Tag Archives: cyber monday

Online Holiday Shopping Series #2

canstockphoto15907634If you plan to shop online this holiday season you need to get a battle plan together. Saving money is not always made easy for you but if you develop a strategy and method to stay up on the latest sales it could pay off big…really big.

Step 1) Set up an email box strictly for your shopping information. Don’t use your own personal email unless you love getting a lot of spam. Stores love to get email addresses and they also love to email coupons. Also make an effort to follow your favorite stores on their Facebook or other social media site. Another really cool thing stores will do is announce sales and discounts only through email and text messages. If your name is on the list you can can get some nice additional discounts on sale items. This is a favorite tactic of Stein Mart stores who regularly issue incredible savings coupons on the Internet. You have to know where to look for them so click on the link to see what I’m talking about. You can sign up for coupons at stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Macy’s, JCPenny and many more. 

Coupons are just the beginning of the benefits of signing up for email alerts and coupons. Last year a major electronics retailer offered flat screen televisions, any size, for half price on a certain day of the week. If you were not on their email list you never knew about it. This beats the hell out of waiting in line at 5:00AM on Black Friday. Of course the number of sets were limited in each store but the deal was a great one if you knew about it.

How about being invited to an exclusive sale?  Last holiday season a popular retailer of women’s’ plus size clothing held an after hours sale exclusively for people who responded to an email. The sale offered items for as much as 70% off. You missed it didn’t you?

You don’t have to do this alone. Ask a friend or two to join you using that special email box. Each of you should sign up for stores you all enjoying shopping at. Keep each other informed about sales and monitor social media for sales as well. You never know when Macy’s may Tweet a sale.  Work as team and you could end with a pretty good repository of sales and coupons. And its good all year long since stores hold sales all year round.

Step 2) Focus on price matching. If you find an item at one store for less than another then you can ask the store to sell it to you for that price. Even if they don’t do price matching they very often say yes. Here is a list of stores that have excellent price matching policies. What is great about this is that some store will even match the online price. Check out this list of stores that match online prices.

Step 3) Learn the best shopping apps and load them on your smartphone or tablet. VentureBeats.com offers this list of the 8 best shopping apps. One of the great things about some shopping apps is they they can do a lot of the work for you. Although we will focus on shopping apps later in this series you need to read up on them now before the shopping season gets intense. A good shopping app can do things like watch the price of a item for you and alert you when it drops to a certain level. Some apps go out on the  Internet and find the item at a cheaper price. Other apps will monitor sales at certain stores for you. Apps are amazing and can help keep a few extra dollars where they belong and thats in your pocket.

Step 4) Pick your days carefully. Believe it or not the best day to shop is not black Friday or Cyber Monday. How about Thanksgiving evening? Research indicates that instead of watching football you may want to get online to shop for those Christmas gifts.

As long as we are on the subject of Black Friday sales I’ll let you in on a little secret. First of all the best sales are not on Black Friday. As matter of fact if you wait those same prices will re-appear either online or at the store. Second, there is an extremely limited quantity of those incredible sale items. For example if you see a 50 inch flat screen television advertised for dirt cheap you can bet there are a very few in the store. Check the ad and you will see the word “Limited Quantities.” So get some sleep and preserve your dignity. Black Friday sales are not all that great. You can see a list of 16 Black Friday myths right here.  

Finally, there is a rule of thumb that I would like black people to keep in mind this Christmas shopping season; Its not what you make but what you keep. These tips are intended to help you keep your money. Regardless of what or who you are shopping for there is no reason to pay too much. I have the privilege of knowing a woman who I call the Discount Diva. You could say she is a professional at finding the sale for exactly what she wants even after she has already purchased it. Its amazing but I have seen her go into a store and come out with money. How? She is a practitioner of finding the item she has already purchased on sale for less than what she paid for it. She then goes back to the store with her receipt and asks for the difference. And most times the store will refund the difference. Its amazing but it is an excellent example of how a good shopper works. I urge you, this season, be that shopper.

Now you know

Online Holiday Shopping Series #1

It’s November and the holiday shopping season is upon us again. The African American Cyber Report is launching a weekly series focusing on online holiday shopping. Each week through New Year’s Day we will investigate a different facet of online shopping from safe and secure payments to the apps and websites that get you the best bargain. If we hear of a special sale or online event we will let you know about that as well.

African-Americans are a powerful consumer segment. According to a report from The Nielsen Company entitled The State of the African-American Consumer,” black buying power is nearly $1 trillion. How’s that for a U.S. consumer market segment? Black people are not only a significant market segment but they shop more than other groups, spend less money per trip and spend more time investigating the product before buying. Research indicates black people are smart, savvy shoppers.

