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The holiday shopping season is about upon us as “Black Friday” is just days away. Its negative reputation has come from traffic, crowds and hostile behavior. But many people still get excited for the lines, the crowds, and especially the deals. It’s now the single busiest shopping day of the year.

American consumers plan to spend an average of $935.58 during the holiday shopping season this year, according to National Retail Federation’s survey conducted by Prosper Insights. Retailers are gearing up for the big day, especially the “big box” stores that sell name-brand appliances, housewares, electronics and other popular gift items. Newspapers are stuffed with sale flyers, commercials are promoting the “door buster” deals and online ads promise the best bargains.

But it’s not just Black Friday anymore. Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, is one of the biggest days of the year for online sales. In fact, in 2017, mobile shopping on Cyber Monday added up to $2 billion in a 24-hour period.

With so much holiday shopping ahead, your Better Business Bureau wants to make sure consumers are armed with the best tips to have the best experience.

Whether it’s online or you are looking at ads planning your in-store shopping, it’s important to do your research. First, be sure to read product reviews. You can also check out bbb.org for business reviews. Look at the sales flyers and ads, compare prices and look for early promotions and “flash sales.”

Make sure you read the fine print. Some stores only honor sale ads during a certain time frame, or on certain days. Some stores may only allow you to purchase one item, particularly if it’s a large, popular and/or deeply discounted product.

Also, while shopping online, use retail websites that you trust. Use common sense and avoid deals that seem “too good to be true.”

Do you know who you are buying from? Some of the best deals are only available online, but be careful. It’s easy for a fake site to mimic a famous retailer’s website, so make sure you are shopping with a legitimate site.

Shop with a credit card when possible. A credit card provides additional protections over a debit card in case of fraudulent transactions. If your card number is compromised, it’s easier to dispute any charges that you didn’t approve. Prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as a credit card, but you’ll never lose more than the value of the card itself.

Gift receipts and saved warranty information can be lifesavers. A gift receipt can be tucked into a gift item or card so that the recipient can return or exchange a gift if it’s not just right. Be sure to pass along any information about returns, exchanges, repairs and warranties to the person who will use the item.

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