The sales circulars are full of great buys on groceries, electronics and more just about every week, but running around to all of those stores to snag the bargains can be a drain on time and gas. To avoid that inconvenience, stick to your local store and employ a price-matching strategy.
What is price matching? It’s when a store that is charging more than its competition agrees to match the lower price when it’s pointed out by a customer. Most chain stores have a policy in place that allows them to make that adjustment.
If you’d like to start using price matching to save money, here is a step-by-step guide to getting the most out of these incentives.
Price matching step by step
1. Make a list of the items you want.
Organized shopping will help you save the most money. Leaf through the Sunday sale fliers (or Wednesday fliers, if you’re grocery shopping) and take note of the things you would like to buy. Write down the size, quantity, flavor, color and any other identifying characteristics of the sale item, as well as any purchase limits. Make sure you list any model or manufacturer’s identifiers. Keep those fliers, and take them with you to prove any prices or item identifiers.
Newspaper advertisements aren’t the only way to find a better price, of course. Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and others can quickly check thousands of places for prices on an item as you’re looking at it onscreen.
To name just four popular options: PriceBlink checks out more than 11,000 sites. InvisibleHand checks prices on several retailers’ sites, including Lowe’s and Best Buy, but also looks for good deals on airline flights, hotels and rental cars. Camelcamelcamel keeps tabs on Amazon prices. Honey automatically applies the best coupon code for you at checkout.
2. Research price-match policy details.
You can get price-matching details at the websites of most retailers (search for “XYZ Store price matching policy”). Most stores that match prices will honor sale prices only on identical items – so if you see an ad for Scott Extra Soft Toilet Tissue, you probably won’t be able to get Scott regular tissue at the ad price.
If you’re trying to match the price of an item found online, make sure that the store will honor prices from an Internet competitor. And be aware that certain types of sales may not be honored. At Walmart, for example, sales that state only a percentage off aren’t eligible for price matching.
3. Know where to go to get the price match.
For instance, Target and Best Buy require you to go to the customer service desk for a price match, while Walmart allows you to match right at the register. You will save time and frustration at the checkout counter by researching first.
4. Find out if you can use coupons.
If you’re really serious about saving, you may want to use coupons along with your ad-match price. But when coupons are used in conjunction with a price-match guarantee, the rules may change a bit. Some stores deduct the value of its store coupons on items before matching prices. If you have a manufacturer’s coupon, those usually will be deducted after the price match is made. Again, check with customer service or with a store manager before lining up to check out. The checkout clerk may not know the store policy when it comes to coupon use.
5. Bring in the proof.
Be prepared to have hard-copy proof of the price when you visit the store. Ideally, the ad should note the sale dates, so store personnel know you’re not bringing in an expired promotion. You won’t always be asked for the ad – at my local Walmart, I’m rarely required to produce it – but it’s better to be prepared. If you really want to cover your bases, print a copy of the price-matching policy, too. (It’s amazing how many cashiers are unaware of their own store’s rules.)
6. Don’t forget about price protection.
If you don’t feel like gathering ads and calculating price differences, you can also save money with retailers that honor sale prices on items purchased before the sale begins. At Target, Gap and Old Navy, for example, you can receive a price adjustment if an item is marked down within 14 days of your purchase.
7. Ask for a price match, even if it isn’t advertised.
If you find a bargain, ask your local store if they can match it, whether or not they have a price match guarantee. One of my local hardware stores will match or beat the price of a local competitor if you can show proof of the lower price.
Stores that offer price matching
Bass Pro Shops: This chain will honor price matching, but there are several exceptions. Read the price match guarantee carefully before going to customer service. For CLUB members, Bass Pro Shops will beat the competitor’s price by 5 percent. Request the lower price online or in store.
Bed Bath & Beyond: Bed Bath & Beyond will price match with its direct competitors, including online retailers. You must have proof of the lower price for an identical, in-stock item. However, you’ll need to choose between using a Bed Bath & Beyond coupon or getting the price match. You can ask for the lower price in store or by calling 800-GO-BEYOND.
