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Smart Buying

How Stores' Price-Match Policies Compare

Cheapism provides a guide to which retailers have the best guarantees.

A smart way to save money when shopping is to take advantage of stores' price-match policies. Smart phone apps, such as ShopSavvy and RedLaser, make it easy to scan a product's barcode and compare prices for the same product online. But getting the store you're in to match the price you found online isn't always easy. That's because price-matching policies vary from retailer to retailer. What one store accepts for proof of a competitor's price might not pass muster at another. And some won't match online prices -- even if the price comes from the retailer's own Web site.

So Cheapism, which identifies and reviews the best cheap products, tested the price-match policies of eight major retailers to find out which had the best. After examining the stores' rules, reading reviews online and visiting the stores to see how they applied their guarantees in practice, Cheapism found that three retailers stood out: J.C. Penney, Lowe's and Target. It ranks the price-matching polices of Best Buy, Home Depot and Walmart as good and says that consumers shouldn't bother to attempt price matching at Sears or Kohl's.

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In general, price matching is allowed only for identical items and closeout prices are excluded. Here's what Cheapism liked -- or didn't like -- about these eight retailers' price-match policies:

Best

J.C. Penney. The retailer's written policy isn't the most generous: It won't match online or mobile prices -- even from its own Web site -- and requires an original print ad as proof of a competitor's price. But Cheapism found that J.C. Penney seems to give managers authority to decide what sort of proof is acceptable. It also has a lenient return policy -- there's no time limit as long as the product is in good condition. So if you purchase an item in the store and find it cheaper on JC Penney's site, you can take back merchandise to the store and buy it online for the lower price. See J.C. Penney's policy.

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Lowe's will take off an additional 10% after matching local competitors' prices (or prices on their Web sites). Customers have up to 30 days to find a lower price and claim a refund for the difference. And it automatically gives online shoppers the lower of a Lowes.com or local store price with store pickup or delivery. See Lowe's policy.

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Target is one of the few retailers that matches Amazon prices -- as well as other online retailers and local competitors. It also will apply manufacturer coupons after matching a competitor's price. See Target's policy.

Good

Best Buy. Although it matches prices from online retailers, such as Amazon, Best Buy allows just 15 days for post-purchase adjustments if the retailer also lowers its own prices. It might seem to make more sense just to return your purchase and buy it again at the lower price, but bringing back too many items can get you temporarily banned from making returns at Best Buy. See Best Buy's policy.

Home Depot also offers a 10% discount after matching competitors' prices, but it doesn't have a written provision for price adjustment after a purchase is made.

Walmart. Although the retailer will match prices on many items, including food, many consumers have complained online that store employees don't know the store's price-match policy or simply don't follow it. See Walmart's policy.

Not worth the effort

Kohl's It requires a print ad from local competitors and won't match its own prices online. Nor will Kohl's allow customers to use coupons with a price match, and a call to the company revealed that employees can't authorize price adjustments of more than $100. Cheapism also found that employees weren't familiar with the store's policy. See Kohl's policy.

Sears will match local competitors' online prices -- as long as the brick-and-mortar stores match their online prices, too. If you want Sears to match an online price, you must present a printed order form with the cost of shipping because Sears factors in that additional cost when matching prices. See Sear's policy.

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