It’s hard to beat the convenience of online shopping. You can buy something for a loved one’s birthday or a friend’s wedding without ever leaving the cozy confines of your home. That said, many sites will add shipping costs that send the price of an item skyrocketing.
So, how can you avoid spending too much on shipping when you shop online? Follow our online shopping tips below to avoid overpaying for shipping your next purchase.
Understanding Shipping Costs for Online Stores
If you’re looking to shop online, it’s important to know stores’ shipping policies and how they set their prices. The cost depends on what service the retailer uses to deliver your package. The United States Postal Service (USPS) is often the cheapest. Retail rates for the USPS are slightly higher than commercial rates, though a store can use either to ship your package. Commercial plus pricing is the least expensive, but a store must meet minimum volume requirements to use it.
Stores may also use UPS or FedEx. You can expect to pay more for these options, which may be faster or more efficient.
Retailers may calculate shipping cost based on the package’s weight or the price of prepaid packaging. Shipping costs also often depend on the delivery speed you choose or the distance your package will need to travel, regardless of the delivery service the store is using. Keeping all of these factors in mind can help you save on shipping costs when you’re making online purchases.
Look Into International Delivery Costs
When you order something from another country, you may need to pay more for shipping costs since the item has to travel a greater distance. Make sure the amount you pay for shipping doesn’t offset the deal you received on the item.
For instance, if you’re buying something that costs $25, but the shipping costs $35, then you may be overpaying if you can find the item at a local store for $40. It’s often a red flag when the shipping costs are higher than the cost of the actual product.
Pay Attention to the Currency You Pay With
When you buy from another country, the retailer may calculate the costs in their country’s currency. Because of that, it’s important to know the price in U.S. dollars before you commit to buying. You may see a price that seems reasonable in one currency but translates to a far higher cost in dollars. You could end up overpaying on shipping if you don’t bother to confirm the shipping price in a currency you’re accustomed to using.
Clarify the Shipping Costs Before You Order
Before you get too attached to a product, make sure you know how much it’ll cost to ship it. Review the shipping policies, which are typically clearly laid out on reputable companies’ websites. For instance, there may be a flat shipping rate no matter how much you buy, or free shipping may be offered if you spend a minimum amount. If you don’t see shipping costs laid out clearly, check your cart once you’ve added an item. Shipping costs should be its own line item.
If you’re having a hard time finding shipping costs or getting clarification from a seller before entering credit card information, don’t hesitate to find the product elsewhere.
Buy Gifts Well in Advance to Avoid High Shipping Costs
When you purchase a gift that you need in just a few days, you may have to pay extra to get the item shipped to you quickly. Overnight delivery can cost two-to-three times the regular shipping fee. Try to give your gift at least two weeks to arrive. You’ll pay much less for shipping, and you’ll also save yourself the anxiety of wondering if the gift will arrive on time.
Consider Joining a Premium Program to Save on Shipping
Some websites offer free shipping to frequent customers for a flat fee. While paying $50 or $60 up front may seem like a lot, you may save money in the long run if you buy from the site frequently. If you usually pay $12 per delivery, you can make up for the initial payment in four or five orders. After that, you essentially get future items shipped for free.
Ship Your Item to the Store and Pick It Up
If you buy from a large retailer, you may see an option for store or curbside pickup. You can potentially save a lot of money by using this method. Shipping to the store is often free, so you don’t have to pay anything extra. It can be well worth the trip to reduce your shipping costs.
Just make sure you don’t make any additional unnecessary purchases when you go to pick up your items, or you could end up spending more than you saved on shipping.
Look for Free Shipping Deals
Many retailers run specials through which they offer free or low-cost shipping if you meet a minimum purchase amount. If you can wait to make your purchase, it may be worth holding out.
If what you were planning to buy doesn’t meet the minimum amount required for free shipping, consider purchasing an additional item you need from that website instead of somewhere else, or ask a friend or family member if they might need an item from the website so that you end up with a combined purchase amount that meets the free shipping requirement.
Use a Cash Rewards Credit Card
You can also make purchases online using PSECU’s Founder’s Rewards Card. You earn 2%* or 1.5% cash back every time you use the card, and we charge no annual fees. So if you have to pay shipping costs, you’ll at least be able to earn cash rewards on the expense. Learn more about joining PSECU, and visit our WalletWorks page for tips on additional ways to save money.
*You can earn 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. You can earn 2% cash rewards on purchases if you maintain a PSECU checking account and qualifying monthly direct deposit(s) of at least $500. See the Visa® Founder’s Card and Visa® Alumni Rewards Card Rewards Program Terms and Conditions for full details.