Basics of Coupon Coding

What are the primary elements that make up a coupon's bar code?

The primary elements of a coupon's bar code include:

  1. An application identifier
  2. The offer code
  3. Coupon's face value
  4. Purchase requirement that must be met for the consumer to be eligible for the offer
  5. Manufacturer's GS1 company prefix
  6. Family code(s) assigned to couponed product(s)

Other elements that may be encoded include household identification numbers, the coupon's expiration date, etc.

What is an application identifier?

The application identifier is used to distinguish the coupon bar code from other types of bar codes that may be encountered at checkout, such as product bar codes.

What is an offer code, and where do I get one?

The offer code serves to uniquely identify each offer as it moves throughout the coupon redemption process. Offer codes are typically supplied by the manufacturer's coupon redemption agent.

Can I encode any coupon face value that I want?

When using the UPC-A coupon code, manufacturers should confine face values to those that are available on the UPC Value Code list. If it is necessary to use a coupon value that is not on the list, the checker intervention number of '00' may be used. However, this value code may result in additional costs charged by some retailers, as the coupon may be considered hard to handle.

When using the GS1 DataBarTM coupon code, the coupon's face value is encoded as a Save Value. Until 2010, when the UPC-A coupon is fully phased out, manufacturers should confine themselves to using Save Values that align with what is available in the UPC Value Code list. After 2010, manufacturers will be free to encode any Save Values they wish up to $999.99.

What is a GS1 company prefix, and why is it important?

The GS1 Company Prefix is a globally unique, 6- to 12-digit number licensed to a company/organization by the GS1-US. A GS1 company prefix uniquely identifies the manufacturer of a couponed item. It helps to ensure that your company is accurately identified during the redemption process. If a coupon is scanned by a retailer that utilizes validation files, then the GS1 company prefix helps ensure that the consumer must purchase your company's product to receive a discount.

If I don't already have a GS1 company prefix or need an additional company prefix, how do I get one?

Company prefixes must be requested through the GS1-US, a member organization of GS1, the not-for-profit standards organization that administers the Universal Product Code (UPC) and develops worldwide standards for identification codes.

What is a family code, and who is responsible for establishing family codes? How do they get communicated to the industry?

A family code identifies the product or grouping of products for which a coupon is valid. For example, if a coupon is scanned by a retailer that utilizes validation files, then the family code on your coupon will help ensure that the consumer must purchase the correct variety (e.g., flavor or size) to receive a discount.

Family codes are established by the manufacturer after taking into consideration how their products/brands are marketed and the related couponing efforts. Vendors such as Pinpoint Data provide tools and services that can greatly simplify the process of establishing and maintaining family codes.

The establishment of a family code structure is a two-step process. The first step is to develop the appropriate family code structure. The second step is to communicate the structure to the industry and retailers. Communication to retailers may occur in several ways: through sales/broker groups, through direct mailings to your retailers/customers or through vendors such as Pinpoint Data.

Who can help me with bar coding my coupons?

Service providers such as Pinpoint Data offer products and services that can greatly simplify the process of creating and verifying coupon bar codes. For more information about Pinpoint's services, visit