Cheap Online Shopping

Want to find the best deals online? This compendium of cheap online shopping tricks shows you how.

We've 20+ top tips, including how to get price-drop emails, compare prices at speed, spot hidden brand sales and much more.

1 Find the cheapest online prices with one click

Shopbots, or shopping robots, are geeky tools which trawl through selected e-tailers' products and prices to find the cheapest deal.

They zip to scores of web retailers and compare prices, whether you're searching for clothes, games, gadgets, books, perfumes or owt else.

To push it to the max, our specially-designed MegaShopBot auto-searches the best shopbots for each type of product with just one click.

2 Build your own Amazon bargain basements

It's the original e-giant, and like any megastore the challenge is to see behind Amazon's shelves to dig out mega-discounts.

Remember though, just because it's discounted doesn't mean it's a bargain. So in the tool you'll also find a box where you can search the CamelCamelCamel site, which lets you instantly check a product's Amazon price history to see if it's ever sold for less. Then use our MegaShopBot to check its price in other stores.

3 Map hidden local eBay bargains

Whether it's a Playstation or children's books, eBay sellers often specify items must be collected in person. As this often means fewer bids, there are bargains to be had.

You can't normally search collection-only, so we've built a mapping tool. Tell our Local eBay Deals Mapper your postcode, how far you're prepared to schlep, and it pinpoints nearby gems.

It's also available as a free Android app or iPhone app. These map your current location and tell you how far you need to go to pick up a bargain.

4 You've MORE rights online than in-store

Many people are surprised to learn you've EXTRA rights buying online (or by telephone/catalogue) due to the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

These give a legal right to send most goods back within a fortnight for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault. You'll usually need to pay for the return delivery. See the Consumer Rights guide for more.

However, this is balanced by the fact that ordering online means there's a time gap between ordering and delivering when the company has your money. So if it goes bust in that time, the cancellation rights don't help.

5 Search 50 outlets for bargains with the Outlet Discount Finder

Many drive miles to outlet villages to snap up end-of-line bargains. But these days lots of high street and high-end stores have online outlet stores, either via eBay or special websites.

6 Sign up to retailers' newsletters for big discounts

E-tailers try to reel you in by offering incentives to shop online when you sign up to their marketing emails.

It can mean a percentage discount code, or a straight discount off your first shop.

7 Bag big online store discounts using Tesco Clubcard points

Check if you can Reclaim Tesco Vouchers online. Many people find big cash, often £100+, but don't save them for food or other shopping in-store. Instead, check ways of getting 3x or even 4x their value (£10 becomes £30 or £40) at a host of online retailers.

8 Spend on a credit card for extra protection

The Section 75 law means if you use a credit card (not a debit card, cheque or cash) to pay even partly for something costing between £100 and £30,000, the card company's jointly liable if anything goes wrong.

Better still, even if you only pay a deposit on the card, provided the goods cost over £100, the card company is liable for the ENTIRE amount.

If the firm goes bust, you can get redress from the credit card provider instead, giving you valuable extra protection. Only do this if you can clear the card IN FULL each month to avoid interest though.

Section 75 doesn't apply to purchases under £100, but there's still an option which can help if you use a Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit card, or any debit or charge card.

If the goods don't appear or are faulty, you can ask your bank/card provider to reclaim the cash from the seller's bank, so long as you start the chargeback process within 120 days of realising there's a problem.

9 Check if you can grab goods cheaper from overseas retailers

If you're looking to buy higher-value goods, then consider taking advantage of the world wide web by clicking to foreign retailers. You may be able to pick up bargains, especially when the pound is strong.

As well as big-name retailers, there are bargains to be had on overseas eBay sites, particularly eBay US for clothes and gadgets

10 Know your rights with online glitches

Mistakes can and do happen, especially in the fast-paced internet world, and there can be some right whoppers online. If a £50 brand new iPad seems too good to be true, it usually is.

With these kind of offers where items are listed well below their RRP, you can't force retailers to sell them to you at that price. Retailers don't have to sell anything to you if they don't want to. (Deliberately misleading you is criminal though and Trading Standards can investigate.)

If you spot a mis-priced mistake, you can try your luck. E-tailers will sometimes honour it if the price difference isn't too big.

Just be aware that if you do order a glitchy item, it can get cancelled, can run out of stock or at the worst, you'll be charged full-price, so weigh up these factors before going for it.

11 Always spend gift cards as soon as possible

If you've received gift cards or vouchers, use them as soon as possible to avoid losing out.

12 Scan barcodes in shops, then order online

The eBay barcode scanner app RedLaser is great if you're out and about and spot a potential purchase. We're not fans of impulse buys, but if there's something that catches your eye, it'll help make sure you get it at the cheapest price possible.

Harnessing the power of the web on your phone, you scan the barcode of the items and it'll tell you straightaway if you can get the same product cheaper online.

So if there's a big price difference, make an informed decision using the app and shop online instead. The app's free and available for iPhones, Windows phones and Android.

13 Beat Amazon's delivery charges

Last year Amazon introduced a £10 min spend for free delivery on most items. But you can beat it...

n Amazon Prime trial* (usually £79/year) gets Prime newbies a month's pass for free delivery (though a few previous triallists may also be offered another trial). To check, log into your account, follow the link and see if it says "try Amazon Prime free".

Make sure you cancel before the month's up or it's £79/year. This is an ongoing offer.

14 Reclaim costs for failed delivery

It's enough to make you fume. You've been told you need to be in for a delivery and take a day off work but end up twiddling your thumbs because they're either hours late or don't bother turning up at all.

Yet you CAN fight back if you know your rights. You may even be able to force compensation for the lost time.

15 How to check websites' legitimacy

Bogus websites are often set up to cash in on popular products such as iPads and Tiffany necklaces, so be wary if you're shopping on an unfamiliar site. And don't think that because it appears on a reputable search engine, that makes it a reputable site - always check.

16 Always read the terms and conditions

We're not denying they're boring, long or full of convoluted business-speak, but the T&Cs are important - that little tick-box confirming you've read, understood and accepted them could be a deal-breaker later if things go awry.

Even if you don't read the legalese, always at least read the standard terms and conditions before you pay to know exactly what is included and excluded in the exchange. Plus, always ask questions beforehand if there's anything you don't understand, in writing or by email if possible, before you seal the deal.

17 Buy the cheapest Kindles, iPads and more

18 Think before you tick the extra warranty

Often when you're buying larger electrical goods online, there's a tick-box for if you want to add a warranty, care plan, breakdown cover, "product protection policy" or whatever else they're calling the guarantee.

They cover your appliance for mechanical or electrical failure, but most are a complete waste of money, often costing as much as the product itself.

Yet if you want peace of mind, there are tricks to get totally free or cheap cover via credit cards, standalone policies and sometimes through your home insurance cover.

19 Don't always assume it's cheaper online

peaking to staff face-to-face in-store allows you to haggle in a way you can't do online, especially if bulk-buying or bartering for discounts on faulty items. It can be worth benchmarking prices online, then using the tips in our High Street Haggling guide to get the costs slashed further.

20 Get organised to avoid expensive last-minute delivery charges

If you need something by a specific date, for example Christmas or a birthday, then it's important to think about last order dates to make sure you don't get caught out and forced to pay costly last-minute delivery charges.

As miraculous express or next day delivery options come with equally dazzling costs, it's best to get organised to allow enough time for the item to be posted to your address at the cheaper or free price.