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4 Reasons Not to Buy Gadgets Direct

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Sometimes it’s unwise to cut out the middleman. It may seem logical to buy an iPad from Apple or a Kindle from Amazon, but shoppers who buy direct may be missing out on better deals.

Chain stores are likely to miss out on some hot gadget sales this year as more shoppers opt to buy directly from gadget manufacturers, reports today’s WSJ. But buying from big retailers also has its advantages. These four perks might make you reconsider where you buy:

Loyalty perks: If you have a store credit card or belong to the loyalty program, you might get extra deals. Shoppers with a Target credit card save 5% off all store purchases, which works out to a $25 discount on a $500 16GB WiFi-only iPad 2 and $6.95 off a $139 Nook. (Of course, if you don’t pay off the balance in full, the 22.90% APR will eat away at that deal.) Members of Best Buy’s free loyalty program earn 1 point per dollar spent, and a $5 store reward for every 250 points. That’s nearly $5 in rewards on a $200 Kindle Fire, or $10 on that $500 iPad 2.

Portal rewards: Sites like Ebates.com, Mypoints.com and others offer extra points or cash back on purchases when you click through to a favorite retailer through their site. Ebates, for example, offers 2% cash back at Walmart.com and Staples.com, 3% at Target.com and up to 3.6% at BestBuy.com, versus 1% at Apple.com, and nothing at Amazon.com. But the deals are worth looking at even if you buy direct: Nook buyers get 4% back at BN.com.

Partnership deals: Look for extras and special packages. At Walmart, online iPad 2 buyers get a $5 credit to the company’s on-demand movie service VUDU.

Extended returns: Big-box stores may be more lenient on returns. Target has a 45-day return policy on e-readers and tablets, more than triple the 14 days Apple and Barnes & Noble allow. Walmart allows 15 days on electronics, a one-day advantage.  But stores aren’t always better on this front, so be sure to compare: Best Buy’s 14-day return policy is less than half of the 30 days Amazon allows on its Kindles.


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    • other reasons: expensive gadgets, plans, service. mostly a waste of time. can you really not wait until you get home to check your email and weather and scores. relax.

    • American Airline’s eShopping is a great way to earn miles on purchases. If you port over to a participating merchant’s website from the eShopping site, you can earn from 1 to 10 miles/dollar spent.

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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.