Who Makes Money From Online Coupon Codes?

Promo code sites have become big business, with digital coupons surpassing paper for the first time in 2020. Major deal sites make millions based almost entirely on commissions from each sale. They don’t sell shopper data and it’s not a scam. In fact, big companies like PayPal and Rakuten are buying up deal sites for billions. From Honey to Slickdeals, Rakuten Rewards to Brad’s Deals, CNBC asked the major sites what it takes to find deals that are real and why the business model works.

With the huge boost in online shopping during the pandemic, deal-finding sites have become a major business. In 2020, Inmar Intelligence found that digital coupons surpassed printed coupons for the first time ever.

Also in recent years, behemoths like Goldman Sachs and PayPal have paid hundreds of millions – or even billions – for sites like Slickdeals and Honey that automatically curate coupon codes or offer shoppers cash back for making purchases through their sites. Even banks like Capital One are getting into the game.

The business model is not a scam. All major deal sites say they don’t sell shopper data. Instead, each sale generates a commission for the deal site and for the middleman known as the affiliate marketer – a company that connects the vast world of retailers with deal sites.

With nearly 2,000 businesses in the daily deal site space, it’s a crowded industry filled with legitimate businesses as well as plenty of sites that are riddled with ads and expired coupon codes. That’s because regardless of whether a coupon code works, the site that provided the code will get commission for that sale.

When the deals are legitimate, however, it can mean big money for shoppers, retailers, and the deal sites. From Honey to Slickdeals, Rakuten Rewards to Brad’s Deals, CNBC asked the major deal sites, and shoppers, what it takes to find deals that are real and why the business model works.

Watch the video to learn how saving consumers’ money makes big bucks for companies in the vast world of online deal hunting.

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How Coupon Code Sites Make Millions



  • Tricking people into purchasing items that they don’t need.

  • 8,000 tax free money!

  • Not spending money on useless things is the biggest rebate you can give yourself.

  • Do customers enjoy the same level of protection, free shipping, and free returns when buying through these sites, instead of directly from Amazon or Walmart?

  • Nailed it it cat Theo prissy you

  • The issue with consumerism like this is that people are getting to a point where they feel compelled to or feel like they almost have to buy something cause it's a "Good value"…. Remember kids… They are always making money off you somehow and at the end of the day… you don't really need that thing that badly.

  • I watch several videos how people are so encouraged to use coupons but in Indonesia, it's like you actually get a little compare to the effort.

    for example, a restaurant may accept a coupon for a certain purchase of product that is a higher price than other items there. like we forced to buy that type of food, at certain price just to get a little reduction of price.

    or worse, here some water parks sell a catalogue of rides. take an example, a catalogue that costs 20 USD offers 50 rides, which equal to 40USD but we barely enjoy the rides because the coupons have ED and we don't go there that often. We end up uses 10-20% of the coupons that worth less than what we paid without noticing the fact.

  • 2020 US Exxon mobile build 10billion $ ethylene chemistry plant in southern China,hui zhou city. Pls save lung &air. don’t want to die of toxic air… lung cancer,same as Floyd: can’t breathe —

  • Canadians: Wait, so Target failed in Canada then rolled out the Canadian Tire business model in the US?

  • I'd like to see a story about these new services that allow you to split the price for your items into four payments. I used one of them for some expensive running shoes that are a brand I'd been buying anyway and to pay for a career-change workshop offered through my grad school's alumni association, but again I'd already decided to buy those things beforehand.

    However, one of the services now emails me at least once a week with "Must-have" expensive clothing, accessories and cosmetics "deals." I think this sort of thing is OK a couple of times a year, like to buy yourself or someone else a really nice, meaningful gift that you otherwise couldn't afford all at once. But their goal, of course, is to get people into the habit of buying overpriced, high-status brand name merchandise they otherwise wouldn't because now it's perceived as "affordable."

  • I have ebates/rakuten, the majority of my cash back is from referrals 🤣😂

  • i uninstalled honey cause it never finds me a working coupons.

  • Imagine if everyone used private/incognito like me…these companies would go out of business!

  • Half of them are my fake doordash accounts

  • I tried honey, years ago it would search and never find a coupon now after reinstalling it, there is no option to even try to look for a coupon so it literally doesn't even pretend to work anymore

  • One rule of thumb – keep things in your cart and don't buy them for a while. A lot of times I have realized that I change my mind in a day or two. It can be from a smartwatch or a piece of furniture. A lot of times I realize I may have something in my storage or I don't need it or you can make a hack to make it work. That is the best coupon – buying less. Coupons are good but they should be only used when you do want to buy something. So if you want to buy an iPad, and have kept it in your cart for a while, now you can track prices on Honey, etc. I did get my iPad for 250 bucks and my 55 inch TV for a bit more than that because I tracked the price.

    We need to slow down. Most companies want you to instantly buy something. This can be in-store or online. As consumers, we need to think do we really need something. There are indeed things that can make our lives better. An ergonomic home-office chair or a Bluetooth shower speaker. So by no means, I am an anti-consumerism person. But, often we end up buying more than we need. There is money we could have invested or even more clutter in your life or more money/time/hassle in moving.

  • Unspoken is the basic premise that coupons are usually just a way to enforce differential pricing by having a secret, lower price that can only be accessed by poor customers who are likely unemployed/retired and have extra time on their hands to jump through hoops to save a bit of money. If you use a lot of coupons, you are likely either poor or literally wasting your valuable time chasing meager savings. Some coupons have other purposes, like encouraging brand loyalty, but the ones you have to go out of your way to "find"…?

  • I wonder how much of a discount Josh Myers got on that hair piece.

  • I wanted to know which ones generate the most money for us, not them. We've transferred a bit of cash to our Paypal account from BeFrugal and RetailMeNot but nothing from Honey or Slickdeals. Now that's from the cashback feature since while they all seem to cycle through the codes looking for discounts…they rarely ever find one.

  • "Then I realized how much he ate" – I DIED

  • Even if that lady at 0:16 got a 8% cashback via Rakuten, she would have spent almost $110k. There is a difference between being an amazing couponer and having A LOT OF MONEY to spend.

  • I signed up for Honey one time in 2017 after hearing their ad slot on Pod Save America. Since then, I have been shopping on my desktop so I can maybe get a coupon code and/or earn some Honey Gold points. As of now, I have over 4000 points. I guess buying an iPhone 12 last December was a better deal than I realized!

  • There was a time when I would check multiple sites to try and find a coupon code, and very rarely did any of them work. I came to realize that my time was worth more than the time it took to potentially save a small percentage.

  • Ton

    Slickdeals promote a bunch of bs sponsored trash. Can't trust half that site.

  • Automate forex is another stream of income that will never run dry. having an investment that actually pays you and helps you meet up financial targets is really an added advantage in life.. congratulations to me

  • G G

    I’d be more interested in coupons for value-accumulating assets. Ie buy 1 acre of land get 1 acre free.


  • I can say that 100% of the online promo codes I've tried don't work.

  • The merciful deposit bailly exist because apparatus emotionally switch aside a daily structure. noiseless, condemned event

  • they actually buy 1.7 x more than normal people. I know people like that, they are never satisfied with what they have and the market encourage their addiction.

  • I‘ve been using CouponCabin since beginning of the year and I’ve save so much already! I also have Rakuten but I don‘t use it as much. I check Slickdeals throught out the day too.

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