2013 Payment Guide to Holiday Shopping – by Jack Hojnar

Millions of people this year will turn to their mobile devices to make holiday purchases. In fact, for the 2013 Holiday Season, eMarketer predicts that mobile commerce will account for nearly 16%, or $41.68 billion, of the $262.30 billion that online shoppers are expected to spend this year in the United States alone.best-credit-cards-for-holiday-shopping-2013

Online and mobile shoppers are not the only increase expected for 2013. Of retailers surveyed by Baynote and The E-tailing Group, 30% of retailers began marketing their holiday offers before October 1st.

Here’s more reason retailers are pushing promotions NOW: this year, the Holiday Shopping Season, as defined from Black Friday to Christmas Eve, is actually shorter than in previous years – 26 total shopping days.

So where do we start?

While last year’s version of the CBSI Shopping Guide to the Holidays contained some great and still relevant tips (read HERE), this year’s writing includes more online aspects and tools that were either unavailable last year or too small to have much relevance.

Credit Card Benefits

Financial transaction companies (wordy way of writing “banks and other companies such as PayPal”) often provide additional products and services known as Benefits. These often complementary products appear on many cards and are designed to get you, the consumer, to use their financial device (e.g., credit card) instead of the others guy’s card.

During the Holiday Shopping Season, these benefits are particularly valuable should you purchase an item that breaks or if you price compare products or if you simply want to extend the warranty of something you believe needs better protection.

Some common shopping Benefits are:

  • Purchase Protection; buy something with your card, it’s protected from damage, loss or even theft.
  • Extended Protection: buy something, increase the manufacturer’s warranty just by using your card.
  • Price Protection: buy something and find a better price later, you’ll be refunded the difference.
  • Return Protection: buy something you don’t like and the retailer wont accept the return, get reimbursed; product return to administrator likely required.

Each financial institution provides different variations of the benefits listed above so you need to contact your bank and credit card company to determine what, if any, related benefits are available to you.

Credit Card Usage Tips – In Store

Not much has changed from last year as much of the same recommendations still exist so let’s get to them quickly.

  • Retail Store Card v. Bank Card: Several shoppers like the discounts, rewards and benefits associated with using a store card (e.g., Home Depot card) as opposed to using the rewards and benefits from a bank card that may be less specific. In fact, retailers encourage consumer use of store cards via several incentives such as coupons and more important, mobile transaction. By linking their store cards to a store-based mobile app you can use your smart phone to make purchases. (NOTE: Starbucks has been operating successfully within this model for the past two years).

What to do? That’s up to you. If you can keep track of multiple card types and multiple payments sources, then use what gets you the best deal. However, remember that store cards typically do NOT provide benefits that traditional bank cards provide.
BTW – try not to confuse co-branded bank cards with store cards as they are different and co-branded bank cards DO typically contain benefits.

  • Saving Receipts: A hot trend lately – via mobile apps at least – is to take a picture of your receipt and store that transaction in an app. American Express offers this service for cardholders. While this is an excellent way to store receipts and track expenses, it’s not necessarily the best way to use receipts for product returns. Retailers likely will not accept a photographed receipt as proof of purchase, so keeping paper receipts is still a better solution. As stated last year, save receipt in underwear drawers or other places you frequent so that you can always find your receipts. NOTE: Another GREAT service more retailers are starting to provide? Emailing receipts. Personally LOVE this concept for several reasons mainly this: if the store generates the electronic receipt the store should (NOTE: Should …) be able to generate the receipt if you accidentally delete the email.. Be aware that some retailers may use the emailed receipt to put you on a mailing list without your permission (they shouldn’t). If you find yourself on a mailing list in this manner, be sure to report the act to USDOJ (http://www.justice.gov/spam.htm).
  • Don’t Sign the Back of Your Card: Instead of writing your signature on the back of your card, write “ASK FOR ID” which should require the clerk to validate your card with your driver’s license or some other for of ID. While note 100% perfect, the process may deter someone who gets their hand on your plastic.

Credit Card Usage Tips – Online

Let’s jump to the tips …

  • Use One Card: Am a big fan of using ONE credit card (or payment tool) for ALL online purchase. In fact in our home we only use one card for all online purchases; this allows us to keep track and monitor any potentially fraudulent activity (we have been violated AND we have found the violators).
  • Use Trusted Sites: During the Holiday shopping season, you may find yourself motivated by a company with a fantastic bargain on a hard-to-find product you really want. Don’t be fooled by unsecured sites or too-good-to-be-true offers. Be alert and aware.
  • Look for HTTPS in the Web Address: HTTPS, in essence, indicates a secure web process and good companies will use this web process for transactions. Look for it when you buy online.
  • Consider PayPal and V.me by Visa: These are two distinct but related sources for secure transactions.

Mobile Wallets

Well, last year at this time I truly thought we would have more to discuss. As of this writing the mobile wallet space is still plodding along as retailer and consumer uptake has been slow. The concept is intriguing and many are trying to create the solution. Some options:

  • Walla.by: The company helps you decide which card would be best for your particular transaction based upon rewards (not benefits) associated with your card.
  • Google Wallet: Google’s mobile wallet system is worth an initial review
  • Lemon Wallet:  Allows you to store and use your credit cards for transactions
  • Apple Passbook: While not a true mobile wallet, some retailers allow for transactions
  • Square Wallet: Similar to Lemon with a few other perks

Shopping Apps

An almost overwhelming number of apps exist to support the mobile shopping experience. So, to make this easy for me and perhaps a bit more work for you I’m going to list of bunch of apps that I have used and reviewed and experienced with success.

The list:

  • Gift Plan
  • Thred Up
  • Retail Me Not Coupons
  • Hukkster
  • Gilt
  • Rue La La
  • Groupon
  • Amazon Price Check
  • Red Laser
  • Google Offers
  • Poshmark
  • eBay
  • Amazon
  • Etsy
  • Living Social
  • Price Grabber
  • Smoopa
  • Shopkick