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Hot Shopping Tips for Holiday Gift Giving

young woman shopping online for holiday giftsWith the holiday shopping season heating up and gas prices discouraging shopping trips, more people are using their computers to finish up their gift buying this year. Whether you are shopping online or at the mall, there are some easy ways to protect yourself and make sure that the holidays are merry.

1. Don't volunteer to share personal information. Social security numbers, bank card PIN numbers and account balances, Internet passwords and other information that isn't needed to process your purchase should not be part of any online payment form. If you are uncomfortable with the information that you are being asked for...just click to another site or go to another store.

2. When you make a purchase, always get the receipt and save it. For online shopping, either print out the page or use the "Save" function under the "File" heading in your browser menu. Most stores will require a receipt for a return even when you buy a gift online. Find out the store's return policy. Is there a time limit for returns? Will the store refund your money or just give a store credit? Is the item you are buying able to be returned? Sometimes sale items or lingerie items are not returnable.

3. If you are giving a store gift certificate find out when it expires. Many stores have a time limit and if the gift certificate is not used before it expires, you lose the money. Time limits can vary from 90 days to three years. The best option is a gift card that doesn't expire.

4. Beware of shipping and handling charges. Catalog and online shopping may provide access to lower prices than your local stores, but make sure to take delivery costs into account. The good news is that many merchants do offer free shipping on purchases over a certain amount. If you can't find a free delivery option, look for a store that offers a flat fee when you order larger, heavier items. Shipping charges based on weight can add quite a bit to the total!

5. Try using price comparison search engines to make shopping easier. Many of these sites rate the sellers so you can get an idea of how reputable the merchant is before you make a purchase. Don't assume that the price comparison sites always have the best prices listed. Before you make the final decision do a quick Google search for the item to make sure it isn't on sale at a store that isn't listed!

More online shopping tips around the Web:

Safe shopping tips from the ABA

Online holiday shopping tips

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