We may soon learn what exactly Kohl’s was thinking when it created Kohl’s Cash, why it made Kohl’s Cash look kind of like real cash when it’s anything but, and what kind of complaints it’s gotten from customers who think it’s not very clear exactly how much they’re saving – or not saving – when they use Kohl’s Cash.

A California appeals court has reversed a lower court’s decision to dispose of two customers’ challenge to the way Kohl’s applies its Kohl’s Cash. The three-judge panel has ruled that the trial court prematurely tossed the case, and the plaintiffs should have the opportunity to request evidence about what Kohl’s is saying about Kohl’s Cash behind closed doors, and just how many of its shoppers it has allegedly deceived.

Crystal Waters and Tony Valenti of Valencia, California first sued Kohl’s back in 2017, accusing the retailer of perpetrating “a massive fraud” in the way it markets and applies Kohl’s Cash. As many Kohl’s shoppers have found out, the hard way, Kohl’s Cash is worth less than you might think when applied to a purchase – and more than you might think when deducted from a return.

“Kohl’s ‘Kohl’s Cash’ program is deceptive and unlawful,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Jordan Esensten told Coupons in the News at the time. “Kohl’s has been using the deceptive practices with respect to Kohl’s Cash to ‘nickel and dime’ customers out of the full value of Kohl’s Cash for too long now.”

At issue is when you make a purchase using Kohl’s Cash together with a Kohl’s percent-off coupon. Shoppers earn Kohl’s Cash certificates in dollar denominations, such as $10 Kohl’s Cash for making a $50 purchase. The Kohl’s Cash can then be used for discounts on future purchases. Giving Kohl’s Cash a dollar value, like “$10,” might imply that it can be used as cash, in the same way that a gift card or store credit would.

But that’s not the case, if you redeem Kohl’s Cash along with a coupon. In a typical retail transaction, you’d hand over your percent-off coupon, get the discount, then hand over your cash, a gift card or store credit to cover the balance. At Kohl’s, your Kohl’s Cash is applied first in order to reduce your total, then the percent-off coupon is applied to what’s left.

Do the math – if you use $10 Kohl’s Cash and a 20% off coupon on a $20 item, how much will it cost you? 20% off $20, minus $10 Kohl’s Cash is $6. But the way Kohl’s calculates it, $20 minus $10 Kohl’s Cash, with a 20% off coupon applied to the balance, is $8. So you end up paying $2 more than you might have expected.


As a result, the initial lawsuit stated, “the true value of the Kohl’s Cash is less than the printed value,” and “the customer receives less of a discount than advertised and promised.”

On the other hand, if you return an item purchased using Kohl’s Cash, Kohl’s will subtract the full amount of Kohl’s Cash earned from the refund price, reducing the amount of actual cash you get back.

“Defendants have thus created a scheme whereby they make it appear that Kohl’s Cash and percent-off discounts have greater value than they actually do,” the plaintiffs argued, while “consumers wishing to return items are left at greater disadvantage than if they had never used Kohl’s Cash in the first place.”

A California judge ruled in favor of Kohl’s two years ago, agreeing with the retailer that “no reasonable consumer would be misled” in the way that Waters and Valenti claimed they were. Kohl’s Cash cannot be mistaken for actual cash “any more than Froot Loops cereal could be mistaken for actual fruit,” Kohl’s argued. The store’s policies on how it applies its discounts are clearly spelled out online and on the Kohl’s Cash certificates themselves, the retailer said, and the plaintiffs have no right to insist upon “requiring Kohl’s to process two coupons on the same transaction in the order they prefer.”

The plaintiffs appealed the decision, saying they weren’t given the chance to gather enough evidence to adequately make their case. And the appeals court has now agreed, giving the plaintiffs the right to request evidence from Kohl’s on “how the name Kohl’s Cash was created,” “how the design of the Kohl’s Cash certificates was created,” and “any consumer correspondence or complaints concerning Kohl’s Cash.”

Officially, Kohl’s refers to Kohl’s Cash as “coupons.” But did Kohl’s purposely design Kohl’s Cash to look like actual cash? The certificates are green, rectangular, and have dollar amounts, after all. Does Kohl’s get lots of complaints from customers like Waters and Valenti, indicating that Kohl’s knows its policies are confusing but does nothing about it?

Waters and Valenti hope to find out. And this ruling in their favor, now ensures that their long-running dispute will now run at least a little while longer.

