Tips for smart shopping from the Internet

Tips for smart shopping from the Internet

People are surfing the Internet in growing numbers. Internet offers a wide range of exciting opportunities. But you should remember to take the same type of precautions as you do when you shop and communicate in the offline world. Before you decide to enter personal information on a website, or make a purchase online, here are a few tips to remember:

Deal with companies you know by reputation or experience. If you aren’t familiar with the company, do your research. Find out where they are based, and what their policies are on issues such as privacy and security. Do not do business with a company that doesn’t list a physical address or telephone number on its website. When dealing with international vendors the risk is higher. Different laws and standards apply and it may be difficult to get local authorities to act on your complaint if you feel a vendor has dealt you with unfairly.

Know exactly what you are buying. When shopping in a retail store you have the added benefit of handling the product and seeing the person who is providing the service – benefits that are not available when shopping online. Look for a vendor that provides enough information for you to properly evaluate what you are buying, including details such as the size, colour, weight and texture of the product.

Tips for smart shopping from the Internet

Know what you are paying. The final price for online items is often considerably different from the listed price. Any reputable vendor’s website will calculate the shipping and handling costs for you before you make a final decision to purchase an item. Before agreeing to a purchase, do the math and figure out what the price will be in Canadian dollars. Most people fail to accurately convert the value of currencies and they end up paying more than they hoped as a result.

Additionally, Canada Customs will calculate and add GST to the cost of most purchases made outside Canada. The agency will also charge you an inspection fee for doing so that may be more than the actual GST on small purchases, such as books and compact discs.

Look for a privacy policy. Be sure that you are comfortable with how the company collects, protects and uses your personal information before submitting any details. Responsible marketers have an “opt-out” policy, which allows you to choose whether your information is shared with third parties. Also look for the opportunity to decline to receive any communication by email.

Make sure transactions are secure. Do not enter any financial information if you see a broken-key or open padlock symbol on your Internet browser. This means that the transaction is not secure and could be intercepted by a third party. When the key is complete or the padlock is locked, your browser is indicating a secure transaction. Remember, unlike secure order forms on a website, email messages are not private. Do not send confidential information by email.

Check for endorsement by an association or a quality assurance program. There are several “seals of approval” for websites that confirm the credibility of the company and the website. For example, the Canadian Marketing Association member logo signifies a company that abides by a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, which includes a comprehensive privacy policy and a section on responsible Internet marketing.

Read the fine print before you buy. Make sure you understand all contractual information presented online before agreeing to purchase, including the policy on fulfillment, returns, warranties, etc.

Avoid spam (unsolicited commercial email) by being careful about disclosing your email address both on and offline. Check a company’s privacy policy to find out whether your email address could be shared with other companies. CMA members will not send you marketing email without your permission and will give you the option to decline to receive further emails at any time.

Talk to your children about online activities. Instruct them to keep their personal information private unless you say it’s ok.

The Secret of Online Holiday Spending

The Secret of Online Holiday Spending

Now that the holidays have decided to move into the express lane of time and travel towards us at the speed of light, we had better ready ourselves for the 5 S’s of Christmas: 1) selecting; 2) shopping; 3) savings; 4) spending; and 5) Santa. For the next 5 weeks we will be looking at one of these S’s. This week we will begin with Spending.

There are many different methods of spending for those “must have” gifts that your loved ones have been drooling over for so long. Many years ago there were only two methods of having the money to buy the desired present. First, the method of choice for most “over 70” crowd, is called “savings”. Second, a method that is used many times with “savings” is the “buying only what you can afford”. These two methods are somewhat of a lost art and I personally have only heard about them in books and the reading of ancient artifacts.

One of these historical writings mentions a ritual known as Christmas Club. This amazing tool was used by banks to aid members to set aside a certain amount, on a weekly or bi-monthly basis, to help them have money for Christmas. It was like a reversed credit card, with the payments being made before the purchases and instead of the patron spending 29% interest each month to make up for the credit card monthly fees, they would receive the interest (yes, the interest would come to them). This in turn would give them more money than they put into their account. As late as 1966, this was determined to be the American way of Christmas spending. That was before credit cards spending for Christmas became as customary as the artificial Christmas trees.

Today, the method of choice by most Americans is just the complete opposite as the first two methods mentioned: put every Christmas item on credit card and “never refuse a child of whatever they want”. (“New $500 game machine? – sure, let me apply for this new credit card!”) If I sound slight fuchsias, it’s because I am still paying off my Christmas shopping debt from 1972.

To get the most out of using this plastic god for holiday cheer there are certain rules and secrets that you need to learn to have a safer, cheaper, happy holiday.

Rule #1- Make sure that you shop only on secure, trusted Internet sites. Ask yourself these questions:

1) Are they a known reliable online company? Are you shopping at Amazon.com or Grannysdiscountbooksandadultsite.com?

