Many shoppers wait all year until the Cyber Monday shopping season hits with the promise of scoring the absolute best price of the year on a new TV, tablet, printer, or high-tech gadget. But don’t let all the Cyber Monday hype fool you. You might end up overpaying if you get taken in by so-so prices masquerading as fantastic bargains, and you can miss out on great deals if you don’t do your research.
Movie TV Tech Geeks has been covering Cyber Monday deals for years, and we spotted all the tricks of the trade. Our Cyber Monday shopping tips will help you get the best deal on the items you want and keep frustration—and overspending—to a minimum.
As usual, we’ll be tracking the best Cyber Monday deals we find on multiple product categories, including televisions, laptops, large and small appliances, and mattresses, so check back for all our holiday deals coverage here. You can find our dedicated Black Friday store guides to Amazon, to Best Buy, to Kohl’s, along with our Holiday Gift Guides at the links included.
CYBER MONDAY SALE PAGES FOR 2018
We’ve sifted through everything to find you the best deals, but if you want to look for yourself, here are some links to check them out.
- Plan to shop early. The best time to start checking out Cyber Monday deals is the Saturday after Black Friday; many retailers wait until then to post offers, so they don’t steal any thunder from that earlier sale. With Black Friday now in their rear-view mirrors, retailers will be fully focused on Cyber Monday as the next big shopping event. Online retailers regularly update prices as they check out their competition, so check back regularly.
If you want to score some of the very best deals, you may want to set a wake-up call for just after midnight on Monday to get in on the action early. Many top bargains may be available in limited quantities. On the other hand, that Cyber Monday sales don’t necessarily end on Tuesday morning. Many retailers are now stretching Cyber Monday into a Cyber Week of online specials, so deals may continue to be available after Cyber Monday itself.
- Do your homework. Getting the best deals on Cyber Monday can take some work, since online retailers can update specials, take away or add new deals, at almost anytime during the event. Keep checking our Black Friday Cyber Monday section to keep fully updated on the latest deals from all over.
- Use price and coupon tools. You don’t have to go retailer-by-retailer to compare prices. Try Google Shopping, plus services such as NexTag, PriceGrabber, Pricewatch, and Shopzilla. In physical stores, apps such as BuyVia, Flipp, ShopKick, ShopSavvy, and Shopular loaded on your phone let you scan bar codes or QR codes to compare prices, get discounts, and score coupons.
Many major retailers, such as Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, have their own apps that will alert you to new deals and sometimes help shoppers in other ways. Amazon’s Mobile app, for example, lets you use a smartphone camera to scan products and price-shop online, while Best Buy’s app lets you know if an item can be picked up at your local store.
- Get social. The Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favorite retailers are a great way to find out about deals and promotions. Also, check their Instagram and Pinterest accounts. Retailers will often reward customers who like or follow them with special alerts to Cyber Monday discounts and incentives. And, of course, texts, tweets, and social media posts are an easy way to share shopping intel with your friends.
- Sign up for loyalty programs. Stores often have loyalty programs that offer sales and promotions to their members first, then let them earn rewards on what they buy. Signing up for Cyber Monday shopping alerts will get you the early word on promotions, coupons, and discounts. In some cases, you can even find out whether the products you want are in stock or eligible for a buy online/pick up at the store option that saves you on shipping.
- Create a budget—and stick to it. Yes, this sounds simple. But Cyber Monday sales, especially the special deals available in limited quantities, are designed to get you on the retailer’s website, so hopefully, they can sell you additional items.
Decide ahead of time how much you want to spend on your Cyber Monday shopping spree, and do your best to resist impulse buying, especially if you’re not sure how good a specific deal is. And since it’s easier to spend more when using a credit card, a budget can help keep you disciplined. Choose a credit card that doubles the manufacturer’s warranty, and then pay it off before any interest accrues.
- Check return and exchange policies in advance. It’s always good to know a store’s price-match and return policies. We expect more retailers to price-match specific online deals this year, but some stores might suspend their price-match guarantees during the Cyber Monday weekend on certain items, so read the fine print. Check the return and exchange policies for Cyber Monday sales to make sure that the store won’t charge a restocking fee for any item you return.
- See if you’ll have to pay shipping for purchases or returns. More retailers are offering free shipping on Cyber Monday, even if they don’t at other times of the year. But make sure before you buy. Also, find out who’s responsible for any shipping costs if you need to exchange or return an item. And if you’re buying from the website of a brick-and-mortar retailer, see if you can return items to a store to avoid any shipping costs.
