5 Ways to Shop Safely and Save Money Online
Cyber Monday is upon us! Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are all common terms during the holiday shopping season. Cyber Monday which was coined in 2005 by shop.org, one of the original ecommerce sites, and has since become a worldwide phenomenon. Global sales in 2016 reached $3.45 billion dollars and are expected to rise to nearly $4 billion dollars in 2017! With all that money shuffling around (and all online no less), I want to share some tips to help you protect yourself this holiday season and beyond while shopping online.
1. When purchasing online, ALWAYS use a credit card, not a debit card: Yes, debit cards and credit cards function similarly and look about the same. The key difference is the protections that they allow you under federal law. If someone were to get ahold of your credit card information and go on a shopping spree, you would, under US federal law, have only a maximum liability of $50. In the UK, the maximum liability is £50 and in Canada, there is no liability. Compare that to a debit card, where your outcome depends on how quickly YOU provide notice to your banking institution that something is wrong. And if you don’t catch the issue within 60 days, you are liable for everything! This may sound silly, but data breaches happen (Uber, Target, Equifax) and it’s better to stay protected!
2. Stick to reputable sites: The big players in the online shopping world go to great lengths to ensure that their transaction process is safe and secure. They know that the bad publicity that a data breach brings hurts their bottom line far more than the funds they put into staying ahead of the latest cyber crime trends and threats. Saving a few extra dollars at some random website may hurt you in the long run if your information gets taken. So, how do you tell if a website is a scam site? It can be tough. If you can’t find much information about the site, it may be too good to be true. Some noticeable indicators are that the grammar is off or the site does not appear clean or professional. It’s best to stick to reliable websites that have secure HTTPS checkout, rather than sketchy sites that will allegedly save you a few bucks.
3. Use a different password for each site that you log into! Yes, you need to use a different password for every website, as much of a headache as it is. Did you know that today two of the most common passwords are still “password” and “123456,” or some variation of the two? If you use the same password for every site, then it is much easier for someone to access your information. I know passwords can be a headache to remember, especially as the complex requirements continue to grow (12 characters, upper, lower, numbers, and special characters!). But fear not: password managers are a great way to store and remember all of your passwords. LastPass.com and 1password.com are two of my favorites; both sync between all devices and make it easy to create and use complex passwords! BONUS: The best tip to a secure password isn’t the complex way you spell a word, but its length. Make your passwords a long series of words for more security! You can use the random password generator provided by both of the services I recommend as well.
Following these three steps will go a long way in ensuring that you have a safe and secure shopping experience online! You wouldn’t tell someone your PIN number or walk around with your credit card information on a t-shirt; the same is true for online shopping. Now that you are prepared to shop securely and safely online, here are some great tips for saving money while you do so!
1. Before you make your purchase, take the time to do a Google search for the name of the site you’re buying from and the phrase ‘promo code’! For example, if you’re buying a computer from Dell, you’d want to try searching for “Dell promo code”, or “Dell Small Business promo code.” My two favorite sites that aggregate promo codes across the web are retailmenot.com and dealnews.com. I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years by taking a few seconds to just search for promo codes currently being offered by the companies! For savvier shoppers, Chrome browser extensions Honey and WikiBuy will automatically search for coupons when you go to check out your purchase.
2. Sign up for a shopping rebates program! Do you like free money? I like free money. In my humble opinion, it’s the best kind of money. Ebates.com gives you just that if sign up for free and you click on their links to shop at your favorite sites! Cash back on your purchases can range from 1% to 25% depending on the store. My cash back since I’ve signed up for an account is over $1k!
So, stay safe out there, enjoy the deals, earn some cash back, and have a happy holiday!