How to snag the best Black Friday deals online this year

Planning ahead and carefully reading the terms of coupons and advertisements can maximize Black Friday success from the comfort of your couch. 

Michael Dwyer/AP/File
Tashalee Rodriguez, of Boston, uses a smartphone app while shopping at Macy's in downtown Boston.

Snatching up a doorbuster deal on Black Friday is a little bit like winning the lottery: You’ll feel pretty lucky if it happens.

But unlike the random drawing of the lottery, picking Black Friday deals requires careful planning. Here are some tips, tricks and hacks that could increase your odds of getting the best deals while shopping online on the day after Thanksgiving.

Know when and where to shop

Inventory can sell out online just like at a physical location, especially if the rise in online shopping continues. In 2015, online sales rose 16% on Thanksgiving Day compared to the same day in 2014 and increased 7% year-over-year on Black Friday, according to analytics firm Slice Intelligence.

To get the best deals, prepare early by following the sale advertisements from your favorite stores before Black Friday. They likely will indicate which deals will be available online. Last year,Kohl’s offered its doorbusters exclusively in stores, while Best Buy made almost all deals available online and in stores.

The ads also will tell you what time the sales begin online. This year, Dell will debut its online sale on Nov. 23, while Office Depot kicks things off at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 24 (Thanksgiving Day).

Make an online account beforehand

Once you pick your desired stores and online sites, create an online profile ahead of time. Most retailers let you save information such as your shipping and billing address on their websites. This will expedite the purchase process and may help you get doorbusters before they run out.

Log on early

Punctuality is key. Make sure your computer or phone is ready for action a few minutes before the sale begins. Sign into your profile, scope out the products you want by size, color and other options, and then bookmark those webpages so that you can find them easily when the big event launches.

Review membership perks

If you’re a member of a retailer’s loyalty program or have a store credit card, you may receive Black Friday perks. Some companies lower prices or grant early access to sales for loyal customers. Year after year, Victoria’s Secret has given its Angel cardholders the first shot at Black Friday deals before other buyers.

Use multiple devices

If have a tablet and a laptop, why not use both of them? If a website is lagging when a sale starts, utilize as many devices as possible to see which one will load the site faster. That could help you snag a deal faster.

Seek stackable discounts

Black Friday prices typically are low, so retailers may not offer additional discounts. But there may be coupon codes or free shipping offers that can be applied to your order. Look for these on a retailer’s website or its Black Friday ad, or on coupon aggregator sites. And, as always, compare prices between retailers to see which one has the best deal.

Maximize savings

Shopping online can provide additional savings. If you’re a member of a cash-back website such as Ebates or BeFrugal, for instance, activate your cash back by logging into the sites and then clicking over to your retailer of choice. If there’s a cash-back offer at the time, you’ll get a percentage of your purchase back. If you don’t have such an account, create one before the sales start.

If you have a rewards credit card, you may be able to get relevant cash back on your Black Friday purchases, depending on the bonus purchase categories offered by the card issuer.

Keep your personal information safe

Always be cautious about transmitting your personal information and credit card number over the internet. Make transactions only on websites your know and trust. Submit your financial information only over a secure connection (and not on public Wi-Fi).

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @courtneynerd.

This article first appeared in NerdWallet

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