2) Do they have a physical address?

3) Is there a method of contacting the business?

4) Is their shopping cart secure? Do not enter your credit card on a site that is not secure. A secure site online is just as secure as using your card at your local Wal-Mart or grocery store.

Secret #1- When Shopping online use your credit card and not your debit card. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Federal law says that you are only liable for $50 if your card is misused.

Rule #2- Pay you bill off each month. Any credit counselor will tell you that this is the best way to manage your money and keep yourself out of financial ruin. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.

Secret #2- When using a credit card make your purchases the same day you receive your credit card statement in the mail. This will give you a few extra weeks of non-interest time to save up to pay off your debt.

Rule #3- Don’t save your credit card information on the web site or for that matter on your computer. Even though the web site may be secure there were a few reports last year of hackers getting into different system of online stores. It really doesn’t take that long to re-enter the information.

Secret #3- Pay your credit card online and make your payment at least 2 business days before it is due. This may seem like a contradiction to not saving the credit card information on line but it is not. The credit card information for the lender maintains your credit card information in their secure data base. Once again, it is a similar retrieving system as if you made a purchase at a department store.

Rule #4- Protect your password. Don’t save your password on your computer and don’t use the same password over and over. Keep a written log in a safe convenient place. There have been hackers who have been able to access information from personal computers. Protect yourself.

Secret#4- Use a formula for your password: have a prescribed combination of letters and numbers you use for a common word that you are sure to remember, then a number you use for the site you are at. For example ReginAmaz might be a formula for a password password at Amazon if I used the first 5 letters of my name along with the first 4 letters of the sites name. ReginBarn might be a password for Barnes and Noble.

Secret#5- More secrets on passwords: use numbers in place of letters at times. Use 1 for an i or l, 0 for o and maybe even 9 for g. For example, with the above password for Amazon might be Re91nAmaz.

Secret#6- If the systems are down, don’t ever call your order in. Wait until the systems come back up. If the Internet site is down, it is possible that their computers are down as well. Therefore when calling an order in, depending on the call center, your credit card information may be written down on paper instead of being entered into a secure location.

Secret#7- If you’re in need of extra money and decide to sign up for a new credit card, read the fine print. One of my credit cards recently sent me a letter saying that I qualify for their platinum card. The fine print says that there is a $72 annual fee! Watch out for low interest rates, the companies have to make their money somewhere. These introductory rates may lead to an astronomical rate or exorbitant annual fees.

With these rules and secrets now firmly placed before you, your holiday spending should be safer and wiser. Next week we will look at “Saving”.

Pre-Halloween sales at Black Friday prices

Pre-Halloween sales at Black Friday prices

Thanksgiving is weeks away, but some retailers are dropping prices to entice shoppers.

We’re five weeks away from Black Friday and already major retailers are dropping prices to entice early shoppers into the stores and onto their websites. Amazon has been discounting prices for months and, as a result, its third-quarter sales surged 39 percent. We combed the websites and sale circulars of some major appliance and equipment retailers and found prices cut on some top performers. Some stores are throwing in free delivery and haulaway deals to sweeten the deal.

If you’re a subscriber to ConsumerReports.org, remember that you can access our Ratings and other shopping advice free through your mobile phone. Consumer Reports also just introduced its Mobile Shopper. With this application, available on iTunes for $9.99, shoppers can scan a barcode and access product and pricing information as well as Ratings for CR’s most popular products.

Related Link: Poster shopping at Art Canyon

Eight painless methods to save money

Eight painless ways to save money

It’s possible to spend a lot less money without making big lifestyle changes.

We all know how to spend less and sacrificing. To eat unless you buy fewer clothes to cut back on vacations, savings through sacrifice can be effective, but painful. So if you are looking for ways to save money, why not start with money saving tips that are relatively painless?

With a little imagination, you’ll find many ways to reduce expenses without making major changes to your lifestyle. To begin, here are eight ways painless to save money.

1. Get healthy: As someone who has struggled to stay healthy, I realize that eating healthily and staying fit is easier said than done. But for those who are in good shape, you can save lots of money on life insurance plans and individual health insurance. As a bonus, you’ll feel better and have more energy.

2. Rethinking Auto Insurance: Each year, a review of your auto insurance policy for potential savings. For example, consider increasing your deductible, which reduces premiums. For older vehicles, to evaluate whether you really need collision coverage, which covers damage to your car when your vehicle hits or is hit by another vehicle or object. And make it a habit to compare quotes car insurance per year, which can be done online in minutes.

3. Improve your credit score: Of all the ways to save money without pain, improve your credit score is probably the most important. From home loans and car loans, credit cards and auto insurance, a good credit score can save you a small fortune. Over a lifetime, the savings can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars.

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