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11 Online Shopping Hacks You Can Use to Save Thousands of Dollars

American retail e-commerce sales (retail purchases made online) increased by nearly 39% in the first quarter of 2021, compared with the first quarter of 2020. During the same period, retail e-commerce sales accounted for about 13.6% of all U.S. retail sales.

These figures are impressive. They at least partially reflect the ongoing shift from brick-and-mortar to online retail to accelerate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s virtually certain you did more online shopping than usual during the pandemic. Perhaps you maintained your newfound online shopping proclivities after lockdowns lifted.

One step you can take right now to find better prices on future online buys is to add Capital One Shopping, a free browser extension (available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge) that helps shoppers save money online.

Capital One Shopping’s features give rise to several clever online shopping hacks that could significantly reduce your annual retail bill when paired with other common e-commerce savings strategies.

Online Shopping Hacks to Save Big Money

In addition to several Capital One Shopping features that can help you save big depending on how you’re shopping, Capital One Shopping complements a host of other reliable online shopping hacks for saving money too.

1. Capital One Shopping Automatically Applies the Best Available Coupon Codes at Thousands of Retail Sites

Capital One Shopping automatically tests coupon codes at thousands of online retailers, including big names like Target, Costco, and Best Buy.

If Capital One Shopping finds a valid discount code or codes as you shop on a retailer’s website, it notifies you in the coupon code field (usually in your cart or on the checkout page).

After testing all available promo codes, Capital One Shopping applies the best one for the items in question and shows how much you can save. All you have to do to claim those savings is complete the checkout process and make your purchase.

2. Use Capital One Shopping Every Time You Shop Amazon

Don’t forget to shop with Capital One Shopping when you browse Amazon’s website. While you’re shopping on Amazon, Capital One Shopping automatically searches for better offers on identical products at Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Walmart, and other retail sites.

When one or more non-Amazon sellers has a better deal available, Capital One Shopping displays the match or matches with lower prices within 15 seconds and provides a detailed summary of the offer:

  • Total price with tax, shipping, and active coupons
  • Pricing history
  • Return policy
  • Related product deals from millions of other Capital One Shopping users
  • Estimated delivery date
  • Product reviews and rankings

For best results, shop Amazon in regular browsing mode rather than “incognito” mode. Many retail bloggers advise against shopping in regular browsing mode at all times to avoid tracking and dynamic pricing models that can increase the price you see after returning to an item page for the second or third time. However, it’s the best practice in this case.

3. Visit Capital One Shopping’s Website for Better Deals on Specific Products & Merchants

In a mood to be inspired? Visit Capital One Shopping’s website and click the Discover tab to browse offers from dozens of top retailers, including retailers like FedEx, Dell, Shutterfly, Choice Hotels, and Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Keep scrolling to find thousands of product-specific deals on items similar to those you’ve recently shopped for, each with “average savings” noted in green below the image panel. When you see an offer you can’t resist, simply click through to the merchant’s website and complete your purchase.

4. Scout Capital One Shopping’s Local Cash-Back Deals From Merchants in Your Area

Capital One Shopping’s website lists enticing local cash-back deals from merchants in your area, including national restaurant chains and independently operated eateries.

Link an eligible credit or debit card to your Capital One Shopping account and use it to pay in-store. On each successful transaction at a participating merchant, you earn a percentage of the transaction amount as a credit toward the purchase of gift cards on Capital One Shopping.

5. Use Capital One Shopping’s Watchlist to Be the First to Know About a Better Price

Capital One Shopping’s Watchlist feature displays the most recent prices found by other users on items you’ve recently viewed around the Web. It shows the “last seen” price, the latest available price, and the potential savings (if any) in green.

Sometimes, the latest price is higher than the “last seen” price — which is useful for shoppers keeping tabs on pricing trends, even if it doesn’t result in immediate savings.

6. Buy With a Rewards Credit Card

Use a rewards credit card whenever you shop online. For everyday purchases, a general-purpose cash-back card is probably your best choice since you don’t have to worry about keeping track of spending categories or tiers.

But do use store- or merchant-specific credit cards with rewards programs wherever you shop frequently — the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card earns unlimited 5% cash back on eligible Amazon purchases, for example.

7. Qualify for Free Shipping Whenever Possible

Always look for opportunities to qualify for free shipping on online purchases. In some cases, you might need to pay for a recurring subscription like Amazon Prime, which you should only do if you patronize the merchant enough to justify the cost. (Amazon Prime has potentially valuable benefits beyond free shipping, so it’s appropriate for more than just shoppers allergic to shipping charges.)

It’s often possible to qualify for free shipping without a recurring subscription. Many online retailers promise free shipping on every order above a certain dollar threshold — for example, $35 or $50. Others promise free shipping for mailing list members, store credit cardholders, and shoppers who’ve otherwise demonstrated their loyalty.

8. Sign Up for Mailing Lists, Free Loyalty Programs, or Notifications to Get First-Time Customer Discounts

Create a secondary email account to manage your retail promotions and notifications to avoid primary inbox clutter.

Provide this address when signing up for retailers’ email lists or text alerts, which often come with sweet incentives for first-time customers: 10% to 20% off your first order or free shipping on orders of any size, for example.

9. Sign Up for a Store Credit Card to Get Instant Savings

Some major retailers offer one-time or recurring incentives for store credit card users. For example, the annual-fee-free Target RedCard promises 5% off virtually all online and in-store purchases immediately at the point of sale, while the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card offers 5% cash back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases for Amazon Prime members.

Even a one-time savings opportunity could justify the card application. But pay your balance in full as soon as your first statement arrives to avoid interest charges.

10. Check Your Email for Abandoned Cart Discounts

You’ve probably abandoned more online shopping carts than you can count. For the typical online retailer, cart abandonment is a source of unending frustration — and lost sales.

As such, it’s not surprising to see retailers pull out all the stops to bring cart-abandoning customers back in the fold. One common tactic: special limited-time discounts, usually delivered by email or text (if you’ve opted in), on the items in your abandoned cart.

Check your email suite’s promotions folder often for these messages and take advantage if and when you actually want to buy whatever you left by the wayside.

11. Buy and Use Discounted Gift Cards

This is very much a “your mileage may vary” situation. Sometimes, discounted gift cards offer better savings power than any other online shopping hack. Other times, they barely have any effect at all.

It depends, in part, on the retailer or issuer behind the card in question and where you choose to buy it.

Because they’re always in demand, gift cards from big-time retailers like Walmart and Amazon tend not to sell for deep discounts. Gift cards from specialized or lesser-known retailers and online stores are another story, often selling for 10% or more off face value on popular online gift card resale websites like Raise.com.


Final Word

You’ll pay nothing to use Capital One Shopping and take advantage of the online shopping hacks it makes possible.

Nor will you spend out of pocket to enjoy any of the other online shopping hacks we discussed, like earning credit card rewards or leveraging free shipping — provided you avoid impulse buys and make only those purchases you were planning to make already.

You can do it. Capital One Shopping and these other tricks and tips can help. Soon enough, you could find that your biggest retail woes involve not overspending but figuring out what to do with all the cash you’ve saved.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the Capital One Shopping extension using the links we provided.

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

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