How To Shop Online

How to shop online - get the best bargains and stay safe.

How to shop online, get the best deals and stay safe.

As time marches on, there are fewer and fewer of us who can resist the lure of online shopping. Chances are, you’re no stranger to buying goods and services on the internet, and you may be wondering, “Who needs to ask how to shop online? Isn’t it obvious?”

Well, there are still many people for whom online shopping is entirely new, and still others who are never going to get it (picturing a few elderly relatives of my own now). Yet even if you think you know it all, you might be surprised to find that there are a few tips and tricks that can help you get some deeper discounts on your purchases and keep you safe from scammers.

How to shop online – getting great discounts

1 – Cashback, cashback, cashback

We’re constantly harping on about cashback on this site, because it’s totally worth it! Honestly, it could not be easier to get cashback when shopping online – just go to a cashback website first, find the store you want, and go to that store through the cashback site’s link.

You’ll receive a cut of the cashback site’s commission and you don’t pay anything extra on top of the normal price.

Our favourite cashback sites are TopCashback and Quidco, where you can get a £10 bonus on top of your first cashback payment.

2 – Abandon your cart

Got a bit of spare time before needing to buy your items? Pop them into your cart and forget about it for a while. Many sites have automatic systems to deal with cart abandonment, so you might find yourself the happy recipient of a decent discount voucher to tempt you into completing your purchase!

3 – Gift cards, vouchers and coupons

Zeek is, of course, one of our favourite tools for saving on online shopping. (Update – Zeek is now in administration, but other gift card companies are available.) For years now we’ve been using it to buy cheap gift cards and redeem them online. Newsletter sign-ups can yield discounts as well, as can simply asking the company for a coupon either in a letter or through an online chat. It never hurts to ask!

4 – Make loyalty pay

Have a loyalty card for the store you want to buy from? Make sure you have it to hand. As an example, we use Paperchase’s Treat Me program, as well as Waterstones’ and The Works.

You can also get loyalty points for leaving reviews, so if you’ve got something to say about your favourite brand, you might be able to make it pay.

5 – Use the right card for the right country

Foreign transaction fees can bite when you make a purchase from a non-UK website. Using a card that has a 0% foreign exchange rate like Curve can save you the pain of paying more on top just for using a different currency!

6 – Does that store have an outlet elsewhere?

Often, big retailers use other popular platforms such as eBay or Amazon to sell their items.

For example, Argos has an eBay outlet, so if you don’t have an Argos voucher but you do have one for eBay, you can take advantage of that discount through getting the same item you want through the eBay outlet.

7 – Do some window shopping with your friends

Faver is a site that lets you and your friends and family build up collections of products – a way to go window shopping or gift-guide building without having to leave home. It’s good for those times when you need to plan gifts for mutual friends or family but don’t have lots of time to go out shopping.

Alternatively, set up a secret group board on Pinterest to share your finds and compare bargains.

8 – Take out an Amazon trial just before Prime Day

Is Amazon Prime worth it? That depends on who you are and how you shop, but if you want to dip your toe in to get the most benefit for nowt, be clever and take out a free Amazon Prime trial just before Prime Day.

9 – Use price trackers to make sure that sale price is legit

Sites like camelcamelcamel can help you track the price of items on Amazon, and others like PriceRunner can track a wider range of retailers. Find the item you like at the best price and see if you can get it through a cashback site!

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How to shop online  – staying safe

10 – Beware of public WiFi and public computers

Sometimes it pays to be a bit paranoid – no, it’s not that everyone is out to get you, but it’s true that there are risks associated with using public WiFi, like having your data accessed by unscrupulous characters. Don’t make purchases over public WiFi without using a VPN, and if you absolutely have to use a shared computer, make sure to wipe your data from the device when you’re done.

And log out of your accounts when you’ve finished!

11 –  Look for the “https” and padlock

Along the same lines, look for the “https://” before the website address in the browser bar, and look for the padlock symbol. These should denote a site’s security status. Of course, these don’t mean that a site is 100% iron-clad all of the time, but you should never throw your card details at a site that doesn’t have them.

 12 – Use a credit card when spending over £100

The Section 75 law helps to protect you when you pay over £100 with a credit card, so that if something goes wrong with your purchase, the credit card company becomes jointly liable with the retail company. This means that if the store goes out of business without delivering your goods, you should still be able to get a refund from your credit card company.

Under £100, there’s a “chargeback” scheme that you can use within 120 days of your purchase.

Well, I hope that was helpful! If you’re looking for more shopping-related posts, check out my spending diary as well as our grocery shopping posts.

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