Those deep discounts you're seeking while shopping online could be eluding you if you're not comparison shopping. But racing around the internet looking for the lowest price could be a dive down a rabbit hole, a time suck, especially when time isn't on your side. Especially if you need that bargain right now.
Comparison shopping is the key to finding deals and discounts online. It’s only by scouring the web and collating all of the prices, packaging fees and extra costs that we can find out which retailer is truly the cheapest. But looking for the lowest price online can often be like searching for a needle in a haystack, and once you’ve found a deal you think is good, how can you be sure it’s the best one out there?
For most of us, time is not on our side, so we got in touch with some of our favorite smart shopping experts to find out how to get the best offers online. We looked at a variety of deal sites and online shopping tools ourselves to identify these surefire ways to save money every time you shop online.
If you enjoy hunting down a bargain as much as you do shopping for gadgets, clothes or flights, then take a look at our lowdown on the best deal sites. We also look at browser extensions that can do the work for you. By speedily scouring the web, and hunting for deals on laptops, clothing, household items, jewelry and more in a matter of seconds, these bots can help save you time and money.
Best Sites for Free Shipping Deals
When shopping online, finding a great deal gets even sweeter when you can score free shipping, too, a perk Amazon Prime forged into a mainstay of internet shopping. But trying to track down promo codes that actually work, as well as retailers that offer the perk, can be frustrating if you don’t know where to look.
Skip hopping from site to site and check out FreeShipping.org. It’s a website that aggregates all of the retailers — big and small — that offer free shipping and other discounts to customers. The site includes the terms and conditions of the free shipping deal and the promo code, where applicable.
Best Sites for Price Comparison
Save yourself the hassle of digging into multiple websites to find the best price on items you’re buying online.
Consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch recommends the browser extension Popcart, which sends a pop-up notification any time a product you’re looking at is cheaper on a competitor site. In addition to retail price comparisons, the browser extension also compares unit prices on items.
Woroch also gives deal aggregator site CouponFollow.com a mention. It organizes coupons by store name to help shoppers pinpoint the best deal quickly.
You probably already buy a lot at Amazon. Should it be even more? Install the Amazon Assistant browser extension, says smart shopping expert Trae Bodge of TrueTrae.com, to see how Amazon’s prices stack up as you shop products on competing sites.
Best Sites for Coupons/Promo Codes
Our sources recommend Coupon Cabin for its vast collection of online promo codes and printable coupons that can be used in-store. Consumers can find deals from online and brick-and-mortar retailers such as Nike, Overstock.com and Target. The site also maintains a list of retailers’ active cashback offers. Savvy shoppers might even be able to combine coupon codes and cashback offers to maximize savings, says TrueTrae.com's Trae Bodge.
The Honey browser extension helps save shoppers time and money by doing all the work, says Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. After registering for the site and downloading the extension, you’ll see a Honey widget appear when you check out at any participating retailer. The widget searches the web for all relevant promo codes and applies the one with the biggest savings to your order.
A note to Amazon loyalists: If you’re searching for a specific product, this browser extension will track down the lowest price among Amazon sellers offering the same item and notify you. It even factors in shipping costs before selecting the best seller.
Next time you go on an online spending spree, consider using Cently, recommends consumer savings expert Woroch. It’s a browser extension that automatically searches for coupon codes while you shop, tests them and applies the one with the biggest savings to your order. You can even score cashback on your purchases when using Cently. Unlike similar extensions, you don’t have to divulge your personal information by becoming a registered user.
Best Site for Daily Deals
DealNews.com is a go-to resource for the retail experts here at Kiplinger. The site offers a curated selection of product deals — ranging from electronics to homewares— that gets updated daily. Bargain hunters can also find smart shopping tips on the site’s blog. Some recent topics include a list of the retailers with the best customer rewards programs, as well as determining when is the best time of year to buy big-ticket items. We often call on DealNews experts during the holiday shopping season for advice on where to find the best Black Friday sales.
Best Sites for Travel Deals
To find the best travel deals, we often recommend these three sites to help get the most value for your money:
- Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) sends e-mail alerts when airfare deals based on your search parameters become available.
- Kayak.com, you can search for travel deals by plane or train, as well as rental car and hotel packages.
- Google Travel allows users to search for average airfare, hotel prices and more using an interactive map. The site even aggregates vacation rental listings offered by VRBO, Booking.com and TripAdvisor.
Best Sites for Deals on Gift Cards
No matter if you’re buying a gift card as a present or purchasing one for yourself (to prevent overspending), you can always find them at a lower price through an online gift card exchange site compared to buying directly from the retailer or in supermarkets. Try these two:
- GiftDeals (formerly CardPool) offers discounted gift cards from the likes of Best Buy, Nordstrom and Patagonia for up to 35% off face value. The cards available on GiftDeals have no expiration date, no fees and come with a 60-day purchase guarantee of validity. The site says it does this to encourage buyers to use the cards sooner rather than later.
- GiftCardGranny is another gift card exchange site worth a look thanks to its vast selection and cashback rewards, says TrueTrae.com’s Bodge. You can earn cashback by purchasing select gift cards (think: Lowe’s, Uber Eats and Apple’s App Store) and then redeem the rewards for a direct payout or free gift cards once you’ve earned at least $5 in rewards. In addition to big-name retailers, you can also find gift cards for local businesses based on the zip code you enter into the search field.
- If you're a warehouse club member (think Costco), you may be able to pick up gift cards at a discount price in-store or online.
Best Tools for Cash-Back Rebates
We’ve previously written about the browser extension Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) and why you should take advantage of its rebate offers while shopping online. Once you’ve downloaded the browser extension, sign up for a Rakuten account. After you’ve registered, you’ll gain access to 2,500 online retailers where you can earn up to 40% in cashback rewards. Participating stores include Nordstrom, Kohl’s and Best Buy. Rakuten even has a blog with helpful tips on how to get the most bang for your buck (and maximize cashback rewards) when shopping on partner sites.
You can even supercharge your cashback earnings by using your cashback credit card with a cashback payment app like Slide — "you will earn cash every time you pay using the Slide app with one of their partner stores," says Woroch. "Since payments are ultimately processed through a linked credit card, you will get double the rewards just like that." A cashback credit card lets you earn cashback on everyday purchases. You can score money back on everything from grocery items to pet supplies purchased using the card.
Best Sites for Insurance Deals
Don’t limit your comparison shopping to traditional retail purchases such as clothes, electronics and household goods. You can even use online sites and tools to help score the best rates on insurance policies.
One site we recommend at Kiplinger is Policygenius, where you can get price quotes for a range of policies including life, homeowners, auto and renters insurance.
If you need life or long-term care insurance, consider using AccuQuote. You’ll have to cough up your contact information so an agent can follow up with you directly at a later date, but you’ll immediately receive a list of insurers that match your profile and estimated monthly premiums for each plan. For more information on selecting life insurance, see our story on 10 things you should know about life insurance.
Bob was Senior Editor at Kiplinger.com for seven years and is now a contributor to the website. He has more than 40 years of experience in online, print and visual journalism. Bob has worked as an award-winning writer and editor in the Washington, D.C., market as well as at news organizations in New York, Michigan and California. Bob joined Kiplinger in 2016, bringing a wealth of expertise covering retail, entertainment, and money-saving trends and topics. He was one of the first journalists at a daily news organization to aggressively cover retail as a specialty and has been lauded in the retail industry for his expertise. Bob has also been an adjunct and associate professor of print, online and visual journalism at Syracuse University and Ithaca College. He has a master’s degree from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a bachelor’s degree in communications and theater from Hope College.
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