The strangest year in recent memory will be capped off by the strangest, and potentially most dangerous holiday season. Given that social distancing is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19, the traditional holiday shopping experience of crowded stores is no longer just uncomfortable. It also puts you at a greater risk of catching the virus.
You can't eliminate your risk entirely, but you can significantly lower it. If you follow a few simple safety measures, you're more likely to stay safe as you pick up holiday gifts for your loved ones.
1. Shop online as much as possible
Online shopping was already a great way to get your holiday gifts before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's an even better option now. You can buy what you want from home, without needing to come into contact with a store full of people.
Since there will likely be more consumers shopping online this holiday season than ever before, consider making your purchases early. Popular products could go out of stock more quickly than they would have in the past. If you wait too long, some items you want might not be available until after the holidays.
When you receive online orders, try to avoid contact with the delivery person. Make sure you get rid of outer packaging immediately and wash your hands thoroughly after handling packages. Fortunately, packages present a very low risk of transmitting coronavirus, but it's still possible.
2. Get your in-store shopping done early
The one thing that probably won't change this holiday season is there will be more shoppers the closer that it gets to Christmas. With store limits on the number of shoppers inside, you may not see the packed aisles of previous years. But there could be plenty of people and a long wait before you can even get in the doors.
If you need to do any in-store gift shopping, it's best to get it done as soon as possible. The earlier you go, the less likely you are to encounter crowds.
It also helps to shop at off hours, if you can. You could find stores are much emptier if you go right after they open, before they close, or on weekdays during working hours.
3. Use contactless credit cards
Another way to protect yourself when shopping for gifts in stores is to pay with a contactless credit card. You can hold this type of card above the payment terminal or tap it on the payment terminal, assuming it accepts contactless payments. This allows you to avoid physical contact with cashiers or payment terminals that go through hundreds of transactions per day.
To find out if you have a contactless credit card, look for a wave symbol or ask your card issuer. If not, see if it's possible to get a contactless version of one of your current credit cards.
4. Follow the CDC's recommendations
The CDC has published detailed advice on running essential errands during the pandemic. Although holiday shopping may not be essential, much of the same advice applies. Here are the most important recommendations to follow for your holiday shopping:
- Wear a mask.
- Maintain social distancing of at least six feet from others when possible.
- Carry hand sanitizer and use it after leaving the store.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after you get home.
You can find a full list of recommendations for a variety of situations on the CDC's site. Since this is advice from the experts, it's the most effective way to stay safe.
Reducing your risk while holiday shopping
It's smart to take measures to protect yourself from COVID-19 as you do your holiday shopping. The best option is to shop for everything online, because then you won't need to go into any stores. If you do end up doing in-store shopping, you'll be at less risk if you go at non-peak times while there are fewer people. It's also worth paying with a contactless credit card and following the CDC's safety guidelines.
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