How to Save Money When Online Shopping

You may already consider yourself a savvy shopper, but these tips and tools will ensure you don't miss a single opportunity to save.


Ilija Erceg/Getty Images

The convenience of online shopping can't be overstated. Whether you're just mindlessly scrolling after clicking on an Instagram ad or meticulously searching online retailers for the perfect item, it beats going all the way to the store only to find out they don't have what you're looking for in stock. And with abundant free shipping offers up for grabs on all types of sites, online shopping is almost always a win-win. But, don't let the convenience of clicking "add to cart" keep you from taking the time to check for deals.

To make sure we're saving money (and not just time) while online shopping, we asked shopping experts for their best secrets on how to lower those virtual price tags.

Compare prices before you buy

When you take the time to look for lower prices, you have more money to shop. “Never buy anything online or in store without comparing prices,” says Andrea Woroch, a consumer and money-saving expert.  “You never know if another store is offering a better price or if they're hosting a sale or coupon.” 

She says online shoppers can quickly compare prices by running an online search with the product name and style number. “You can also get instant price comparison by using a browser tool like PriceBlink which will alert you with a pop up if they find the item you're browsing at another site for less,” she adds. “This is helpful because you may find it at a store you wouldn't have thought to check in the first place.”

Check price history and set sale alerts

Woroch also recommends checking pricing history as this could tell you if a deal you're eyeing is in fact a good sale price. She recommends sites like and PayPal Honey, which provide historical pricing data to help you make informed buying decisions.

“Retailers may try to trick you into thinking a certain sale is the best deal you will get but the pricing history will tell the true story," Woroch explains. "And if you see that something was sold for less recently, it pays to wait."

Another trick to try: Use Paypal Honey's DropList feature—which sends alerts when an item’s price drops below a specific amount—to make sure you don't miss out on any discounts. 

Try to get a retroactive discount

The price comparisons don't necessarily have to stop once you've hit purchase. “If you know something went on sale after you bought it, check the store's price adjustment policy as some may give you anywhere from a few days, up to two weeks, to get credit for the price difference,” advises Woroch. She suggests using the online chat feature, or calling customer service to inquire about a price adjustment.

Search for coupons  

Try to snag a coupon for any online purchase. “Most online retailers offer a coupon—this could be a coupon for a new shopper or email subscriber for money or free shipping,” explains Woroch.  Check the retailer's homepage or go directly to a deal aggregator like, which organizes coupons by store name so you can quickly find what you need.

“The site also lets you know if a coupon has been verified so you don't waste time trying a coupon that could be expired or doesn't work,” says Woroch. She also suggests using a coupon browser tool that hunts down the best coupon codes for you. Consider the Chrome extension Cently, which alerts you if there is a coupon available for the site you're shopping at. The extension will also test each code and apply the deal with the biggest discount to your order automatically. A double win: Cently also applies cash back so you get both savings and rewards.

Maximize cash back on every purchase 

Be sure that your credit cards are working for you, helping you earn valuable rewards that you can use to save up for a big purchase or a vacation. “While there are many types of rewards that may give you more back for airline purchases or groceries, one of the best options right now is a flat-rate cash-back card because this eliminates the need to track categories or spending limits while allowing you to earn more across a variety of purchases and retailers or merchants,” says Woroch.

Take it one step further, as there are cash-back tools that can also help you earn more back on every purchases. For instance, Woroch recommends, which offers cash back for thousands of online retailers across various product categories including groceries, clothing, electronics, baby goods and appliances. At the time of writing this, you can earn 7.5 percent back at Albertons, 2 percent back at Walmart and 2.5 percent back at Macy’s.

Likewise, the e-commerce company Rakuten gives users cash back from hundreds of retailers that you’re likely already shopping from (more than 3,500 stores are included). Rakuten also allows you to stack deals, so if a retailer has an item on sale or a buy-one-get-one offer, you get that deal plus the cash back. 

There are also some stand-out rewards credit cards that award cash back for spending. Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst for, explains that the American Express Blue Cash Everyday is a great option, because it recently added a 3 percent cash back category for U.S. online retail purchases (for up to $6,000 in annual purchases, then 1 percent cash back after that).

Another pick he recommends is the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card. “It gives 3 percent cash back on a category of your choosing—it can change every month if you want—and online shopping is one of the potential selections,” Rossman says. There's also a 2 percent category (for grocery stores and wholesale clubs), with a $2,500 combined quarterly spending cap. “What’s especially nice about this card is that your rewards can be multiplied by 25 percent, 50 percent, or 75 percent if you hit the various Preferred Rewards tiers—basically, if you have $20,000, $50,000 or $100,000 plus in eligible deposits/investments with the bank,” explains Rossman. 

Specific to the holiday season, Rossman notes the Chase Freedom cardholders can get 5 percent cash back on PayPal purchases and Walmart (online and in-store) from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. Additionally, the Discover It Cash Back card is offering 5 percent cash back on purchases through and digital wallets this quarter. Both cards have a $1,500 quarterly spending cap on the 5 percent categories.

Install a free browser extension 

As mentioned above, PayPal Honey is a great way to find coupons and secure cash-back deals.“It saves you hours of searching for deals and testing codes,” Greg Lisiewski, VP of PayPal Shopping, says. “It’s like having a shopping assistant find the best discounts available no matter what you’re looking to buy.”

With so many sales out there and too many emails about coupons, Lisiewski explains it can be hard to keep track, so extensions like PayPal Honey save time and effort by automatically checking the discount codes for you at checkout. “And, let’s be honest, this also saves the frustration of when codes don’t work after spending time to find and enter a code manually," he adds. "An added bonus: Sometimes there are discounts or cash-back offers available that are only available through extensions, putting even more money back into your wallet."

Another option is to add the RetailMeNot’s Deal Finder extension and sign up for RetailMeNot's cash-back program. “That way, you're not leaving any savings on the table,” says Kristin McGrath, an expert at RetailMeNot. “Deal Finder finds and automatically applies the best promo codes and cash back offers to your order as you shop, and the cash back program lets you earn a percentage of your purchase back—a great way to save, even if the store itself isn't offering a sale or promo code.”  Your savings swell as you can also earn up to 15 percent cash back from top brands across fashion, decor, home, kitchen, electronics and more with thousands of retailers—all automatically deposited into your wallet for future purchases, McGrath explains. Like with Rakuten, the cash-back deals from RetailMeNot can also be combined with coupon codes so that you can maximize your savings on purchases while also earning rewards. "To date, RetailMeNot has paid its Cash Back members $55 million and still counting,” she says.

Subscribe to loyalty programs and newsletters

Most loyalty programs are free to join, so it doesn't hurt to subscribe to these programs to stay informed on deals, upcoming flash sales, and new products. “Plus, it's really common for retailers to offer a special discount code to new subscribers,” says McGrath. If you're shopping with a retailer for the first time, sign up for the newsletter a day or two before you need to make the purchase to make sure that promo code gets to you.

Plan your shopping list in advance

Instead of purchasing something as soon as you have the idea to buy it, create wish lists and wait for sale events, like long weekend promos (think Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Presidents’ Day, etc.), or Black Friday and Cyber Monday. “That keeps your shopping list organized, so you can see when the items you want drop in price,” McGrath adds.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles