Buying things online has become an international habit. Check any product review on Amazon.com and you’ll find folks chiming in from Novgorad to New Bedford. The online shopping revolution means that we can get nearly anything we want from any place in the world that sells it. Here are a few tips to help you find the products you want at the best prices and make your online transactions with confidence.
Find coupon codes
It’s quick and easy to search for coupons for selected products or to visit coupon-compiling sites such as RetailMeNot and CouponCabin.com. Many retailers will e-mail you coupons once you sign up for their mailing list. The savings, often good in-store or online, can be so significant that you likely shouldn’t check out without having searched for a coupon code first.
Try for free shipping
One of the most popular online shopping promotions is for free shipping. FreeShipping.org lets you search for businesses that are offering it, which is great for clothes shopping and general catalog shopping online. If you can’t find a special offer but the site you’re shopping on has a free shipping minimum purchase, you may find it worthwhile to spend a few extra dollars to get it. (But don’t go nuts for a $175 free shipping minimum when you really only needed $30 worth of merchandise!)
Look for daily deals
There are also sites which will compile daily deals for you, such as DealCatcher and DODTracker. If you just like to shop and want to check to see what’s out there at a bargain everyday, browsing these sites will keep you on top of the deals.
Online shopping also means the ability to target a deal search for the precise product you’re looking for. Even if you’re planning to hit a brick-and-mortar store, don’t leave the house without doing your footwork on the Internet first. That means comparison shopping for what you’re looking for using tools like Google product search and PriceGrabber. (For books, try ISBN.nu and AbeBooks, in addition to Amazon.com.) You may discover that the best price for what you want can be had down the street at a shop you frequent, or across country in a town you’ve never heard of. Checking prices online should become a habit, no matter where you plan to purchase your item.
Get cash back
You can sign up for sites that offer a rebate if you visit the store through their interface. Two such sites are eBates and MisterRebates, both of which offer a percentage of your purchase back to you for shopping via their portal. Both of these sites have partnered with big-name retailers, and some of their offerings are from discount businesses, so you can save money and get money back, too!
If something goes wrong with a transaction, your credit card offers a lot of protections that your debit card can’t. With a credit card you can appeal to the credit-card company to stop payment if you don’t get an item or if it doesn’t arrive as described. And, should you end up a victim of identity theft, it’s likely better to have your credit card information compromised than your bank account. Make sure to check your credit card statements regularly for any transactions you might not have authorized. The Federal Trade Commission has more information on making online payments safely.
Always make sure that you know something about the business you’re buying from. Some price comparison sites automatically provide a customer rating for the businesses whose pricing they compare. A quick search should turn up reviews, good or bad, for any site you’re buying from. Also check that you have a secure “https” connection before you purchase.
Check customer service policies
The buyer always needs to beware. You can minimize risk by shopping on sites that clearly explain return policies and don’t hide their customer service contact information. Free shipping and, in some cases, free returns are becoming more common, but be sure to check the time limits for returns. Also, some sites charge an overstock fee on returned items (sometimes a significant amount) and/or require you to contact them for a return code before you send an item back. Know what to expect before you push the “buy” button.
Online shopping offers incredible opportunities to get exactly what you’re looking for from the biggest or smallest merchants – and at the best prices possible. Spend a little time on research before you buy and you’ll likely come out ahead with your purchases!
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