Online Shopping Tips

In 2018, Internet retail sales rose by more than 14% over 2017, while brick-and-mortar sales increased by less than 4%. About $514 billion in goods and services were purchased in cyberspace throughout the year. Even so, traditional retailers still dominated the marketplace, with $4.8 trillion in sales.1

Shopping online is especially popular during the holiday season, when many people prefer to avoid the crowds and purchase and ship gifts with a few clicks of the mouse. Before you click, you might consider these tips, which could help make your online shopping experience safer and more satisfying.

Fever line chart shows E-commerce retail sales by quarter 2009 to 2018 starting at $45.8 billion in Q4 2009 through $158.5 billion in Q4 2018. Accompanying image of woman shopping online.

Connect carefully. Look for https:// in the URL and an icon of a locked padlock, typically to the left of the URL, which indicate a secure connection. Don’t provide personal or financial information when connected to a public Wi-Fi hotspot unless you are certain it is secure. If you must use public Wi-Fi, use a virtual private network (VPN).

Protect your identity. Create a strong password if you order through an account. Only provide information that is required for your order. Opt out of future contacts unless you want further information.

Use a credit card, not a debit card. Credit-card payments can be withheld if there is a dispute, but debit cards are typically debited quickly. Credit cards generally have better protection than debit cards against fraudulent charges.

Know the vendor. Ordering online from well-known retailers is generally safer (although even large vendors can be hacked). If you want to order from an unknown vendor, read online reviews from other consumers and check out the company with the Better Business Bureau. Regardless of the vendor, be sure you are comfortable with the return policy, check for additional fees (such as handling), and make sure you’re not signing up for a service or product with recurring charges.

Finally, remember to factor in time for shipping. Many retailers offer free or low-cost delivery with a guaranteed delivery date, but it might not be as fast as you would like — and overnight or expedited delivery can be costly. If you need a last-minute gift, you might have to face those crowds at the local mall.

 
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