It’s an odd quirk of couponing, that the people you would think are least likely to need coupons are most likely to use them – and vice versa. Studies and surveys have shown that higher-income shoppers are more likely to use coupons than lower-income shoppers – particularly SNAP (formerly food stamp) recipients for whom coupons could really help stretch their budgets.

So a major digital coupon provider is trying to help change that, by making coupon use alongside SNAP benefits much more convenient.

Coupons.com owner Quotient Technology today announced a new partnership with Propel, a New York-based startup that offers an app to help SNAP recipients manage their benefits. Users of Propel’s “Fresh EBT” app will now be able to access and select digital coupons seamlessly, within the app.

“The biggest request we receive from families is how can we help them save money on groceries,” Propel CEO Jimmy Chen said in a statement. “By teaming up with Quotient, the leader in digital coupons and grocery savings, we’re making it possible for our users to save money through Fresh EBT to feed their families.”

Propel launched the app nearly two years ago, to help the 42 million Americans who rely on SNAP benefits – and the estimated 70% of them who have smartphones – “bring their EBT card into the 21st century”. SNAP participants who get their benefits via Electronic Benefits Transfer can use Fresh EBT to view their balance, transaction history and next deposit date, to find nearby stores that accept EBT and to create grocery lists that will keep them within their budget.

And now, the million people a month who use Fresh EBT can access digital coupons without having to open a separate app or website. Once they link a loyalty account and select the coupons they want to use, they simply enter their phone number when checking out, just like any other digital coupon user, to get their savings.


“Too many families are living on the edge, and I’m thrilled that Quotient can help Propel’s million – and growing – struggling families save extra money on groceries,” Quotient Executive Chairman Steven Boal said.

Over the years, numerous studies have shown that lower-income shoppers are less likely to use coupons than higher-income shoppers. Many simply don’t have the disposable income to buy newspapers for insert coupons, or to buy printers and ink for print-at-home coupons. Digital coupons, in contrast, can be accessed for free as long as you have access to the internet – yet a study several years ago from Quotient itself found that “digital coupon users are more educated and have higher household incomes than newspaper coupon users and the overall general public.”

So the Quotient-Propel partnership is meant to keep digital coupons top of mind for SNAP recipients. No longer will Fresh EBT users have to make an extra effort to seek them out – they’ll be available right there in the app that they’re already using.

A 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture study encouraged the use of coupons alongside SNAP benefits – not only to help SNAP recipients save money, but to help them make healthier choices, presuming that coupons could help bring down the prices of healthier foods. “Providing a means for distributing coupons to lower-income households participating in SNAP is a potential ‘win-win-win’ intervention that could benefit participating households, public health goals, and manufacturers,” the study read.

Of course, that study encouraged retailers and manufacturers to provide coupons on good-for-you items. Many manufacturer’s coupons tend to be for packaged and processed foods that aren’t exactly great for you. Easy access to digital coupons might even encourage unhealthy habits, by making that bag of chips or package of cookies even less expensive than they are now, as compared to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Another challenge of using coupons alongside SNAP benefits is that digital coupons, like paper coupons, are taxed in many states. And the money to pay that sales tax can’t come from an EBT account – it has to be paid out of pocket. That may seem counterintuitive, spending money to save money. So if you’re really pinching pennies and trying to use SNAP to pay for everything, carrying a little extra cash to cover the cost of your coupons may not be something you want to bother with, even though you’d come out ahead in the end.

But Propel and Quotient hope most SNAP recipients are willing to give digital coupons a chance, to see how they can help stretch a tight food budget. Not only that, but it will help Propel boost usage of its app, and help Quotient ensure that more people are using its clients’ coupons. And that could prove to be a real win-win-win for everyone.

Image source: Propel

One Comment

  1. The reason more people (in my state anyway) don’t use coupons that much when they are on SNAP….they charge tax on the coupons. I offered some of my coupons to my aunt, she didn’t want to use them because she didn’t have any money to pay the taxes. Taxes on food is at 8%, for every dollar she saved, she had to pay .08…doesn’t sound too bad, but if she save $25 with coupons, she was going to have to pay $2. When someone is checking couch cushions and car consoles to come up with $5 for gas, they don’t always have the cash to pay for coupons. Lots of people are like this, they just DON’T have the cash to USE coupons.

    Also, not a lot of food items available anyway. The ones that are, well there is usually a cheaper variety in the store brand. It might only be slightly cheaper to get the name brand with the coupon, but when you figure in the need to have cash for the tax….they just skip it, get the store brand, and go on. No messing with the coupons.

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