Are Promo Codes Discount Codes?

Promo codes and discount codes are promotional offers used by retailers to encourage sales. Both provide savings to shoppers, but there are some key differences between the two.

Promo codes, sometimes called coupon codes, are a sequence of numbers and/or letters that offer perks like free shipping, percentage discounts off total purchases, or discounts on specific items. Promo codes are typically one-time use.

Discount codes also provide percentage savings, but are ongoing, sitewide offers that don’t require a specific code to redeem. For example, a retailer may offer 10% off all purchases for students when they verify eligibility.

Understanding the distinctions between promo codes and discount codes allows savvy shoppers to maximize their savings across multiple purchases.

Difference Between Promo and Discount Codes

Promo codes and discount codes are two common types of codes used to save money when shopping online. Though they sound similar, there are some key differences between promo codes and discount codes:

Promo codes apply discounts to specific individual products. For example, a promo code may take 15% off one item, or $10 off a particular product. Promo codes are tied to specific products.

Discount codes, on the other hand, apply discounts to an entire order rather than individual products. For instance, a discount code may take 10% off your entire purchase or free shipping for your whole order. Discount codes apply to the full cart total.

So in summary, promo codes give discounts on specific products, while discount codes give percent-offs or dollar-amount discounts on complete orders. This key difference affects how and when the codes can be used.

How Promo Codes Work

Promo codes are usually given out directly by retailers to encourage purchases. Retailers create unique promo codes and distribute them via email newsletters, social media posts, influencer campaigns, and other marketing channels. These codes typically offer a flat discount like $10 off or a percentage discount like 20% off. Promo codes can be used by new customers to incentivize a first purchase or by existing customers to encourage repeat purchases. The goal for retailers is to drive traffic, generate leads, and boost sales through the promotional offer.

Promo codes are meant to feel exclusive and have a limited lifespan. Retailers determine how many times a promo code can be used before it expires. This creates a sense of urgency to use the code before missing out. Promo codes also allow retailers to track the effectiveness of different marketing campaigns based on which promo codes are redeemed most often.

How Discount Codes Work

Discount codes are given out by retailers and brands to provide discounts to customers. They allow customers to get a percentage or dollar amount off their purchase. Unlike promo codes, discount codes do not require a minimum purchase and can be used by anyone, not just new customers.

Discount codes are most commonly distributed via email newsletters, social media channels, influencer promotions, and coupon sites. They give retailers a way to incentivize purchases, attract new customers, reward loyal customers, promote new products, drive traffic to their website, and generate word-of-mouth marketing.

Some key things to know about how discount codes work:

  • They can be either single-use or multi-use depending on the brand’s promotion.
  • They typically have an expiration date.
  • Some require a minimum order while others don’t.
  • Not all brands offer them continuously. They are often tied to special sales or promotions.
  • They can provide percentage discounts (e.g. 25% off) or dollar amount discounts (e.g. $10 off).
  • Only one discount code can be applied per order with most retailers.

So in summary, discount codes allow shoppers to save money on purchases in exchange for engaging with the brand. Retailers distribute them to incentivize sales.

Limitations of Promo Codes

While promo codes can provide excellent one-time savings, they do come with some limitations compared to discount codes. Some of the key restrictions of promo codes include:

Often Single Use: The majority of promo codes can only be used once per customer. This means the savings disappear after the first purchase. Some promo codes do allow multiple uses, but it is less common.

Expiring: Promo codes tend to come with shorter expiration dates, some as short as 24-48 hours. This puts pressure on customers to complete a purchase quickly before the code expires.

Product-Specific: Most promo codes only apply to specific products or brands rather than site-wide purchases. This restricts how customers can apply the savings and makes promo codes more restrictive.

Benefits of Discount Codes

Discount codes offer some key advantages over promo codes that make them more beneficial for shoppers:

Can be applied sitewide – One of the best things about discount codes is that they can usually be applied to your entire order, rather than just a single item. This allows you to get the discount on everything you’re purchasing instead of just one product or service.

Greater discounts – Discount codes tend to offer larger percentage discounts than promo codes. While promo codes may take 10-15% off, discount codes can offer 20%, 30%, or even higher discounts on your purchase. This enables you to save more money across your whole order.

Stacking Promo and Discount Codes

One strategy to maximize savings is trying to use both promo codes and discount codes on the same purchase. While retailers often make their codes exclusive to prevent stacking, sometimes it is possible to combine a generic site-wide promo code with a product or category-specific discount code. For example, a retailer may offer $10 off your first order with a promo code, and also have a 25% off coupon for shoes. If the retailer’s system allows it, using both codes could give you $10 off the order total plus 25% off any shoes you buy.

Before getting your hopes up about stacking multiple codes, read the promo code details and coupon fine print carefully. Retailers usually note if a code is valid for only one-time use or can’t be combined with other offers. Trying to stack codes that aren’t meant to be used together often results in neither code working. However, some retailers do allow stacking, granting incremental savings from each valid code.

The easiest way to find out if stacking codes will work is to add items to your cart, enter the first code, then try the second code before checking out. If both codes apply and your total goes down, you’re in luck! If the second code doesn’t work or replaces the first, they likely can’t be stacked. With a bit of trial and error, you may discover some retailer’s systems allow stacking promos and coupons to maximize savings on each order.

Where to Find Codes

There are a few key places to look for both promo and discount codes:

  • Retailer emails and websites – Many retailers will send out promotional emails with codes, especially around holidays. It’s also worth checking a retailer’s website to see if they have a promo code page.

  • Deal sites – Sites like RetailMeNot, CouponCabin, and others aggregate codes across many retailers. You can search for a specific store to see available codes.

Some other places to find codes include blogs, influencer social media posts, and cashback shopping portals like Rakuten. Signing up for a retailer’s loyalty program can also give access to special promo codes just for members.

Maximizing Savings

There are a few tips and tricks you can use to maximize the savings from promo codes and discount codes:

  • Sign up for retailer newsletters and follow brands on social media. Many stores will send promo codes directly to subscribers.
  • Use coupon sites and browser extensions. Sites like RetailMeNot and Honey can automatically find and apply available codes at checkout.
  • Stack codes when possible. Some retailers allow you to combine a site-wide promo code with a percent-off discount code.
  • Time purchases with sales. Using a promo code on an already discounted item can lead to huge savings.
  • Shop cashback sites. Portals like Rakuten give you cash back for purchases made through their links. You can use this in addition to promo codes.
  • Compare codes across retailers. If you’re not loyal to a particular store, shop around to find the best promo code for an item.

With a little strategizing, you can maximize the value of any promo or discount codes you have access to. Pay attention to stacking policies, timing, and shop around for the best deals.


In summary, while promo codes and discount codes are similar, there are some key differences. Promo codes are typically one-time use codes that provide free items or percentage-based discounts on an entire order. They are offered by specific brands or retailers. Discount codes provide set dollar amount discounts and can often be used multiple times. They may apply to entire orders or specific products. Both promo codes and discount codes can help you save money, especially when stacked together. The key is to search for available codes and read the fine print on any restrictions or limitations.

By understanding the nuances of promo codes versus discount codes, you can maximize the savings on your next online purchase. Applying multiple compatible codes is the best way to get the deepest discounts. With a bit of strategic planning and searching, you can often find great bargains by taking advantage of both promo and discount codes from online retailers.

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