5 Tips on Finding Great Online Shopping Deals

By: Sara Elliott

Looks like they scored a good deal!
Looks like they scored a good deal!
Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

When you're on the hunt for a great bargain, shopping online can offer some attractive savings opportunities you won't find at your nearest department store. According to Consumer Reports, performing a little comparison shopping online is a convenient way to begin your product search even if you ultimately buy from a retailer in your neighborhood. Knowing the price range from multiple sources on like items is a good way to recognize a deal wherever you find it.

Once you start looking at the options, you may be surprised at how much you can save when buying goods online. With a few clicks and a savvy strategy, you might be able to beat the in-store prices near you and score a few bonus rewards into the bargain. Let's explore five fast and easy ways to find or build great online shopping deals. There's nothing like going on safari for bargains, and when it comes to shopping on the Internet, the weather's always fine and the bargains are blooming.


5: Check the Consumer Review Sites

Consumer review sites like PriceGrabber, Nextag, Epinions and Bizrate will perform a quick search on the product you're interested in and deliver details on current pricing from multiple online vendors. It's true that scoring a good deal may involve more than just finding the best base price for an item, but knowing the price range for a product and having an idea of the major suppliers who offer it is a good place to start. Watch out for some gotchas like sites that have low sticker prices but tack on high shipping and handling fees. Some review sites summarize selling as well as shipping fees for a better picture of the real deal (less applicable taxes, of course). Make the review sites your first stop. For a 10-minute investment, you'll come away with good information, like customer comments and product reviews, and may discover the best e-tailer for your dollar.


4: Apply for E-tailer Recommended Credit Cards

You may be able to earn cash for shopping. Sounds good to us!
You may be able to earn cash for shopping. Sounds good to us!

Major online retailers sometimes offer credit card deals that include double points or other rewards for goods purchased on their site using their preferred card. Amazon is one good example. If you choose a card and site combination with good variety and decent pricing, you can score extra savings on items you'd buy anyway. If you're not a dedicated bargain hunter, you can tailor your online buying to take advantage of the points benefits and still keep things simple with one-stop shopping for most of your needs.


3: Become a Rewards Member

Online retailers rely on repeat business, and to cultivate loyal shoppers, they offer any number of rewards programs designed to keep customers coming back. The enticements usually include the promise of extra discounts if you sign up for promotional e-mails, join their buyers' clubs or just fill out a simple questionnaire. Providing personal information like an e-mail address and possibly a few details about your buying habits may qualify you for free freight on your next purchase, discount coupons or even freebies.

If you think you may buy from the e-tailer again, and don't mind sharing some personal details, signing up for rewards can save you money a number of ways. You'll often be informed of upcoming sales and may have access to limited inventory items before they're made available to the general public. You may also become eligible for additional discounts when your purchases exceed a certain amount or include specific products.


2: Check for Eligible Coupons

Your days of clipping coupons are over.
Your days of clipping coupons are over.

In some ways, shopping online is similar to shopping at your local market. Many e-tailers offer discount coupons for specific items or for services like free freight. Instead of clipping coupons from your local newspaper, though, you sometimes have to go on a bargain hunt for the best online coupons, especially if the e-tailer involved is coy about displaying its coupons prominently. To share the bounty, coupon sites like RetailMeNot, CouponCabin and CouponMom gather coupons from around the Internet and consolidate them in one easy to search location. Some coupon sites may require that you sign up for a membership, but the service is typically free of charge. These days, getting the best bargain on goods and services may involve stacking coupons with site specific rewards and other strategies. Coupon sites make locating eligible coupons pretty painless, so be sure to make them part of your online purchasing strategy by checking for coupons before you fill your virtual shopping cart and head for the checkout.


1: Take Advantage of Rebate Sites

An online merchant's member rewards program isn't the only way to accumulate rebates. There are dedicated rebate sites that act as pass-through portals to your favorite online shopping locations. Portal sites don't actually sell anything, but by directing traffic through their links, they earn commissions. To encourage you to keep visiting and using their links, they split that commission with you. Depending on the merchant involved and the policy of the rebate site, you could qualify for a rebate of anywhere from 2 to 20 percent of your purchase. Rebate sites maintain lists of qualified merchants with published rebate amounts for each participating e-tailer.

To qualify for a rebate payout, you'll have to accumulate a minimum number of points or accrue a predetermined dollar amount. The rules vary from site to site. Your best option is to sign up with more than one rebate site and compare their lists of merchants and rebate rewards before you shop. Some of the most popular rebate sites are: Ebates, Extrabux, ShopAtHome and Mr.Rebates.


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