According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, total U.S. retail e-commerce sales topped $209 billion in the third quarter of 2020, an all-time high. And online retail’s slice of the overall consumer spending pie is growing briskly.
Per the U.S. Census Bureau, retail e-commerce accounted for about 13.5% of total retail spending in the third quarter of 2020, when adjusted for seasonal variation. In the third quarter of 2006, retail e-commerce accounted for just 3% of total retail spending. Aside from a brief blip during the worst of the 2007 to 2009 recession, the trend line has been on a smooth and continuous upward slope for the entire interim.
Online retail is a big business, and for many merchants, it’s even more lucrative than brick-and-mortar retail. Marketplace reported that consumers planned to spend more online than in-store for the first time during the 2017 holiday shopping season, thanks to impulse buys and other factors. That trend is unlikely to reverse anytime soon.
But there’s hope for frugal consumers. Countless websites, apps, and virtual tools offer compelling discounts, deals, coupons, and other types of help for budget-conscious digital shoppers. A handful offer relief for brick-and-mortar shoppers as well. Unless otherwise noted, all have mobile apps and mobile-responsive websites.
Direct-Sale or Hybrid Models
These options all have a direct sales component that allows users to purchase deeply discounted items on-site or through an app. Some also curate coupons, special deals, and instant discounts from third-party retailers.
- What It Is: A catchall discounting site and app that includes a direct-sale online marketplace and curated, time-limited coupons for online and offline purchases.
- What It Offers: Deep discounts with local retail partners in most major U.S. cities, special coupons for discounts on goods and services purchased online or in-person, and a rapidly expanding online marketplace with deeply discounted consumer items.
Groupon pioneered the “social deals” concept, wherein large numbers of customers purchase deeply discounted, time-limited coupons for specific product or service packages.
Groupon offers coupons for everything from home goods and groceries to recreational outings to vacation packages and big-ticket electronic items. It organizes coupons by product or service category and location, so it’s easy to search for relevant coupons in your area. Before buying one a time-limited deal, read our primer on what to do with your expired Groupon deals.
Groupon also oversees a growing goods marketplace called Groupon Goods. You can buy direct from Groupon Goods, cutting out the local retail middleman. Groupon Goods deals are also time-limited, so you often need to act fast. Whether you purchase coupons or buy directly from Groupon, you can count on huge discounts – upward of 90% in some cases.
For more information, check out our Groupon review.
- What It Is: An e-commerce site that directly sells a vast array of nonperishable goods at deep discounts.
- What It Offers: Deeply discounted furniture, housewares, yard goods, women’s and men’s clothing, watches and jewelry, electronics, office goods, luggage, and special holiday items. Watch for occasional flash deals lasting a day or less, particularly around retail holidays such as Black Friday.
If it belongs in or around your home, on your body, or in your office, there’s a good chance Overstock.com sells it for less than suggested retail price. Discounts vary widely, from 10% to more than 70%, and often change with time. While much of Overstock’s deeply discounted inventory is off-brand, it’s possible to pick up high-end brands on clearance here.
Join Club O Rewards to get 5% off future orders, plus free shipping, streamlined returns, and members-only perks. The catch: Club O Rewards membership carries an annual cost. You don’t need a Club O Rewards membership to take advantage of Overstock.com’s extensive fair trade selection, which includes ethical clothing, home goods, and budget-friendly jewelry.
- What It Is: An e-commerce site that directly sells an ever-rotating lineup of heavily discounted items.
- What It Offers: Deep, time-limited discounts on specific items from high-end, bargain, and generic brands in the electronics, software, home and yard goods, sporting goods, clothing, kids, and alcohol (chiefly wine) verticals. The separate Side Deals section collects user-submitted discounts, deals, coupons, and promotions from third-party online merchants.
Woot! calls itself the “original daily deals site.” Now part of Amazon, the Woot! ecosystem actually consists of about a dozen sites targeted to specific demographic or interest groups, like kids and outdoor sports enthusiasts. It buys items in bulk, then sells them directly through these sites at deep discounts to face value – upward of 50% in many cases. Once an item’s stock runs out, the deal ends. The one exception to this arrangement is its wine selection, which is sold through an assortment of approved third-party vendors.
