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MegaShopBot.com

Q. What is a shopbot?

A. No tittering! It's the nickname for 'shopping robots' - special websites that harness the web to find the cheapest prices for goods online. Type in what you want, click on 'Compare' and it'll list your item's price at loads of different retailers.

They can track the cheapest online deals for books, films, white goods, games, computer equipment, TVs and heaps more. So in the same time as a single retailer will give you its price, you can get a price from multiple retailers and hopefully that'll mean you find it cheaper.

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Q. How does MSB pick shopbots?

A. The aim of the Megashopbot is quite simple; to enable you to search the best shopbots for each type of comparison with just one click. When you use it you have a choice - either to use the three 'auto-selected' shopbots or to select your own.

In many ways the auto-selection is the strongest feature of the MegaShopBot, as different shopbots are good for different things, so this way we pick what we believe are the best for each type of search.

To pick them, every three months we select a basket of three random goods within each shopping category and then search for them using the shopbots. Then, to rank them, we tot up the value of the cheapest prices each can find for the basket of goodies and rank 'em in order of best value. And if there's a tie-break, we count how many times the shopbot came up with the overall cheapest price for an item.

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Q. What to watch with shopbots?

A. By using the MegaShopBot you are super-shopping around to ensure you're getting quotes from many stores - yet shopbots are by no means 'whole of market'. When you use them you must be careful of any ads or promotions that are listed top of the searches, which may be attempts to get you to click to stores they have better commercial links with. Plus sometimes the prices can be inaccurate, so always double check them before buying.

Even if you do get the cheapest price, it's worth checking out special 'cashback websites' which often give you a cut of the amount they're paid by retailers if you click through them. For example, buy at Play.com through a cashback website, and you get the same stuff - at the same price - but up to 10% cashback on top. For full info, read the Cashback Sites guide and use the MegaShopBot's sister tool the Cashback Site Maximiser which will swoop to all such sites to discover which pays the most for the retailer you choose.

Don't forget cashback credit cards too, which pay you every time you spend on them and can add £s;100s a year to your income. Make sure you always repay the card in full each month, though. Full details in the Top Cashback Cards guide.

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Q. Why search multiple shopbots?

A. Shopbots are commercial entities and who they search often depends on their own relationships. As not all shopbots search the same sites, it's often worth choosing more than one to ensure you're getting the cheapest price, especially for higher value purchases. The Megashopbot deliberately picks the best of breed for each search.

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Q. Why not just list the best price?

A. This tool is designed to pick the best shopbot results for you - but shopbots aren't perfect. Sometimes they will order by 'popularity' (which can equate to commerciality), or use advertising in their results.

MoneySavingExpert (whose tool the shopbot is) is ad free and always about ensuring you get the best deal. We wouldn't want you to think any errors or ads are ours, so we prefer to show you the shopbots' results within their own site so you can make your own decision. Plus as shopbots often list a multitude of products when you search them, it is a nightmare to pull the data out of there and reproduce it.

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Q. Will high street price-match MSB?

A. Many of the retailers listed are 'bricks and clicks'; in other words, they're websites of high street stores, and while their prices aren't always identical, they're often similar. Also some high-street only retailers will price-match internet prices if pushed, so print off your comparison result and take it into the shop. See if they'll match the price (and, if you can, keep your thumb over the delivery cost...)

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Q. Can I use the MSB on my mobile?

A. Yes, but it works best if you've got a decent web-browser e.g. on an iPhone or HTC handset. Alternatively, you can try free specific 'apps' - or applications - for the individual shopbots, although your search will end up much narrower range of results than by using the MegaShopBot.

For example, with Pricerunner, you simply download free software to your mobile, then use the app to compare prices. If you've got an iPhone, try Twenga from the iTunes App Store. Although many searches return a mass of cheap eBay listings before the cheapest 'new' prices, it's worth a punt as accuracy will likely improve in future updates.

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Q. Are these sites safe?

A. We try to only list reputable shopbots, but all prices listed and product descriptions stem from the sites themselves. So, it's to be hoped that the sites listed by the shopbots are reputable, and generally they do checks, but there are no guarantees.

If you're unsure, always check a website's legitimacy before buying anything through it. Ensure that the site lists a real, as well as virtual, address and check its identity on web-ranking site Alexa.com to clock a site's worldwide web ranking - anything in the top 100,000 suggests it's reasonably big; a good, though not foolproof, indication of legitimacy.

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