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Holiday Shopping Precautions

by Kevin McKinley - December 18th, 2016

Posted Under: around the house

The holiday season is supposed to be about spiritual celebrations, time with friends and family, spreading joy, and exchanging gifts. But some Grinches and Scrooges can ruin what should otherwise be a time of glad tidings. Here are some ways to ensure that your next few days are merry and bright, and all your Christmas giving goes alright.

1. Use your credit card

Disciplined shoppers usually wisely use cash, check, or debit cards to pay for purchases year-round. But it may be better to use your credit card, especially when buying presents. First, if your card information is hacked or stolen, you usually have better protection from nefarious use if it’s your credit card, rather than your debit card.

And if you find something wrong with your purchase after you get it home (or it’s opened by receiver), the credit card company may withhold or reverse payment to the seller if you can’t resolve the problem. Finally, you may earn some money-saving cash back, points, or miles by putting your holiday purchases on the credit card.

If you’re making purchases for a much larger amount than usual, or in a location outside of your normal shopping patterns, you may want to contact the credit card company in advance to alert them so they don’t deny approval of the transaction. You also may want to bring a couple of extra forms of payment just in case something goes wrong when you try to use your preferred method. Although it’s usually smart to use a credit card, don’t overspend just because you have more credit than you have money, and make sure you pay off any charges as soon as possible.

2. Know the return policies

Due in part to fraud, and an understandable effort to make as much profit as possible, some retailers have made return policies more restrictive, or confusing. Check each store’s policy, and if you can’t get a written copy, take a picture of a posted policy with your smartphone camera. You can also visit consumerworld.org/pages/returns.htm for summary of major retailers’ return policies, and links to each store’s relevant website.

3. Save the receipts

After making your purchases, check your receipt to ensure that the amount charged for each item is what you expected to pay (mistakes have been known to be made by retailers). Tuck all of your receipts away in the same place so they will be there if you need to return an item either before or after the presents are opened.

You can store your receipts electronically (along with lots of other purchase and expense information via a service called Shoeboxed. When wrapping up presents, make sure you include a “gift” version of the receipt with any gifts you give to those outside of your household (just in case the recipients get a duplicate of your otherwise-thoughtful present).

3. Track your packages

If you buy something on the web or ship a gift to a loved one, track the package to make sure not only that it gets where it’s supposed to go, but gets there hopefully before December 25th. You may want to contact your intended recipients to let them know that something is coming their way, and ask to be alerted when it gets there safely. Of course, if you’re the fortunate recipient of a package or gift sent from someone, it’s polite to contact the sender to let her know as soon as it arrives—and then send a thank you note after you open it (even if it’s fruitcake).

4. Check your statements

After the holidays have passed, it’s time to go online or review your mailed credit card account statements to make sure any charges are ones that you made, and for amounts that match your receipts (you did save your receipts, right?). If you see some unfamiliar purchases made, don’t assume that your partner or other family member made them. Verify that anything that you didn’t buy was actually bought by him, or else report it to the bank, credit union, or credit card company right away.