Founded in 2004, Woot! initially offered just one deal per day, but it now runs hundreds of simultaneous deals that typically last a few days to a week. It’s clear that Woot! puts lots of thought into these deals, and they often feel more relevant than those of competing sites. Plus, its cheekily written product listings contain lots of detailed information and frequently compare discounted products to those not featured on the site.
Comparison Shopping and Curated Third-Party Opportunities
These sites use community or editor input to curate deals, discounts, clearances, and coupons from third-party merchants and then direct their users to the appropriate retailers. Use them to compare prices at multiple online retailers before choosing the best fit.
4. Capital One Shopping
- What It Is: A free browser extension that helps shoppers save on online purchases.
- What It Offers: A plug-in that automatically searches thousands of online merchants to make sure users are getting better deals. For each item, Capital One Shopping tests coupon codes with a bevy of retailers, including Apple, Costco, Best Buy, and Target.
Capital One Shopping is a free browser extension that automatically searches thousands of online merchants for deals better than what’s in front of the user.
To use it, simply shop Amazon or your favorite online retailer as you normally would. As you browse, Capital One Shopping works in the background, automatically testing coupon codes from hundreds of retailers to make sure you’re getting a better price. You’ll see a notification within seconds if a better offer is available. And, when you check out, Capital One Shopping will automatically apply available coupon codes and discounts to your order with no action required on your part.
5. Ben’s Bargains
- What It Is: A comprehensive selection of curated third-party deals from around the Web.
- What It Offers: Handpicked deals and exclusive offers from hundreds of online retailers, mostly in the apparel, electronics, grocery, home, kids, travel and leisure, and entertainment verticals.
Ben’s Bargains is run by a team of discount enthusiasts devoted to uncovering the best deals in the e-commerce realm. These hardworking researchers continuously scan the Web for compelling discounts and freebies (the latter mostly covers lower-value items, such as MP3 albums). They post these deals on the website with brief explanations and links to the offsite item pages. While Ben’s doesn’t sell anything itself, it does run no-cost giveaway contests from time to time.
Ben’s is renowned for its ability to flag “price mistakes” – mismarked merchandise that’s often far cheaper than it should be. These deals tend not to last long, but Ben’s is arguably the best place to find a centralized repository.
- What It Is: A curated selection of mostly time-limited discounts and coupons from third-party merchants.
- What It Offers: Access to deep third-party discounts and coupon codes on electronics, apparel, jewelry and personal accessories, kids’ stuff, automotive parts and accessories, and groceries. Also, news about pending discounts and retail holidays, as well as deal alerts that trigger when users’ favored retailers launch new deals.
Slickdeals gathers thousands of deals per day from its users and posts them for the entire community to see. Based on community votes and feedback, Slickdeals’ editorial team then curates the most compelling deals on the website’s front page. In other words, the best deals (according to users) rise to the top.
Slickdeals organizes its offers into category and merchant pages. Featured merchants include Kohl’s, Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, eBay, and Target. Discounts range as high as 90%, and lower-value freebies are sometimes available as well.
Slickdeals is serious about creating community among online consumers. Even if you’re not in the market for a particular item, check out the site’s community forums for tech support tips, gaming cheats, and user-generated product reviews. And if you don’t want to visit the site before each shopping trip, add the Slickdeals browser extension for real-time notifications when you browse retail websites.
- What It Is: A curated third-party discount, deals, and coupons site that features some unconventional deals, such as class-action settlements.
- What It Offers: A varied selection of deep discounts (often with detailed explanations and price comparisons) on electronics, groceries, clothing, house and garden wares, furniture, and more.
Dealnews feels a lot like Ben’s Bargains and Slickdeals. Discounts and coupons range from 80% to 90%, all from third-party retailers. Dealnews sets itself apart with detailed deal listings that often include price comparisons, which are useful for shoppers struggling to properly value items they’re thinking of buying. Retailer-specific discounts, such as 40% across-the-board discounts at Costco, are sometimes available as well.
Dealnews also has an extensive news section under the “Blog” site header, with much of its content produced by in-house retail experts. It’s a great source of information and news about the retail industry in general, including consumer protection issues applicable to your purchasing decisions.
