Another comparison shopping engine revamps, with a good start

extrabux logoOne of the few things I dislike about shopping online is waiting until the end of the transaction to find out how much shipping and taxes cost.

Since not all online stores charge state taxes, and many offer free shipping, I'd like to know well before I give my credit card number if I have to pay such charges.

The people behind Extrabux, a shopping comparison Web site that relaunched Tuesday, got that part right by listing the store price and the tax and shipping costs for most items once you enter your ZIP code.

Under shipping for some stores you're directed to "See site," which could lead to time wasted wading through a linked site for the information, so Extrabux hasn't perfected the method. Still, it's a valiant effort and at least the part about taxes works well.

The site also has a cash-back program, much like Bing shopping does. Extrabux awards up to 30% of the purchase price through commissions from retailers.

If you don't mind waiting 90 days to get your cash back, then it's worth the savings. I'd rather have the money, or even a smaller percentage, up front than wait three months to get a few bucks back.

Online coupons are also factored into prices at Extrabux, and are provided by retailers. Not many coupons are up on the site, but many more are coming, co-founder Noah Auerhahn told me in a phone interview. The site also plans to have product reviews.

Extrabux works with 1,500 stores and has an extensive shopping list that goes beyond cameras and TVs and into such things as toiletries. Paying more in shipping than the cost of toilet paper, for example, is a bad move, but at least that and many other daily items are available.

A downside of the new site is that it helps to be very specific when searching for what you want. You have to know what you're looking for and can shop only by broad categories or by store. It's a feature that Auerhahn says will be improved.

"We're working on becoming a place where you discover products," Auerhahn said from his San Diego office.

Online shopping is getting more crowded with stores, and it's not even December's Christmas rush. That's should be a good thing for consumers.

"You really have a lot of consumers looking on every corner of the Web right now," Auerhahn said.

His corner, unlike many others, at least tells customers upfront what other fees are coming before they buy. If that doesn't save you money while shopping, it should at least save you time.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach him at

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