Five tips to save when shopping online


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A record four in five households jumped online to make $63.8 billion worth of purchases during 2022, new research produced by Australia Post has revealed - an amount that has now grown to represent 18% of all retail spending.

As online shopping has grown in popularity over the years, so to have the opportunities for shoppers to save money and earn rewards when checking out. Even better, it's become easier than ever to take advantage of cashback offers, reward points and more.

So if you're not already, here are five things you should be doing before checking out online.

earn qantas frequent flyer points shopping online qmall

1. Get some cashback when you spend

The ability for shoppers to earn cashback on their purchases has really taken off in recent years thanks, in part, to the growing number of cashback websites and apps out there - the likes of Cashrewards, ShopBack and Cheddar to name a few.

A browse through the cashback offers available on these sites shows that it's relatively common to be able to earn anything from 1%-10% cashback, an even higher in some cases, on purchases. Plus these cashback deals are available across all manner of retailers and products, so there's every chance that you may be able to find an offer to match whatever you're buying online.

In addition to websites, a few banks are offering credit and debit cards with cashback offers. Most of these are limited time offers that will require a minimum spend over a fixed time period in order to activate it, but HSBC's Everyday Global Visa Debit Card is one option that allows users to earn 2% cashback on eligible purchases under $100 (up to $50 per month).

Tip: Depending on the company it typically takes at least a few days for cashback to be credited, so don't expect it straight away. There may also be a minimum withdrawal amount to transfer your cashback into a bank account.

2. Hunt around for coupons and discount codes

'Am I paying more than I need to?'. That should be the thought that pops into every shoppers' mind before they hit the 'complete purchase' button on an order, because it's always worth taking the time to look for any coupons or discounts available to bring that price down by another 5% or 10%.

There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is using one of the many dedicated coupon aggregator websites out there (e.g. Finder, Australian Coupons), then there are browser extensions like Honey which can take even more of the hassle out of the process by automatically applying discounts.

Even some banks, like the Commonwealth Bank and Westpac, are now offering their own exclusive discounts and deals to customers on everything from clothing to energy retailers.

Tip: Depending on the source you use, coupons won't always work, so it pays to watch out for any expiry date attached and to take into account any comments from other shoppers about its effectiveness.

3. Earn loyalty points on your purchases

Unlike discount codes or cashback, reward or loyalty points may not translate to direct savings or cash in your bank account. They may still be worth accruing though if you're going to be buying an item anyway and if you're likely to redeem them down the track, plus you'll usually be able to earn points on top of any coupons or cashback you use.

There's no shortage of options on the points-earning front. You can make your purchases using a credit card that earns you rewards points, utilise any unique loyalty or rewards programs offered by a retailer (e.g. Flybuys or Woolworths Rewards), or see if the retailer you're purchasing from provides points from a third party program like Qantas or Velocity.

Tip: While you're checking out, it could be worth simply googling the retailer and 'Qantas Points' or 'Velocity Points', for instance, to see if you'll be able to earn them. Otherwise if Qantas is your preferred loyalty program then you may find it easier using their dedicated Points-Prompter browser extension.

4. Utilise credit card insurance

Now, not everyone uses a credit card, and not every credit card will have these features attached, but for those who do, the likes of extended warranties and purchase protection insurance can come in handy when shopping online (or in-store).

Extended warranty insurance is exactly what it sounds like. When you purchase an item (e.g. a new television) you will typically receive a warranty from the actual retailer or manufacturer of the item, so in addition to that, when you use your credit card to pay for it, you may be eligible for an extended warranty from the credit card issuer.

Purchase protection, meanwhile, provides cover for things like theft and accidental damage on eligible items which you have purchased using your credit card. There are typically limits on the price of the item purchased and the timeframe in which a claim can be made though.

Tip: These extra credit card perks only tend to be available on platinum and rewards credit cards, so don't assume that you'll automatically have access to them with every card.

5. Make the most of your gift cards

It can be so easy to forget them when they're buried in the top drawer of your desk or in a seldom used pocket in your wallet, but you're leaving money on the table if you're not using any gift cards you have when paying for your purchase.

If the issue is having them close to hand, or even remembering they exist, one option is to add them to your phone via mobile wallet apps like Google Wallet or Stocard so that you have them handy in whenever you're ready to buy.

Tip: Recent changes to laws around gift cards mean that most gift cards now must be valid for a minimum of three years, so you might even have a gift card kicking around that you thought was a dud, but hasn't actually expired.

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Tom Watson is a senior journalist at Money magazine, and one of the hosts of the Friends With Money podcast. He's previously worked as a journalist covering everything from property and consumer banking to financial technology. Tom has a Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) from the University of Technology, Sydney.
Grant Cole
April 15, 2023 8.41am

Cashrewards is generally good but, a recent experience with a 17% Viator rebate was declined on 5 separate transactions.

Cashrewards will defer to the supplier and deny any liability, just don't bank of the rebates being paid.

John Jones
April 16, 2023 7.29pm

"HSBC's Everyday Global Visa Debit Card is one option that allows users to earn 2% cashback on eligible purchases under $100 (up to $50 per month)."

While that is true, HSBC 2% cashback is only for "tap and pay" purchases in real shops and restaurants (with some exclusions like Government shopfronts, public transport, gambling), unfortunately it doesn't work for any online purchases. I wish it did. And from my experience the 2% cashback has never taken more than a few minutes to appear in my HSBC account online.