These days we’re used to comparing prices before we buy since the internet makes informed shopping easier than ever.
But even the sharpest consumers might not know about price matching, a common and underused technique designed to save you money on major purchases.
What is price matching?
Price matching is a policy many large retailers or chain stores have in place, but they don’t tend to advertise it much. If you can prove one of their competitors is offering a lower price on an item the store carries, the store will honor or “price match” the lower figure. Some stores offer a “post-purchase” price match; if you’ve recently purchased a product and find a better deal soon afterward, they’ll refund the difference.
Ideally, this arrangement benefits both parties — you get the discount, and the retailer gets your business when you could have taken it elsewhere. Price matching also works (in theory) to keep a lid on monopolies if a single store offers insanely low prices. Yes, this means retailers will often price match goods on Amazon.
Stores may use a slightly different type of price matching called “price adjustment” or “price protection” which means they’ll refund the difference if an item at their own store drops in price soon after you’ve bought it there. And some retailers will match their own lower online prices if you’re buying an item in-store (Target does this, for instance).
Price adjustments are only valid within a certain time frame after your initial purchase (around 14 to 30 days, usually; each store sets its own policy), but they’re another built-in tool to ensure customer loyalty.
How does price matching work?
Pick what you want to buy
Okay, this step might seem obvious (and if you’ve already found what you want to price match, you can skip it), but most store policies only match prices on exactly equivalent items, down to the make, model, and manufacturer. If you bought the item already, hold onto that physical or digital receipt.
For big-ticket purchases, like a laptop or a car seat, you’re probably doing some price-comparison research anyway as a smart shopper—and bigger purchases are where price matching can save you the most cash.
Try a price matching app
It’s the 21st century, after all, and you can take your pick of apps to do the shopping and price comparisons for you.
Capital One Shopping is one of the most effective price comparison tools. It scans over 30,000 retailers to find the lowest price on a product, even accounting for delivery and shipping.
The browser tool also lets you put potential purchases on a “watchlist” and alerts you when the price drops. All you have to do is download the extension and let it go to work while you shop.
Some other options include:
- ShopSavvy – Lets you scan an item’s bar code to get a range of prices.
- slickdeals – Lets you set up “deal alerts” and pick your favorite stores. Enter the web URL of any product you see online, and they’ll search for a price match.
- CamelCamelCamel – Tracks price drops on Amazon specifically—if Amazon is your go-to, it’s worth downloading.
Get proof of the lowest possible price
This is a requirement for price matching across the board. You can scan or take a screenshot of a digital ad that shows a competitor offering a lower price (or the store dropping its own price) for the same item. Make sure to get as much info as possible, including make and model number if available, and any promotional dates on a discount.
Check retailers’ price matching policies on their websites
If you know where you want to buy the product, or if you’ve bought it within the past month, look for the retailer’s price matching policy. Every store has slightly different rules and restrictions, so you’ll have to do this research on a site-by-site basis.
Their policy should include who to contact about a price match — usually customer service. Digital shoppers can call or use the store website’s online chat function to talk with a representative if you’d rather not run a physical in-store errand.
Are there any limitations to price matching?
Each retailer sets its own policies, but in almost all cases, the product you want must be:
- Identical to the lower-priced item (as in, same model number, make, manufacturer, and color).
- In stock at both their store and the competitor’s store when you make a price match request.
- Sold by a direct competitor. Some stores name the retailers whose prices they’ll match; others don’t.
In most cases, items offered at any other discount won’t be eligible for price matching. These discounts commonly include:
- Clearance prices.
- Seasonal sales.
- Special store promotions.
- Buy-one get-one-free or “bundle” offers.
- Holiday sales, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday (most stores won’t price match an already-purchased item if their discount is part of a post-Thanksgiving sale).
- Any store product sold by a third party or “marketplace” (i.e. not directly by the retailer).
With more customers shopping online, retailers are giving a little more leeway to digital shoppers who want to price match without leaving the house — though you’ll still have to chat with a customer service rep and provide some proof of a lower price.
But some retailers reserve price matching for in-store shoppers or limit matches to competitors who have brick-and-mortar stores. That means if a retailer is only online, like Amazon, they won’t price-match anything from that retailer. Check the store’s fine print just to make sure.
Which retailers match prices?
