Hunting down deals and finding the best stuff to buy used to be a lot of work. But these days, mobile technology can easily help shoppers find what they are looking for at a great price. ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports, recently identified must-have, free apps that can help shoppers score some of the best deals.
"The Web is filled with tons of deals, and finding the best bargain can take time," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "These apps can save shoppers time and money, possibly scoring them even better deals than they may find on their own."
Here are some of the free apps from ShopSmart's list of must-haves:
• Amazon mobile is a great tool for shopping on a smartphone. Users can buy almost anything, anywhere with this app. Quick barcode scanning and picture search make it easy for users to find what they're looking for (or to check prices against those in-store) and checkout is a breeze, especially with the one-click option. Amazon mobile is available for Android, Apple and BlackBerry phones.
• CardStar is best for organizing loyalty cards. Shoppers can get rid of all those bulky cards and grimy key chain tags -- CardStar puts all of this info neatly into one app. To save, users show their phone to the cashier in stores, and local deals may pop up on the app (if it's open) while they are there. CardStar is available for Android, Apple and BlackBerry phones.
• Coupon Sherpa helps users grab hundreds of coupons for dozens of stores. Users have a good chance of finding a deal on this app for the store they're heading to, and cashiers can scan directly from a phone. Grocery coupons, available for several chains, can be applied directly to loyalty cards, so the savings automatically comes off the bill. Coupon Sherpa is available for Android and Apple phones.
• eBay is best for comparing prices. ShopSmart found that eBay offers some of the best deals around, so this app is worth downloading. Users can keep an eye on their auctions or scan a barcode to see whether an item they're looking at in a store is cheaper from an eBay seller. eBay works on Android, Apple, BlackBerry and Windows phones.
• GasBuddy is best for finding cheap gas. This app, from the developers of the popular website, can save users big money at the gas pump. It uses the power of crowd sourcing -- that is, it taps its users -- to post current gas prices at stations nearby. When registered users report a price, they are entered in a drawing for a $250 gas card. GasBuddy works on Android, Apple, BlackBerry and Windows phones.
• PayPal Mobile is best for easy banking. Use this handy app to manage your account, send money to merchants, and request money from friends. Need to deposit a check? Just take a photo of it with your phone. The new "Local" tab shows you nearby merchants that take PayPal. PayPal Mobile works on Android, Apple and BlackBerry phones.
• RedLaser is an eBay-owned barcode-scanner app that locates great deals. Users can scan items and find the best price locally and online, or buy stuff and arrange for pickup at participating retailers. It also searches using images and voice commands to give product details, reviews and nutrition info. RedLaser can help users take advantage of price-matching policies at stores like Target and Wal-Mart. It is available for Android, Apple and Windows phones.
• Shopkick automates rewards. Users can earn points (called kicks) just for entering participating stores. The kicks can be redeemed for a reward such as a free drink at Starbucks or a Coach bag. Users can link credit or debit cards to earn even more kicks. Nationwide partners include Exxon Mobil, Macy's and Target. Shopkick is available for Android and Apple phones.
Consumer Reports: www.consumerreports.org.