Buyers are looking for ways to get the best deals to fight the impact of rising and fluctuating prices on their budgets. With fierce competition among retailers, some stores promote their price-matching policies as a way to help shoppers save. Stores grab consumer dollars early, and in return, promise to match their own prices — or sometimes a competitor’s price — for many items.
But every store has a different price-matching policy, and not all offer the same (Amazon is a prime example). Some retailers have lists of exclusions including certain products, services and sale periods such as Thanksgiving week.
All this red tape makes taking advantage of these policies extra challenging, especially during the holidays when shoppers are shopping more than usual. Here are some tips to help clear up the confusion and decide whether price matching is a good shopping strategy for you this holiday season.
What is Price Matching?
The premise of price matching is to give early buyers peace of mind: If the price drops, they can get the difference back in their pocket.
Shoppers typically use price matching in two ways: either in-store or online during purchase or after the fact. In the first scenario, a buyer finds a lower price and provides proof to the register, where the lower price is matched on the spot. In another, a buyer makes a purchase but finds a lower price days or weeks later and must go to the store or online to seek a price adjustment. According to Priceva, an IT company that provides price monitoring services for retailers, this post-purchase scenario occurs more often.
Who has price-matching policies?
Typically only major retailers, such as Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, offer price-matching policies for shoppers. Small businesses are less likely to offer these policies. The best way to find out whether a store has a price-matching policy is to search online for the store name and “price matching policy.”
How to qualify for price matching
To qualify, you’ll need your original receipt and proof of the lower price, such as an advertisement from that retailer or from an eligible competitor.
These additional guidelines are typically found in the price-matching policies of major retailers:
Item must exactly match size, model number and color. If you’re looking to price match the red tricycle you bought for your child this holiday season and only the green tricycle is in stock, you’re out of luck.
Product must be in stock and available at the time of request. Your item must be ready for shipping or pickup to be eligible.
Items must be purchased from eligible competitors. It’s not always clear which companies see which retailers as their competitors, but many offer a list online.
Price-matching requests must be made within a limited period of time. Some retailers offer a two-week period while others are more generous.
The number of items eligible for price matching may be limited. Restrictions may include the number of items that can be priced one at a time or in the aggregate.
Tips to make price matching easier
Here are some strategies for setting yourself up for price-matching success:
Use apps to check prices before you shop
Don’t rely on price-matching policies to save you money. Instead, be a proactive shopper and do your research before you buy, says Trai Boz, a smart-shopping expert who runs TrueTrae, a website for consumers looking to save money. Researching the “historical pricing of that item” can give you an idea of its typical price and whether you’re getting a good deal, she says.
Bauz suggests using apps or browser extensions to become an active buyer. For example, with PayPal Honey, you can add an item to your droplist to track the value and be alerted if it falls below a threshold you set. “If Droplist detects a price drop after a buyer has made a purchase, they may be eligible for a price adjustment, and every opportunity to save is worthwhile,” Greg Lisiewski, vice president of PayPal Shopping, said in an email. “
Familiarize yourself with the policies of some stores and shop there
Price-matching policies work best for people who shop at the same few stores. It’s much easier to learn about certain store policies than to keep track of a long list.
How you choose those stores depends on whether you have a store credit card or rewards card that gives you extra savings perks, or if you shop at stores that are closer to home. Either way, Bodge suggests getting comfortable with the store’s policy so you’ll have “some recourse and know what that process looks like” if you get a lower price later.
Price-matching requests at the original purchase location are also more likely to be successful. Retailers will usually honor their store prices as long as they fall within the specified time frame. And even when they’ll likely match their online prices, many won’t match the prices at their other store locations.
stay organized with receipts
It may seem obvious, but it’s important to find a safe place to keep all your receipts so you can find them later. All retailers require the original receipt, so if you can’t find it, you’re out of luck.
Price match for big ticket items only
If an item is $25 or less, skip the price match, Bose advises. More expensive items can lead to big savings.
Get price matches through your credit card
Sometimes you can avoid retailers altogether and get price matching through your credit card. Although value protection is becoming a less common feature of major credit cards, check with your issuer to see if the one in your wallet offers it.