Hands up if you actually pay attention when a company offers a price match deal, and says they’ll meet or beat the price offered by their competitors.
A second show of hands if you even knew that this was a part of (some of) your purchase agreements.
Yeah, that’s kind of what I thought.
But even if you did just put your hand up, when was the last time you actually made good on that offer? When was the last time you checked for a better deal and went through the motions of submitting a claim for it?
The Paradox of Saving Money on Flights
If you’re anything like me, once it’s paid for, it’s one more item off your to-do list, and you can move on to the rest of the day’s business. Unless we’re talking a significant amount of cash, sometimes, I just have more important things to do. Sometimes.
And so it goes that the conventional wisdom on finding the best price online is as follows:
- It takes time and energy
- It’s hard work
- It’s actually worth doing (which means 1 and 2 are unavoidable if you’re trying to save a bit of money)
The fact is, looking for the best prices online is a pain in the ass.
But it saves you money! And if you’re anything like me, you like saving money. And therein lies the paradox—I like saving money, but sometimes just can’t be bothered to actually do what I need to do in order to save.
How to Save Money on Online Purchases
As it turns out, there are services that will actually do the hard work for you. With very little extra work on your part (read: actually no work), you can capitalize on the fact that “it just works,” and get on with your day, knowing that there are little monkeys out there (okay, algorithms) finding you an even better offer.
Take Honey, an app that works through a browser extension to find you the best coupon codes as you shop online. Once it’s installed, you never have to hunt for those codes again—Honey automatically finds them, tests them to make sure they’re working, and prompts you to apply the code—meaning if you don’t have to pay full price, you never will. Time Magazine’s assessment: “It’s basically free money.”
Wikibuy goes a step further. When you do your shopping on Amazon, this extension (Chrome) or app (iPhone) interrupts you before you purchase to say it’s found the same product at a lower price elsewhere, by quickly scanning the likes of Walmart, Target and eBay.
Other companies use price-matching programs to ensure you get money after you’ve made a purchase. Pricerazzi automatically scans your digital receipts and immediately starts searching the internet for a better price. When they find one, they handle the refund/price match, and send you the savings.
And get this, travelers—they do it for your flights, too.
First, Use Traditional Methods to Start with A Lower Price
First and most obvious tip here—don’t book your tickets at the last minute. Your chances of getting the right last-minute deal are way, way smaller than your chances of being stung with an upsettingly inflated price. A study by Expedia analyzed 10 billion passenger and found tickets were cheapest 57 days before flying. It’ll vary a little everywhere, but aim to purchase tickets about two months before you go.
[The study] also indicates that optimal lead times for tickets from North America to international destinations are much longer—if you’re flying from North America to Asia-Pacific, you should buy about 160 days in advance for the lowest fares, and if you’re flying from North America to Europe, plan to buy about 176 days ahead of time. For European travelers, data indicates the best time to buy an economy ticket for another destination within Europe is 140 days in advance.
Secondly, avoid dynamic pricing. When you accept software cookies from flight search engines, your flight searches can be tracked—and in some cases, the flight booking engines will automatically hike prices based on your ticket-comparing behavior. Not cool. The solution is to disappear from their screens by using incognito mode in your web browser.
Thirdly, look at the prices of flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays (they’re usually the cheapest days to fly)—and avoid Fridays like they’re the plague.
Then, Make Someone Else Do the Hard Work For You
As long as you’re booking through Expedia, Pricerazzi Travel does the work for you—really fast, too (they promise you’ll get the money back within 72 hours if they find a better deal), for which they take a 15% cut.
Once they find that bargain, they let you know. If you give it the thumbs up, they will automatically collect the information they need to submit that price-matching money-back request, and arrange for that money to be transferred straight back to you.
Let’s run through a theoretical scenario:
You make your booking through Expedia’s website—and then you only have a day to find a better deal. Expedia’s price-matching policy runs for 24 hours after you make a purchase, and no longer. This is great if you’re prepared to drop everything and go find that lower-priced option—but in many cases, it won’t be time you can spare at such short notice.
If you use Pricerazzi Travel, they always have that time to spare. That’s their job. So you submit the receipt and they get working—and your chances of finding that deal within 24 hours and getting some money back are significantly increased.
(Also? Expedia now gives you $50 credit for a successful price-match submission. That’s on top of the difference you get back, as long as it’s through their website and you haven’t done it more than two times already in a month.)
Another reason it’s a great service? It’s crazy fast. Once a price is matched, they’ll get you your money back (minus their 15% fee) within 72 hours.
So what does that mean for you?
No More Trawling For Bargains—This is the big one. If you often find price comparisons frustrating, occasionally confusing and often just plain boring, having someone else do it for you will save you a lot of grey hairs.
No More Missed Deals—The sad fact is, most customers don’t bother looking for prices to match. Around 5% of customers (1 in 20) actually take advantage of price-matching programs. That’s a lot of money left on the table.
Your money, I’m betting. Which sucks.
If you didn’t have enough money to do something this year, think about that for a second. It sucks exactly THAT much.
There’s nothing stopping you manually finding better deals online, and doing the price-matching work yourself. The problem is, if you’re like 95% of customers (ahem, me), you don’t bother. That’s because the potential monetary benefits of doing it seem insignificant compared with the actual butt-pain of doing this every time you make a purchase—and the even bigger pain of continuing to do it until the price-matching scheme hits its deadline for submission.
It just feels like a lot of work in service of some rather vague What Ifs. It means you’re unlikely to do the work, find those deals and get that cash back. And you’d be right in thinking that’s a big reason why companies like price-matching.
But that’s not the whole story.
Companies Actually Want You to Use Their Price-Matching Services
Yes, employing third-parties to do your price-matching for you is entirely legit—and it helps both the customer and the seller.
The companies that offer price-matching want you to stay their customers. They want your loyalty. If you stay with them instead of going elsewhere, it’s a win for them—and it’s a win for you when you get money back through their price-matching scheme.
This isn’t a loophole. It’s a feature.
Two things to bear in mind here:
1) There isn’t always a catch. Some stuff is just worth doing.
b) Price-matching services take a cut—because, of course they do. If you consider this a “catch”, I do not share your sense of how the world should work. For the time and effort they save you, their 15% commission is a bargain. Plus, the alternative to your 85% return here is a miserable, rock-bottom 0% return.
Math is not my strong point but I feel this adds up in your favor.