The Monday after Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday has become another huge shopping day. Cyber Monday gives consumers the opportunity to score great online deals. From furniture to apparel to electronics to toys, Cyber Monday has become a staple in the Holiday shopping season.

If you plan to partake in the Cyber Monday madness, keep these smart tips in mind to ensure you save money and save your personal identity from theft.

Only Use Trusted and Secure Sites

While Cyber Monday brings great online deals, it also brings out online scammers and fraudsters. Make sure that every site you shop on is secure. There are many ways you can verify the security of a site. One of the easiest ways is to look for “https” instead of “http” in the web address. You should also look for a padlock icon in your address bar, which is typically in the right corner of your browser window. This icon also tells you that the site is secure.

Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi

Sitting in your local coffee shop and browsing sales may sound like a great way to spend the morning, but you could put yourself at significant risks by sharing personal identifying information and financial account information over public Wi-Fi channels. Public channels are much easier to hack and there is no way to verify the security of the network you are using. A public Wi-Fi channel in combination with a poorly secured shopping site can result in disaster. Avoid shopping in public, and stick to safer connections when transmitting personal data.

Consider Alternative Forms of Payment

While online shopping, consider using an alternate form of payment that offers more protection from fraudsters and scams. Online payment services like PayPal have safeguards in place that act as a buffer between your credit card or debit card account and the retailer. You can also use prepaid debit cards or prepaid gift cards. This limits the amount of personal information and/or funds available to a scammer, and keeps any fraudsters far away from your banking account. Keep in mind that a prepaid card may come with small fees for online transactions.

Use Strong Passwords for All Accounts

Many retailers require you to create an account to make orders. As always, it important to create strong passwords that uses a combination of symbols, numbers, uppercase letters, and lowercase letters. Most importantly, you should create a unique password for each and every account you use. Using the same password for all sites makes it easy for scammers to commit fraud across multiple online vendors. If you’re using a site you do not use often, consider checking out as a Guest if possible.

Monitor Your Accounts Closely

Keep a very close eye on your accounts to ensure there are no unauthorized payments or withdrawals from your account during and following Cyber Monday. If you are using your MAX accounts, monitoring your expenses is simple. Use your MAX Mobile Banking app to monitor your account on the go, or your check your online banking account from any PC or tablet as you shop.

It’s important to monitor your accounts in the weeks and months that follow the holiday shopping season as well. Some fraudsters will obtain information and sit on it until they believe there is a better time to strike. Most consumers keep an eye on their spending in November and December, so a fraudster may wait until March or April to make a criminal move.

Plan Ahead

It may be too late this year, but planning ahead is a sure way to save cash on Cyber Monday. Take the time to research the products you are targeting and compare them to other brands and models before you buy.

You can prepare your budget for the big shopping week by using Smartfolio. MAX’s Smartfolio provides the tools to help you successfully manage and track your finances. Smartfolio will help you create a budget, categorize your expenses, and identify ways to save more. Smartfolio also allows you to track upcoming bills and income. Let Smartfolio help you achieve your personal financial goals!  

Avoid Product Models Created for the Black Friday & Cyber Monday Sales

This tip is especially useful for expensive electronic items like TVs, PCs, tablets, smartphones, washers, dryers, microwaves, and more.  Many manufacturers produce “special” Black Friday and Cyber Monday models. These items are similar to the original high-quality models, but typically leave out key features and use lower quality parts to keep the final price as low as possible.

How can you tell the difference? Sometimes you can’t tell the difference with the naked eye. And shopping online can make it even more difficult to notice small changes. It usually takes a little research.

For example, let’s say you’ve been eyeing a new TV all year. Your favorite brand, XYZ Electronics, produces a 60-inch Ultra HD TV with the model number UHDTV-0987. This great-quality model typically sells for $2,500 throughout the year. The UHDTV-0987 comes with several HDMI inputs, multiple operating features, and a high-quality audio system. Overall, it’s a great product and has all the features you want. You definitely want this 60-inch television for your entertainment room.

However, right before Black Friday, XYZ Electronics also distributes a new model to its retailers. This model was made just for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday blockbuster sales. XYZ Electronics calls this model the UHDTV-0654. It is also a 60-inch Ultra HD TV and looks nearly identical to the model you’ve been targeting since the summer. However, it has lower-quality speakers and was manufactured with much cheaper video component parts. On top of that, the UHDTV-0654 only has one HDMI input and lacks the cool operating features you desire. The UHDTV-0654 is selling for $1,900.

