Clicking “Complete Purchase” is easy. But making sure you’re getting the very best deal every time you buy something online? Not so much.
Fun fact — actually, really, really sad fact: Finding and verifying online sales can feel like a full-time job. (We would know, since it’s literally ours.) Prices can change from minute to minute and vary from site to site. Some retailers will even go out of their way to make their prices look better than they actually are with inflated or outdated listings.
For shoppers in search of a good buy, this often means comparing prices across different sites, cross-referencing listings with manufacturers, googling coupon codes, and checking back for price changes — a process that can eat up a ton of time and leave you with deal FOMO.
You could always hire a personal shopper to do this discount-finding dirty work for you, of course, but you’re here to save money, not spend more of it than you need to. Fortunately, you can get the next best thing by simply installing the right browser extensions.
What is a browser extension?
An extension (or plugin) is a small piece of software that adds extra features to your browser. (Common ones include ad blockers that prevent annoying pop-ups and spell checkers that proofread your emails.) They typically appear as little icons in the upper-right corner of your window next to the address bar — here’s what my little collection looks like:
Extensions have been supported by most major browsers for the better part of ten years (conveniently, just as more and more of our transactions have ). For the purposes of this article, we’re going to be focusing on Chrome, a popular browser with one of the beefiest plugin libraries.
How can a browser extension help with online shopping?
There’s a Chrome extension out there for just about everything, including online deal-hunting. While specific functionality varies from plugin to plugin, they all work by following you around while you shop online and doing the “thinking” for you — whether that’s by comparing prices across retailers, tracking items’ price history, setting price alerts, or even scouting out coupons and cash-back offers.
As with anything you download from the internet, be sure to read the fine print and play around with your browser’s permissions before installing a shopping extension — it’ll be able to read and change the data on the websites you visit once it’s up and running. (Enter “chrome://extensions” in your address bar to tweak your extensions’ site access and prevent them from recording your activities when you’re browsing in incognito mode.)
What are the best Chrome extensions for finding deals?
We like to run a combination of several Chrome extensions to cover our bases when we set out to uncover the best deals around the web. Here are six of our absolute favorites, all of which are free to download. (Pro tip: Use them in tandem with some of the tools built into Google Shopping to maximize your payoff come checkout.)
Founded in 2012 (and acquired by PayPal in 2020), Honey is one of the most popular shopping extensions on the Chrome Web Store with a casual 17 million monthly active users. It’s helmed by a “Savings Finder” feature that scans the internet for working coupon codes for 30,000-plus stores, playing nice with almost everyone except Amazon. (More on the two’s fraught relationship here.) If Honey sniffs out any codes while you’re shopping, a pop-up window will prompt you to test them at checkout, and the one that delivers the biggest discount gets applied to your order automatically.
Not sure whether you should buy something now or hold out for an even better deal? Honey’s “Price History” tool charts products’ past prices on select sites to help you make a more informed decision. If you decide to wait, you can add an item to your “Droplist” and Honey will notify you when it gets cheaper.
Honey also runs a free loyalty program called Honey Gold that’ll earn you rewards (“Gold”) toward store gift cards on eligible purchases. (One thousand Honey Gold is worth a $10 gift card.) It’s currently supported by over 5,500 stores in Honey’s partner network, so you’ve got plenty of chances to, er, strike Gold.
Rakuten’s been rewarding consumers for shopping online since the days of dial-up — 1997, to be exact — but it wasn’t until 2012 that the site formerly known as Ebates launched a browser extension called the Rakuten Cash Back Button, which now boasts more thn 3 million monthly users. Install it to start earning Real American Dollars™️ just for shopping like normal; members earn an average of 4 to 6% cash back per purchase, which is paid out every three months via PayPal or check.
Like Honey and its Savings Finder, the Button includes a coupon-finding tool (“Coupon Magic”) that tracks down relevant promo codes for more than 2,500 stores and applies the best ones during checkout. (It’ll even pull up relevant Groupons when you visit the Google Maps or Yelp pages of your favorite restaurants, spas, and clubs.) Pair that with its “Price Magic” feature that compares prices and cash-back rates between stores, and you can rest assured you’re always saving as much as possible.
The extremely straightforward Deal Finder extension that RetailMeNot (owned by Mashable’s publisher, Ziff Davis) launched in 2017 does exactly what its name suggests: finds the very best (and sometimes exclusive) deals across more than 1,350 stores.
The plugin lives on your browser as a teensy cursive “R” icon that turns purple when it spots promo codes for the store where you’re shopping. (Pardon the aggressively Midwestern reference, but if you’ve ever been ice fishing, it’s like the flag that springs up when a bass strikes your tip-up.) You can click on that icon to see what’s available, but it’s not necessary — Deal Finder will automatically apply the best coupons and stack them with RetailMeNot’s own Cash Back Offers (if available) once you reach the checkout page.
Keep a keen eye out for Deal Finder’s monthly Cash Back Boost events where users can earn up to triple the cash back for a limited time.
Inarguably the cutest online shopping plugin out there, Piggy is another automatic coupon finder and cash savings extension (also from 2017) that’s especially good for travel deals: It can save you up to 55% on hotels by hunting down unpublished rates and earn you up to 15% cash back with its travel partners. (Users otherwise earn an average of 4 to 5% cash back at 6,000-plus participating retailers, which is paid out via check every time your balance totals at least $25.) Post-pandemic trip, anyone?
Amazon’s official extension (the Amazon Assistant) has a price-tracking feature, but we’re hesitant to recommend it after reports of privacy concerns and overly aggressive pop-ups ads. You’re much better off with the Camelizer, a similar offering from camelcamelcamel.com that launched alongside the price-tracking site way back in 2008. (It’s an oldie but a goodie.)
With the extension installed, you can get instant access to an item’s price history data just by visiting its Amazon product page and clicking the little camel icon in your browser’s toolbar. If you’re dead-set on buying something that’s hovering around its MSRP, you can opt in for a price watch to get notified via email when Jeff Bezos slaps it with a steep discount. (This can dramatically boost your chances of scoring a deal, since many Amazon sales are just a day or even hours long.)
Released in 2015, the eponymous extension from the data analytics company Fakespot is your best defense against fake reviews and shady sellers on popular e-commerce cites like Amazon, Walmart, and ebay, where both run rampant. (Remember when the former sued over a thousand people for posting falsely positive reviews? Good times.)
Fakespot’s secret sauce is a set of patented machine learning algorithms that look for certain patterns in customer reviews to determine whether they’re reputable. It’ll warn you immediately and suggest seller alternatives if if something looks less than legit, while any real reviews it’s able to verify get summarized in at-a-glance highlights containing the most important product information (quality, shipping, value, etc.). That way, you can spend less time reading and more time buying cool shit.
Online shopping extensions that offer cash-back rewards (including the ones mentioned above) are able to do so because they make commissions when users buy from their partnered retailers. The TreeClicks plugin operates in the exact same way, only instead of paying its earnings forward to you, it uses the money to plant trees around the world. (Users can choose to have their purchases support restoration efforts in the Amazon, post-wildfire reforestation in New South Wales, Australia, or sustainable farming practices in Tanzania.) You’re still technically saving “green” — it’s just a different kind of green.