Tips to be a smart online shopper

Tips to be a smart online shopper

Last updated: 24 July 2018

When it comes to shopping, the thought of going online and purchasing a product or service instantly, with a simple check out process and having the item delivered straight to your doorstep may have seemed impossible 20 years ago, but now it has become an essential part of our lives. From purchasing a pair of shoes overseas to getting groceries delivered to your door, shopping is now just a few simple clicks away.

Internet shopping provides many benefits and the rapid growth of e-commerce sites not only provides us with more options on where to shop but also different ways to pay. So, it pays to understand how to protect your money and your personal information online.


Check the website’s security and privacy page

Does the website offer secure transactions? How will your personal information be stored or used? Are you on a secured computer and a secured network?

Savvy Tip: Make sure the website begins with “https://” to ensure all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. If the website has a closed padlock icon, it also means its identity has been verified by a trusted third-party authority and that its URL is secure for you to reach.


Is the company you’re purchasing from legitimate?

With many fake online shopping sites lurking around, it’s important to research the business to see if you can find further details to verify the identity of the company you are purchasing from.

Savvy Tip: Protect yourself from online scammers by investigating further, such as if the business has complete contact details and if a physical address is listed. Search for reviews and comments on the product or service on forums to help with this process.


Always read the T&Cs

What if you have made the wrong purchase? Does the company offer a refund or have a return policy? How long is the warranty period and what are the delivery costs?

Savvy Tip: Make sure you know exactly what costs are involved. Keep a record of the transaction, such as the confirmation email, a screenshot of the product page along with the item number and a description, in case the item or the service is not received.


Payment options

With many emerging ‘Buy now, pay later’ services (such as Afterpay, zipPay & OnePay) accommodating to online shoppers, it pays to understand how these services operate, you can read further on What you need to look out for in Buy Now, Pay Later services for more information.

Savvy Tip: Only pay for goods within the website’s official payment system. Scammers will often ask you to pay up-front via money order or international wire transfer.


Fees to look out for

Here are some of the common fees when shopping online that could potentially be added to the cost of your order:

  • Booking or service fees
  • Packaging or handling charges
  • Postage or delivery fees
  • Local currency costs (including currency conversion fees if purchased overseas)
  • Payment processing fees (for example using a credit card)
  • Import duty or tax


From 1 July 2018, all overseas retailers who ship products to Australia must now charge 10% GST on the price of these goods. You may notice that the online website you shop at has increased their prices to cover the tax.


International transaction fee

This is a fee that may be charged by credit card providers for purchases, cash advances or transactions that are made with overseas-based merchants or financial institutions, or with Australian-based merchants who process payments overseas.

To check if you will be charged this fee, you can find more details in the terms and conditions on the website you shop at or from your credit provider.

 Savvy Tip: Some credit card providers don’t charge this fee, therefore, if you are a regular online shopper, you can research and compare credit card features through our comparison service to find a credit card that suits your needs.


Though internet shopping is a great way to save time, money and energy, remember to always exercise these precautions to stay safe online while you shop and only visit sites that you trust so you never put yourself or your money at risk.