Q: Any online shopping tips for a relative novice?
The trend toward shopping online has seen a big jump in the last year with spending in 2016 predicted to be up by 45 percent over 2015.
There’s no question that online shopping is much more convenient than going to brick-and-mortar stores, but during the holiday shopping season, getting your hands on what you want as early as possible is important. More of the large retailers are adopting the “clicks and bricks” approach, which allows you to buy items online and pick them up at a nearby store if you want that peace of mind.
Don’t use your debit card
The first thing I’d recommend is avoid using your debit card for online purchases. You’ll still have the same fraud protection that covers credit card transactions, but since it’s tied to your checking account, it can tie up your money while you are sorting things out.
Only your credit line gets tied up when a credit card gets hit with a fraudulent transaction while the money to make your mortgage or car payment gets tied up with fraudulent debit card transactions.
Every major browser offers the ability to create private browsing sessions, which keeps things out of the “History” log and removes any cookies that get placed on your computer when you close the browser. Using the private browsing option helps with two things that are commonly used these days: dynamic pricing and re-marketing.
Dynamic pricing, which is also called demand pricing or time-based pricing, is an automatic algorithm used by some websites that can provide different prices to different people at different times. One of the many data points used in dynamic pricing is how many times you’ve looked at the item, even if it was on different websites. Private browsing eliminates this data point as a factor.
The biggest reason to use private sessions is when your computer is shared by your whole family. We’ve all experienced the situation where you went looking for a specific product only to have ads featuring the item then follow you around the internet and on social media. This process is called re-marketing and it also relies on the cookies that get deposited on your computer. It can become a major spoiler when the rest of your family sees the glaring hints whenever they go online using the same computer.
Money saving tips
Once it’s installed, a small “h” will appear in the upper-right-hand corner of your browser that turns yellow when you visit a site that has an available coupon code.
Another website popular with avid online shoppers is called Ebates because you get cash back for purchases, but unlike many others, you can also get cash back from some in-store purchases as well.
Price comparison sites like Price Grabber and Froogle can help you find the best deals, but don’t forget to calculate in shipping and handling fees and delivery dates before you click on “buy.”