UPC has so that UPCs cannot be re-created easily). Marketing department ok’d the booklet (and I’m sure at Cookie there is a mechanical with signatures) but MAYBE they forgot to notify the redemption department that they were using the mechanical in that special promotion AND MAYBE they forgot to notify the brand team that they were using that mechanical. (Brand teams and promotion/marketing teams are usually different groups of people. Brand companies are very layered, and often don’t know what each other are doing.) This would explain why the pdf is “legitimate” artwork (not a scan) AND why the Tide brand team member Dianne didn’t know about it while the Sharpie consumer affairs team member did. That’s my two cents.

    When brand companies start talking to each other internally, this will stop happening. No mother is at fault for using this coupon. With my knowledge of how brand companies produce creative work, I assure you that at least 10 people signed off on that pdf booklet being posted on Cookie.

    • Hi Lea Ann,

      I want t thank you and Modern Day Mom for your background research on this. I really appreciate the knowledge that you have shared with us today. I think at this point I am going to sit on the fence on this one. While I think that the Sharpie people are giving the OK to use the coupon and that’s good, the fact that Tide says no is also a red flag for me on that coupon at least.
      I am going to err on the safe side and not promote the use of these coupons. I agree with you that companies need to work smarter and take advantage of the technology there’s available now.


  • Thanks for the info and reminders to think about or check on anything we think is questionable.

    Now with the aforementioned McD’s coupon, I had not come across it yet the web to compare, but I did receive it in a email from McD’s directly.

  • Danielle

    Thank you for your concern about the School Year’s Eve coupon page available at On behalf of Cookie magazine, I apologize for any confusion these coupons may have caused. Unfortunately, two of the coupons were not meant to be included online. We have rectified this issue and confirmed the validity of the remaining coupons with each manufacturer. We encourage you to check out, not only for the updated coupon page ( but for other helpful resources to throw a School Year’s Eve celebration of your own. If you have any questions, please contact me directly at
    Thank you,
    Cookie Magazine
    Promotion & Event Coordinator

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  • Great post, Mercedes! I love your site, and I respect everything you say and do. I appreciate you and your hard work!

    • Thank you Amy!! I really appreciate your comments. I want you to know that I really appreciate my readers as well and what I do I do for them.