If the weather outside is frightful (or if you’re just looking to save some time), online shopping may be a good choice for your holiday purchases. The advantages to the online marketplace are many: no lines, no crowds, no multi-store trips to find that one specific toy. As you’re zooming from Amazon to Etsy and back again, here are some tips to make your holiday shopping as productive and safe as possible:
• Protect your data
The holiday shopping season always comes with a host of horror stories about identity theft, so when you log on, make sure you take the proper steps to keep your information safe. Shop only through sites you trust, and always check that the site is secure. Secure sites typically have URLs that begin with “https” instead of “http”. Additionally, you should see always see a lock icon somewhere in your browser window when you’re on a secure page.
• Choose credit
When it comes to checkout time, a credit card is always preferable to a debit card for online purchases. The main reason is that credit cards tend to have a higher level of fraud protection than debit cards. You are not liable for debt incurred after a credit card is reported lost or stolen. On the other hand, if your debit card information is compromised, your entire bank account balance could be at risk.
• Keep track of those receipts
Have a designated place (be it a physical folder or your email inbox) to keep track of your receipts, payment confirmations and tracking numbers for your purchases. Always be sure to read the fine print with respect to returns — different vendors’ policies will differ where returns and exchanges are concerned.
• Buy items together to save on shipping
The one obvious downside to online shopping is the cost of shipping. Depending on the site and the shipping option you choose, a reasonably priced item could easily become one that causes you to hesitate at the checkout page. Sites like Amazon offer you the option to bundle items together and ship them in the fewest boxes possible to save you money, and may also offer free shipping when you spend a certain dollar amount. Plan out your shopping in advance to maximize your transactions on each site — it will help you take advantage of these benefits and keep your shipping costs low.
• Check the dates
Speaking of shipping, pay close attention to the estimated shipping times on your purchases and make sure to leave enough time for things to arrive. Most sites will provide you with a tracking number for your package once it’s shipped.
Looking for even more holiday shopping tips? Check out this list from the National Retail Federation.