- What It Is: A curated, third-party discounts, deals, and coupons site that goes beyond just tech items.
- What It Offers: Like many other curated deals sites, an editorial team collects bargains and coupons from around the Web. Categories include electronics, home goods, groceries, furniture, clothing, office supplies, office services (such as Web hosting), and media and entertainment.
TechBargains’ name is a bit misleading. The site began with a focus on electronics and computer accessories but has since expanded to include a wider range of inventory. With deals devoted to travel packages, magazine subscriptions, and Web hosting, TechBargains actually casts a wider net than Ben’s Bargains or Slickdeals. On a recent visit, two top deals I found were a three-count pack of 21-ounce Cheez-It boxes and a 100-count box of Gevalia K-cups.
Like Dealnews, TechBargains is ideal for shoppers in search of actionable information, such as the best or cheapest version of a discounted item, before purchase. Its deal listings generally contain more content than competitors’, with the occasional exception of Dealnews. However, TechBargains is short on deal-related news and announcements – one of Slickdeals’ strengths.
9. Brad’s Deals
- What It Is: A curated third-party discounts, deals, and coupons site whose thin selection is more than offset by expert curation and detailed product descriptions.
- What It Offers: Current, generally time-limited offers from third-party merchants in the home and yard goods, sporting goods, entertainment, electronics, apparel, food and drink, and travel verticals. Detailed, review-like listings are a big plus.
Brad’s Deals advertises “handpicked deals” and boasts a well-curated, well-researched selection. The editors don’t simply call for user submissions and post whatever they receive.
While its selection doesn’t include as many categories or individual items as some competitors, Brad’s Deals does work with thousands of merchants – more than many competing sites and apps. Brad’s sometimes offers discounts well above 50%, but bear in mind that it doesn’t have direct pricing power.
Brad’s Deals’ differentiator is a superior user experience. Whereas TechBargains and Dealnews are a bit grating on the eyes, Brad’s Deals has a subdued user interface that’s pleasant to work with. Its listings are also generally well-written and include small but crucial details, such as when sales tax is added to the purchase price.
- What It Is: Instant deals and coupon codes from well-known online merchants, such as Newegg and Walmart.
- What It Offers: An ever-changing selection of instant checkout deals (free shipping, percentage off, package deals) and coupon codes from third-party merchants in the electronics, software, apparel, and home goods verticals, among others. Also, useful content including a tip-filled blog and free newsletter.
BuyVia curates hundreds of instant deals and discounts, as well as coupon codes, on electronics, clothing, personal grooming products, home goods, and other consumer items. Deals are heavily curated – BuyVia doesn’t appear to rely on user submissions at all.
BuyVia’s deals are often product-specific and typically come with extensive product descriptions and recommendations, making them great for customers still researching their options. Discounts in the 20% to 40% off range are common, as are free shipping offers, and discounts north of 50% aren’t unheard of. You’ll find the best discounts on fashion clothing and accessories, where it’s common to find discounts higher than 70%.
Check out BuyVia’s Two Cents Blog and free newsletter for frugal shopping tips and category-specific buying guides.
- What It Is: An expansive instant deals and online coupons site and app with some unconventional deals, such as “buy a laptop, get a free drone.”
- What It Offers: Thousands of instant deals and electronic coupons at third-party merchants across a wide range of verticals, including general merchandise, fashion and apparel, home goods, entertainment, software, travel and leisure, sporting goods, and home improvement.
Offers.com is basically a bigger version of BuyVia. It’s a massive, well-curated site and app that partners with more than 10,000 brands and merchants, including well-known retailers like Target and Sears. Deals generally come as already-applied discounts (markdowns) or coupon codes entered at checkout, but free shipping offers and buy-one-get-one deals are also fairly common. Discounts can exceed 80%, though 50% or less is more typical.
In addition to its sheer size and generous discounts, Offers.com has a fair number of unorthodox deals that make it a worthy addition to your online shopping routine. For example, Dell once threw in a free drone with the purchase of a laptop worth $499 or more (as far as I can tell, that particular deal is no longer operative, but such eye-opening opportunities do pop up here pretty regularly).
Offers.com also has a convenient email alert system, a blog with actionable savings and shopping tips, and a browser add-on that notifies users when they visit sites with active Offers.com deals.
