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19 Jul 2018

14 online shopping tips and tricks to save money

How to score a bargain when shopping online

Ebay has rolled out a new app feature in the UK that letsbargain hunterssearch for items they want using a picture instead of words - but that's not the only way to save on your online splurges.

We look at how this tool worksand round up the other tricks to use to make sure you get what you need at the best price when shopping online.

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Search using a photo

Ebay's new image search feature sits within its Android and iOS apps and is powered by artificial intelligence that searches the site's 1.1bn listings to find a close match.

Shoppers can take a photo (or use an existing one) of an item they are hunting for and enter it into the search bar.

We snapped a picture of a travel mug and got a whole load of results, although none that exactly matched the product. Ebay says the results will get better as the technology learns from users that interact with it.

Asos also allows shoppers to use a photo to find similar items, either from their smartphone camera or by uploading an existing photo.

Searching with a photo can save you time and potentially money, as it throws up similar items you might not have considered that could cost less.

Read more: 16 ways to save money on eBay

Strike a deal on live chat

When visiting a website, don't automatically shut the chatbot that appears at the bottom of your screen. This could be the route to scoring a saving.

These online helpers may be able to offer you a discount if you strike up a conversation about an item and do some haggling.

In February 2017, we scored discounts on several occasions by virtually haggling with dozens of online customer support staff members.

Our biggest wins included a 12% discount on a £1,629 laptop from Dell and a 20% discount code for full-price items at Boden.

Read more: 10 tips to haggle successfully

Beat the best price

Some retailers, such asJohn Lewis, Currysand Halfords, offer a price-match service, which means if you can find a cheaper price elsewhere, they'll beat it.

It's worth taking advantage if you're shopping online. Even though you may have found a great price, you might be able to get the same or better deal from a better-known company.

You could also try usingBeat My Deal, which claims it can get shoppers a better offer online with a cheaper price, or optional extras like better delivery or warranty guarantees, from other retailers.

Get voucher code alerts

Plugins you can install on your browser can remind you to check whether voucher codes are available, potentially securing you a discount.

Pouch is a free browser extension you can install on Chrome or Safari (Edge and Firefox are coming soon) which automatically lists voucher codes at the checkout, so you never miss out on a deal.

It aggregates these from the web but also has exclusive offers from retailers that you won't be able to find elsewhere.

Stack your codes strategically

If you have found a few different discount codes for a retailer, don't be afraid to use more than one on the same purchase.

In some cases, retailers will have restrictions on the number of discounts you can apply, but others, includingGap and Amazon, are less strict.

You just need to enter the codes you've seen one at a time and see if they get accepted at the checkout.

Remember to use your money-saving opportunities strategically though.

If you have one code for 15% off your purchase and another for £15 off, use the 15% off first. That will apply the 15% discount to the full price of the product, earning you a much better discount.

Check for cashback

As well as voucher codes, you should always check whether you can get cashback when shopping online.

Websites like TopCashback and Quidco allow you to earn back a percentage of what you spend when you complete your purchase through a tracked link.

To make it easier to remember to check for offers, both TopCashback and Quidco have browser extensions that you can install on Chrome, Firefox and Safari that will pop up to alert you when you're shopping online.

Don't checkout

It might sound like an odd thing to do but abandoning your online shopping basket could score you a discount.

You just need to make sure you're signed into the website (so the retailer knows it's you), load up your basket with the items you want and then leave the site.

Some retailers will be keen to encourage you to complete your purchase, so will find ways to sweeten the deal. So in a few days, you may get an email with a special discount code or an offer for free delivery.

This isn't guaranteed to work every time, but if you're not in a rush to buy, it's worth a try.

Sign up for newsletters

Lots of retailers offer discount codes or offers in exchange for signing up for their newsletter.

Gap offers 20% off your next purchase, & Other Stories will give you 10% off one purchase, while Adidas has an exclusive welcome offer for newbies.

The newsletter may also be worth getting as it will keep you in the loop about sales and special promotional events.

To avoid clogging up your inbox, you might want to set up a separate email address for these types of emails or send them all to a separate folder.

Follow brands on social

If you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social channels, make sure you follow the brands you like.

Companies are increasingly creating social-only deals and releasing information about promotions on their social channels first.

Be cautious though, as fraudsters often use social media to post offers designed to entice users into sharing details.

Find out more:How to spot a social media scam

Use a discounted gift card

One trick to try when you're shopping online is to check if you can get a discounted gift card or voucher to use to complete your purchase.

You can use Zeek, an online marketplace which allows people to buy and sell gift cards for less than face value, to see if you can find a saving.

For example, right now there is a £100 Virgin Experience Days e-gift card available for £85 - representing a 15% saving.

Zeek claims users can save up to 30% on unwanted gift cards being sold on the site. Often these are e-gift cards you can use to enter straight away but sometimes you will need to wait for the gift card to be sent to you.

Avoid dodgy websites and products

When you're on the hunt for a bargain, it can be easy to be led astray and end up with a shoddy product or fake goods.

Some companies will pay people to post five-star reviews, so make sure you read a few to gauge if they seem genuine and a product is right for you.

You can also use Which? reviews. We rate thousands of products to give you an impartial overview and recommend 'best buys' to get as well as warn you about the products that we have deemed 'don't buys'.

To make sure a safe website is safe, think about if the offer is too good to be true and use Trustpilot to check out the firm's rating. When you go to pay, make sure the page where you enter card details is secure by looking for the padlock in the url bar.

Find out more: How to spot a fake, fraudulent or scam website

Get price drop alerts

The price of products rise and fall throughout the year depending on a variety of factors, like demand, seasonality and sales - but it can be hard to keep track.

Luckily, there are a range of sites dedicated to monitoring price fluctuations on the products you have on your wish list.

Price Spy, for example, allows you to compare prices from over 3,000 shops and set alerts for when the price drops or an item is back in stock.

Camel Camel Camel specifically tracks Amazon prices, while Love the Sales allows you to pick products from over 700 retailers and create a shortlist of items you want to track.

Beat delivery charges

Delivery charges can bite when you get to the checkout, but there are ways to beat them.

In some cases, retailers will offer free delivery when you spend a certain amount, so if you're a few quid away, it might be worth spending a little more.

Amazon shoppers, for example, can get free delivery on orders of £20 or more - so use Filler Checker or the Super Saver Delivery Tool to find products that to help hit the magic number.

If you don't want to buy anything else, you may be able to pick up your order from a local store or another pickup location like a nearby newsagent.

Most offer this service for free or for a smaller delivery fee. Aside from the saving, it also cuts out the need to wait in for a delivery or risk missing it.

Find out more:Know your delivery rights

Go incognito

Websites can track what you look at online, gaining intimate knowledge of what you're interested in.

Some retailers might use this information to dynamically set prices, which means you could be shown a higher price than someone visiting the site for the first time.

To avoid falling into this trap, you can erase your browser's cookies and log out of your account to compare prices.

Alternatively, you can use your browser's version of a 'private' or 'incognito' window, so cookies aren't saved during your search.

Find out more: Secure and private web browsing