This is the biggest time of year for online shopping , and so many stores and websites are promising free shipping.
But that free shipping often comes with catches, and many consumers end up with credit card bills a lot bigger than they first expected.
When "Free" Doesn't Mean Free
Almost every online retailer is advertising free shipping, especially on "Free Shipping Day," December 16, 2011. But more and people are finding themselves with some sort of charge despite the banners saying "free."
Betty Crozier told me that she ended up with a $29 shipping charge when she ordered a sweeper she saw on TV. Turns out the sweeper, and each of the freebies that came with it, all had processing and handling fees tacked on.
Those "P&H" charges, as they are called, are one way merchants get you to pay, even though the shipping may be free.
Doesn't that Stink?
And from the "doesn't that stink" file, new limits on free shipping for 2011.
SmartMoney magazine says many merchants are now requiring a minimum purchase to qualify for free shipping. For example at Target's website this year, you need to spend at least $50 to qualify. Spend just 40 bucks, and you may say "doesn't that stink?"
But with the soaring cost of shipping, this is one freebie that's getting harder to find.
Bottom line: Always check for shipping, processing, or handling fees before clicking on the pay button.
And if you are calling by phone, be sure to ask what the final charge will be on your credit card, so you don't waste your money.
As always, don't waste your money.
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