Image source: Kohl’s


  1. I stopped shopping at Kohl’s when I realized their “sale” scam. They put items on “sale” but it really is not on sale. They are just showing the difference between the suggested reatil price and what Kohls sales it for. For example I purchased a clothing item at $25. The following week I notice that item was on sale. I went to buy more since it was advertised as 50% off. I looked at the tag and the price was the same as I previously purchased it. I scanned the price to double check and yeah it was still $25. Then I noticed the suggested retail price was $50 and Kohl’s price was $25 hence the 50% off. The only “sale” items I have found at Kohl’s is their clearance section.

  2. “Kohls Cash” is a huge scam that is ripping off customers and stealing their money if you make a return. I made a purchase that earned $40 in Kohls Cash. Then I made a second purchase and used the $40 of Kohls Cash to reduce the total. I returned a $66 item from the first purchase that was worth $10 in Kohls Cash. Instead of refunding me $66, Kohls only refunded me $56, which was expected. But wait…I then returned the ENTIRE second purchase in which I used the Kohls cash. I got back my portion that I paid with my own money and Kohls gave me back the $40 in Kohls cash that made up the rest to use at a future date. Hmmm….??? My problem with this, and where I believe the scam is happening, is that at this point, Kohls SHOULD HAVE given me the $10 of MY money that it withheld from my first return, and should have reduced the $40 of Kohls Cash down to $30. But instead, they stole MY $10 from me, and basically told me if I want it back, I have to get it in the form of “purchasing” something additional from their store. I wonder how much money Kohls has put into their bank account over the years this way….SMH.

  3. I believe that the signage in the stores themselves are misleading when it comes to Kohls cash. My total came out to $201 and some change. So I thought according to the sign you get $10 kohls cash for every $50 spent, nowhere does the sign say before taxes. So I was expecting to get $40 kohls cash and the cashier gives me $30 kohls cash smh

  4. I honestly can’t believe the STUPIDITY of all the people who commented. You are still saving a ton of money using Kohls Cash and Coupons. I just bought a Ninja AirFryer and Cuisinart Toaster. Came to $199 before using Kohls Cash and 30%. I paid $104 total including free shipping. Total saving of $200. Tell me where is the “Scam” ??? Kohls is making money from the Credit Card. Plain and simple.

  5. The entire Kohl’s cash program is designed to increase the company’s bottom line. Primarily, any unused Kohl’s cash goes directly to the bottom line. Although Kohl’s cash is technically a coupon, they’ve directly linked it to a specific shopper’s account. Kohl’s does not willingly allow customers to share or gift Kohl’s cash to others-especially employees of the company. As a cashier, I was gifted a very small amount of Kohl’s cash during the Christmas season. I used that coupon. I also used a very minimal amount of Kohl’s cash left behind by a customer. Since I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong, I told the senior cashier about my good luck. She immediately reported what I had done to management (rather than telling me it wasn’t allowed-in which case I would not have used it). The next day at the END of my shift, I was called to the office badgered and coerced by a member of Profit/Loss at the corporate level and fired! As though that wasn’t bad enough, I was required to make restitution to the company for twenty dollars. All the complaints and examples I’ve found on this site and others emphasize the tricks Kohl’s uses to pad their bottom line!

  6. Kohls cash is a complete scam! I bought a necklace on “sale” and used earned kohls cash. When the necklace came the sticker price was lower then what I paid with kohls cash and the advertised kohls cash. When I called they said they would correct the problem with kohls cash! Wtf!?!? I told the rep I’m not a bank for Kohls! Give me my money back….so I had to go in to the store… I go in and now they refund me my money and deduct money and hold around $50 of my money and say because I used kohls cash on another purchase! The purchase wasn’t even in the expiration period. Scam Scam Scam! Shame on Kohls! I hope they bankrupt like every other s***ty chain! Your products are low quality and you are scamming middle to low class people. Never again!!!!!!

  7. I am so done with Kohls. They are the dirtiest company. You can bet I will never do business with them again. I ordered a vacuum on Dec 24,2022. It was supposed to arrive Jan 5th. When it didn’t I called and I was told I had to wait 6 business days from the 5th to see if it arrives. If it didn’t I could get a replacement. I waited and it never came. When I called for the replacement they said my debit card expired. I said yes but I have a new one I will give you my information. She told me they couldn’t accept my card over the phone. I said why do you need my card you already took the 234.00 out on the 24th? She said we need one on file. I have to refund your money. I was fuming. Then when they refunded me they only gave me 180 dollars. I called back and they said because I used my kohls cash from this purchase on another purchase. Yes I did. But I only had so much time to use it before it expired and I was never planning on not getting my vacuum. So now I’m short 54.00 and no vacuum. I will NEVER do business with these shady crooks again. Shame on you Kohls. You lost customers and I will tell anyone that will listen. They are deceptive and criminals if you ask me.

