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Online Shopping Tips and Tricks

Millions of people are afraid to shop online. They've heard the stories of stolen credit cards, and stolen identities. But just how bad, or good, is it to go online?

Shopping online can really pay for itself. Retailers like Barnes and Noble usually sell their books online for about 5% less than they do in their stores, and often have substantial discounts not available in the stores. Many online retailers say that they can, and do, beat "Any Store's Advertised Price".

Online Shopping Tips

Shop Online With Reputable Firms. You wouldn't want to give your credit card to a guy selling watches on the street corner. Don't do it online, either.

One of the best ways to find good firms is to use shopping guides such as Shopping.com, BizRate.com, Froogle.com or ConsumerReports.org's Web Site Reviews.

The more adventurous can use community ratings of sellers, such as those found on EBay for its sellers, or ReSellerRatings.com where you can find "Real Reviews From Real People."

Check out the Retailer.

  • Are they listed with the Better Business Bureau?
  • What are their return policies? Many online retailers will allow returns to their physical stores.
  • What is their information privacy policy? Will they share your personal information with others?

Use A Credit Card Online. Debit cards can be drawn down to the point the account is empty -- and often do not have the theft protection offered by credit cards. Print Up Confirmation Receipts. This may be the only way of proving what your order really was.

The Tricks

  • Single-Use Gift Credit Cards can be purchased at many Malls and Banks. These can be marvelous for limiting your exposure online, including personal information leakage
  • Search the web for coupons. Many retailers have web coupons that will save you money in their stores and online.
  • Make a list of what you want to purchase before you go online. Keep track of how much you've spent, and where you've spent it.

The Ratings

As many as 1 out of 5 retail transactions on the Internet failed to complete during the heavy day after thanksgiving rush (see Internet Week). According to Keynote, the best performing retailers for Thanksgiving 2003 were:

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