On Cyber Monday morning, you visit your favorite retailer’s website to discover that the XYZ Electronics Ultra HD television is listed at a blockbuster sale! You discover that the TV is priced at nearly half of what you expected to pay! But wait…is it really the TV you’ve been looking at all year?

Without proper research, the less savvy consumer would likely purchase the "Cyber Monday model" – jumping on what seems to be a great deal. The smart consumer compares model numbers - always. The UHDTV-0654 may be several hundred dollars cheaper than the other model, but is it what you really wanted? A little research shows that the cheaper components used in the UHDTV-0654 model are likely to stop working within a year or two. The lower-quality speakers mean that you will likely need to purchase a TV soundbar and other audio accessories to make up for the poor sound. And what about the features you desired? After making the purchase, you discover that the cheaper model has none of the features you wanted. So did you save $600 or waste $1,900 with that purchase?

Simply clicking and purchasing the first item you see can be a mistake. While both models may look exactly alike at first glance, the only way to determine the difference is by knowing the exact model number of the product you want and doing your research on the item in advance.

In our example, the higher-quality UHDTV-0987 will cost more. But it gives you the product features you desire and saves you money by avoiding costly repairs in the future. Even better, the higher-quality model will likely still operate as desired by next Cyber Monday – while the “special” model may have you shopping for the same product all over again.  

Seek Promo Codes and Special Offers

There are entire sites dedicated to keeping consumers abreast of online promo codes and special offers. Utilize them when you can! Also, many retailers offer deals when you download their app or take an online survey. Discovering promos may take a little extra time, but it can save you a ton of cash.

Check Social Media

Checking out the social media channels of many retailers can unveil special offers on popular products. Many social media posts link directly to the product page, making it easy to purchase gifts quickly. You can also find great deals and new promo codes as well.

Also, be sure to also check the social media channels of the product’s manufacturer. The company’s social media channels may lead you to a better deal with another retailer, or the product may be cheaper if ordered directly from the manufacturer on Cyber Monday.

Limited Time Deals

“Limited time” deals can save you a ton of money, but don’t let the ticking clock pressure you into making a purchase. While many of the best deals are earned by the earliest of shoppers, some retailers put popular items on sale during “discount windows” throughout the day.

Promoting sale items at different times throughout the day keeps traffic coming to their website all Cyber Monday. Marketers know that keeping you on their site may result in impulse purchases, and the urgency of needing to make a purchase during a certain time helps to create added temptation.

Knowing this scheme going in will help you stay focused on the item you intend to purchase, while ignoring all the other promotions and deals. Taking advantage of “limited time” deals can save you a lot of cash, as long as you stay on track.  

Avoid Hidden Costs and Fees

Pay attention to the final cost before submitting your order.

Are there unusually high shipping fees? Is the delivery date reasonable, without the need to spend more than normal costs on shipping? Are the taxes adding up correctly?

Shipping fees and added taxes for certain products can make a trip to a brick-and-mortar location a cheaper alternative.

Also, many retailers allow you to have the items you purchase sent directly to the nearest store location to avoid shipping fees – all you have to do is swing by the store and pick it up. This detail is often hidden under “Additional Shipping Options” or “Optional Delivery” in the checkout process.

Read the Return Policy

Read it carefully. Then read it again. If you’re worried about the fragility of the items, you may want to ask the retailer or seller about their shipping procedures. Will the item be properly protected? What’s the return policy if the item is broken or damage during the delivery process? Are you expected to pay the shipping costs for returning the item? How long does it take to exchange the item or receive your refund? Can you track the item via a tracking number or order confirmation number? You may discover that a negative customer experience can be avoided if you don't like the verbiage within the retailer's policy. 

Avoid Shopping at Work

While the temptation is understandable, it’s much more difficult to pay for the items you ordered if you are unemployed. Remember to focus on your priorities at work to avoid any awkward conversations with your boss.

Read User Reviews & Product Comments

The marketing may sale you on the product’s strong points. But wait… what are real people actually saying about it?

Check out consumer reports and user reviews to get a better understanding of the product’s strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, a quick glance at the user reviews can help you determine if the product is worth your cash.

Keep in mind that people are much more likely to complain than they are to compliment and praise, but you should take notice of any red flags that continually surface in user reviews. 

 

Use these tips to save cash and your personal identity during your Cyber Monday shopping experience.