Common Reasons Promo Codes Don’t Work

Common Reasons Promo Codes Don't Work | Money Savvy Living


Promo codes are a great and easy way to save money. Unfortunately, they have a reputation for being a little temperamental and can cause frustration when they don’t work and you don’t know why.

There are a lot of reasons why a promo code might not work, and it can be difficult to figure out the reason for each exact code, but here are some common explanations:


Code is Expired

This is probably the most common reason a code won’t work. No matter where you find the promo code, it always comes with an expiration date. If you’re trying to use the code after the expiration date, it likely won’t work. That’s not to say that it definitely won’t work, as some expired codes can still be applied, so it can be worth a shot to try it and see it the discount is applied.

Minimum Purchase Requirement Not Met

Many coupon codes come with certain minimum purchase requirements, such as getting 20% off your purchase if you spend $50 or more. Minimum requirements are typically included in the main text of the code, but that isn’t always the case. Customer service representatives aren’t likely to let you use the code without meeting the requirements, so add more items to your cart or find another code that will work.

Code Only Good for First-Time Customers

In an effort to attract new customers, many sites like Gilt City offer valuable coupon codes to customers making their first purchase. If you try to use this coupon code on a subsequent purchase or if you already have an account, it likely won’t work.

Product or Category is Excluded

Many stores, such as Nordstrom, include a huge list of excluded items with their promo codes. This can be deceptive in some places, because promo codes labeled “storewide” might not actually apply to the entire store. The lesson here is to carefully read the fine print before making a purchase—customer service representatives are very unlikely to let you use the code on an excluded item.

Another Promo Code Was Already Applied

Some stores occasionally apply a promo code automatically when you log into your account. Most of the time you can use a different promo code if you wish, but sometimes it takes a little tinkering to get the new code to work. In these cases, customer service representatives are usually very helpful and can help get the desired code to your account.

Store No Longer Accepts Promo Codes

Promo codes are typically at the discretion of store management, so when a store or website is bought out by a new company, the promo code policies could change and make your codes unusable. There isn’t really a good situation to this problem, as it seems to be a natural side effect of when a company is bought. However, customer service representatives can be helpful and may be able to add the code manually.

Shopper Must Be Signed In to Redeem Promo Code

In some cases, you can only redeem a promo code if you have created an account at the store or site. Almost every online retailer lets customers create a free account very quickly, so this issue can be solved with little effort.

Code Not Available in All Areas

This is a common issue with free shipping codes in particular. Smaller local and regional stores often don’t have the ability or power to ship items to certain areas of the country or internationally, so their “free shipping” codes really only apply to a certain radius. Sometimes stores try to drum up more business in a certain region so they release codes that are only good for that region and don’t work if you live somewhere else.

Store is Having Technical Difficulties

You might automatically think this is the reason for a bad code, but it is actually a rare occurrence. That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen on occasion. If the site is experiencing technical glitches, customer service representatives should be very willing to fix the issue and perhaps even throw in an extra discount for the inconvenience.


This article is a guest post by Jason Feller, from  To read more from him or check out more frugal shopping and couponing ideas, you can connect with Dealspotr on Twitter and Facebook.

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