What Are Coupon Trains?Coupon trains are a way for coupon clippers to get more desirable coupons by exchanging coupons with other members through the postal mail.
Coupon trains can be done locally or online. Since the internet has grown and social networking has become more popular, many couponers now turn to the Internet to find coupon trains to join. The benefit of joining online groups is that members will have a larger variety of coupons to choose from because different regions of the country receive different coupons.
How Do They Work?A person or a group decides to start a coupon train. One person becomes the Conductor or Engineer of the train. This is usually the person who starts the group. The Conductor comes up with the name of the train, how many participants (or passengers) will be in the group, the type of coupons that will be exchanged and a basic list of guidelines for everyone to follow.
There are generally six to 10 people per train.
Once the train has the desired number of participants, the Conductor will put together a list of everyone's email and mailing addresses. They then contact each member and provide them with the name and address of the person who is next to them on the list, also referred to as the next "stop" on the list.
The next step for the Conductor is to put together a batch of coupons. The batch can be from 30 to 100 or more coupons, depending on the amount that the Conductor has decided on. They then mail the batch to the first person (stop) on the list. That person removes the coupons that they want and replace them with other coupons. The replacement coupons should total the same unit and dollar amount as the coupons that were removed.
For example, if the person removes 10 coupons that each has a face value of a dollar each, then they will need to replace the batch with 10 coupons that total ten dollars. They then mail the envelope to the next person on the list and the same process is followed.
The last person on the list is the Conductor. When they receive the envelope back, they replenish the batch with new coupons and the entire process begins again.
Common Coupon Train GuidelinesWhen choosing a coupon train to join, it is important to read the guidelines to decide if it is the type of coupon train that fits with your couponing goals.
Here are some of the most common rules found, however each group likely has their own unique guidelines:
- A set amount of coupons to be sent is decided on. Up to 50 coupons will generally cost up to $1.25 in postage to mail. If the group has decided on 100 coupons you are looking at doubling the postage.
- Many train "riders" will include a wish list of the types of coupons that they need. Wish lists can be sent via email to the entire group, posted on the coupon train's forum or social media page or included in the coupon envelope. This helps everyone, when possible, to collect and include coupons that members want.
- Most coupon trains have a limit as to how many days the envelope can be kept before mailing it to the next member. A three day maximum allows the coupon train to keep moving in a timely fashion.
- The coupons that are replaced should not be close to expiring and any expired coupons found in the batch should be removed. Close to expiring usually means with an expiration date within two weeks of mailing the batch. An exception to this would be a coupon that someone has listed on their wish list.
- No copies of coupons should be sent under any circumstances since copied coupons are illegal.
- Rebate forms, peelies, and internet printed coupons are generally not permitted as replacement coupons unless previously approved in the group's guidelines. Since many times members of a coupon train correspond regularly online, it is recommended that members share information about these types of savings rather than to include them in to train's coupon envelope.
- If a member will not be available (family vacations, business trips, hospital stay, etc.) they should contact the Conductor so that the envelope can be re-routed, otherwise it will get stuck (derailed) until the member returns.
- If a member decides to quit the train, they should inform the Conductor immediately and if the envelope is in route to them they should still mail it to the next person in order to keep the train going. However, if this happens more than one time they are under no obligation to keep mailing it. The Conductor should have it re-routed by the second round.
Different Types of Coupon TrainsNot all coupon trains are the same. Some may be designed to trade specific types of coupons. Common types include:
Baby coupon trains: Members trade coupons for baby products. For example, couponers with newborns trade toddler-related coupons.
Pet coupon trains: Members trade pet related coupons. For example, cat owners will trade coupons with dog owners.
Green and Healthy coupon trains: Members trade environmentally safe coupons and coupons for healthy foods.
Personal Products coupon trains: Members trade drug-store type coupons including coupons for over-the-counter medicines. For example, a person wanting medicine coupons for allergies could trade coupons for members wanting shampoo coupons.
Food Only coupon trains: The name says it all. Members are only interested in trading coupons for money off on food items.
Store Specific coupon trains: Members trade coupons for specific stores only.
Opposites Attract coupon trains: This is for people who have opposite lifestyles. For example, couponers without pets, but with children share with couponers with pets, but no children.
There are also different methods of mailing out the coupons. Some groups (known as Round Robins) are set up to where each member (instead of just the Conductor) puts together a batch of coupons and mails it to their assigned member. The process is continuous. The advantage of this method is that coupons circulate every three to four days rather than every four or five weeks.
Common Coupon Train LingoCouponers love to have special couponing lingo, but there is good reason for it. So much couponing information is shared online and to help coupon lingo has been designed to save space on forums and to shorten the amount of typing time.
- Conductor: Leader and coordinator of the coupon train.
- Engineer: Coordinator of the coupon train, and sometimes also the leader. They decide who is next in line to receive the coupons and communicates it to the members.
- Envie: Envelope
- NAZ: Name, address and zip code.
- Passengers: The members of the group.
- Stations: Different cities/locations where members live.
- Stops: Means the same as stations.
Are You Ready to Take the Ride?Coupon trains are a lot of fun and it really can expand the amount of desired coupons that you can collect. To work properly, everyone on the train has to make a commitment to keep it running.
If you would like to try one out, do a search on the Internet to find one that best fits your needs. Join up, give it a try and if you like doing it, keep at it. If it isn't your cup of tea, make sure to inform the Conductor so the coupons can be re-routed. If you find that you like it, try wearing the Conductor's hat and start your own group! Remember, it is all about couponers connecting together to help each other save.