Coupons are documents that entitle their bearer to a discount on the purchase of a product or service. While some coupons can be entered in the form of a code, others take physical form, such as coupons that can be clipped from advertisements in periodicals. Although coupons are not a form of currency and are not an asset per se, their use can save a person money. So, while most coupons cannot be cashed in, they can often be sold.
Coupons are issued by companies that sell a product or service. A coupon that entitles a bearer to a discount cannot legally be issued by anyone except the party selling the product to which the coupon applies. Coupons are generally issued by a company with the intent of increasing sales at the business or to increase awareness of the company. Coupons are not, therefore, intended to be exchanged for cash; they are meant to be used to purchase the company's products.
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Although coupons are not intended to be exchanged for cash, many companies do assign the coupon some cash value. For example, a coupon will commonly come printed with a message stating that the coupon holds a value of 1/10th or 1/100th of a cent. Generally, companies will be willing to exchange these coupons for cash. So, if a person sent in 10 coupons, each of which were worth 1/10th of a cent, the company would send the person one cent.
This assignment of value to coupons only applies to physical coupons. An online coupon does not have any physical presence, but instead takes the form of a code. This code cannot be cashed in, as there is no object to cash in. For a company to agree to compensate an individual for the code would be both logistically difficult and largely pointless. In addition, photocopies of coupons, as well as other reproductions, cannot be exchanged for cash.
Although a person may be unable to trade in a coupon for cash, he may be able to sell it to another party for cash. For example, the online auction site eBay sees a brisk trade in coupons, with parties auctioning them off to the highest bidder. Although some companies may state on the coupon that it cannot be sold, there are no laws that forbid the buying or selling of coupons. So the practice, while discouraged by companies, is technically legal.