Thanks to the magic of affiliate sales relationships, these apps and sites offer instant cash back and cash rebates on everyday purchases.
- What It Is: A site and app with cash-back online shopping and instant coupon codes at third-party merchants.
- What It Offers: Cash-back rebates on purchases through thousands of affiliates in a wide range of verticals: groceries, general merchandise, home improvement, home goods, clothing, entertainment, electronics, and travel. Third-party coupon codes can be redeemed for immediate discounts at checkout.
Rakuten (formerly Ebates) has lucrative affiliate relationships with a “who’s who” of online merchants. You can instantly earn cash back of up to 40% on select purchases here, though 1% to 10% is more common. Online coupon codes offer discounts on similar scales.
Rakuten has few, if any, in-store coupons. But during the holiday season – beginning a couple of weeks before Cyber Monday – you can claim 2x or 3x cash back on select deals. Quarterly payouts are reliable as well.
13. Mr. Rebates
- What It Is: A cash-back shopping and online coupons site with hundreds of third-party relationships.
- What It Offers: Cash-back shopping deals with hundreds of affiliate merchants in the clothing, electronics, general merchandise, sporting goods, beauty products, home improvement, entertainment, and travel verticals.
Like Rakuten, Mr. Rebates pays cash back on shopping purchases made with hundreds of online merchant affiliates. Cash back rarely ranges higher than 10%, so it’s harder to find truly juicy payouts here. However, Mr. Rebates pairs many cash-back offerings with coupon codes offering free shipping, package deals, and purchase price discounts up to 50%. That’s a big advantage over competing cash-back sites, as well as sites hewing to other discounting models.
Mr. Rebates has a functional mobile app and a browser plugin called the Quick Cash Button, which you can use to find and apply Mr. Rebates deals without visiting the main site first. Unfortunately, the Quick Cash Button only works on Google Chrome.
- What It Is: A cash-back shopping and rewards website and app with thousands of merchant partners.
- What It Offers: Online shopping cash back through a network of more than 3,000 affiliates. Verticals include general merchandise, home improvement, dining and entertainment, groceries, travel and leisure, software and electronics, and sporting goods. Printable coupons and online coupon codes are available too.
TopCashback calls itself the United States’ “most generous cashback site.” It offers cash-back shopping deals at thousands of online retailers, most of which are based in or serve the United States (a sister site offers similar deals in the United Kingdom). Cash-back offers generally remain under 15% of the total order, though you can also find isolated 15% and 20% deals.
TopCashback has a more impressive slate of printable in-store coupons than Rakuten. The site is also well-known for its “Free Cashback” deals, which offer cash payouts with no purchase required – though users typically need to jump through hoops to get the deals, and selection is sometimes thin. In my experience, TopCashback isn’t particularly user-friendly, and its support apparatus is lacking, despite conspicuous plugs for its support team on the homepage.
15. Giving Assistant
- What It Is: A cash-back website and plugin that offers a seamless charitable donation option.
- What It Offers: Online shopping cash back through a network of thousands of retailers. The selection here is broad and deep, with a user-friendly browser plugin and flexible cash-out options. The biggest differentiator is a charitable donation option that lets you send your cash back to organizations that can put it to good use.
Giving Assistant isn’t just a vector for donating cash back on purchases to worthy organizations and causes, though that’s certainly part of its appeal. Indeed, to the unobservant eye, Giving Assistant looks to be a run-of-the-mill cash-back website and plugin in the mold of Rakuten and Mr. Rebates.
Giving Assistant has affiliate relationships with thousands of retail brands, with typical cash-back opportunities ranging from 1% to 15%. Notably, it offers surprisingly good deals at household-name retailers – Walmart boasts an across-the-board 10% cash-back opportunity, for instance. Standalone, merchandise-specific deals are common too and usually accrue on top of healthy cash-back baselines. For instance, 10% off and 8% cash back on poker tables at Home Depot adds up to 18% off in all.
Save yourself a trip to Giving Assistant’s main website and download its browser plugin, which alerts you to potential deals as you shop and tracks your earned cash back in a hard-to-miss display box.
