DTV coupons: big savings but cash in quick

The government is giving away free converter box coupons.

Go to any electronics store and everyone's talking about the switch to digital.

"I just bought this new TV so I wouldn't have to mess with the digital converter box," said Sean Duty of Jefferson City.

While some, like Duty, are using the transition to upgrade to high-defnition TVs, others could be left with no TV.

"It's kind of a hassle but it's doing something good," said Brittney Alexander, an employee with Best Buy in Jefferson City. "We're going to be able to get better pictures with that, versus just on antenna or analog signal."

That old analog signal is going away and older TVs will need a converter box to decode the new signal. The changeover takes place in less than two months on Feb. 17.

"There's no way around it," said Alexander. "You have to get a converter box."

So if you don't have a high-definition TV, or cable, than you need to get a converter box. They are pretty light and run somewhere between $50-60 bucks. But if you use your government coupon, it will cost you a lot less.

KRCG News bought two Apex converter boxes on sale for $50 a pop. Our total: $107.20. But with the two government coupons that price falls way down - to just over $27, a savings of $80.

But here's the catch, and it's got many people upset: The card expires 90 days after you get them and they won't be reissued. Nationwide, more than 12 million government coupons have already expired or were never used. And like vacation time, if you don't use it - you lose it.

Best Buy employees say the prices for the converter boxes have remained steady, so don't expect them to go up or down in price anytime soon. They also have plenty in stock. But if you need one, it's probably a good idea to get one now rather than at the last minute.