Price-matching at Best Buy, Target, Walmart and many other stores can save you a bundle of time and money. You can shop at your favorite retailers without missing out on better deals elsewhere, because if you find a lower price, the store will match it. And if you're buying online, price-matching means you can probably save on shipping, too, by grouping all of your purchases at one website.
Yet only 17 percent of shoppers take advantage of price-matching, the National Retail Federation reports. The process can be a little mysterious, but I have a three-step game plan for you that makes it easier, thanks to my savings-expert buddy Jeanette Pavini, author of a new book, The Joy of $aving. “The larger stores that offer price-matching are usually used to taking care of these for customers,” she says, “and it's a simple process.”
1. Look for a store's policies.
Check the customer service or policies sections of a retailer's website, or do a general web search for the store's name plus the words “price match.” If the store has a policy, find out which competitors’ prices it will match and read the fine print. Typically, the item must be in stock and the same model number; it may also have to be the same size and color.
2. Find other prices.
Before you check out, either online or in a store, use a price-comparison search engine like Google Shopping. Enter the item name, then click on Compare Prices. You can also try apps such as ShopSavvy and Flipp. Alternatively, go directly to the sites of qualifying retail competitors, or look for their latest advertising circular.
3. Get the evidence.
If you find a lower price, print the offer, take a screenshot or bring the print ad featuring the deal you are looking to match to the store with you. Do not photocopy the ad; some retailers will accept only the original. If you're in a store, show the cashier the deal. If you're on the store's website, call customer service or start an online chat. Tell the representative that you have found a better price at another retailer and you'd like to request a price match. As long as you have proof and it complies with the company policy, you should get the deal.
Here's my personal example of price-matching in action. I loyally buy my contact lenses from 1-800-Contacts, which has a price-matching guarantee, and I often find lower prices elsewhere. So before I reorder lenses each month, I call 1-800-Contacts with any lower prices I've found. The rep will check them to see which deals are legit, since sometimes low prices come with high shipping and handling fees. In the end, I usually get a better price. If I just reordered every month without the price match, I'd be missing out on major savings!
Major matching retailers
Here are key terms from 11 national chains; visit their websites for full policies. Many retailers will match prices of products that Amazon sells but not those from Amazon third-party sellers. Amazon itself doesn't do price-matching.
Bed Bath & Beyond: You can't price-match and use a store-coupon discount. But you can use a manufacturer's coupon if the product's manufacturer does not have its own retail store.
Best Buy: The item must be an exact match, including the color, and be in stock.
Dick's Sporting Goods: Item must match exactly.
Home Depot: Price-matching excludes seasonal, obsolete and clearance items.
JCPenney: You can price-match and use a coupon.
Kohl's: If an item or brand is not eligible for a coupon, it's not eligible for price-matching.
Lowe's: For online purchases, matching will include shipping costs.
Michaels: The chain matches a select list of online retailers, including Amazon, Target and Walmart, and any brick-and-mortar retailer.
Petco: There's no price-matching on animals.
Target: You have 14 days after a purchase to find a lower price, which Target will match.
Walmart: Its stores will match prices from Walmart.com (but not from third-party sellers) if the items are in stock. Walmart.com will match prices only from retailers listed on its site.
Lisa Lee Freeman, a consumer and shopping expert, was founder and editor in chief of ShopSmart magazine from Consumer Reports.