By  Thu Nov 22, 2012

How to Shop Smarter During This Holiday Season

To shop smart is to save money, time and effort in your shopping adventures. Because the banking and technology industries are constantly seeking to serve consumers’ demands, the way you shop is evolving for the better.

If you are going to be making plenty of purchases during this holiday season, be aware of these tools that will help you make wiser shopping decisions, and save you money while you’re at it.

Armed with a smartphone

The proliferation of smartphones has enhanced the shopping experience for consumers. With the Internet always in your hands, you can check item prices wherever you may be — even if it’s at a brick-and-mortar retailer. Sometimes, you’ll find that prices are cheaper online.

According to last year’s fourth quarter Nielsen report, 38 percent of consumers used a mobile device to compare prices online.

Mobile applications such as ShopSavvy and RedLaser allow users to scan the barcodes of merchandise and the apps will display the prices of the items at other retailers. If you find that there is a lower price offered elsewhere, you may be able make the purchase right from the phone.

Another useful app is Decide, which uses price analysis and predictions to let you know if a price will rise, drop or stay the same. If Decide tells you that the price of an item is likely to drop, you can postpone the purchase and save a little money.

Protected by credit cards

Sure, credit cards get a ton of bad rap as the portal to debt. For those consumers who can handle credit cards responsibly, there are several handy features that could come in handy for credit-card users.

With “price protection,” card users are protected against price drops after a purchase is made — the difference is refunded to you. “Purchase protection” acts as short-term insurance against theft or accidental damage to recent purchases. Finally, “refund protection” will reimburse you if a merchant does not accept a return within a certain period of time.

Also, you might want to skip the extended warranty offered by retailer if your credit card offer an extended-warranty program.

Review your credit-card agreement or contact the card issuer to see if these features are available on your card (usually for free).

Banking on deals

In the past year, more banks have started to offer merchant-funded rewards — more commonly known as personalized offers. These personalized offers usually provide a discount when you make a purchase of a certain amount (e.g., $5 off a $25 purchase). You may have to load these onto a debit or credit card before making a purchase.

Bank of America, American Express, Capital One and Ally Bank are some of the financial institutions that have launched personalized offers.

Before you embark on your shopping trip, check to see if your bank or card issuer is offering this type of rewards program. Preferably, you find a deal for a retailer that you originally planned to visit — it’s easy to discover new deals and end up spending more money than expected.

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