Most major chain retailers with brick-and-mortar stores — the ones with mall outposts or huge mall-adjacent stores, like Best Buy, Staples, and Target — have some form of price matching. Local and regional chain stores may have price matching policies as well. They can afford it while a small, independent store often can’t.
The stores featured below should give you an idea of what a typical price matching policy will allow and exclude.
Amazon itself doesn’t price match items from other retailers. Its own prices fluctuate constantly, and you can use Amazon Price Check to keep track of when prices drop or to compare Amazon’s bargains on a product with the deals offered by other stores.
However, if you find proof of a great deal on Amazon, many (but not all) brick-and-mortar retailers will meet the low price. They want more business flowing their way, not through the online giant that’s redefined retail sales in the digital age.
Stores that do price match Amazon typically require the item be sold and shipped by Amazon.com itself, not by a third party.
Target offers both price matching and price adjustment. For up to 14 days after purchase, you can score a discount on an item you’ve already bought if the item’s since dropped in price at Target.com — with a receipt and valid printed or digital proof of the price cut. They’ll also match offers from dozens of big-box competitors, including Amazon, CVS, and Costco.
Target doesn’t let shoppers combine price matches with other discounts, including coupons, store promotions, and any deals offered the week after Thanksgiving.
Home Depot price-matches purchases online and in-store, and they’ll add the shipping cost to their “Low Price Guarantee” if you find a better deal online shopping.
The store doesn’t price match for any labor or installation costs associated with your purchase, so keep that in mind. Its policy also excludes seasonal sales, discontinued items, and matching competitors’ volume or wholesale discounts.
Bed Bath & Beyond
Bed Bath & Beyond promises to match in-store and online prices of “local retail competitors” (though it doesn’t provide a list) and big online retailers — as well as matching their own website discounts. Though they won’t combine a manufacturer’s coupon with a price match, they’ll apply whichever discount is the cheapest.
Price matches can be requested by phone if you don’t want to go in-store, though you’ll still have to provide digital proof of a lower price.
Shopping for electronics can get expensive quickly. Best Buy understands customers are hunting for deals, and they match Amazon.com prices—as well as prices from major electronics manufacturers and resale websites like Dell.com, HP.com, and Newegg.com. And they’ll match their own lowest prices on BestBuy.com or the Best Buy app.
Like Home Depot, Best Buy doesn’t provide price matching for any service or installation costs associated with your purchase.
Their staff negotiates price matches via phone, online chat, or in-person visits. Check the brand, color, and model number on whatever you want to match, since Best Buy requires these to be identical, and be prepared with a URL or screenshot of the lower offer.
Price matching tips
Check your credit card for a price adjustment policy
Credit card users might find their card comes with a post-purchase price protection guarantee in the fine print. If you buy an item with the card and find the exact same item at a better price elsewhere (within a certain time window) contact the card issuer, provide proof, and they’ll refund you the difference.
Usually, there’s a cap on how much you can claim in price protection refunds this way. But going through your credit card company may be easier than negotiating with a store.
Ask about price matching at local chain stores
Larger local chains might not broadcast their policies, but they may still match the prices of nearby competitors on identical items. If you want to boost the local economy while getting the best deal in the process, it’s worth asking or browsing their website to see if they’ll offer price matching or adjustment.
Get an app or browser extension that compares prices for you
Even if you know exactly what you’re looking for, you still have a ton of retail options and (I’m guessing) limited time to check every possible pricing option, not to mention calculating shipping costs to see if you’re really saving money. Fortunately, you can get an algorithm to take this work off your hands — for free.
How can price matching save you money?
Price matching isn’t something you need to do constantly. For minor or inexpensive purchases, the small savings might not justify the extra work.
But when you’re saving for a bigger expense or investing in a quality item, price matching is definitely worth your while. It’s especially lucrative if you’re enrolled in a loyalty program at a store or chain (any program that gives you cash back, points, or some other incentive for purchases). A price match can earn you rewards from the store while scoring a competitor’s lower price.
Or you might simply prefer to shop at a particular retailer whenever possible. That’s one of the reasons stores offer price matching — to keep customers returning.
New purchases can make a dent in your budget, but smart price matching or price adjustment can get you a more affordable deal than you thought. Find out the policy at your local chain retailer and keep it bookmarked for the next time you’re shopping.