Discounted Gift Cards
Find gift cards for sale at a fraction of face value here or offload unwanted gift cards for extra cash.
- What It Is: A platform for buying and selling gift cards, often at discounts to face value.
- What It Offers: Discounts on branded gift cards from a wide range of merchant partners in food service, entertainment, clothing and apparel, electronics, travel and leisure, home improvement, home goods, and more.
CardCash sells new and used gift cards in varying denominations from over a thousand name-brand merchants. Most used cards sell at discounts of less than 20% to the remaining balance, though CardCash advertises occasional discounts as high as 35%. The best-known merchants generally have the smallest discounts. For instance, American Airlines cards sell for 95% of the card balance, while Albertsons (a major supermarket) cards sell for 99% of the card balance. These prices and discounts are subject to change, however.
Unlike most of the other sites, apps, and tools on this list, CardCash allows users to earn cash without actually buying anything. If you receive a gift card as a present or because you won a contest, visit CardCash and see how much you stand to earn by selling it. Depending on the card brand and balance, CardCash pays anywhere from 50% to 90% of face value.
- What It Is: A platform for buying and selling discount gift cards.
- What It Offers: Generally modest discounts on branded gift cards from hundreds of merchant partners in the general merchandise, clothing, dining and entertainment, home goods, home improvement, travel and leisure, and electronics verticals.
Raise sells discounted gift cards in varying denominations – usually not more than $100 – from hundreds of recognizable merchants, most with online and offline stores. Discounts commonly range from 1% to 20%, though it’s possible to find higher discounts on slightly less desirable or well-known merchants.
Like CardCash, Raise buys unused gift cards from the general public. It also has a referral rewards program that pays $5 for every new customer you refer to the platform.
If you have reliable access to large numbers of gift cards, look into Raise’s bulk seller program. It’s a great way to earn a substantial side income – or, depending on how ambitious you want to get, launch a business built entirely on consumer discounts.
18. Gift Card Granny
- What It Is: A gift card resale website with an independent streak.
- What It Offers: Discounted gift cards (below 15% is the norm, but better deals are available) from hundreds of name-brand retailers, plus a lively bulk buyer program for small and midsize businesses seeking superior customer and employee incentives.
Gift Card Granny is a quirky gift card resale site in the mold of Raise and CardCash. The headline discounts to face value aren’t super-impressive here – 3% to 15% is a typical range. But you’ll occasionally encounter better deals, like the 29% off Carmike Cinemas gift cards deal I found on a recent visit to the site. The 10% off Starbucks gift cards deal is a more typical representative option.
If you work in a position of authority at a company or organization that needs lots of gift cards, such as for employee incentives or customer promotions, look into Gift Card Granny’s bulk buyer program. You can buy prepaid cards and brand-specific gift cards and codes through the bulk buyer vertical.
- What It Is: A marketplace for new and discounted physical and electronic gift cards.
- What It Offers: Gift cards from thousands of online and brick-and-mortar merchants, including nonretailers like Airbnb. Prepaid cards from Visa and Mastercard are also available here.
GiftCards.com is a no-frills gift card marketplace that offers discounted and nondiscounted gift cards from thousands of major and not-so-major brands. You’ll find discounts ranging from 10% to more than 30% under the “Discounts” tab. Lesser-known brands generally offer the best deals, though you’ll find occasional eye-poppers from household names as well.
GiftCards.com’s G-Money rewards program is great for high-volume buyers. You’ll get $1 off a future purchase for every 100 points earned, and you can earn multiple points per $1 spent on eligible gift cards.
Most of these sites, apps, and tools are equal-opportunity discounters. They cover thousands of individual items and dozens of product categories. If one doesn’t have the exact item you’re looking for, or it doesn’t have the best deals available in a particular product category, you’re sure to find better luck with another.
At the same time, broad-spectrum discount, deal, and coupon resources often lack the depth that exceptionally discerning shoppers or true category experts expect. For instance, if you’re looking for a niche-bound site that sells 300 different scarf styles or every designer handbag made in the past 20 years, all at the Internet’s best prices, you probably won’t find it on this list. The good news is that such sites do exist – and they’re not particularly hard to find if you do a little searching.
What are your favorite websites and tools for online shopping deals?