Black Friday and Cyber Monday online shopping tips

Here's how to bag the best bargains.

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday are sales that began in the US but have now spread to the rest of the world, including Australia. They're held on the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving, so this year they're on Friday 24 November and Monday 27 November.

"It's really easy to get caught up in the hype around these huge online sales, but the last thing you want to do is overspend right before Christmas," says CHOICE head of media Tom Godfrey. "While it can be very tempting to splurge during a sale, we'd urge consumers to do their homework before parting with their hard earned cash."

Here are our top tips for making sure you're a savvy shopper and don't end up with a dud buy.

Find out about your rights to a refund or return when shopping online on international sites.

1. Research

Be strategic about what you want to buy. If it's an item you need, make sure you've researched it first so you know which one will give you the best bang for your buck. Don't be tempted by unknown brands.

We've got lab test results for thousands of products on our website, so use our reviews to find out which products are best for you and your budget. Popular products on Black Friday include food processors, washing machines and barbecues.

2. The price is right

Before you become click happy and part with your cash, make sure you're getting a good deal. Go into any purchase having done your homework. Know the recommended retail price of the product you want and shop around for the best price. Just because it's 'on sale' doesn't mean it's the best deal you can get.

3. Hidden fees

You've managed to snare your item, it's in your virtual shopping basket, you're at the checkout and boom! You're hit with the shipping costs.

If you enable cookies, some of the overseas online retailers will recognise you as an Australian visitor and offer you discounted shipping.

It may sound like a no-brainer but make sure the cost of the shipping doesn't mean the cost of your item is no longer competitive.

  • Foreign transaction fees are another thing to watch out for when shopping online – and you don't even need to be converting currency.

4. Compatibility

The Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are usually a good time for Aussies to shop overseas and avoid the 'Australia Tax' on personal tech such as iPhones, tablets and games. But don't get caught out! Lots of these devices and products are locked for overseas use only and you're unlikely to get a refund – or a sympathetic retailer – if you make such an error.

5. Product safety

Be aware that if you're importing goods for personal use because the deal is just too great, you may not have something that meets Australian Safety Standards. This is particularly prevalent with strollers, cots and other goods for babies. While they're likely to be fully functional they won't necessarily adhere to or be up to Australian standards.

6. Online safety

Only shop at secure websites. Look for a little padlock symbol on the window/URL bar, or at least – and most definitely – make sure the website address starts with https://. This indicates the site is using SSL (secure socket layer) encryption for that page and transaction.

7. Your rights

In Australia, whether you buy something in a bricks and mortar store or an Australian online store, you have the same rights and are protected under Australian Consumer Law (ACL). However, the ACCC says that when you shop on international sites it may be difficult to enforce the consumer protection laws of other countries on your behalf.

Make sure you understand the returns policy of the overseas company you're using. If it isn't prominently mentioned on their website (usually in the footer – at the very bottom of the page) exercise caution!

If things do go wrong you can file a complaint with if necessary, which is the global site that lets consumers file cross-border complaints with the aim of resolving the complaints without formal legal action.

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