There are plenty of ways to save money when shopping — from using coupons to comparing prices online to waiting for sales. But there might be savings you’re missing if you’re not taking advantage of retailers’ loopholes.
And it’s frustrating to realize how retailers trick you into spending more. But many stores have policies that benefit consumers, too — if you’re savvy enough to take advantage of them.
Click through to learn about return policies, lifetime warranties and other shopping loopholes retailers don’t want you to know.
Return Policies With No Time Limit
It’s frustrating to buy something that doesn’t work out, only to discover that you can’t return it – or that you’ve missed a very small window of opportunity to get your money back. That’s why it can actually pay to shop at retailers with excellent return policies that offer plenty of time to bring back unwanted items.
There are a handful of retailers that have particularly generous policies. “Nordstrom will take back almost anything, any time, as long as the tags are still on,” said Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com. Kohl’s has a “hassle-free returns” policy with no time limit on most products, Bodge said. The one exception is premium electronics — such as computers, TVs and gaming consoles — which must be returned within 30 days of purchase.
Other retailers with open-ended return policies include Bath & Body Works and Sam’s Club, which provides a refund at any time for most purchases (electronics such as computers and TVs are the exceptions).
One-Year Return Policies
Several retailers offer a full year to return items for a refund or store credit — which is ample time to take back purchases that don’t work out. Among those with a one-year return policy are Athleta, Bloomingdale’s, L.L. Bean, REI and Zappos, Bodge said.
Be aware, though, that some of these retailers have certain requirements to get a refund. For example, items returned to Bloomingdale’s must be in saleable condition. And Bodge cautions that you should test out shoes ordered from Zappos on a rug because you’ll run into problems returning them if the soles are worn.
Satisfaction Guaranteed Policies
Have you ever bought something at the grocery store that you didn’t like? You might be able to return it and get a refund or a replacement.
Kroger has a “Quality Guarantee,” that allows customers to return products if you’re not happy with them. Aldi and Trader Joe’s also let you bring back items you’re not satisfied with for a refund. Whole Foods will refund or exchange products with a proof of purchases within 30 days of purchase.
Supermarkets such as Kroger and Safeway also let you save hundreds on groceries, simply by swiping a membership card at checkout.
It can be frustrating to feel like you’ve wasted money on a product that breaks, stops working or wears out quickly after you buy it. Fortunately, there are companies that offer lifetime warranties for their products. So buying their brands can actually save you money since you don’t have to pay to replace their products if they don’t stand the test of time.
For example, athletic wear company Lululemon Athletica promises a lifetime guarantee on their products. “Basically, if you are not pleased with how something wears, you can bring it back and exchange it at no cost,” said consumer expert Andrea Woroch. Patagonia also offers an Ironclad Guarantee, which promises to replace or repair any goods that aren’t satisfactory.
Although these companies — and others that offer lifetime warranties — tend to have higher prices, “spending more for the guarantee is a better use of your money than buying cheaper products you have to pay to replace,” Woroch said.
Retailer Card Perks
Plenty of retailers — including Amazon, Best Buy, Costco and Macy’s — offer special perks to their credit card holders — such as exclusive discounts and cash back. Be aware, though, that retailer credit cards typically have high interest rates — so you don’t want to carry a balance on these cards.
However, you don’t have to worry about a high interest rate with the Target REDcard if you opt for the debit card that links to your bank account. Cardholders save an extra 5 percent on all purchases, get free two-day shipping for online purchases and get an extra 30 days for returns on top of the standard 90-day return window or one year for Target brands.
Learn More: These Are the Best Store Credit Cards
Retailer Rewards Programs
Some retailers have rewards programs that offer members special perks even without signing up for their credit cards. Many stores with free loyalty programs let members rack up points for savings, including Best Buy, CVS, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Walgreens.
Retailer Price Adjustments
Retailer price adjustment policies are a great loophole that can help you score a sale price without actually shopping during the sale. If you buy an item at the full price and it goes on sale, many retailers will refund you the difference if you let them know.
