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HomeFinanceHow to hack Cyber Monday: 10 budget shopping tips

How to hack Cyber Monday: 10 budget shopping tips


Cyber Monday can be a great opportunity to save serious money on any gifts you’re looking to buy your loved ones (or yourself!).

But Cyber Monday sales are only the half of it. You can routinely save 30% or more on your online purchases with just a bit of strategy above and beyond what the stores are offering. Combine these tricks with Cyber Monday, and you’ll save a jaw-dropping amount of money.

Let’s take a look at 10 things you can do for maximum savings during this upcoming Cyber Monday.

1. Sign up for store newsletters

Nobody likes to get thousands of emails in their inbox, but if you sign up for the mailing lists or newsletters of stores you frequent and appreciate, chances are you’ll be rewarded with plenty of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales and discounts — or at least given a head’s up as to what sort of discounts you can expect (and on which items).

2. Always use online shopping portals

If online shopping portals aren’t already a frequent component of your online shopping, your savings account could be hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars lower than it should be.

Online shopping portals are so easy to use — it’s mind-boggling that they’re even a thing. You can get tons of cash back and rewards points for simply navigating to a merchant’s website through a third-party link. The shopping experience is 100% identical.

There are many dozens of shopping portals to choose from. The way to find the best payout for a particular store is to use Cashback Monitor. It will give you the top 10 or 20 portals with the highest return rates, saving you from sifting through each portal manually.

One of my favorite shopping portals is Rakuten. That’s because you can choose to earn either cash back or Amex Membership Rewards points. I tend to get at least 2 cents per Amex point when I use them for travel, so I opt to earn those.

Screenshot courtesy of Rakuten

 

You can find just about anything through a shopping portal. Just note two pitfalls when using them:

  1. If you buy “cash equivalents” (think vouchers and gift cards), your purchase will almost never receive bonus cash or rewards.
  2. Adding coupon/promo codes at checkout can sometimes prompt the shopping portal to stop tracking your purchase. The shopping portal should stipulate its rules in the fine print.

Also, it’s often better to enter the product you’re looking for instead of the store. That’s because the same product is probably sold across several different stores with varying cash back offerings.

Take a look at the below messenger bag: it’s made by Frye, so your first instinct would be to purchase it from Frye. But Neiman Marcus sells it, too — which currently offers a whopping 5% cash back higher than what you’ll get by heading to Frye.

Screenshot courtesy of Rakuten

3. Enroll in store loyalty programs

Have you ever noticed how many stores run their own loyalty program? Practically all of them. If you’re not an online shopping fiend, you probably don’t bother to enroll in things like these. After all, it’s hardly worth your time to earn $4.07 in rewards for a store at which you’ll never return.

But Cyber Monday can be a time to cave into loyalty programs. You’ll sometimes find big return bonuses — and even if you don’t, Cyber Monday is a big spending day. You could earn considerable cash back if you’re swinging for the fences with expensive purchases like electronics, appliances, etc.

4. Uncover the best prices using a comparison site

One of the best Cyber Monday strategies to guarantee you’re finding the right prices is to compare them online. While many companies claim to offer the “best discount” on a specific item, they’re rarely the only ones with a sale going on, and they’re not usually forthcoming about their competitors’ prices.

You’ve probably at least heard of sites like Capital One Shopping and Honey — services that help you to find the cheapest prices across the internet for whatever you’re looking for.

A reason these sites are so powerful is because they also offer browser extensions that follow you around while you shop online and alert you when it finds a better deal for what you’re looking at somewhere else.

My go-to browser extension is Capital One Shopping. I’ve saved over $800 since I started using it a few years ago.

Screenshot courtesy of Capital One

 

To be fair, this savings includes a small portion of money I’ve earned through Capital One’s proprietary shopping portal — but the figure mostly represents money the site has saved me by redirecting me to another site which sells my desired product for cheaper.

Read our full review of Capital One Shopping.

5. Find coupons and promo codes

Sites like RetailMeNot and Slickdeals are incredible sources for promo codes that you can use at checkout. Not to harp too much on Capital One Shopping, but the browser extension is excellent for automatically running proven discount codes.

Some retailers also allow you to ‘stack’ coupons. In other words, you can use more than one coupon on a single offer. Look out for coupons from both the product manufacturer as well as the store you’re shopping at and put them together for the best deal.

Read more: Best websites for finding coupons and deals online

6. Find the best deals before Monday

To make sure you find the best prices on everything you want, it’s a good idea to check websites the week before Cyber Monday. Most businesses will announce their prices well ahead of time. This way, you’ll be able to minimize the time needed to conduct research.

