Successfully Navigate Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is the biggest online shopping day of the year and buying your holiday gifts from home can lead to better deals. But there are also some problems you should look out for.  Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, offers some things you should consider before you click "buy."

First, just because you may find cheaper prices online, doesn't mean you shouldn't compare deals.  Buying online is usually cheaper, but not always. Before you buy, use a price-comparison engine to make sure you're getting the best price. It's also worth checking to see if there's a better deal in stores.  Retailers often make a discount exclusive to one platform.

When you are shopping online, make sure you take precautions to safeguard your finances.  Fraud is rampant during the holiday season.  One way to limit problems is designate one card for online shopping.  This way, if you do run into a problem, you only have to worry about one credit card instead of several.  Also, some issuers offer a "virtual number" that can be used once, preventing unauthorized charges.  It's also best not to use a debit card.  Protections against unauthorized charges aren't as strong on debit cards. 

Don't forget to consider shipping options.  Free shipping offers abound this time of year, but there are often minimums attached to the deal.  So make sure you're not overspending to save on that nominal charge. Some retailers also offer free in-store pickup, or will ship for free to a local store. That frees you up to use a coupon code for an extra discount.

And like any online purchase, watch out for scams.  If you get an email about a "problem with your order," don't panic.  It may be a fake email designed to get you to divulge personal information.  Go to the retailer's site directly to find contact information to check in.  Also be on the lookout for scam sites.  Before you enter a credit card number, check to see that the site starts with an https, and that the site name is correct.

And finally, don't hesitate to stack sales.  You want to make sure you get the best deal possible. Shop through a reward portal like Ebates or Citi Thank You to get extra cash back.  Also, take the time to hunt for coupon codes at sites like Retail Me Not.  Many retailers actually let you use several codes in one order.

For more advice on how to navigate Cyber Monday successfully, and other personal finance tips, visit www.smartmoney.com

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