Online Christmas shopping reaches its peak
Today will be the busiest day of the year for internet shopping, as customers get online to buy presents to be delivered in time for Christmas.
Shoppers are most likely to spend money on presents today as it's the Monday after payday and only four weeks until Christmas, according to Visa.
Known as 'Mega Monday', sales are likely to peak between 1pm and 2pm, as workers head online during their lunch breaks, and again later in the evening after 7pm once they've gone home and logged on.
Throughout Europe Visa says around £300,000 will be spent every minute, with 80% of these purchases paid on debit cards.
On the high street the busiest day comes later as last-minute shoppers take to the streets usually one or two days before Christmas Day.
Dr Steve Perry, commercial director at Visa Europe, says: "We predict that more than €510 million (£439 million) will be spent online on Visa cards during Mega Monday across Europe, an increase of 14% on 2010.
"Online shopping accounts for a fifth of all spend on Visa cards and the volume of transactions we process on a daily basis as well as our historical trend data provide us with an incredible insight into consumer spending patterns."
Andrew Johnson, director-general of the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association, adds:
"The Christmas shopping war has well and truly begun, with many high street stores offering online and in-store discounts in a bid to improve sales during the holiday season.
"Faster broadband and smartphones have placed a heavier emphasis on internet shopping, which often peaks around 'Cyber Monday', the first Monday in December when American online retailers traditionally offer special discounts."
Top tips for Christmas shopping online
1. Don't make instant purchases and always do your research first. When entering your credit or debit card details make sure the website has a secure connection and only enter payment information on websites that display either the padlock symbol or start their address with 'https' - the 's' stands for secure.
2. Keep a record of your purchases, either by printing off the receipt or by saving a copy on your desktop. Check the company has a phone number so you can contact it if you need to and keep a note of the web and postal address.
3. Read the delivery details and watch out for extra costs. If the delivery costs are huge it might be cheaper to get it on the high street and always check the return policies before you purchase.
4. Use cashback websites when buying online, such as Quidco or TopCashBack. These websites work by paying you a small amount, usually around 5%, for every purchase you make and the money will arrive in your account a month later.
5. Voucher code websites can save you money and offer on and offline discounts so always check these first before you make a purchase.
Issued by a bank as part of a current account and, in a nutshell, serves as electronic cash. Unlike a credit or charge card, where you get an interest-free period before you have to settle the bill, the funds spent on a debit card are withdrawn immediately from your current account. Unless you’ve arranged an overdraft, if you don’t have the cash in the account, you can’t spend it.
Rather than shopping online directly with a retailer, if you go to the retailer via a cashback website (you have to register as a member), when you make a purchase the cashback site gets a commission and rebates some – or all – of this back to you. The cash being paid back to you will vary wildly from site to site and even from product to product, so check you’re getting the best deal before you buy.