Saturday, February 13, 2016

A primer for shopping at JCPenney's website for clothes and household goods! (50%+ off?!)

President's Day weekend is always full of sales. Read on for some ways to maximize the deals at this retailer ...

My friend Shawn over at Miles to Memories often refers to maximizing deals as using "ninja tricks." Those tricks generally include some combination of finding the best possible prices (sometimes via the use of coupons or other sales/discounts), using shopping portals, buying discounted gift cards, and/or taking advantage of retailers' reward programs.

This holiday weekend, I figured I'd share some ways to save big (50% off, or so!) at JCPenney's website.  While maybe not your favorite store, it can be a great place to buy clothes and other household goods (such as bath and bedding products).

JCPenney (JCP) is ALWAYS running sales and coupons. It's their model. So you have to be careful that you're buying during the best sales and using the best coupons. The sale prices are a bit tough to gauge, because they fluctuate quite a bit for some items (and not at all for others), so I can't give you much advice for spur-of-the-moment shopping (easier if you're watching a particular item over time). I guess the most important thing is comparing JCP's "sale" price (before you start layering on other discounts) to other retailers' prices, to have a proper frame of reference (and not get suckered into thinking that what JCP says is "30% off" really is!).

In terms of coupons, it's important to know that JCP almost always has a 15%-,  20%-,  25%-, or 30%-off coupon (and sometimes others like $10 off $25+) listed on their main home page. So obviously you'd prefer to use the 25% or 30% off coupons. What makes this weekend so good is that they are running a 30% off coupon ("2SAVNOW"). Also sometimes the coupon is 5% better for JCP store credit card holders (but never more than 30%, in my experience, even for those holders), but not this weekend (30% for all!).  Note that to get the highest level of %-off, you usually have to spend a certain amount ($100 is the threshold for 30%-off this weekend). To get free shipping, you usually have to spend $99 (or $25 to get free shipping to their store, for in-store pickup).

Two final warnings on JCP coupons. First, beware that they are limited from being used on some items and brands (often big-name brands). Second, be sure that the coupon code you plan to use is listed on the portal's (described below) website under the JCP section. If it is not, there is a risk you might not get credit for shopping through the portal. You might still get credit for it anyway (if you use a coupon code not listed on the portal's website), but just know that you're taking a risk on that portion of the savings ... described here ...

So onto that next step. As mentioned in my shopping portals link, you always want to check CashBackMonitor to see what shopping portal you should use to begin your shopping journey. Today (can always change tomorrow!) the best portal to use is Ebates (that's a referral link for me - but you get $10 for signing up if you're new!). Via Ebates, for example, today you'd earn 10% back (in the form of cash you can withdraw from your Ebates account quarterly) on all your purchases from JCP - if you begin the shopping trip from Ebates (to JCP).

But wait, there's more. You can purchase discounted JCP gift cards at any number of gift card reselling websites. You can look up the best one to use at GiftCardWiki, but if you're in a hurry, I recommend as a fast/safe/reputable place to buy discounted gift cards. And a cool thing is that Raise has been running a promo almost every weekend to get an additional 5% off most gift cards (unfortunately not JCP this weekend!) with the coupon code TAKE5. Even without the 5% code, last I checked, JCP gift cards are selling for nearly 25% off face value at Raise. And they usually get delivered to your email address (be careful not to buy physical gift cards that get sent in the mail! only e-gift cards!) within an hour or so (often right away!). Also note that you can use a maximum of TWO gift cards per JCP online order. (Note: you can buy gift cards from Raise via a shopping portal too, but there's a lifetime limit to how much portal rebate you can earn.)

So let's add it all up. Let's say you find some clothes, bed and bath items that add up to $300 or so "face value." They are likely already "on sale" at JCP for $200 or so (but we can probably ignore this, since they probably sell for around $200, or possibly even less, at other stores). Now, assuming all the products are NOT excluded from the coupon, we apply the 30% off coupon. That takes you down to $140. Now you go to Raise and buy $140 (you might have to approximate to get as close to $140 as possible) in e-gift cards, and at roughly 25% off, that will cost you $105.

Finally, clear everything out of your JCP shopping cart (you need to start "fresh" for the shopping portal to work for sure!), and open a new private/incognito browser session. Go to the shopping portal of your choice (Ebates at 10% is best today), log into your portal account, and then click-through to JCP. Once there, log into your JCP account (or create one) and load up your cart with the items you want to purchase. Then check out and pay with the e-gift cards. (Note: most portals are okay with you using gift cards to make your purchase, with the notable exception of Discover - who requires that you pay entirely with your Discover credit card if you're using the Discover Deals portal.) For the $140 in post-coupon amount of goods you are buying (and paying for with gift cards), you will earn 10% back ($14) into your Ebates account.

Thus, at the end of the day (or at least this shopping trip), you're real out-of-pocket cost for the goods is $91!!! While the full face-value price of $300 you started with might be bogus, often times the $200 sale price isn't far off what you'll find at other stores. So to actually pay $91, in this hypothetical example, is a great deal! (potentially 50%+ off!)

Hopefully that little primer on saving money at JCPenney is helpful to some. Given the 30% off coupon, 25% off discounted gift cards, and 10% shopping portals (all at or near the best levels you can expect to find), this truly is a great weekend to stock-up on any clothes or other household goods you might need - IF you can find them at JCP, and they aren't excluded from the coupon (although the discounted gift cards and portal discounts would still work!).

(Note: I didn't even mention JCP's store rewards program. I have to admit that I don't have a lot of experience with it, so I'll let you examine it on your own. As with many store rewards programs, there are a number of limitations and short-time-frames for using the rewards. But, suffice to say, to the extent you get any value out of it, it only makes the deal described above all that much better!)

Hope everyone has a great 3-day weekend. Let me know in the comments if this was helpful to you, or if you have any questions or thoughts.

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