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By Jill Cataldo, Coupon Queen, Published August 31 2012

Couponing at the world’s biggest grocer

Since I began writing “Super-Couponing Tips,” I have avoided naming names. My column runs nationally, and my readers patronize many different stores, from Piggly Wiggly in Alabama to Price Chopper in Massachusetts, from Red Apple on the West Coast to Giant Eagle in the East.

But when they send email and ask questions about coupons, my readers name names. And I receive more questions by far about coupon policies at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. than I do for any other chain. So, this week and next, I’ll set aside my “no names” policy to answer the most-asked questions about the world’s largest grocer.

Using coupons at a Wal-Mart shouldn’t be much different from coupon-shopping anywhere else: use coupons, save money. Simple, right? But Wal-Mart’s coupon policy has some differences that are worth exploring.

Q: Is it true that you can get cash back for a coupon overage at Wal-Mart? I’m afraid to try to do this but I’d love to! – Glenda F.

A: Absolutely! Coupon overage occurs when the value of your coupon exceeds the cost of the item you’re buying. Here’s Wal-Mart’s policy: “If coupon value exceeds the price of the item, the excess may be given to the customer as cash or applied toward the basket purchase.”

Just this week, I purchased a 32-count bottle of aspirin at Wal-Mart for $2.22. I had a $3 coupon for any aspirin of this brand, 20-count or larger. Since the coupon exceeded the cost of the aspirin by 78 cents, I was entitled either to receive that extra money back in cash or to apply it to another item in my trip. I bought a pound of apples for 98 cents, and the register automatically applied the aspirin coupon overage to the bag of apples. I paid 20 cents for everything. Don’t be afraid to use coupon overage at Wal-Mart. It’s a great way to bring your total down at the register and apply that “free” money to other items you wish to buy.

Q: I heard that you can use Catalina coupons at Wal-Mart, but they don’t have Catalina machines in the checkout line. How does that work? – Sandi W.

A: While Wal-Mart does not offer the instant coupons that print at checkout, it does accept this type of coupon issued at other retailers, with a few restrictions. This is also covered in Wal-Mart’s coupon policy. Wal-Mart will accept Catalina coupons offered by a manufacturer for a specific product. The coupons must have a scannable bar code, remittance address and an expiration date.

So, for example, Wal-Mart would turn down a Catalina coupon issued by another store for $5 off your next order. However, Wal-Mart would accept a competitor-issued $1 Catalina coupon for a name-brand box of pasta.

Q: Cashiers at two Wal-Marts refused to accept my printed Internet coupons on the grounds that the product vendor won’t repay Wal-Mart. Has this ever happened to you or any of your readers? Is this true?

– John R.

A: “Does Wal-Mart accept printed Internet coupons?” is the single, most-often-asked question I get from readers about Wal-Mart. I have a plethora of reader emails detailing various instances of a Wal-Mart store turning down printable coupons. Once again, the answer can be found in Wal-Mart’s coupon policy: “We gladly accept print-at-home Internet coupons.” The policy goes on to state that the printable coupons must be valid, scannable and legible.

I’ve never heard of a Wal-Mart employee explaining that the store would not be reimbursed for Internet coupons. In fact, walmart.com even offers printable coupons. Why would Wal-Mart offer printable coupons online if it doesn’t accept them in stores?

To avoid problems redeeming printable coupons at Wal-Mart, print out a copy of the coupon policy from the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. corporate website (walmartstores.com) and carry it in your coupon wallet. It is Wal-Mart’s corporate policy to accept printable Internet coupons, and its stores should follow the policy.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.