For some, the lead up to Christmas starts on the 1st of December, when people begin putting up their decorations and opening advent calendars. But for online retailers, the festive season officially starts on the first Monday of December; dubbed by some as Cyber Monday.
In 2011, UK consumers made a staggering 84.6 million visits to online retail sites on the first Monday of December*. So it’s easy to see why some retailers are already predicting that, once again it will be their biggest shopping day of the year, with around £1.3 billion forecast to be spent by consumers on Cyber Monday this year**.
With consumers gearing up to hit the virtual tills, Gocompare.com’s banking and credit card expert Matt Sanders commented on how people could to get the most out of their Christmas shopping.
Consider using a credit card
“If you’re planning to take advantage of the online Cyber Monday discounts next week, you might want to consider using a credit card for your purchases. Using a credit card for purchases on items that cost more than £100 will give you added protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Section 75 means that your credit card company is jointly responsible with the retailer for the services or goods you have paid for. So, if you are unable to get a refund for something you have bought you may be able to claim from your credit card company.
“Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act covers online transactions and foreign transactions, but only applies to credit cards and not to debit cards. So unless you are using a credit card, you won’t be covered under it.”
Credit cards don’t necessarily mean you have to pay interest
“As long as you pay the balance on your credit card in full every month, you won’t be charged interest on the purchases you’ve made. So if you prefer using a debit card and the idea of only spending what you have in your account, paying off your credit card balance in full will have the same effect and give you the added protection of the Consumer Credit Act on your shopping.
“There are a range of interest free credit cards on the market at the moment, which subject to acceptance, will not charge you interest on purchases for a period of time. However, even with cards that have an instant online approval, it will usually take a minimum of ten working days to receive a new card, so unless you already have a 0% purchase card, you won’t get one in time for Cyber Monday, although you could use it to help with the rest of your Christmas shopping. It’s also worth remembering that even with a 0% purchase card, you will be expected to make a minimum payment each month, and will be charged interest after the initial 0% period ends.”
Think about a cashback card
“Cashback credit cards and reward credit cards can be a great way of getting a little bit back on your Christmas shopping. If you have one of these cards, it might be worth using it for some of your Cyber Monday shopping. Cashback cards may charge a slightly higher level of interest on purchases, so it’s important to be mindful that unless you clear your balance by the end of the month, you’ll be charged interest on what you’ve bought which will likely outweigh the cashback benefit of the card.”
“Remember, it’s not a bargain if it’s still more than you can afford. Though credit cards can be a great way of spreading the cost of purchases, you’ll still be expected to pay back what you’ve spent along with any interest you’ve incurred. It’s easy to get carried away when there are sales, especially a one-day bumper sale like Cyber Monday, but it’s important to be realistic about what you can afford and avoid overspending or stretching yourself beyond your means.”
Stay safe online
“With online retailers expecting a surge of visitors to their websites we’re urging customers to be particularly vigilant when entering their card details online. Unfortunately there are those who will see the online rush as an opportunity to dupe people into using unsecured or fraudulent websites.
“Before entering your card details, make sure you trust the site. Look for a padlock symbol in your browser window when you’re entering your payment details and always check the address bar matches the site that you’re expecting.
“Phishing is where companies or individuals use misleading information to acquire personal information such as passwords, address details and credit card details. This is usually done through emails that look like they are from trustworthy sources which will often lead people to sites that have been set up to look like popular shopping or banking sites that will either infect the user’s computer with a virus, or encourage them to enter their details to the fake site.
“Phishing is especially common around this time of year as retailers send out emails notifying customers of deals or sales, making it important to be careful when following links from emails. Always make sure you trust the sender of the email and when in doubt, go to the website directly rather than following a link that you’ve been sent.”
Transfer your balance after Christmas
Matt added: “Thinking beyond December, it might be worth looking at what 0% balance transfer cards are available to you for the new year.
“Transferring the balance from an existing card to a 0% balance transfer card will, for a fee, allow you to manage your repayments without incurring interest. However, it’s important to remember that if you do not pay off the balance in full by the end of the 0% period, you will be charged interest on the remainder of the balance on the card.”
Notes to editors:
*Source; IBM, available at http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/11266-mega-monday-e-commerce-stats-round-up