For example, Woroch recently bought a couch from Macy’s and discovered the price had been marked down the day after she purchased it. “All I had to do was call customer service and they quickly adjusted the price and credited the savings to my card,” she said.
However, policies can vary from store to store, so check retailers’ sites to see what sort of price adjustments they offer. Also, if you don’t want to bother with tracking prices after you make purchases, you can use the Paribus app to track prices and get refunds for you.
Credit Card Price Protection
If you shop with the right credit card, you might also be able to get price adjustments on discounted items.
For example, Citi offers Price Rewind on its cards, which does the searching for price drops for you. If you make purchases using your card and register them online, Citi will search up to 60 days to see if the item is selling at a lower price and will refund you the difference. Mastercard also offers price protection.
There are several retailers that will match their competitors’ prices, which is a great shopping loophole to take advantage of to ensure you’re getting the lowest price.
However, price-matching policies can vary greatly. Many require that the items be identical. Some exclude certain products. And some retailers such as Kohl’s will only match competitors’ in-store prices — not online offers — if you have a printed ad with the lower price.
Best Price Guarantees
Some retailers will beat a competitor’s lower price with an extra discount, Woroch said. For example, if you buy a deal for another top product on eBay and then find a better price with a competitor within 48 hours, eBay will cover 110 percent of the difference, she said.
Other retailers such as Staples offer similar price-matching programs. “Just make sure to compare prices online or on your phone while you’re shopping in-store to get the deal,” Woroch said.
Some retailers actually give discounts for bringing in past purchases you no longer want or can use. For example, Patagonia will take your old Patagonia brand items and give you credit toward new ones, Woroch said.
Lorna Jane, a fitness apparel brand, offers $5 in-store credit for each piece of worn fitness apparel (maximum of three) customers donate through its Swap Shop initiative. Staples provides a $2 reward for each ink cartridge you recycle at its stores, and H&M provides a 15 percent off voucher for every bag of clothing you donate to one of its stores, Woroch said.
Discounts for Repeat Purchases
You can save money on items you regularly purchase by taking advantage of retailers’ subscription services. For example, by using Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program, you can save up to 15 percent on products that you sign up to receive on a regular basis, Woroch said.
Target offers 5 percent off on subscription orders, plus an additional 5 percent off for its REDcard holders. And pet stores such as PetSupplies.com offer 10 percent discounts for auto delivery of food.
“Setting up repeat deliveries for products you know you will need and use is a no-brainer if it means getting an extra discount like food for your pets or diapers for your baby,” Woroch said.
Discounts for Online Purchases Shipped to the Store
With some retailers such as Walmart, you can avoid shipping costs by having purchases shipped to their brick-and-mortar locations and picking them up there. However, some make pick-ups even more worth your while by offering discounts.
For example, Petsmart offers a 5 percent discount when you select the ship-to-store option at check out, Woroch said. So when you make purchases online, see if the retailer offers a discount for shipping your purchase to one of its stores, she said.
Discounted Gift Cards
You don’t have to wait for a sale to score savings if you shop with discounted gift cards. Before hitting the mall or shopping online, log onto a site such as GiftCardGranny to find retailer gift cards selling for less than face value. “You can save yourself between 2 percent and 30 percent, on average, by doing this,” Bodge said.
Amazon Deal Trackers
Amazon is known for its low prices. You can save even more money shopping on Amazon if you take advantage of websites that do the bargain hunting for you.
Camelcamelcamel tracks prices on Amazon and lets you know when there are price drops. Bodge also recommends using Ranktracer, which tracks the prices of thousands of items on Amazon every hour to pinpoint the best deals.
Internet Browser Extensions for Deals
You can avoid spending a lot of time comparing prices and searching for coupon codes when shopping online if you download a browser extension such as Honey or Swagbutton by Swagbucks.
When you make a purchase online, Honey automatically applies the best coupon code at checkout for you. Swagbutton alerts you if there are any savings opportunities on the site you’re visiting, such as coupons or cash-back offers.
Click through to see 15 ways to save money on holiday shopping into the new year.
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