WASHINGTON D.C., Nov 18, 2010 / — As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, the National Retail Federation’s global membership includes retailers of all sizes, formats and channels of distribution.

For the 2010 holiday shopping season, the NRF recommends:

  • Plan Ahead.

Having a set list of gifts you intend to buy helps minimize confusion, especially if you intend to make multiple purchases through several websites. Shop.org encourages consumers to start their online holiday shopping at http://www.cybermonday.com/ , a site that will offer current promotions of more than 500 online retailers throughout the holiday season.

  • Use common sense.

A golden rule of online shopping is that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is and you should avoid it. Shop with retailers that you trust.

If you aren’t familiar with an online retailer, look for privacy and security seals, which indicate that their security and privacy measures have been verified, or use a site like BizRate.com to determine other peoples’ shopping experiences from that merchant.

  • Ensure your gifts arrive in time.

Check retailers’ shipping deadlines, which are featured prominently on most retail websites. The information often lists the last day that customers can place orders for arrival by Christmas or Hanukkah.

  • Know retailers’ return and exchange policies.

Return policies vary, so knowing ahead of time whether or not you will have to ship back returns or exchanges or if you can return them to the physical store in your area will help in the long run. Also be sure to find out who covers the cost of shipping if you need to return or exchange an item.

  • Ship gifts directly to the recipient.

Most online retailers can ship items to a different location than your billing address. During the holiday season, when many people are traveling, take advantage of this feature by sending gifts ahead of your arrival. Some companies can even ship pieces from a single order to multiple locations so you don’t have to lug holiday gifts all across the country.

  • For instant gratification (or holiday procrastinators), buy online then pick up in the store.

Many retailers offer a “buy online, pick up in store” option. Check with your favorite retailers to see if this is a service they offer, then skip the crowds and head straight to the customer service counter where your items will be waiting.

  • Read the fine print.

Retailers list important information such as privacy policies, warranty information, item descriptions, terms of agreement and company information on their websites. Much of this information is very useful, but is displayed in a smaller font.

  • If you aren’t comfortable paying with a credit card, research other payment options.

Retailers place a tremendous importance on keeping their websites safe and protecting customers’ information. But for shoppers who are still nervous about paying by credit card, other options are often available. Online retailers offer a variety of services, from letting customers fax in an online order to accepting third-party payment options. Some retailers also allow gift cards to be redeemed online.

  • “Check it Twice” before confirming purchase.

Before you complete an online purchase, double-check billing and credit card information, shipping address and total cost of the order. This will eliminate any potential panic after you’ve hit the final “confirm” or “submit” button. And remember not to click “submit” twice.

  • Start a file folder.

First, print and save all confirmations of your purchases. This will help in many ways, from returning or exchanging items to verifying credit card or bank statements. Also, write down each purchase. It’s easy to forget how much you’ve spent if you don’t keep track. This will help both holiday spending on a budget and balancing your checkbook.