What are Catalina coupons and how do they work?

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Today I want to talk about an important concept in couponing. Catalina coupons. Chances are you’ve heard me talk about them, and chances are if you’ve seen crazy good deals others have done on this blog or others, Catalinas were involved.

What are Catalina coupons?

Simply put, Catalina coupons are coupons that are triggered by your purchases at checkout. They print in a machine next to the register and are handed to you with your receipt. These are not controlled by the store, but by Catalina Marketing. Hence, the name.

Two Kinds of Catalina Coupons

The two kinds of Catalina coupons you may receive include:

1) “Cents-off” coupons. These are the most common variety. Again, they are triggered by your purchases. For instance, I recently received a Catalina coupon for $1 off 2 cans of Wolfgang Puck soup when I purchased that variety in a transaction. It’s also quite common to receive a coupon for a competing brand. Pay attention, some of these may be very high value – occasionally even free item coupons!

2) Off-your-next-order coupons. When couponers refer to getting Catalinas (or CATs or OYNOs), this is generally what they are referring to. Consider these coupons as instant store credit you can use on virtually anything in the store, including produce, meat, and organic products.

How to Get Off-your-next-order Catalinas

Sometimes, the coveted off-your-next-order Catalinas (I’ll just refer to them as OYNO from here on out) are advertised in the store ad. Ever see a promotion like this on the back of your store’s ad?

“Get $10 off your next shopping trip when you buy $30 of participating products”

This is an OYNO promotion. You’ll pay $30, and then get a $10 OYNO you can use on a future purchase.

Now here’s the tricky thing: there are almost always unadvertised Catalina offers at a store. Yes, it’s true. Consider the Gerber Catalina that’s happening at Safeway and Fred Meyer right now.

How Do I find out About Unadvertised Catalina offers?

Follow my blog, and others, for starters. We try to keep you “in the know” on these hidden gems and provide deal ideas!

Also, pay attention at checkout. Sometimes the Catalinas you receive will simply announce Catalinas that are up and coming. They almost always are structured like this:

Buy any Pillsbury Product in a single shopping trip and receive up to $3 to use on a future shopping trip:

Buy (4) & Get $1.00
Buy (5) & Get $2.00
Buy (6) Or More & Get $3.00

I personally also find Catalina alerts by reading forums, such as the ones at Hot Coupon World.

Yes, you CAN Use Coupons!

Ready for the fun stuff?

Use your store and manufacturer coupons on top of the Catalina promotions for deep discounts! Catalina coupons are generally triggered by “pre-coupon” amounts or by the number of items you buy.

Let’s take a specific example – that Gerber Catalina that’s running at Safeway:

Buy (10) Gerber 2nd Purees $1 each (thru 1/9/11)
(5) $0.75/2 coupons from 11/14 Red Plum
Bottom line: $6.25

Because you purchased $10 worth of Gerber, you would receive a $5 OYNO coupon (as part of the Catalina deal). That’s like getting 10 Gerber Purees for $1.25 – $0.12 each!

What Couponers Mean when they Say “Rolling”

Have you ever heard me say something such as, “the Catalina is rolling?”

If so, what I’m getting at is you could take the OYNO you received and apply it towards the same deal and get a second OYNO at the end of it. These can get really fun, and can help you keep your out of pocket expenses low.

Going back to the Gerber, let’s say you wished to work a second transaction. You could do so, like this:

Buy (10) Gerber 2nd Purees $1 each (thru 1/9/11)
(5) $0.75/2 coupons from 11/14 Red Plum
$5 OYNO from Transaction #1
Bottom line: $1.25

PLUS, receive another $5 OYNO for buying the Gerber. Make sense?

Some Catalinas do NOT roll. Walgreens’ Register Rewards (yes, these are OYNOs!), for instance, will almost never roll, unless there’s a fluke in the system. Incidentally, Walgreens Register Rewards are a whole ‘nother ball of wax – complete with their own set of rules.

Risks Involved with Catalina Offers

When you go to do an unadvertised Catalina offer, you are doing so at your own risk. Store employees may be unaware of such promotions, and may not be able to lend assistance.

Some folks will also try to determine if a Catalina offer is “national” or “regional” by trying a deal at another grocery store. I admire such brave guinea pigs!

So what should you do, if things don’t go as planned? You have four options:

1) Do nothing. Eat any loss you just incurred.
2) Reverse the transaction. Return your items, or cancel out.
3) Ask the store. If it’s an advertised OYNO, your best bet may be to just ask the cashier or customer service for transaction. I’ve had managers that were able to “force print” Catalinas for me before.
4) Call Catalina Marketing. For unadvertised OYNOs that don’t print, I think your best bet may be to just call Catalina Marketing. Their number is 1-888-8COUPONS, and select the option for consumers (I believe it is #3). I did this a couple weeks ago and guess what? The Catalina coupon pictured at the top was promptly sent to me in the mail! Just make sure to have your receipt handy when you call.

Even though there are some risks in doing these deals, they are worth understanding and certainly worth doing if you hope to see deep discounts in your grocery bill!

