3 Tips to Shop Smart

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1. Gift cards can be a great choice for that hard-to-buy-for person on your shopping list, but not all cards are created equal. Watch out for cards that charge you a fee when you purchase them and ones with ongoing fees that shrink the balance.

Since they're bound to become worthless if the issuer goes out of business, consider the financial health of the store or restaurant before buying a gift card. Gift cards issued by banks can be a safer choice, but be sure to read the fine print.

2. Whether you're buying a new TV, computer or other gadget, chances are good you'll be asked if you want to purchase an extended warranty. Generally, you should resist that purchase. Consider how long the product's own warranty lasts, the likelihood of it needing service, whether the price of replacing the item is likely to drop in the next few years, and the possibility that your claim may not be covered under the extended warranty. Also, remember some credit cards provide added warranty protection.

3. If you're weighing a sizable purchase and you're not sure if your gift will be a hit, check the store's return policy before taking the plunge. Pay special attention to time limits on returns and restocking fees.

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