It's not every day you find a neat trick to save money on everyday photography purchases. So naturally, I have to share this method that works on just about everything — not just photography purchases.
The other day, I ordered a bunch of brand new Pelican Storm cases for new gear our film camera rental company was getting. This stuff adds up, but these really are the best cases (quick side note: I much prefer the easier-to-open and seemingly more secure latches of the Storm line of cases; and they look more modern, too). The next day, it turns out I had under-ordered, so I put yet another case into my cart, but was waiting to fill it with a few other items before hitting that order button. This was the first happy accident.
A Happy Accident
Fast forward ten days, and I get an email from B&H saying that an item in my cart has dropped in price. I went to check it out and saw that these cases were each about 15-percent off. I immediately felt a bit bad I had missed out on the better price by just over a week until I realized all hope was far from lost.
I had put these on a new credit card we have that gives us purchase price protection guarantees on any new items we put on there. Dealing with a credit card company for these kinds of claims isn't pleasant, but it can be worth it when you order enough gear if the price on everything drops a bit later. Many credit cards offer price protection guarantees (you might be surprised to find yours likely does), and they can last for anywhere from 30 to 120 days after the initial purchase was made. But before I went through the process of submitting a claim, I realized there was an even easier way. Three minutes later, I had my refund.
Since I was well within my return period, I thought I would ask B&H if they would honor the new sale price by refunding the difference to my card. I felt that was only fair, and I was honestly ready to return the cases if needed. Sure enough, the representative I chatted with asked me to wait a few minutes while he went to check on that. I mentally prepared to make a kind, but firm case for why I should be allowed this refund. Less than 60 seconds later, he came back and told me he was pleased to be able to refund the difference to my credit card. This all took less than two minutes. No haggling, no trying to weasel out of it. This is the kind of customer service you want to have everywhere, but normally get nowhere.
The truth is, thankfully, this could work for you with most retail outlets. But it doesn't help you if you don't check the prices again every day of your miserable life or if you're not magically reminded. The reason I was notified, though, was because I still had one of those items in my cart. So my advice: have an account with the online outlets at which you shop the most, and keep everything you've recently purchased in your cart (re-add each item if you have to). Retailers such as B&H and Amazon will often email you when there's a price drop on an item in your cart. And that's where the magic happens.
Even if the retailers don't honor the sales price, you can fall back on a credit card's price protection guarantee, as I had planned before things worked out with B&H. There's no excuse these days not to have a credit card with these protections. As loyalty programs have been less and less fruitful in the rewards department, in place of that lacking extra level of service for loyal customers, purchase protections and other kinds of insurance have improved in the premium credit card space. And these often last for as long as four months and include accidental damage or theft during that period as well, not to mention standard warranty extensions that make things like AppleCare almost obsolete.
Finally, there's one more way you can save a ton on everyday purchases. If you're a student with a student ID, you can benefit from educational discount programs from a variety of places. B&H has a rather generous program depending on the type of gear. But even Apple has an educational discount that some students might not think about when ordering. Most companies hide this a bit deeper in their website or in a tiny link in the footer. But it’s always a good idea to check for student discounts before you look into a large gear purchase.
Essentially, these are the steps you can take to ensure you have the best chance at getting the products you need at the best price from most retailers:
- Check for an EDU discount if you’re a student.
- Purchase your gear on a credit card with purchase price protection. Yours may already have that built in, but not even all cards that have this feature have to be expensive to own.
- Add those items back into your cart while you’re signed into your account.
- Wait for notifications about discounts on items in your cart.
- If you get a notification, try contacting the retailer to see if they’ll credit you the difference. If it’s been too long (usually after the return period) or if they won’t budge, fall back on that fancy credit card price purchase protection.
- Get a partial refund.
- Take yourself and a date out to a nice dinner, reinvest your savings, or save your savings since none of us save enough anyway!
That’s it! Do you have other tricks you use to save a buck? Let us know!