Final Tips about Catalinas

Before I send you out into the World of Catalina Coupons, let me give you a few final tips.

Tip #1: Multiple Transactions are GOOD! If you know some of your purchases will yield an OYNO, buy those first – separately. Then you can turn around and use the OYNO right away to offset the cost of your other groceries. Just be mindful of any line that’s forming behind you, and or gage the friendliness of your cashier. Personally, I’m more apt to shop for one transaction, then head back to the store for the rest of my trip. It really depends on your style, and your store’s willingness to help.
Tip #2: Mind the Expiration Dates! Many OYNO coupons expire QUICKLY, and there is nothing sadder than discovering an expired OYNO sitting in the bottom of your purse. Keep them organized, and mind those dates!
Tip #3: Save on Hard-to-Save-On Items. This goes hand-in-hand with Tip #1, but using OYNOs can be one way to keep out of pocket costs on items such as meat and produce manageable.

If this concept is new to you, what other questions do you have? If you’re an old pro, what additional tips or advice can you share today?

18 thoughts on “What are Catalina coupons and how do they work?”

  1. I loved this post on catalinas. They are so blasted confusing for me and many others. I hope that you don’t mind that I linked to your post on my blog. Your ways of explaining are easy to follow, concise, and newbie-friendly. Thanks for your blog – I love it!

  2. Thanks for a clear explanation.
    One thing I might add is to be aware of how your store calculates the amount spent. In your example of Get $10 OYNO when you spend $30. . . one grocery chain in my area prints the cat when you reach $30 in shelf prices; another chain prints when you reach $30 in sale prices.

    • I always think it is most prudent to go off SALE prices and not SHELF prices. That is always how I will post such deals on my site. There are some who may consider this to be a matter of ethics as well. 😉

  3. The only thing that ever confused me was, if the catalina is unadvertised…how do we find out about them, and the duration they are offered? I received a cat for ziploc bags, but I didn’t see it advertised, and it made me wonder how much else have I missed out on? Any help would be appreciated!!

    • I tried to tackle that in the post above – in the section about unadvertised Catalinas. The best bet is to follow blogs & forums. I wish Catalina Marketing would just put out a list of all their offers, but to the best of my digging and knowledge, they don’t.

  4. I called the Catalina number today because my $3 duracell Catalina didn’t print a few weeks ago. The automated message said that I could wait on hold to talk to someone but that my problem would be processed faster if I emailed them at: [email protected]

    The message said to include in the email the store purchased at, store address, store phone number, Date and time purchased, transaction #, Store Discount Card Id #, Then specifically what the Catalina was for, what was purchased, what was expected to be received, my name, address, & city and state.

    I emailed them and received a response within a few hours that I should allow 6-8 weeks for my request to be processed and then I was given a reference # to include in any correspondence.

    • Just be warned if you take this route – FOLLOW UP! I tried the email thing one time. I got an initial response like you, but NEVER got a resolution weeks later and NEVER saw my Catalina coupon.

      A couple weeks ago when I called, I ended up waiting exactly 5 minutes to speak with a representative. I had my coupons in hand a week later. For me, I’d rather wait a few minutes and get it resolved quickly over the phone than have to wait weeks. I don’t see how the email system processes things faster than phone.

  5. Thank you for this. I received one of OYNO 2 weeks ago and did not know what it was. I am new to the couponong world (and loving it).

  6. Some store will not kick out a catalina if you have used coupons and your total price spent is under the amount you need to spend. You need to have spent say $30 after all coupons are taken off. Albertsons is this way and i missed out on a proctor and Gamble one that was worth a lot. I was only $1 off but it didn’t print. I spent over $40 but I had some good coupons. Walgreens Register reward can be used on another register reward item as long as it is not the same company. Don’t use a unilever register reward for any other unilever product that prints out a register reward. Check the product because a lot of companies are being bought out by the big guys. You can use a shick register reward to pay for a unilever item for instance. Also you can not have more coupons and register rewards than the number of items you have bought. If you have only one package of diapers you can not use a manufacturer coupon and a register rewards. If you buy one other small item you can do it. Also I don’t think you can use register rewards for milk.

  7. I am new to couponing so this is probably a very dumb question. But the CAT coupons-Do you have to use them in the store that prints them and is this where your future savings are going to print?

  8. If a catalina coupon prints out at your store and it has your store logo on it, but it is a manufacturer coupon, can you use it at other stores? Thanks!!

  9. i find it hard to use some of my catalina. if they are a store catalina that is no problem, but if it comes out as a manufactor coupon other stores tell me we can use them at there store because they came from another store. i need help on on this. they tell me it doesnt matter because they have another store printed on it. pleae help [email protected]

  10. How do you start receiving catalinas? I want to use them but can’t figure out how to start receiving thrm. Do you sign up with the catalina company?

  11. Can I use someone else’s catalina coupon for (OYNO) purchases? I work with a charitable organization and bought a product for myself that issued OYNO discounts. I used those discounts on my next purchase for the charitable organization and saved the organization $20! Can other people give me their catalinas for me to use on other future purchases (are they transferable)?

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