How to get the best deals for online shopping

How to get the best deals and sales from Lazada, Taobao and many more online shops

We might be stating the obvious, but we have to say it - there are plenty of great deals to be found online.

Think about it - how often do you see deal notifications popping up on your Lazada app. Or perhaps an email that alerts you to cashback options when you use Shopback.

Clearly, there are a lot of ways to up your online shopping game. But with so many deals available, the big question is - what is the BEST deal?

The answer can be found in just a few simple steps.

Monitor the usual suspects during sales period

To be more specific, be aware of the big discounts during special period from online retailers such as Amazon, Lazada, Qoo10, and Taobao.

Typically, you will see these online retailers making a big push for discounts during the mid-year and end-year period. There are also weekly deals such as Lazada's Mastercard 

In such cases, it's useful to have the online retailers' apps installed on your phone and set the notifications on. This will come in handy when the discount alert is pushed to your phone.

To get you started, here are some dates to take note of:

Taobao

  • 6.18 Big Sale Day (June 18th)
  • 11.11 Day (November 11th)
  • 12.12 Day (December 12th)

Lazada

  • 18 June - 6.18 Big Sale Day
  • 11 November - 11.11 Singles Day
  • 12 December - 12.12 Day

Amazon

  • July - Amazon Prime Day, actual date announced closer to event
  • 23 November - Black Friday sales
  • 26 November - Cyber Monday sales

If you‘re allowed to set up multiple accounts, do so

Some online stores allow you to register multiple user accounts. This means you can register yourself as three or four different users, or as many as you have time to create.

This means that, when a store blasts free coupons (such as for first purchases), you effectively get as many coupons as you have user accounts.

This doesn‘t always work: you could, for example, find the coupons denied when the system realises all the accounts are using the same debit or credit card.

But some online stores don‘t mind this and will let you get away with a few extra freebies.

Leave some items in your cart when you log out

There are two good reasons to do this. The first is that you can avoid impulse buying; leave something in your cart for a few days, and think about whether you really need to buy it.

The second reason is that some stores track what you leave in your cart. If they see that an item has remained there for a few days, you may get a coupon or promotion; the store will try to hurry the sale before you cool off.

Before you buy, always enter this magic search term…

Using any search engine, type “coupon”, followed by the item you want to buy. For example: “Coupon Furla Candy Bag”

This will pull up sites that may have – you guessed it - coupons for what you want to buy. There’s no guarantee that you’ll always find one, but there’s no harm in checking when it just takes a few seconds.

However, before you do this, keep your anti-virus running to ensure you don't visit a site with malware. Also, beware of scam sites. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Don’t forget foreign exchange rates

If you’re shopping online, you might end up paying in a foreign currency.

When you use your card, a process called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) is applied. The product price is converted to Singapore dollars (at a rate you can’t see), and then a conversion fee of between seven to 15% is tagged on.

Some banks offer accounts or debit/credit cards that have ways around this. Which particular ones, you ask? Let's just say we've got you covered:

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Another way around this is to use a Multi-Currency Account (MCA), which can hold currencies besides Singapore dollars.

You could purchase Pounds, Euros, or US dollars while the exchange rates are low, and store them in your MCA. When you make an online purchase, you can debit the amount from this account.

There’s usually no charge when you pay this way, as there’s no conversion involved. However, do check with your bank regarding any extra fees.

You may have found a low price, but what about the shipping?

Remember to check the shipping costs of the item. Sometimes, higher priced items are a better deal, if they offer free shipping. A $700 guitar with free shipping is a much better deal than, say, a $680 guitar, which requires a $45 handling and shipping fee.

Shipping costs become a factor if you buy bulky items, such as furniture. The price is based on weight, so buying a nightstand or freight brass lamp can run up a bill of several hundred dollars.

Note that shipping costs can skyrocket as early as the first week of November, in anticipation of the Christmas rush. You may want to be extra punctual, and do your holiday shopping many months in advance.

As an aside, try to keep the value of your shipment below $400. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 7% applies when the Cost, Insurance, and Freight (CIF) value of your shipment is more than $400.

Use a notification app

Consider downloading notification apps, such as Invisible Hand. These apps can track product prices across multiple websites, and update you when they find a better deal. Invisible Hand, for example, searches different websites based on the product or service you’re already looking at.

That said, be careful of which apps you download. Keep your anti-virus software running, and don’t jailbreak your phone. The last thing you want is to be spammed with 10,000 “make money from home!” ads every time you open a browser.

Make a habit of clearing your cache

Some websites install cookies, which track your online behaviour. Airline booking sites have long been notorious for this, with some of them raising prices every time you look up the same flight (if you look something up repeatedly, it’s almost a certainty you’re going to buy).

Some shopping sites may not be above this as well. As mentioned in point 1, your details can be collected to jack up prices (and besides, it’s just creepy to be stalked like that). Of course, every site will deny it when asked, and we’ll never know. But it costs you nothing to clear your cache before each shopping spree.

Happy browsing, and remember to use the right credit cards to maximise your rewards.

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