Monday, December 05, 2005

Consumer Reports Updates Annual Holiday Giving Guide With Free Expert Advice for Online Shopping, Gift Cards, and Charities

YONKERS, New York, Dec. 5 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Consumer Reports today updated its annual Holiday Giving Guide with valuable information on the finest online shopping sites, useful advice on bank gift cards, and tips for donating to charities. Available for free on its website,, the Holiday Giving Guide features useful shopping tips in areas including Games & Recreation, Home, Health, and Shopping & Spending, and also offers e-Ratings, unbiased evaluations of online shopping sites.
"With the new holiday gift ideas just posted on the site, shoppers can consult the Holiday Giving Guide for helpful buying tips and a variety of gift ideas," said Helen Popkin, Associate Editor of Online users will find useful advice on how to shop smarter and faster, while knowing that they are getting expert advice on products, services, and great tips for the holiday season."
Among Consumer Report's bargain-hunting tricks for shopping online:
-- Shop the bots -- no single site always delivers the best prices, so check out Consumer Reports' top-rated sites before making a purchase -- the savings can add up (e.g. when Consumer Reports hunted for the Rolling Stones' new CD, "A Bigger Bang," the best NexTag could do was $18.08; that was 58 percent higher than's low of $11.43).
-- Look for total costs -- make sure you research the total costs for items (e.g. shipping, handling and taxes) before making an online purchase.
-- Read item descriptions carefully -- bargain basement prices sometimes accompany merchandise that is "refurbished" or "reconditioned" -- the product description should note whether an item has been refurbished, but it's up to you to spot that information -- it won't necessarily pop out at you.
-- Stick with rated merchants -- deal only with merchants who have been rated by users or independent third parties.
-- Sort results by price -- when possible, sort search results based on low-to-high price.
-- Check the merchant's site -- sometimes these post lower total prices.
Among Consumer Reports' advice for preventing the bank gift card you gift (or get) from being pecked away by fees:
-- Check fees on the issuer's Web site or on the card sleeve -- Pick cards with no expiration date or maintenance fee, if possible.
-- Give retailer cards -- You won't have to pay a fee to purchase them.
-- Give cash -- this way the only thing that will deplete your gift is inflation.
-- Check the terms immediately if you receive a card -- cash it in before you lose any purchasing power.
Among Consumer Reports' advice for making charitable donations really count:
-- Visit the watchdogs: three groups put large, general-interest charities under the microscope: the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) ( or the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance ( and Charity Navigator (
-- Crunch the numbers: Consider doing some of your own research. At you can download the "990" tax form of virtually any nonprofit. Only houses of worship and charities with revenues under $25,000 are exempt from filing this document.
-- Use umbrellas: When contributing, ask about the criteria a federation uses to select participating charities, advises Daniel Borochoff, President of the American Institute of Philanthropy. Find out whether the federation reviews its members' financial documents and management practices and whether it has enforced its policies by ejecting violators. Also, request information about how donations are distributed.
-- Be aware of scammers and charities with bad reputations: Sometimes scammers and charities with less-than-stellar reputations use look-alike names that can trick you into giving to the wrong organization.
-- Hang up on telemarketers: They often work for independent fund-raising companies that keep a large percentage of the donations they raise on a nonprofit's behalf. A study by Connecticut charity regulators found that telemarketers pocketed nearly two-thirds of every dollar they raised for the state's police, firefighter, and civic groups in 2003.
These useful online shopping tips, Hanukah and Christmas gift ideas, and much more can be found at in the Holiday Giving Guide section.
Consumer Reports and are published by Consumers Union, which accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. With more than 2 million active, paid subscribers, is larger than any other publication-based Web site. All site visitors have free access to helpful advice, safety alerts, recalls, e-Ratings of online commerce sites, and much more. Subscribers have access to Consumer Reports unbiased product and service Ratings and Recommendations, selections from the latest issue of Consumer Reports, a searchable archive of the past four years of ratings, Consumer Reports' exclusive product and car reliability reports, interactive decision guides, the ability to participate in expert discussions and much more There are two types of subscriptions to ( an annual subscription for $26 (current subscribers to the magazine can join for $19 per year), or a monthly subscription for $4.95.


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