  8. I completely agree . Kohls cash is such a deceiving scam. I just returned a toy for my son today that had given me $10 in kohls cash on that particular order and of course I used it or else it would’ve expired on me. Unaware if I returned one of the items from my order that I was gonna lose out of 10 dollars of my own money just because they gave me kohls cash that I thought I supposedly had earned for spending a certain amount in my order. So basically you’re not rewarding me with kohls cash you’re taking 10 dollars out of my order and saying here go spend it in our store but not saying hey in case you end up returning this purchase you won’t be getting back your full amount back because you spent that 10 dollars “we” gave you . It’s the craziest thing after I realized how it really works it makes you think twice about shopping with them again or accepting their so called kohls cash which is really your own money not them rewarding you for shopping with them.

    • If I knew this was the case initially I would’ve refused to even accept the kohls cash so I at least knew I would be getting back my own full amount just in case I needed to return any of my items.

  9. yeah .. this happened to me today.. i’m done with Kohl’s
    its like they created their economy

  10. I’ve been complaining for years about Kohl’s cash and % coupon policy and they told me “that’s just the way it is”. I told them it’s not right. They are misleading and ripping off customers.

  11. The Kohl’s cash scam price manipulation
    is just the tip of the iceberg of scams at Kohl’s. Try using their app to scan a price in the store, then go to the register and have it scanned again. Prices vary almost double ( higher at register ) on some items and they give you the runaround that the store prices are different than on the website and web site and store are not connected, which I call BS on, because when order for pickup online you get the website price. They are shady and probably need to be sued some more and fined for price scaming unsuspecting customers at the store level.

  12. This explains why the math didn’t add up for me when I returned some items I had ordered using Kohl’s cash!

  13. It’s miss marketing and advertising and if they were worried then that’s only reason you would put in such letters you need a magnifying glass and yes it is illegal to mis market mis advertise as kohls cash and the wording was done by a lawyer if they were good they would of known of their wording and would of known that using kohls cash wording is used as a coupon but used and wording says this is kohls cash for the amount you spend and then shouldn’t have an expiration like a coupon and kohls if they wanted to hide or produce coupons or kohls shouldn’t have made proof in all ads of their stupidity because it’s actual hard copied proof of their lies so let’s put a partition together in every state and come full force with receipts money lost the money they charged but not adding any real coupons first the off the whole order then add the kohls cash because reversed say 20% off of 100 with using coupon first would be 20 dollars off and say you have 60 dollars Kohl’s cash you would pay twenty dollars but reversed you would take 60 dollars off of 100 and that would be fourth. And then coupon would be 20% percent off 40 dollars instead which would be only 8 dollars off instead of 20 dollars off the other way around and you would pay 32 dollars instead of 20 dollars and calculate that for every order you had done with credit card or not and if returned they would charge you and full price and you would be paying out money no refund or would have 2 dollars left instead off getting all your money back so yes it’s a lie and they cover it up by giving you an expiration date on the kohls cash so they can hide what they did and they can take your cash you earned by spending money away which is not what cash means as they say kohls cash and you can’t say kohls cash which you used your money first to get and then say coupon and then give expiration date

  14. CVS is actually doing the same exact thing when you combine an Extra Buck coupon with a percent off coupon. Extra Buck is deducted first than the percent off is applied. Maybe someone should file a lawsuit about this as well.

  15. Good! I have so many complaints about the suspect methods Kohl’s used to make sales. Including telling me to donate an item, but refusing to refund my money, over charging me for sale/clearance items at regular prices, scam bundle purchases that never happen, selling damaged items and making me pay for return shipping. CVS does the exact same thing with their Extra Bucks deals. It’s about time we start sticking it to these companies. I boycotted Kohl’s 2 years ago and haven’t look back since.

  16. I have refused to receive Kohl’s ‘Kohl’s Cash’ coupons for the same reason. If a cashier insists, I split up the purchase. Shame on you Kohl’s.

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