Whether you’re buying a computer, a pair of shoes or booking a trip, shopping online offers convenience and can make it easy to find some great deals. However, there are some pitfalls to avoid when loading up your virtual shopping cart.
1. Reading email offers first thing in the morning. Consider breakfast as prime-time marketing hour for retailers. If you have a habit of checking your email shortly after waking up, wait until later in the day to open emails from retailers or merchants advertising daily deals and last-minute buys. Subject line teasers like, “Save 50 percent today” could trigger a morning spending spree that leaves you with buyer’s remorse within a few hours.
2. Shopping daily deal sites regularly. Daily deal sites such as Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com are chock-full of deals on everything from dinner at gourmet restaurants to facials at the spa. However, purchasing such deeply-discounted offers week after week can put a dent in your budget – and you may not even end up using the package before it expires. As such, make sure you read the fine print to learn about the terms and conditions of the offer. (Some services are only redeemable during certain days of the week.) Check for information about any options to upgrade, as well as gratuity expectations.
Calling the merchant before you purchase the deal is a good idea. They can tell you what their availability looks like in the next few weeks or explain the terms of the deal in more detail.
3. Storing payment information. Sites like Amazon.com and eBay.com make it easy to set up an account that stores your payment information so you can speed through the checkout process when you make a purchase. While this can save you time entering your credit card information for each purchase, you could wind up spending more than you budgeted for simply, because it’s easy to complete the purchase. If having your payment information linked to your account is triggering shopping sprees, unlink the account and check out as a guest, so you can authorize your payment with every transaction.
4. Ignoring seller reviews and ratings. When you’re buying items through an independent merchant, take a few minutes to read reviews of both the product and the retailer. While your purchase may be protected by the website or by PayPal.com, you can reduce your chances of receiving damaged goods or defective items by checking to make sure the seller has a good reputation.
5. Clicking through deals on social networking websites. Whether you’ve spotted a great travel package on Twitter or just saw a deal on that laptop you’ve been eyeing in your Facebook News Feed, be wary of offered promoted on social networking platforms. Some URLs are links to fake websites that are designed to look like your favorite brand or retailer. As such, you could shop on an unsecure site that collects and uses your credit card and personal information. To vet offers, call the merchant to verify the deal, and complete your transaction over the phone.
Sabah Karimi is a regular contributor to WiseBread.com and Yahoo.com. Check out this shopping calendar on Wise Bread to find the best things to buy in the summer that offer the best discounts.