- Don’t forget brick-and-mortar stores. Despite its name, Cyber Monday isn’t just confined to online sales; many brick-and-mortar chains may counter internet sales with one-day in-store specials and discounts, especially if their Black Friday sales weren’t as strong as they hoped. And it’s quite likely the shopping experience may be more enjoyable, since you won’t encounter the same crowds that shopped the store on Black Friday.
- Stay safe from hackers. With nearly 165 million people expected to be shopping during the Black Friday-through-Cyber-Monday period this year, according to the National Retailer Federation, it’s also a prime time for hackers and cyber thieves looking to steal personal information. To be safe, here are a few best practices to follow when you go online to shop.
Avoid using an unsecured public computer, or public WiFi, when shopping, since you’ll be probably be entering credit-card information. Also, make sure the URL of the retailer’s site starts with “https,” not “http.” That means the data in encrypted in transit, so if a hacker does tap into the message, he won’t be able to read it. You should also see an https “lock” symbol to the left of the URL.
If you’re using a retailer or shopping app, make sure it comes from one of the major app stores, such as the Apple store or Google Play. And follow these additional tips to make sure it’s not a fake app created by scammers.
- Install ad and tracker blockers
“Ads have become one of the most frequently abused mechanisms through which hackers have tried to download malware onto your computer over the past few years. My top recommendations are ‘UBlock Origin,’ ‘Privacy Badger’ and ‘Ghostery.'” — Jim McCoy, Creator of the Vektor home cybersecurity device and former tech lead of security tools and operations at Facebook
- Use a private browser window
“Most browsers have a button or menu item that lets you open a new window that keeps no cookies or other identifying information — either during the browsing session or after you close the window. Some stores will actually charge longtime users more than they do for people who they can’t identify. The other advantage is that what you are browsing for or purchasing is not tagged with an ad re-targeting cookie, and so on a shared computer some else is unlikely to see re-targeting ads for the gifts you have been considering or have even purchased!”
- Do a search on internet-connected devices
“When purchasing an internet-connected device — e.g. wireless security cameras, ‘smart devices’ or connected toys — do a quick check of Consumer Reports or a Google search for “[item name] security problems.” It can save a lot of future headaches. This applies to nearly all manufacturers — some of the worst security problems have come from mainstream brands and not just from cheap clones and low-end devices.” — McCoy
- Think: Do you really need an internet-connected device?
“When considering an internet-connected purchase, I would think hard about whether the device really needs to be connected to the internet. If in doubt, find a version that does not try to connect to some external service. Many of these internet-connected features add little long-term value to the item, but potentially open a home up to hackers. No one wants to be remembered as the person who gave a gift that led to identity theft for the recipient.” — McCoy
- Beware of phishing schemes
“Be cautious with unsolicited emails. Every year, IBM X-Force sees a massive uptick in phishing campaigns that disguise themselves as anything from package tracking emails to coupon codes to early-bird sales, but they are actually distributing various forms of malware. Don’t click links to copy codes, instead copy it and use it directly on the retailer’s website, — even if it’s a retail brand you trust. If you must click a link in your email, before doing so, hover over the URL and make sure it’s taking you to the actual website.” — Caleb Barlow, vice president of threat intelligence at IBM Security
- Use a unique password for each online store
“Never reuse the same password on different websites, especially retailers. Instead, create a unique passphrase for each website you shop on. For example, something like “longpassword123.” Same goes for loyalty cards — create a unique password for these accounts also.” — Barlow
- Choose credit over debit
“Credit cards offer consumers more protections if a card is compromised. More importantly, it won’t impact your checking account during the holiday season if there’s an issue. — Barlow
- Strictly manage your credit cards
“The holiday season is a peak time for online fraud. Keep a close watch on your credit card statements. A hacker who stole your card information in the summer is likely to try to use it during the Christmas shopping season when people are making a large number of online purchases, many of which are outside their normal purchasing behavior, and it is easy for fraudsters to slip something into your bill that you don’t notice amid all of the other online purchases.” — McCoy
- Protect your phone
“Add a screen lock or pin code to your smartphone, and don’t leave it unattended in a taxi, plane, train or going from store to store.” — Mark Risher, director of Google account security
- Try Google’s security checkup if you use it to browse
“Take our security checkup. This is Google-specific, but it really is the single best piece of security advice we have on our end. It’s a one-stop shop for Google account security where we’ll tell you if there are any issues to address — and then help you take care of them. Besides just following the instructions, add a phone number to your account so we can reach you if you’re ever locked out.” — Risher
Finally, consider installing a virtual private network, or VPN, for your computer and smartphone—especially if you’re going to be checking prices using a store’s or café’s WiFi network. A VPN creates a secure, encrypted connection between your device and the VPN server, keeping you safe from nearby hackers.