How Could I Have Gotten A Better Deal Online Deal This Holiday Season?

Whether your gift list is ready or you’re wondering how long you can wait to start your holiday shopping, the Federal Trade Commission has online tips to help you get the best deals. The bottom line is that some extra research can really pay off.

Set a Budget – Create a gift list and check it twice to help you stay on track and not overspend.

Decide What Matters. Especially if you’re buying gadgets, know what your “must-have” features are versus those that are just nice to have.

Use Search Engines – Type a company or product name into your search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint” or “scam” to find out more about it.

Read Reviews Online – Reviews from other people, experts, and columnists can give you an idea of how a product performs. But don’t put all of your trust in one review.

Consider Reputation – A brand’s reputation for quality and good customer service can really pay off.

Check Comparison Shopping Sites – They connect to many retailers selling the same product, sometimes at significantly different prices. Keep shipping costs in mind.

Consider Coupons – Some companies offer discounts via e-mail, and some websites collect and list codes for free shipping and other discounts. Search for the store with terms like “discount,” “coupon” or “free shipping.”

Read Return Policies – Not all stores have the same rules. Some charge fees for return shipping or restocking things like electronics.

Decide How to Pay – When you shop online, credit cards can offer extra protections.

Look for a Secure Checkout – Does the website start with https (the “s” stands for secure) when you’re checking out?

For hassle-free online shopping, keep records like e-mails and online receipts, if there’s a problem. Also, make sure you know who you’re dealing with and protect your personal and financial information, since anyone can set up shop online under almost any name.

Credit Damage Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.