Crate and Barrel: Find a lower price on an identical name-brand item sold by specific competitors and Crate and Barrel will match the price at the time of purchase. The item must be in stock and available at Crate and Barrel and the competitor store at the time of your request and purchase. This price match offer is good only on the day of your original purchase.
FishUSA: This tackle store will match the price of any major competitor, either online or in store, as long as the items are identical. If you make a purchase in-store, and later find the same item on sale for less on FishUSA’s or a competing brand’s website within 30 days of your purchase, FishUSA will offer customers the price difference in store credit. Check the FishUSA policy page for terms and conditions.
Home Depot: The Home Depot offers a price match for in-store purchases. According to the website, this offer is good if you find a lower price on an identical item at another retailer that is currently in stock. Bring the ad, printout or photo with you to the register for validation (but better yet, go to the customer service desk). The store associate may have to call the competitor to double-check the prices.
Hotels.com: If you book your stay on Hotels.com and find a cheaper price elsewhere, the company will refund the difference if your rate is refundable and give you a Hotels.com coupon for the difference if the price is nonrefundable. Price match up to the day of your check-in.
JCPenney: Find a current advertised price on an identical item before your JCPenney purchase (or within 14 days of your purchase), bring the ad to the store, and they will match the competitor’s low price. Their lowest price guarantee includes items sold by Amazon.com but not by a third party on Amazon.com. You can use the price match to compare JCPenney online items with in-store items, or vice versa. JCPenney coupons may be used with a price match. For more details and fine print, visit the store’s website.
Joann Fabric and Crafts: If you find an identical, in-stock item advertised at a competitor store, select online retailers or joann.com and bring the ad with proof of lower price for in-stock items, Joann Fabric and Crafts will honor the lower price. For items previously purchased, email email@example.com or call 330-735-6576 with your joann.com order number and proof of the lower price. Check the policy page for exclusions and fine print.
Lowe’s Home Improvement: Lowe’s offers a price match guarantee if customers find a lower price on an identical item at a local or online retail competitor. You’ll need to bring in the competitor’s ad (either printed out or on your smartphone) to get the price match at time of purchase. Check the store’s website for exclusions and fine print. Go to the service desk with your ad for speedier attention.
Nordstrom: Nordstrom will price-match an item that the store offers in the same color and size, that is in stock at a designated national competitor. You can get the price adjustment at time of initial purchase or within 14 days of shipping, but you’ll need to provide proof of the lower price (such as a current ad or link). Nordstrom will not match prices from outlet sites or other sites that offers discounts or auction sales.
PetSmart: PetSmart will offer item a price match if you find a lower price at a competitor’s store or at petsmart.com. You’ll need to present a receipt, advertisement or other confirmation of the competitor’s lower price. Clearance, liquidation or other special events are excluded from the price match guarantee, as are “free with purchase” items, BOGO, and rebate offers.
Staples: The retailer offers a price match guarantee on identical, new items. Bring proof of the lower price at a competitor store when you go to Staples, and employees will honor the lower price. If you’ve already purchased the item when you find a lower price on staples.com or at a competing retailer, you have 14 days to request the low price and Staples will refund the difference between the two prices. Check the Staples website for restrictions.
Target: Target offers price matching up to 14 days from purchase. The price-match guarantee is available for select local competitors and online retailers, as well as target.com. You’ll need to provide proof of the lower price.
Walmart: Walmart has separate price-match policies for in-store and walmart.com purchases. If you’re purchasing an item online, and see a lower price offer in a Walmart store or from a select online competitor, contact Walmart Customer Care before placing your order. If the item is identical and otherwise meets all the criteria, Walmart will give you the lower price. If you’re shopping at a local Walmart, you can request a price match for identical items on sale at walmart.com or jet.com.