7. Utilize credit card bonus categories

The best rewards credit cards come with strong bonus categories which can sometimes offer 5% back or more on specific purchases. If you can shoehorn this bonus into your Cyber Monday strategy, it can be meaningful.

Apply Now
On the Secure Website

For example, the Chase Freedom FlexSM currently offers 5% back on rotating bonus categories for up to $1,500 in spending each quarter (then 1%) after you activate. The current rotating bonus categories (through December 31, 2022) are:

Both of these can play into Cyber Monday in a big way. Walmart has long been a fixture of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday extravaganza — and they sell just about everything. Even better is PayPal, which has become a ubiquitous payment method for online purchases. If a website shows PayPal as a payment option at checkout (and most do), you’ll earn 5% back if you select that option and choose to pay with your Chase Freedom FlexSM.

Read more: Best rewards credit cards

8. Use credit card “offers”

Several banks issue their own kind of rebates and coupons in the form of targeted statement credits and bonus rewards. For example:

  • Chase cards have “Chase Offers”
  • American Express cards have “Amex Offers”
  • Citi cards have “Citi Merchant Offers”

You can find these in your online account. If you see something you like, you’ll have to manually add it to your card, and you’ll automatically receive the statement credit after you meet the offer’s terms.

For example, you may see an offer for $100 off $500 spent at Macy’s. This is incentive enough to keep Macy’s deals in your sights. Once you spend $500, you’ll receive a $100 credit to your card within a few days.

Here’s an example of what I’ve saved in the past year with Amex Offers on The Platinum Card from American Express. The offers change often, and you can easily save money on purchases you make every day if you check back regularly.

Screenshot courtesy of American Express

 

All American Express cards are eligible for Amex Offers. However, different cards receive varying offers. The Amex Platinum is more of a travel credit card, so it more often receives travel-focused offers.

Read more: Are Amex cards worth it?

9. Earn a credit card welcome bonus

There are absolutely insane welcome bonuses available right now everywhere you look. Perhaps the most effective way to offset the cost of your purchases is by using your spending to earn an intro offer.

Apply Now
On the Citi Secure Website

For example, the Citi Premier® Card currently has a limited-time 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Point intro offer after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. That’s worth up to $800 if used for travel through the Citi ThankYou travel center (or you could redeem your points for a whole lot of gift cards). This card does come with an annual fee of $95, but if you’re looking to pick up some big ticket items this Cyber Monday and can hit the minimum spend, the rewards can more than offset that.

Apply Now
On the Secure Website

Another option without an annual fee is the Citi Rewards+® Card, which offers 20,000 bonus points after spending $1,500 in the first three months. That’s worth over $300 in travel if redeemed through thankyou.com. While this is a smaller bonus, you’ll also benefit from 15 months of 0% APR on those new purchases, followed by 17.24% – 27.24% (Variable) APR.

If you were to open one of these cards, you could make your Cyber Monday purchases with the card to complete a large chunk of the minimum spending requirement. Then you could funnel all your daily purchases through the card for the remainder of the three-month window to meet the rest of the requirement.

Read more: Best credit card sign-up bonus offers

10. Open a 0% intro APR credit card for big purchases

You should never spend above your means. But if you want something really expensive and you know for certain that you’ll be able to pay it off in a year or so, it could be worth opening a 0% intro APR credit card.

Apply Now
On the Secure Website

0% APR cards are clutch for anyone who would otherwise carry a balance month-to-month. Many rewards credit cards charge 22% APR or higher — meaning you could get swallowed in interest in no time. The best 0% APR credit cards will give you between 15 and 21 months of no interest, giving you plenty of time to pay off (or at least pay down) your balance.

As an example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® comes with 0% intro APR for 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers (then a standard 17.99% – 26.74% Variable APR).

Read more: Best 0% APR credit cards

Summary

Before you spend a penny on Cyber Monday, it’s a good idea to make a plan and draw up a budget. This can help ensure that you don’t spend more than you mean to or miss out on great deals.

There are a handful of tricks you can use to save big on Cyber Monday — and online shopping in general. If the stars align, you’ll be able to use four or five of these strategies at the same time. For example:

  • You find an Amex Offer for a store
  • That store falls into your Amex card’s bonus category
  • You navigate to the store through an online shopping portal
  • You use a coupon code at checkout

Happy deal hunting this Cyber Monday!

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