While shopping online, pay with a credit card. Avoid paying by check, and never do money transfer (Western Union), or bank transfer. Never send cash.
With a credit card you can always open a dispute with the store if your merchandise was defective, used, or had sent you a different item. Your first redressal should be with the store, and if they fail to accept returns / exchange or refuse to converse with you, send them an email. Include your invoice number, transaction number (if any), the item in question, and the issue with it. This way you have proof that you were trying to address the issue. If that fails, call up your credit card company and ask them for a stop payment to the merchant.
Some credit cards give you extended warranties, or some kind of insurance with your purchase. If you are trying to buy a high priced item which exceeds your credit limit, you can call up the credit company for a temporary increase in your limit to cover the cost of the item.
If you send check, money order or pay by any other means, your avenues are limited in case of any dispute with the merchant.
Another strong point in favor of credit cards comes into play when handling returns. Most of the merchants will credit your card within a week or so after receiving your returned item. In case you made a payment any other way, it may take up to six weeks to mail back your check. Till the check gets cashed, you are now stranded without that amount of money.
Use credit cards even with local shops. You never know when disputes might arise. It is illegal for any store to charge extra (like 3% of your invoice amount) to use a credit card, and some unscrupulous merchants try to do that. Apart from reporting to the merchant with Visa or MasterCard, avoid dealing with such stores. Though it is legal for merchants to give discounts for cash transactions, avoid paying in liquid money.
When you order online, some would bill for the sales tax, some won’t, depending on the location of the seller and your address. Yes, you can save 8 to 10 percent ordering online (good amount of money on costly items).
Many states recently introduced legislation to include taxes when buying online. Not only the states were losing tax revenues, but also it was an unfair advantage to the local shops where you always pay sales taxes.
During your state tax filing, you are supposed to include the sales tax that you didn’t pay while shopping online. Often it is known as Use Tax in the tax forms. Many people ignore such payments but it is a must for businesses.
Some online sites offer free or subsidized shipping, some charges are exorbitant. If you are buying high end items, it is better to have them courier shipped rather than using USPS. You should have a tracking number for your shipment.
Sometimes you can avail of free shipping promotions that these stores offer.
A few of the unscrupulous online stores advertise low cost on your equipment (specially cameras and lenses) but tack up a huge shipping cost. Make sure of the total amount you are paying before you click on the Buy button.
Try to club items together. The shipping is much cheaper than if you were to ship individual items. Even if the price of an item is a couple of dollars higher, you may still end up with lower total price than ordering different things from different stores.
If you want to cut down on shipping cost, opt for 3 day shipping or ground shipping through FedEx or UPS. It will take another couple of days extra to receive the package and you save a bundle on shipping costs.
Anticipate your buying needs and order it at one time.
Packaging charges are included in shipping costs. Packaging together saves you money.