What you need to know about Groupons

You might be thinking about using a groupon to save money this holiday season on things like hair cuts, home improvements, and eating out. But before you click “buy” on your groupon screen, here's something to think about.  If you don't use it on time, what happens? Do you lose your money?

Well if you're a groupon fan who lives in Rhode Island you're in luck. The state's law on gift cards gives you some protection, no matter how long you wait to cash in on that deal.

It's a way you can get at least 50-percent off at local stores just by going online, groupon. Users can get emails sent directly to their inbox daily, letting them know about different deals going on around town.

But those deals aren't good forever, or are they? “In Rhode Island actually it prohibits expirations at all for gift cards,” said Michael Morrissey of Rhode Islands's Attorney General's Office.

But a groupon isn't exactly the same thing as a gift card. It has an expiration date, usually a few months after you buy it. And the money you put into a groupon is only part of what you get out of it.

Say you spend 30 bucks on a 50 percent off groupon, that's worth 60 dollars of stuff you'll be able to buy. Here's where the expiration date comes in. In Rhode Island, when that groupon expires, you'll still be able to get your 30 dollars-worth, but that extra 30 dollars, is gone.

“If the merchant does not refund that or honor it, groupon will, so you'll at least get the face value of what you paid,” said Morrissey.

Ginfranco Marrocco says he's seen it before. When his customers can't make it in on time, Marrocco says groupon works with him.

“Last year they gave us the heads up and we just honored all of them,” said Marocco, “We really didn't turn anybody away.”

And if groupon doesn't give him the go ahead, Marrocco doesn't have to do anything. Groupon will refund you the original amount you spent.

Under Rhode Island law, gift cards can never expire, so you'll be able to cash in your groupon anytime. The rules are a little different in Massachusetts. There, people have a seven year grace period to use expired gift certificate like a groupon.