Money Talks: Online Holiday Shopping: 5 Pitfalls

Whether it's here in the mall or at your computer--shopping online, the National Retail Federation says consumers will spend nearly 450 billion dollars on gifts this year.

Shopping online is a great way to find the perfect gift. There are endless options -- and often lower pricing. But, you still need to be aware of potential pitfalls.

For example, pricing. Before you buy, do a web search that includes the merchant's name, then add the word "coupon." And don't forget price comparison sites.

Then there's shipping. Make sure your package will arrive on time. Check the merchants policies: If you return it, who pays shipping? And if you're shipping something yourself, allow 10-14 days. Better idea? Have it giftwrapped - hopefully free - then shipped directly to the recipient.

Potential pitfall number two? Returns. While you hope it's the perfect gift, don't forget to check the return policy - especially for sale items.

And before you hit pay, make sure you understand the shipping charges. Don't forget: some retailers will send your item to their brick and mortar store for pickup at no cost.

If you're buying used from sites like eBay, check the seller' rating and make sure you understand the condition of what you're buying.

And final potential pitfall? Payment. If you're nervous about using credit cards online, you might find stores that accept PayPal - but remember that credit cards offer more protection if something goes wrong. Want to see the best price-comparison websites and more tips? They're right here at Money Talks