Before we examine the choice of credit versus debit cards for shopping online we need to take a quick look at black people and their credit cards. According to a report from the NAACP and public policy research firm Demos entitled “The Challenge of Credit Card Debt for the African-American Middle Class,” approximately 42 % of black households are in debt. These families are borrowing simply to make ends meet and to pay for basic expenses, such as groceries, rent and utilities. Overall black people face greater credit restrictions and are more likely to be subject to harsh credit collection tactics. Many black people pay higher interest rates and fees for alternative financial services that includes pre-paid debit cards and check cashing services. So the picture shows that we have a powerful market presence but we also have problems managing and retaining credit. And I might add that it is not always someone else’s fault.

Credit vs. Debit for Online Shopping

Right off the bat the credit card wins hands down for shopping online. But lets not ignore the benefits of the debit card. Especially if you have a tight budget and need to restrict the spending of yourself or someone else.

Credit cards offer distinct advantages over debit cards.  And if you are holding a credit card now is the time to get real familiar with the protections that come with that card. Make sure you understand what security measures the card offers against fraudulent charges as well as the method for disputing purchases. There are going to be black people who order something from an online store only to discover that it is not what was advertised. As an African-American consumer make sure you know the dispute process . Study it before you hit those online sales. Its your money we’re talking about.

Carrying around a credit card from the right company offers some awesome benefits. These benefits can vary from one card issuer to another so it’s a good idea to study your account agreements for the details. Study that thing and make sure you know it. It can save you some headaches and provide some surprising benefits on everything from buying airline tickets to renting a car to getting a warranty extended. If you’re planning to travel over the holidays then you need to investigate the travel benefits of your credit card. Some credit cards offer travel services like getting a seat upgrade or discounts on luggage fees. Other benefits include rental car upgrades or insurance or hotel discounts and upgrades. Travel insurance is also available from some cards free of charge. Some cards offer help finding a doctor or lawyer. If you buy a product that has a warranty you can actually get that warranty extended for up to a year depending on the credit card. But keep in mind that these benefits are sometimes automatic and others you have to ask for. So studying your card agreement is extremely important. Didn’t I say that before?

The beauty of credit cards is that there is an extra layer between your real money and other people. A debit card or pre-paid card is the same as cash and that is where you find additional, and unnecessary risk. As soon as you make a purchase that money is out of your account.  Any problem with the purchase and its just you and the merchant. And that is a very weak negotiating position. The Better Business Bureau or your bank may be able to help but not much.

By using a credit card, you have a powerful company on your side. This makes disputing charges and getting satisfaction when having to return an item much easier. With a credit card the purchase in dispute is not yet paid for. The card issuer can refuse to honor the demand for payment and that leaves the merchant in a lurch. So that merchant is more likely to respond favorably to your demands. CreditDonkey.com, a credit card comparison website, offers a list of the best credit cards for shopping online.

For all you out of control spenders, credit cards are still better than debit cards. A frequent complaint about using credit cards as a primary form of payment is that the advantages are outweighed by disadvantages for many people. As I stated above many African-American consumers simply can’t handle credit cards without spending more than they can afford. And what happens? Higher interest rates, ruined credit scores, all that.

But overdraft protection on a debit card is even worse. Yes, you can over spend with a debit card. Over charging on your debit card results in multiple overdraft fees which are more than credit card interest rates and late payments. And unlike a credit card bill that arrives once a month your bank account takes the hit immediately. With a credit card, you can close your account and work out a payment plan, but with a debit card you don’t get that option.

Many pre-paid debit cards a very popular in the black community. But being popular is far different from being a good option. Many pre-paid debit cards, while intended to help the African-American community are often doing just the opposite. Pre-paid cards have been criticized for exploiting poor and dis-advantaged black people by charging higher, sometimes exorbitant fees. This is especially so when people make the mistake of thinking of the card as a credit card. But the pre-paid card is a huge and profitable market to the tune of about 500 million cards in circulation channeling billions of dollars in sales. You can find a list of the best and worst pre-paid cards here.

Another payment method you need to consider for your holiday shopping is the retail card. Be aware that these store cards can carry some pretty high interest rates. But at the same time you can take advantage of some pretty good deals by using the store credit card. Some stores will give you as much as 10% off your purchase if you apply for the card at the register. Using these cards does not carry a lot benefits at all. And they are dangerous to your credit report. For example when you fill out that card application it shows up on your credit report and if you close the account it stays on your credit report. But if you are looking for the best retail cards to shop with this holiday season you can find the top ten here.

So as you start hunting for those holiday bargains and eagerly wait for Black Friday or Cyber Monday be aware that there is a difference between a credit and a debit card. Make wise purchases and know what tools and weapons you have at your disposal when using that credit card as you shop this holiday season.

Now you know