Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday Shopping Tips For The Best Deals and Online Safety

Black Friday may have brought out the holiday shopping crowds, but Cyber Monday is increasingly generating the biggest bucks for retailers as consumers hop online to make merry and find gifts for the holidays.

According to data from IBM Coremetrics and comScore, Cyber Monday sales rose 20% in 2010 and topped $1 billion in online spending—the first year ever that Cyber Monday bested the sales generated on Black Friday, which totaled $648 million last year.

This year, experts predict Cyber Monday sales will also rise significantly thanks to a host of new online shopping apps and consumers’ growing comfort with technology as well as an increase in businesses with high volume merchant accounts.

If you’d rather shop online from the comfort and convenience of your own home, take these unique steps to make the most of your holiday shopping  on Cyber Monday.

Get On the List

The single best strategy to unearth Cyber Monday bargains early is to get on a good deals list put together by experts who are tracking retailers’ offers.

Dealnews.com is hot on the case this year. By the Monday night before Thanksgiving, the site already had information about “leaked” Black Friday ads with both rumored and confirmed deals from such retailers as Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, Lowes, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart.

To get email, text alerts or an RSS feed about Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals sent to you, all you have to do is provide

Dealnews.com and other sites like it with your email address. Dealnews.com also has a free Black Friday app available for iPhone and Android users.

Forget Monday—Get Online ASAP

Here’s one Cyber Monday strategy that may not have occurred to you: Get online early—as in, a couple of days early (like right now).

According to the experts at Dealnews.com, if you start hunting online for must-have holiday gift items on Cyber Monday, you risk being sorely disappointed and getting just “leftovers.”

“For those of you who’d rather fully digest your Thanksgiving meal and not stand on line starting at 3am on Black Friday, we understand. Shopping for the best deals can be exhausting, but if you wait until Cyber Monday you will be missing out on some of the highest markdowns of the holiday season,” the staff at Dealnews.com recently wrote, in giving consumers holiday shopping pointers.

“Coming out of your tryptophan daze on Monday, you’ll definitely see retailers’ sales, but these bargains are essentially the leftovers from the Black Friday feast. Plus, many Friday offerings will be available online, so you really have no excuse for a late start,” Dealnews.com experts added.

Consider Buying Discounted Gift Cards Online

Instead of purchasing physical gifts, many people will buy family members, friends or co-workers gift cards for the holidays. In fact, according to the TD Bank Holiday Shopping Poll, 64% of respondents said they plan to purchase gift cards this year.

“With the majority of consumers looking to spend the same as last year, gift cards are a perfect option to keep holiday spending in check,” says Nandita Bakhshi, Executive Vice President, Head of Products, TD Bank. “Giving a gift card reduces shopping stress, you spend exactly what you intend to, and are less likely to get caught up in the season and spend more money than planned.”

But one reality about gift cards is that they often go unused. As a gift-giver, that can work to your favor since an ongoing supply of unused gift cards means that you don’t have to spend $50 to get someone a $50 gift card. In fact, there are thousands of discounted unused gift cards available for purchase at savings of up to 30% off the face amount of the gift card.

Here’s how it works. You have the option to buy a discounted gift card through reputable gift card depots or an online gift card network such as CardHub.com’s Gift Card Exchange, which is the largest in the country. While online, you’ll see a slew of retail gifts cards, including Target, GameStop, iTunes gift cards, and more. You simply decide on the store and see what gift card amounts are available and at what discount. As of Monday evening, on Card Hub’s Gift Card Exchange, there was a $50 H&M gift card being offered for $40, a 20% savings; a $40 Barnes & Noble gift card available for $30, a 25% discount; and a $200 Home Depot gift card being sold for $140, a 30% discount.

“The beauty of buying someone a discounted gift card is that they’ll never know you paid up to 30% less than face value for it,” says Card Hub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou. He adds: “As far as they’re concerned, a gift card’s value is equal to the amount of money it has on it, and not a penny less.”

Card Hub also lets consumers sell their unused gift cards for cash, which could come in handy if you need a few extra bucks for holiday shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Snag Extra Perks With Your Rewards Credit Card

Speaking of cards, it’s safer to use a credit card online than a debit card because you get greater protections against fraud and you can dispute unauthorized charges. You may also get bonus rewards depending on the plastic you choose to use. And major credit card issuers are pulling out all the stops to woo their cardholders on Cyber Monday and in the days leading up to it.

For instance, American Express is offering 5X rewards through the New Year, as well as a host of deals for Cyber Week (November 21- November 30). Capital One is tempting its customers with the chance to earn 40-100% more rewards on purchases made through its Perk Central online shopping portal from November 25 through November 28.

Case in point: some of the bonus rewards offered through Perk Central from Black Friday through Cyber Monday include:

  • Deals for the Fashionista: Landsend.com (100% rewards increase), Macys.com (40% rewards increase)
  • Deals for the Techie: Lenovo.com (100% rewards increase), TigerDirect.com (67% rewards increase)
  • Deals for those with Kids: Lego.com (100% rewards increase), Gamestop.com (40% rewards increase)

Don’t Forget Cyber Safety

While you’re salivating over holiday bargains, don’t forget to exercise some basic online shopping safety, too. A recent TransUnion survey found 74% of Americans surveyed plan to do at least some of their holiday shopping online. At the same time, 35% of Americans surveyed said they were more afraid of becoming the victim of identity theft during the holiday shopping season.

To avoid this problem, use the following strategies.

Before you start Web surfing on Cyber Monday or earlier, consider changing your account passwords and keep a list of them in a secure place. For your passwords and PIN numbers, select a random mix of letters, numbers and special characters, making it harder for identity thieves to victimize you. Don’t make the mistake of using your address, date of birth or something else that could be easily guessed.

Also, only shop at trusted sites and before you make an online purchase look for an “s” in the address box (i.e. https://), which indicates that it’s a secure site.

Finally, since you may be shopping at many sites or may be subjected to a lot of pop-up ads and other things, it’s best to make sure your computer has spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.

Shopping online during Cyber Monday can be fun and convenient, but take care to make your Web-based holiday shopping safe, too.

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