Online shopping can be a great resource. You can shop when it's convenient, find things that might not be available locally and discover great deals. To make sure you're shopping safely and saving as much as you can, follow these tips.
Safe Shopping Basics
Start with a secure Internet connection. With free Wi-Fi available most everywhere, it might be tempting to shop while you're waiting for an appointment or enjoying your morning latte. Unfortunately, hackers hoping to steal passwords, credit card numbers and other important information frequently use Wi-Fi hotspots to get their hands on this information, so the best advice is to shop from home. At home, make sure your network and computer are secure by requiring a hard to guess password for network access, enabling your operating system's firewall, using the latest version of your Internet browser, installing an anti-virus program and updating the virus definitions regularly.
Stick to reputable sites. While some sites might claim you can get a new iPhone for $100 off retail, it's not likely. To avoid getting scammed or turning over credit card information to a site that might not be trustworthy, check the Better Business Bureau Online or truste.com, which has a directory of trusted sites you can search by URL or company name.
Only shop where you see the padlock. When you're paying for online purchases, first make sure that the payment page uses SSL encryption to protect your information. You should see a padlock icon in the address bar of your Internet browser and the address should start with HTTPS. Also, never provide your credit or debit card information via email and merchants never need your Social Security number.
Make sure you know the site's return and refund policy. A great deal is less of a deal if you can't return something you bought, can only get store credit on returns or if the return shipping cost is high. Make sure you check the site's policy on returns and refunds before you buy.
Get a Better Deal
Coupon codes can cut your costs. Consider signing up for emails from sites you shop regularly. They frequently offer discount codes for free shipping or money off your purchases. There are also a number of websites that list coupon codes for popular sites.
Let an item sit in your shopping cart. If you put an item in your online shopping cart, then leave it there for a day or so without buying, some retailers will email you a discount code to spur you to complete the purchase.
Compare before you buy. There are a number of sites, like bizrate.com, that let you do a side-by-side comparison of the price that different sites charge for the same item. Remember to factor in shipping costs when doing your comparison.
If the price isn't right, wait. If you're shopping for something that you don't need right away, bookmark the item or add it to the site's wishlist, then check the price again in a few days. Online retailers often put items on sale for a day or two each week.