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Attention shoppers: Target offers mobile coupons

Target claims it's the first major retail chain to launch mobile coupons nationwide for eager bargain hunters.

Mobile coupons are coming to mega-retailer Target, which will allow shoppers all over the U.S. to use their mobile handset to get discounts on all kinds of products.

The bar-coded coupons are available now. Shoppers interested in getting the mobile coupons must "opt in" and register on Target's Web site. They can also text the word "COUPONS" to 827438.

Once consumers are registered they will get text messages on their phones with links to a Web page that features various coupons. The program works with any phone that has a mobile browser and data plan for Internet use, the company said.

Target will issue new coupons every month and as older coupons expire, new ones will appear on the mobile Web site. The coupons can be used at any Target store nationwide, but they cannot be used on

As cell phones become more ubiquitous, it's not surprising that retailers are looking at ways to leverage the devices to offer promotions. Nearly 89 percent of the U.S. population has a cell phone, according to the industry group CTIA. And most people don't leave home without their cell phones.

As a result, phones are being used for much more than simply talking or texting. Smartphones, in particular, with their full mobile browsers are mini-computers and can be used not only to check e-mail, but also navigate and get directions, buy movie tickets, pick restaurants, and much more. Mobile phones are also becoming digital wallets, allowing consumers to access bank accounts and pay for things.

And increasingly, they're being used to offer discounts via coupons.

Mobile coupons have indeed been around for a while. There are already several retailers offering them, but Target says it's the first major retailer to offer these digital bar-coded coupons at stores nationwide.

Other large chain stores are also planning to offer mobile coupons. J.C. Penney is testing similar scanner-based technology at some stores in Houston.

There are also tons of coupon aggregation sites and applications for phones, such as the iPhone. For example, Google offers digital coupons as do other providers, such as, Coupon Sherpa, Cellfire, and Yowza.