Remember when every big purchase for a computer or home appliance began with a trip to Best Buy? The big-box chain is quickly becoming a brick-and-mortar Amazon showroom, while people compare products in person and end up purchasing later online. However, the stores and its associates still offer many top products with the expertise to help you choose the right TV, refrigerator, or laptop for you. Black Friday deals and other sales might help you score a discount on that major appliance, but that doesn’t mean everything at Best Buy is selling for the best price.
By now you should realize that it pays to do your research when it comes to making major purchasing decisions. If you want to purchase your new refrigerator from Best Buy, going armed with what the store’s competitors are charging can help you save money — especially if the item falls under Best Buy’s price match guarantee. Unfortunately, a price match won’t solve everything. There are some items the retailer is overcharging for, or that just aren’t worth the price in the first place. Here are some items to steer clear of the next time you visit.
1. Tech accessories
You might get a great deal on your new laptop or TV at Best Buy, but if you’re purchasing in the store, just say no to the cables and other accessories that often get added on to the purchase. Yes, you’ll eventually need that HDMI cable to attach your laptop to the TV you just bought. But waiting a day or so to order it online won’t kill you, if you didn’t have the foresight to order it in advance.
The founder behind the savings site Brad’s Deals explained why cords, cables, and cleaning supplies for your new tech is a waste of money at stores like Best Buy. In most cases, their prices on large appliances have razor-thin margins, to compete with online and other big-box retailers. When they have the chance to upcharge on smaller items, they will. In one example, Brad’s Deals found a 10-foot HDMI cable on sale online for $3.99. The cheapest option in the store at Best Buy was a whopping $39.99 — ten times the price as online. Even if you have to pay shipping, the online purchase is a no-brainer.
If you’re looking for accessories, Brad’s Deals suggests searching on sites like Newegg, Amazon, Ebay stores, and Monoprice, a direct-to-consumer company. This goes not only for cables, but accessories like phone cases or screen protectors, laptop keyboards or mice, and laptop bags.
2. Gift cards
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a gift card purchased directly from Best Buy. But if you plan to purchase a lot of them — or buy some in large amounts — it might help to shop around online for discount cards that have been traded in. Sites likes Cardpool and Raise have grown in popularity, as people can offload their unwanted gift cards for cash. The result is that you can often find gift cards to places like Best Buy for less than the face value of the card. Cardpool and Raise offer discounts that vary from 3 to 10% off the value of the gift card, though Investopedia explains there are a few other reputable sites out there as well.
If you plan to purchase several gift cards at a time, Frugal for Less goes into the finer details of saving money using sites like this. It’s important to realize that there are opportunities for fraud on these sites, so doing your research about each one’s reputation is important.
3. Refurbished Apple products
Most Apple fans are fanatical about their love for the top-tier products, and they can’t imagine using technology that doesn’t start with the letter “i.” However, Apple’s products are far from cheap. If you’re willing to purchase a refurbished product, you can get a like-new laptop or iPad with some significant savings.
However, GO Banking Rates highly suggests purchasing those items from Apple directly instead of another retailer like Best Buy. Best Buy can offer deals on new Apple MacBooks and other items, but you’ll get the best warranty and guarantee of quality if you buy refurbished products from Apple. “One of the only times we recommend buying directly from the Apple Store is when getting refurbished devices,” Benjamin Glaser, features editor at DealNews, told GO Banking Rates. “Apple is meticulous in their refurbishment process, and then the device is still covered by a manufacturer warranty.”
As another Brad’s Deals post points out, there’s a difference between open-box purchases at Best Buy and refurbished items from Apple. Open-box purchases are returned laptops or other items that the customer changed their mind about. The item will be quickly examined before being resold under the open-box label, but won’t go through the same quality tests as it would at Apple. In addition, the initial one-year warranty is on a clock based on when the first customer bought it. If they bought it nine months ago, you only have three months left of the warranty. If you buy Apple Certified products through them directly, you’ll receive the same warranty you would if you bought a new product from the store. The savings likely won’t be as high (most refurbished products from Apple sell for about 15% less than the new sticker price, and sell out quickly,) you’ll be guaranteed the same level of quality the tech giant typically delivers.
4. Extended warranties
We’ve said it before, and it bears repeating: Extended warranties are almost always a waste of money. You can occasionally make the case for an extended warranty on an accident-prone item like a laptop, but the rest are largely a money suck. When it comes to refrigerators or other major home appliances, most glitches are covered by the manufacturer’s warranty that comes automatically with the product. If you purchased the item with a credit card, most card servicers will cover an additional year of a warranty. (Of course, it’s best to check what is covered before you lay down the plastic.)
If you won’t rest easy until you have extra insurance against accidents or malfunctions, third-party services like SquareTrade might be worth researching instead. One former Best Buy employee made the case for using SquareTrade for most warranties instead of GeekSquad’s protection plans. The prices and amount of coverage will vary based on your purchase, but the warranties are often cheaper and cover more at SquareTrade, the writer shared with Lifehacker.
5. Snacks and gadgets at the checkout counter
By now you should realize that everything placed at the checkout counter is a trap. Even at grocery stores, the bags of chips and bottled sodas are marked up way more than what you’ll find in the aisles a few feet behind you. The same is even more true when you’re seeing packs of gum and mini Pringles cans in a store that specializes in hardware, not food.
“These treats are pricier than their grocery store counterparts, and you’re probably not going to have any luck asking for a price match,” Howard Schaffer, vice president of deal and coupon site Offers.com, told GO Banking Rates.
These items are placed strategically when you’re the weakest: You just saved a bunch of money on that flat screen, so why not splurge on a celebratory pack of Twizzlers? The same goes for that car phone charger you forgot about needing, and the pack of headphones right next to it. More often than not, these items are far more expensive than what you’d pay online — or even in a gas station — and it’s best to avoid the temptation.