Every Christmas, more and more people give up the hassle of doing their holiday gift shopping at the mall or big box department stores, and turn to the ease and convenience of the Internet to find the perfect gifts for everyone on their shopping list. Internet shopping is safe, simple, and direct. Here’s how to get the most out of your online holiday shopping experience.
One of the major concerns keeping many people from shopping online is the threat of a cyber-thief getting a hold of their credit card or checking account information. The best way to protect yourself from this type of fraud is to make sure that you use reputable online retailers only. The online websites of major real-world retailers typically offer the same security as buying something in the store, and large web-based retailers like Amazon and Yahoo! Shopping take great care to ensure that their transactions are secure.
A reputable retailer will use some sort of encrypted transmission to carry your credit card information from your computer to their server. Check your web browser for the indication that your connection is secure. This is usually a padlock, an eye, or some other security-related icon.
If you find yourself connected to a website that looks suspicious, do some research on the retailer before typing in your credit card information. This can be as simple as opening up a new tab and Googling the name of the website. If some of the autofill suggestions are the company name and “fraud,” “scam,” or something similar, it might be in your best interests to find another online retailer.
Most, but not all, websites for major retailers will honor the same deals, sales, and specials that are offered in their brick-and-mortar stores. This makes the sale even more of a bargain for you, since you don’t have to waste time and gas in getting to the store. In addition, many online retailers offer free shipping if certain items are purchased, or if the total amount due is over a certain amount. Shipping costs are usually one advantage that stores in the mall have over their online counterparts, but if the shipping is free, that advantage no longer applies.
Be on the lookout when your weekly ads hit your newspaper or mailbox. Make sure the ad doesn’t have fine print stating “in-store only” or “while supplies last.” These phrases typically mean you won’t have much success in finding the deal online. Clearance items that are available in a store may not be available on their web site either.
If you plan to be an online power-shopper, it pays to subscribe to the various e-mail newsletters and online promotions that are available. Many of these subscription services are run by individual retailers as a form of targeted advertising, while others are grass-roots, ad-supported sites that operate by collecting and reviewing the various special offers available across the Internet. After all, a sale won’t do you any good if you never find out about it!