Shop online, like a professional

Looking to get the best bargain? Join the ranks of switched-on shoppers who are plugging in and shopping online. From the best sites to practical hints and tips.
Image: © Mitarart - Fotolia.com

Finding the range at your local shopping centre overpriced and underwhelming? Join the ranks of switched-on shoppers who are plugging in and shopping online. Not only can you give yourself the global reach your sense of style deserves, but you can save yourself a lot of time and money.

Whether you’re shopping online for a special occasion, your work wardrobe needs an update, or you just want the best deals on cameras, technology or entertainment, these tips will have you shopping online like a pro.

Know where to go

Locations are a bargain hunter’s best-kept secret and the following websites should be a great start to get what you want faster, cheaper and without having to battle nice little old ladies for a decent parking spot.

We’d be very interested in hearing about your experiences and suggestions. Either on our comment section below, or via our Facebook page.

  • aliexpress.com - a wholesale focus but individual items can be purchsed (China)
  • amazon.com - the big daddy of online sales. Offering everything from books to clothing and entertainment (US)
  • asos – on trend fashion and accessories (UK)
  • B & H Poto & Electronics - cameras and electronics (US)
  • BigPond Shopping - top brand products, electronics, computers, gifts and gadgets (Australia)
  • bloomingdale's - clothes, shoes jewelry & accessories (US)
  • carsales.com.au - cars bikes and boats (Australia)
  • Deals Direct - a general discount site with an emphasis on bargain items (Australia)
  • deal extreme - gadgets and electronics (Hong Kong)
  • eBay.com.au - one of the most popluar online auction houses for new and used items (Australia/US)
  • Etsy - an online auction house specialising in vintage and handcrafted items (US)
  • Karma Loop - global concret culture, and they ship pretty fast (US)
  • kogan - electronics (Australia)
  • macy's - fashion, clothing and accessories (US)
  • My Catwalk - womens fashion, clothes and accessories (Australia)
  • NET-A-PORTER - luxury fashion, bags, shoes, accessories and gifts (US)
  • O.co - general retail, also known as Overstock.com (US)
  • oo.com.au  - general retail with a very reasonable range of products and prices (Australia)
  • rushfaster - bags, iPhone cases and luggage (Australia)
  • shopping square - general retail from computers to homewares (Australia)
  • online Shopping USA - featuring products from 132 US stores (Australia)
  • strawberryNET - cosmetics and beauty products (Hong Kong)
  • Victoria's Secret - ladies lingerie, fashion, shoes and work wear (US)
  • zappos.com - a general retailer (US)

Buying online, particularly from overseas sites can have an element of risk. So if in doubt, do a quick Google search on the merchant to see what you can find. Always take care to review other customers feedback, which is particularly important on aggregate sites like aliexpress.com. And if something sounds too good to be true then it probably isn't.

Wishlist discipline

Wishlists allow you to earmark desirable products so you can then take as much time as you like to mull them over, compare prices with other stores and sleep on big decisions like, do I really need 2000 purple fairy lights?

Getting disciplined about your wishlist will mean you make less impulsive purchases and spend your money on the things you’re really going to use. Also most online stores have regular sales, so you might find your items come down in price just days or weeks after you first spot them.

Buy in bulk to save on postage

Buying in larger quantities from a single merchant is a good practise for online shoppers. Of course we wouldn’t advise buying more stuff just to make the most of postage, but it is worthwhile using a larger retailer like Overstock.com, Macys, Bloomingdales or Amazon if you’re after a range of items.

It can also be fun to keep the online shopping experience social. Why not have the girls around for a shopping afternoon to refresh your work wardrobes for the new season and buy as a group? Splitting the postage will save you a bundle.

Coupons are cool

Forget cutting coupons out of the paper, these days all it takes is a quick Google search to pay less on just about anything. If you’re not already using online coupons you’re paying too much! Check out retailmenot.com, couponcabin.com or just Google “(your favourite store) coupons” and spend less in a matter of seconds.

Be prepared to ‘X’ out on the checkout

If you’re buying for the first time with a new online retailer who doesn’t specify postage costs upfront, keep a cool head when you get to the checkout. If the postage and handling is going to make the deal of the century look expensive, walk away. Also, before you hit ‘buy’ you should double check the retailers return and exchange policies and extra handling fees to make sure you’re covered if the shoe doesn’t fit.

Best cards for buying online

There are a whole bunch of options for how to pay once you reach the checkout and depending on your situation and spending habits one of the following may be right for you.

  • Rewards cards If you’re a big spender, and easily put upwards of $12,000 on your card each year you might like to consider virtually swiping your frequent flyer or shopping rewards card to make the most of your online spend.

More: Compare rewards credit cards

  • Regular credit cards A few credit card providers have cottoned onto the online shopping trend and now offer customers the promise of no currency conversion commissions such as the 28 Degrees Mastercard. If you shop internationally (or travel a lot) this could be a good choice for you. Just make sure you look for a card with low (or no) annual fees and get into the habit of paying it off in full every month to avoid paying interest on your purchases.

More: Compare credit cards

  • Debit cards With debit cards you get the convenience and security of a visa or mastercard payment facility but use your own money to pay for your purchases. These are ideal for buying online and will also mean you don’t wind up in debt or paying interest on your online purchases. Look for debit cards which don’t charge foreign exchange commissions like the Citibank Plus Visa Debit and NAB Gold Debit Cards.

How does your card stack up? Some card providers charge an arm and a leg on foreign currency conversion. We found that some credit unions charge as much as 3.65% on each international purchase. Your go-to card may well be the right choice, but it’s worth putting your credit card through our credit card comparison tool to find out exactly what you’ll be paying. Sort by price and instantly find out which fees are involved with international purchases.

  • PayPal Connecting a credit card to PayPal can be an excellent way of managing your online purchases. One of the better things about PayPal is that information about your bank account, credit or debit card details are kept private and never shared with the person or business you're sending money to. All they see is your email address and, if relevant, delivery address. And if you don't receive an item you've purchased or the item is significantly not as described, you could be eligible for PayPal's Buyer Protection.

Like BigPond Money on facebook let us know your favourite shopping site or your experiences (good or bad).

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Source: Mozo.com.au is Australia’s leading independent online finance comparison and reviews service.