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Save More Money Every Time You Shop Online

Date: February 15, 2017      Publication: Bottom Line Personal      Source:  David Pogue, DavidPogue.com      Print:

Including 7 Tricks to Save at Amazon

It’s no secret that online merchants often offer lower prices than brick-and-mortar stores. But getting the very lowest prices online—and in some cases, at physical stores—takes a little extra ingenuity and some assistance, which you can get from the following helpful websites and ­strategies…

Discount and Coupon Sites

These sites provide discount coupons…rebates…and/or discount codes—codes that you can use at shopping websites to obtain special deals.

• RetailMeNot.com, one of the best-known sites for discounts, is worth checking before you buy almost anything online, ranging from electronics to clothes to pizza. It lists tens of thousands of discount codes at any given time, plus rebates, printable coupons and various other savings opportunities, and it even indicates how likely it is that a certain discount offer will actually work on a given day. Just enter the name of the business you might buy from and/or the product you want to buy in RetailMeNot’s search box to see if any relevant offers are available. Recent examples: Save up to 20% at BarnesAndNoble.com…25% off at PapaJohns.com.

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• EBates.com enables consumers to earn cash back when they buy from any of more than 2,000 shopping sites. EBates does this by sharing the “referral fees” it gets for sending visitors from its site to the shopping sites. Before buying anything online, check whether EBates has a link to the site where you intend to buy. If so, you could earn anywhere from 1% to 40% back on your purchase simply by navigating to that shopping site through the EBates link. In addition to retail sites, EBates offers cash back for purchases made on many travel sites, including sites for hotel chains, car-rental firms and even some airlines. Every three months, EBates will mail you a check or deposit the cash you have earned into your PayPal account—your choice. (The payment will be deferred if you have earned less than $5.01.) Recent examples of EBates cash back from various sites: 10% at 1-800-Flowers…6% at Macy’s…4% at Thrifty Car Rental…3.5% at Red Roof Inns.

• Coupons.com. Not only does this site provide discount codes and rebates for online shopping, it also is the best site for obtaining hundreds of coupons to print out and use in physical stores just like coupons clipped from newspapers. You must supply your phone number to use the site, but the number is used only for verification, not for marketing calls. Other coupon websites worth trying include RedPlum.com and SmartSource.com. Recent examples: Save $2 on a 24-can case of Pepsi…save $1 on Hefty trash bags.

Amazon Savings Tricks

More than 300 million customers shop at Amazon.com, including more than 60 million who belong to Amazon Prime, which provides benefits ranging from free two-day shipping to streaming video content and unlimited photo storage. Yet many of those customers are unaware of some of the best ways to save the most at the site…

• Share a Prime membership. Amazon’s rules allow any two adults to share a single $99 annual membership and get nearly all Prime benefits. One catch: The two of you also must share access to the same credit/debit cards for use on the site, so share only with someone you trust.

• Share a digital library. If you and a friend or family member each has a separate Prime membership, you can link the two accounts and share any Kindle e-books, audiobooks and apps that you have purchased. As with shared Prime membership, you also must share access to credit/debit cards.

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• Complain your way to extra months of Prime membership. If you are a Prime member and an item that you ordered doesn’t reach you by its expected delivery date or the wrong item is shipped or you have any other problem with an Amazon purchase, politely complain about this to an Amazon.com customer service rep. There’s a good chance that the rep will extend your Prime membership for an additional month or two to keep you happy. (To reach customer service, call 888-280-4331.)

• “Clip” Amazon coupons. Most Amazon users don’t realize that there are digital coupons available on the site. These are comparable to those found in ­newspapers or on Coupons.com, but they can be redeemed at Amazon.com. At ­Amazon.com, click “Today’s Deals,” followed by “Coupons.” Click the “Clip Coupon” button for any coupons you might want to use. The savings will be applied when you put the appropriate product in your Amazon shopping cart and make your purchase. Recent examples: $10 off an Oral-B Pro 1000 rechargeable electric toothbrush…$2 off a package of 18 rolls of Charmin Sensitive Toilet Paper.

• Sign up for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature credit card or Prime Store Card. Prime members receive 5% back when they use either of these cards to make Amazon.com purchases. The cards have no annual fee beyond the usual Prime membership fee.

• Take advantage of Amazon Warehouse Deals. When an Amazon customer opens a product but then returns it or when a product’s packaging is damaged, Amazon.com sells the item at a big discount through its “warehouse.” Savings range from 25% to 75% off the usual price. To reach Amazon’s warehouse, click “Today’s Deals” on Amazon.com, then select “Open Box & Used.” Similar: Amazon Outlet offers clearance, overstock and slightly imperfect new items at discounts that range from 20% to 80%. Click “Today’s Deals,” followed by “Outlet.”

• Use CamelCamelCamel.com to decide when to buy on Amazon.com. Third-party website CamelCamelCamel lets you view the price history of any item Amazon stocks so that you can make your purchase when the fluctuating price is relatively low. Or choose a target price for an item, and have ­CamelCamelCamel send you an e-mail if and when the price drops to that level or below.

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Additional Online Savings

Two other online money savers…

• Buy “refurbished” computers through manufacturers’ websites. Most people assume that “refurbished” computers are lemons that have already broken once and are likely to do so again. In reality, many items sold as refurbished on computer manufacturer websites have never been used (or were barely used) and have never experienced any problems. In some cases, an item might have been returned by an earlier buyer because the incorrect item was shipped, for example. In other cases, an item might have arrived with dented packaging.

Even if there was once a problem with a refurbished computer, these computers have been repaired and inspected. They almost always come with warranties when purchased directly from manufacturers, so if there is a problem, you probably can get it corrected at no cost (except perhaps shipping charges). Savings of 15% are common on sites including Apple.com, Dell.com and HP.com, and larger savings are possible. Look for terms such as “refurbished” or “outlet” in these sites’ menus. Recent example: A refurbished $1,200 MacBook Air was available for $950 on Apple.com.

• Find fine-art photos for free—and have them framed for cheap. Art photography prints sold in galleries can cost hundreds of dollars or more, and the options are limited. Instead, choose among the hundreds of millions of photos posted on Flickr.com that can be legally printed and used for free. Just enter topics or types of photos of interest—anything from cityscapes to sea horses to rusty tractors—and select “All creative commons” from the “Any license” menu to view those that can be legally used without paying royalties.

When you find a photo that you would like to hang on your wall or give as a gift, click on it, download it to your device using the download button at the lower right of the photo, then upload the file to MPix.com, a site that will print the photo, mat it and put it in an attractive frame for a very reasonable price.

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Source: David Pogue, technology critic for Yahoo Finance. He spent 13 years as the personal technology columnist for The New York Times and is author of Pogue’s Basics: Money—Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You). DavidPogue.com