It’s the most wonderful time of the year (for shopping at least), and while Black Friday normally doesn’t begin until the week of Thanksgiving, it’s arriving earlier in 2020 — and also going on longer.
Not only will Black Friday take place over a greater period of time, it will be almost 100% online due to the pandemic.
What should shoppers know as they dive into holiday shopping? GOBankingRates talked to a number of retail and money saving experts to learn their secrets to scoring the best Black Friday deals this year.
Last updated: Nov. 9, 2020
Secret #1: Browse Before Buying
“Start browsing now, but don’t feel pressured to buy yet,” said Michael Bonebright, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “All the biggest retailers have expanded their Black Friday season to encompass the whole of November.”
“In most cases, this means retailers are announcing new deals every week or so. For example, Target is announcing new deals every Thursday in November, and Walmart will roll out new deals every few days through Nov. 14. The official Black Friday event for Walmart will start on Nov. 25.”
“These extended sales give shoppers ample opportunity to browse throughout the month. This means that if you see a great deal early in November, you can take a few days to see if a competitor will beat that price. All in all, shoppers shouldn’t feel pressured to buy a product the minute it goes on sale. You have time to check out other deals.”
Secret #2: Shop Online
“Don’t bother shopping at in-store sales,” said Bonebright. “Retailers have no real incentive to bring shoppers into stores this Black Friday.”
“Images of huge crowds during a worsening pandemic is awful optics that struggling retailers don’t need. As such, you can expect to see all the same deals online.”
“In fact, it’s common for retailers to post Black Friday doorbusters online before physical stores even open up. If you’re worried about a popular product selling out, you’re much better off camping on a retailer’s product page than camping outside of a physical store.”
Secret #3: Sign up for Membership Programs for Early Access
“Almost every retailer has some sort of rewards program, and members of these services tend to get early access to deals,” Bonebright said.
“For example, Target RedCard holders usually get early access to select Black Friday deals in addition to the standard discount of 5% off. If you’re a member of (Best Buy’s) My Best Buy, you’ll have early access to the Black Friday sale on Nov. 16. And Amazon Prime members get a 30-minute head start on access to some Lightning Deals.”
“Not all of these rewards programs are free, and some (like Target’s RedCard) require opening a credit card. If nothing else, we recommend signing up for all the free rewards programs ahead of Black Friday. You can always cancel later.”
Secret #4: Shop Early and, When Possible, Shop Local"
“During previous holiday shopping seasons, consumers were spoiled with quick delivery and return options for online shopping. However, the pandemic has severely interrupted supply chains around the world, and we should not expect quick deliveries this year,” said Lauren Beitelspacher, associate professor of marketing at Babson College.
“Many retailers are encouraging customers to shop early in order to ease the burden of holiday shopping on the global retail infrastructure [by] offering Black Friday pricing deals in early November. The best deals may still occur on Black Friday, but there is no guarantee that you will be able to get the product you want. So best to go ahead and shop early.”
“Also, I would encourage consumers to continue to support their local businesses as much as they can. These are the companies that really need our holiday dollars and who have worked so hard to ease our burdens during the pandemic.”
You might be worried that if you shop early you’ll miss out on a deeper discount later. This is a valid concern, but Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings and shopping blogger, suggests you needn’t worry.
“Some stores like Target are actually extending their price adjustment window on any items promoted as a Black Friday deal through the end of December, so monitor prices and ask for money back if something you buy early goes on sale later,” Woroch said.
“You can get help by using the Edison Mail app as their Price Alert tool monitors prices of purchases you made online and will notify you if something drops in price so you know when to ask for money back.”
Secret #5: Sign Up For a New Cash Back Credit Card
“With holiday shopping upon us, this is a good time to sign up for a new credit card that offers free cash back just for opening a new account,” Woroch said. “For example, the Chase Freedom card offers $200 back when you spend $500 in the first three months.
“If you’re going to spend this money during the holidays anyway, why not take advantage of this free cash deal — you can apply it as statement credit to pay for some of your gifts.”
Secret #6: Sign Up for Emails and Texts From Your Favorite Retailers
“Savvy shoppers should prepare by signing up for emails and text messages from retailers ahead of the peak holiday season,” said Monica Deretich, retail advisor at Sailthru. “Sign-ups are free and usually accompanied by welcome discounts that can be redeemed on their first purchase. Retailers often provide their email subscribers with early access to sales or exclusive offers, which will absolutely come in handy for holiday shopping.”
Once you create an account with a holiday retailer and consent to email alerts, you should use your shopping cart as your wish list.
“Shoppers who add items to their cart will be able to compare prices and deals that may not be provided to just anyone,” Deretich said. “Some retailers may provide you with an additional incentive to come back and complete your purchase, which can save money.”
Secret #7: Browse the Web in Private or Incognito Mode
“I bet you didn’t know you could get the best deals by shopping in private mode,” said Ricardo Pina of the personal finance blog The Modest Wallet.
Secret #8: Use Price Comparison Tools
“Before making a purchase online, make sure you compare prices across different retailers,” Pina said. “Apps and browser extensions like Honey and Capital One Shopping (formerly Wikibuy) make it easier for you to get the best deal every time as they search the Web and automatically apply discount and coupon codes to get you the best deal.”
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Secret #9: Set Price Alerts
“Prices on items fluctuate not only from store to store, but also from day to day on any given website,” said Regina Conway, consumer expert at Slickdeals.net.
“If you’re shopping for a particular item, your best bet is to set a deal alert. That way you’ll be notified when the best price becomes available.”
Secret #10: Use Cash-Back and Rebates Apps
“If you don’t have a rewards or cash back credit card, don’t worry, you can still score some decent rebates and cash back during Black Friday,” Pina said. “Popular apps like Rakuten and Dosh can get you up to 40% cash back on selected items. On average you should be able to get 10% cash back while using these sorts of apps.”
Secret #11: Be On The Lookout for Good Bundles
“While some bundles throw in products that you don’t really need, other bundles may provide you with several gifts and one purchase,” said Brett Rose, founder and CEO of United National Consumer Suppliers, a wholesale distributor of overstock goods for national retailers, including Amazon, Macy’s, Walgreens and Bed Bath & Beyond.
“Why buy one salt lamp for $10 for your mother when you can get three salt lamps for $15 and be done with gifting for Auntie B and cousin Amy too?”
Secret #12: Know The Store Policies
“Some retailers will suspend their price matching policies during Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” said Bethany Hollars, money saving strategist at BrickSeek.com. “Others will enforce a return policy specific to the holiday season, perhaps only allowing exchanges of an item or prohibiting the return of certain merchandise altogether.”
“Make sure that you are aware of these limited time changes so that you aren’t stuck with a bad purchase.”
Secret #13: Hold Off On Gift Cards
“Black Friday sales are a great time to purchase holiday gifts, but the big exception to this is gift cards,” Bonebright said. “We see more — and better — gift card deals in December than any other time of the year. Plus, December gift cards tend to come with bonuses for buying in bulk. For example, you might get a bonus $25 card when you spend $75 on gift cards. Because gift cards are typically digital these days, they don’t rely on shipping, so there’s no reason for you to buy them early in 2020.”
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 13 Secrets to Scoring the Best Black Friday Deals This Year